What does it mean to “Believe on The Lord Jesus Christ?”

“[He] brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).

This scripture is used in modern evangelism as a formula for instant salvation. Using a single scripture this way is called reductionism–and is bad theology. There are at least seven aspects to salvation including belief, repentance, trust and assurance, commitment and allegiance, water baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and incorporation into Christian community.

To say all one needs to do is “believe” to be saved because of what Paul said to the Philippian jailer, is as illogical as saying all one needs to do is be “obedient” to be saved because of what Luke said in Acts 6:7. As Gordon Smith writes in Beginning Well, “When the Bible refers to the conversion experience through one of the components, we must not be reductionist and conclude that particular element is all that’s necessary ‘to be saved.’ While conversion is complex and has many different elements, any one of these elements can represent the whole of the experience.”1
If one wanted to make an argument for reductionism–and I don’t, the only salvation element that would fit the bill would be water baptism.

“... baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21 NASB).

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3).

Another scripture commonly used in evangelism is Romans 10:9: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Using this as a reductionist salvation formula ignores the meaning of the scripture in context.


White Harvest Publishing is a Society For Effective Evangelism company
1-800-598-0584 EMail FAX 1-870-895-3229
9967 Hwy 9 Mammoth Spring, AR 72554