Three Phases of Gospel Ministry


Rush Sermon Brief

7 min to read

What Is Your Thing?

31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

Acts 16:31-34

Everybody has a thing he’s/she’s known for. What is yours?

The Apostle Paul’s “thing” was the Gospel. He did everything with a serious eye on the Gospel, and was willing to be in chains or even executed (church tradition claims he was beheaded by a ruthless emperor named Nero). In fact, Paul’s love for the gospel reframed everything in his life, even his views on imprisonment.

Once Paul was in prison and a great earthquake shook the prison doors open. Strangely, Paul was in no hurry to escape the jail, but remained for the good of the gospel. That night, even after the jailer’s conversion, Paul maintained his connection to the prison for the sake of continued ministry. Paul was a bold man whose favorite thing was ministering the gospel to people.

In Acts 16:31-34, three common phases of Gospel ministry emerge from the text. These three phases can be seen throughout the daily ministry of Paul’s life, not to mention throughout the history of the Church. First, the Gospel is proclaimed. Second, the Gospel is believed by God’s elect. Third, the people of God rejoice in Christ and His good news. Let’s consider vs 31-34 more closely so we can become more familiar with this progressive work in and around the good news of Jesus.


After God’s massive earthquake brought the jailer to a sincere desire to be saved, Paul and Silas immediately proclaim the Gospel to him. As seen in other ways, this dramatically shows Gospel proclamation was their ultimate priority. It seems at every turn, Paul is ever thoughtful of ways he can get the Gospel to those who need to hear it. The Latin etymology of the word “priority” means prior. Prior to any other concern, Paul’s heart is set upon Gospel proclamation. I suppose, as the kids today like to say, the Gospel was Paul’s BAE (if you don’t know, this means “before all else”). Truly, the Gospel was before all else in the heart and mind of the Apostle Paul.

From this and other texts of Scripture, we clearly see his priority of gospel ministry, as his paramount concern to proclaim good news far and wide. We also see the centrality of proclamation. Because the Gospel is a verbal message, it must be heralded. The Gospel cannot be lived out or put on display for all to see. It must be proclaimed for all to hear. Finally, in Acts 16:31 we see also the simplicity of the Gospel. When the jailer asked, “what must I do to be saved,” Paul and Silas expounded on one simple answer: “BELIEVE IN THE LORD JESUS.” That’s it! They didn’t send the jailer off to accomplish a list of tasks, or to work up sincere affections which would merit salvation. They simply told him to believe. And by God’s grace, that is exactly what the jailer did.

Where does Gospel ministry rank on your list of priorities?


What does it mean to believe in Jesus? First, it clearly means to trust or place your faith in Jesus. To believe in Him is to depend upon Him in the most important ways. But what kind of believe in Jesus did Paul and Silas commend to this newly saved jailer? They expressed his need to believe not in himself or in them or even in the Church; instead he was to believe in Jesus as Lord. This is no ordinary belief. This is fundamental, life-altering belief. It is not enough to believe around Him, or above Him, or below Him. To be saved, you must believe in Him, as your Savior and Lord. This kind of faith took root in the jailer’s heart and radically changed his life. The promise they made, on behalf of God, was that by believing in Jesus, he would be saved from his sin and saved to God, simply by believing.

For some reason, many people (even myself at times) dislike the answer Paul and Silas gave. Deep down, we want to be the authors of our salvation–we want to do something. Merely believing seems too easy. It funny to think that we rarely have the same response to other simple or free offers. When we receive bad service at a restaurant, we almost immediately expect to have part or all of the meal for free. We are happy to enter raffles in which there is “no purchase required.” But when salvation is on the line, our hearts refuse the free-ness of the Gospel. Why?

The legalist which lives in many of our hearts wants to add some merit to the free offer of salvation by faith alone. But the consistent exhortation to lost sinners is to “believe.” It’s true that sometimes the Bible says to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). Other times we are instructed to believe and be baptized (Mark 16:16). But it’s important to see that repentance/baptism and faith are complimentary sides of the same coin. They go hand in hand, and are gifts given by God.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (faith); not as the result of works, so that no one may boast.” This key verse on salvation delivers the clear truth that people become Christians by a gift (salvation and faith). And these good gifts of God work a significant change in us. Notice how faith in Christ changed the jailer. He immediately began ministering to Paul and Silas, welcoming them into his home, cleaning their wounds, and giving them food. His faith was clearly at work to please God and love people.

This brings us to another question: do you believe in Jesus? Does your belief in Him motivate you to glorify God and serve people?


After coming to faith in Jesus, the jailer displays what I believe is at the heart of the Christian life: happiness in Jesus. Sitting around the table, with his new brothers in Christ, as well as his new household of faith, the jailer was struck with joy and happiness. Have you had one of those moments when gratitude and joy struck you, rejoicing in God’s good gifts? This weekend, two of my daughters performed in a dance recital. At 13 and 4, both were competent and graceful. The restaurant of the family sat together watching and rejoicing. It was yet another moment of God-given happiness. And this jailer–like you–had much to be happy about.

Think of the changes Jesus brought this man in the blink of an eye; in the midst of sudden and fleeting earthquake. He was part of an anti-Christian regime, ready to take his own life when trouble came. Yet in Christ he was transformed into someone who is assured of His salvation, unafraid to support the gospel with his life, dining around the table with God’s servants. Truly, true happiness he found only in Jesus.

Be careful not to overtook the happiness at the heart of Acts 16. Lydia, a God-fearing woman has her salvation brought to completion through the Gospel. Paul and Silas offer an astounding example of happiness in suffering, as they sing praises to God from the inner cell of the prison. And now, this jailer (snatched from death) is filled with joy and happiness. In the hustle of life and the obedience-mindedness of the Christian life, sometimes we lose sight of what Christianity is all about. I’m convinced more and more that Christianity is all about happiness, in Jesus and with Jesus. But don’t take my word for it. There are other, more wonderful voices who often remind me of this fundamental truth.

  • “He has no design upon us, but to make us happy. . . . Who should be cheerful, if not the people of God?” —Thomas Watson
  • “There is nothing dreary and doubtful about [life]. It is meant to be continually joyful . . . We are called to a settled happiness in the Lord whose joy is our strength.” —Amy Carmichael
  • “God made human beings as He made His other creatures, to be happy. . . . They are in their right element when they are happy.” —Charles Spurgeon

And, even more, don’t take their word for it. Listen to Jesus, as he identifies eight of the happiest people in all the world. In Matthew 5, Jesus repeats the word “blessed” which means happy.

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-11

And this is such a wonderful passage to bring our time in Acts 16 to a close because it shows off the ultimate power of Christ and His good news; power to make us happy even in persecution. And it reminds us again of the wonderful example we have in Paul and Silas who endured all for the gospel and with genuine happiness of soul. Well, what about you? Are you happy in Jesus?

How serious are you about pursuing happiness in Jesus?


These three phases of Gospel ministry can be a central part of your daily life. By following the example of Paul and others in Scripture, depending on the gift-giving grace of God, and seeking our joy and happiness in Christ alone, we too can live on mission. God’s Kingdom is on the move, as we proclaim the Gospel, see others believe in Christ, and together find our joy in Him.

Whatever your one thing is in life, saturate it with the Gospel.