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.'”

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Seeking to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ by talking with people who love the truth.

5 thoughts on “Calling on the Name of the Lord”

  1. It is very interesting how the phrase “call on (someone)” is used today. Very often, it used when asking that someone to do something. It is a recognition that we cannot get the job done on our own.

    The same principle applies hear. We call on God, by doing all the things you outlined, because we know that we cannot earn salvation on our own. We need someone to show us grace and mercy, and, through that grace and mercy, we are humbled, recognizing that it is not we ourselves that reign, but rather the Lord God Almighty.

    As Peter said so rightly in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Man has tried so hard to be saved by calling on other “gods,” but it is only the Lord who has the words of eternal life.

    1. Another interesting piece in this study is how the phrase is used throughout the Old Testament. The first instance occurs in Genesis 4:26, “And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.”

      Prior to this statement, we see the fall of Cain and an implicit comparison drawn between the descendents of Cain and Seth. Cain abandoned God’s presence after his condemnation. Cain’s descendent Lamech (the seventh from Adam) was the first recorded polygamist and a violent man. Contrast this with Seth. In the generation of Seth’s son Enosh, we see mankind begin, “calling on the name of the Lord”. Seth’s descendent Enoch (the seventh from Adam) was a righteous prophet who, “walked with God”.

      This contrast is brought full circle when we reach Genesis 6. There we see, “the sons of God” compared with the, “daughters of men”. I believe the sons of God refers to the group of people who called on the name of the Lord beginning with Enosh’s generation. One who called on the name of the Lord was considered a, “son of God”.

      Now, let’s bring this forward to the Christian era. In Galatians 3:26-27 we are told, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Faith in Jesus Christ makes me a son of God. Baptism in the name of Jesus clothes me with Christ. If faith and baptism make me a, “son of God”, and if faith and baptism are part of calling on the Lord’s name, then calling on the Lord’s name makes me a, “son of God”. Thus the process is brought full circle. All who call on the Lord’s name are considered the, “sons of God”.

  2. Thanks, brothers, for all your hard work. The blog was a great idea, and has been executed beautifully (in this technically-challenged fella’s opinion, anyway). Look forward to seeing what fruit it bears.

  3. Wade, excellent thoughts. I am reminded of the account in Matthew seven beginning around verse twenty-one. Jesus makes the statement, “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 verse twenty-four he concludes this thought with the parable of the wise man, who built his house on the rock, and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. Which indicates that those who call on the name of the Lord and do the word of the Lord will be saved and those that only call on the name of the Lord will not be saved.

    Matthew 7:24-29 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

    1. Yes, you make a good point. How we define, “calling on the name of the Lord” is essential. Many people believe, as you rightly point out, that it is a simple acknowledgment. Others believe it is fulfilled through crying out to the Lord in prayer (a scriptural application: Ps. 99:6, 116:4). While these certainly define the concept in part, they do not represent the command’s fullness. Building your life on Jesus by submitting to God’s revealed will is the essence of, “calling on the Lord’s name”. It is the fullness of our obedient, faithful service to Him.

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