IS ACTS 16:31 A SUFFICIENT GOSPEL MESSAGE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Is Acts 16:31—“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”—really a complete version of the Gospel of the Grace of God? Should we use that verse alone in witnessing to others, or should we use other verses in conjunction with it? This question is a common one, so let us be Berean Bible students and search the Scriptures… that we be able to answer the matter as God Himself would! Here goes our 175th Q&A!
Granted, Acts 16:31 does not go into great detail. In fact, it is more of a summary verse (more on this later). Still, we can use Acts 16:31 when witnessing because it proves the point of salvation by faith without works. It is necessary to show people God’s current plan of salvation, especially in this time when religious works are preached ad nauseum. Contrary to popular opinion, grace is apart from works. The only thing that grace will accept is faith/belief/trust. We take a few moments to examine some key passages in this regard:
- Romans chapter 3: “ Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
- Ephesians 2:8-9: “ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
- Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”
- Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
- Romans chapter 4: “ What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
These are excellent verses and awesome passages. All Bible verses are inspired of God, all verses in the Bible are important, but these few passages quoted above are some of the most beloved and most memorized. They contain a lot of doctrine and a lot of words. When sharing the Gospel with a lost person, it helps to condense all of these verses to something simple. We can succinctly summarize them all with one simple phrase: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The issue is not works but faith. The issue is not we but Jesus Christ. What better way to concisely explain the Gospel of the Grace of God than, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved?” Acts 16:31 is not a full explanation, yes, but it is the gist of the Gospel message that is applicable today.
Remember, Acts 20:24 says that the Gospel of the Grace of God was committed to the Apostle Paul’s trust: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Whatever Gospel message Paul preached for salvation, it was always the Gospel of Grace. To wit, Acts 16:31 should be understood as a summarization of the Gospel of Grace. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), they told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thine house.” The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are implied here. How do we know? Just a short time later, Paul preached that very good news of Calvary’s finished crosswork to the Corinthians in Acts chapter 18 (the context of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, which literally says, “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day”). In fact, Paul preached about salvation by faith in Christ without works in Acts 13:38-39, years before Acts 16:31. Again, Paul always preached the Gospel of Grace.
Whenever I use Acts 16:31, I employ it in the same manner the Apostle Paul did in the context. In this the Dispensation of the Grace of God, we are not saved by “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38) or “keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). These are the common false gospels we hear today in many so-called “Bible-believing” churches. In their contexts, those Gospel messages were valid. Friends, they are not valid Gospel messages today. They are the “other gospels” Paul warned against in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 and Galatians 1:6-9. Satan has used and continues to use these former Gospel messages to deceive many. We must be careful to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), respecting the dispensational boundaries that God has clearly set forth in His Word. We should not and do not grab Israel’s salvation verses and make them into our salvation verses. If we are going to believe verses, we must also believe the verses when they tell us to or about whom they are written. We cannot ignore the context of verses. To do so is to be a spiritual larcenist, a thief, a dishonest person. This is how denominations and cults form.
When Paul was asked, “What shall I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), again, we note his reply in verse 31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thine house.” Acts 16:31 shows Paul’s immediate answer to the question of soul salvation of verse 30. Similarly, Matthew 19:17 shows Jesus’ answer to inquisitive lost people in His earthly ministry (verse 16), and Acts 2:38 shows Peter’s answer to inquisitive lost people in early Acts (verse 37). By quoting Acts 16:31, we are prompting people to compare Paul’s answer to Jesus’ answer and Peter’s answer, to show their differences. Jesus, Peter, and Paul had different messages to preach at different time periods and to different people. To make all these messages one and the same is to only conceal the sharp dispensational boundaries in the Word of God.
Obviously, Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, summarized Paul’s answer in Acts 16:31. Hence, I would never go around preaching Acts 16:31 alone and I would never use Acts 16:31 alone on a Gospel tract. Other verses are needed to provide more detail, that the message be an adequate foundation on which faith can rest. Nevertheless, as we mentioned earlier, Luke captured the gist of Paul’s answer—faith without works. We are simply saved by “believing on the Lord Jesus Christ”—that is, relying on Him and His faithfulness at Calvary, not on our performance like the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Circumcision stated to Israel in her program. The book of Acts is not meant to be an-depth doctrinal book like Paul’s epistles, so Luke (writing Acts) will not go into great detail. Luke’s goal is to simply record the transition from Israel to the Body of Christ, from law to grace, from Peter to Paul, from prophecy to mystery, et cetera. The book of Acts is the record of how God was just (fair) in pausing Israel’s program, temporarily setting her aside, starting our mystery program, and forming the Church the Body of Christ. Luke’s task in Acts is not to meticulously delineate everything Paul taught. We must go to Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, for that information.
It should noted in fairness that 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 does not mention faith/“believe” as Acts 16:31 does. Moreover, Acts 16:31 does not explicitly state the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 does. Thus, in my own personal ministry, I always try to use these two passages together in verbally witnessing and/or written Gospel/salvation studies. Romans 1:16, Romans 3:26, and 1 Corinthians 1:21 parallel Acts 16:31. We will briefly look at them here for further enlightenment:
- Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
- Romans 3:26: “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:21: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
Please note that these three verses above, like Acts 16:31, are summarization verses, but they also emphasize believing/faith/trust as means of salvation unto eternal life and justification. Their wording automatically invalidates religious works as means of meriting heaven. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace” (Romans 4:16a). Remember, faith and grace go together, not works and grace!
As we briefly noted earlier, Romans 4:1-5, particularly verse 5, parallels the Gospel message given in Acts 16:31: “ What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
An interestingly parallel passage is 1 Timothy 1:15-16, a portion of the Apostle Paul’s own testimony: “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”
Paul taught that his salvation was our “pattern.” He believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and we have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the Gospel of the Grace of Grace. So, even near the end of his life, Paul (in 1 Timothy) repeated his Gospel in an abridged form. As we do with Acts 16:31, we go to the book of Romans to explain 1 Timothy 1:16. When witnessing to others, you can share the salvation verses contained in this study, but be sure to use Acts 16:31 after you have outlined the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for our sins. This circumspection is the safest way to make the Gospel of Grace as complete—and yet plain—as you can for any confused lost person who may be listening.
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?
» Did Paul ever preach the Gospel of the Kingdom?
» Is faith in Christ alone, enough to go to heaven? Do not the devils believe? (COMING SOON!)