Calling on the Name of the Lord

49 days after Jesus’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples as they assembled together on the Lord’s day. (Acts 2) The tremendous sound of a great, rushing wind sparked public curiosity: as they gathered to investigate, they heard the disciples speaking in 15 or more languages. Accused of drunkenness, Peter declares this display a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. Included in this prophecy was a promise God extended to Israel first and the Gentiles second: “‘AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS THAT WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.'” (Act 2:21) Since our salvation hinges on our fulfillment of God’s condition, we should ask, “What is calling on the name of the Lord?”

Calling on the name of the Lord is first associated with a faithful confession. In Romans 8:9 and 13, Paul says, “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved….For “WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.” Verbally acknowledging one’s faith in Jesus Christ is a critical component of our salvation: the mouth must express what the heart believes in order to be saved.Why is confession so critical? Without faithful confession, Jesus will not acknowledge us before the Father: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 10:32). The Ethiopian eunuch provides the best example of faithful confession: “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ (Acts 8:36-37) The Ethiopian eunuch verbally expresses his belief in Jesus, and thus calls on the name of the Lord.

Calling on the Lord’s name is next associated with obedience. In Luke 6:46 Jesus poses a critical question, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” Matthew 7:21 records a similar thought, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” In other words, calling on the name of the Lord involves much more than invoking His name or acknowledging belief: these two cases clearly identify obedience as a critical component. Obedience to Jesus’ will completes the expression of faith: without it, the confession – the petition or invocation — is void. James presents the same point in different terminology, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?…Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Jas 2:14,17) Calling on the Lord’s name is an expression of faith, but in the absence of obedience (or, works) it is a meaningless, hollow utterance.

Repentance is also connected with calling on the name of the Lord. As metioned in the introduction, Peter declared the day of Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection a fulfillment of Joel 2:32. This display of miraculous power signaled salvation’s accessibility through calling on the Lord’s name. Convicted by the gospel message, the receptive Jews cry out in verse 37, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s first response in verse 38 is, “Repent…”. If salvation comes through calling on the Lord’s name, and if Peter first commands them to repent in order to be saved, then repentance must play a role in calling on the Lord’s name. Jesus commands a similar response in Luke 13:3, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Peter connects repentance with calling on the name of the Lord, Jesus commands repentance, therefore repentance must be necessary for salvation.

Finally, baptism is a part of calling on the name of the Lord. Peter’s second command in Acts 2:38 (which is a fulfillment of Joel 2:32) is, “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…”. Ananias implores Paul in Acts 22:16, “‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'” Baptism was commanded by Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….” (Matthew 28:19). Peter and Annanias both connect baptism with calling on the Lord’s name. Jesus commands baptism (But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”). Therefore, we can safely conclude that baptism in the name of Jesus Christ completes the process of calling on the Lord’s name.

According to the New Testament, calling on the Lord’s name is far more extensive than most would have us believe. It certainly begins with faith and verbally expressing that faith. Yet the New Testament includes obedience, repentance, and baptism as conditions necessary for salvation. When each of these conditions are sincerely met, the believer is assured they have fulfilled Joel 2:32, “WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.'”