Vol. 8, No. 10
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What does it mean to call on the Lord's name? If we are to come to a scriptural answer, then we must search the Scriptures for it (Acts 17:11). Let us lay aside human tradition and go in search of the Lord's way.
Jesus taught his disciples, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Again, Jesus said, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Therefore, calling on the Lord's name is not merely acknowledging his authority, but submitting to his authority. Rather than pick and choose what we will, let us do "the will of God" (1 John 2:17).
On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted the prophet Joel in his sermon (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32). The last part of the quotation reads, "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21). In the book of Joel, "shall be saved" is rendered "shall be delivered" (Joel 2:32, KJV).
Someone might ask, "From what shall we be saved or delivered?" As revealed by the angel of the Lord, "he [Jesus] shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Peter said, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). However, those who give lip service to the Lord are not promised salvation. Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9).
How did the people on the day of Pentecost "call on the name of the Lord?" After hearing that they were guilty of crucifying the Lord, they were pricked in their heart. They said to Peter and the other apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). The phrase "shall be saved" (Acts 2:21) is equivalent to the phrase "remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Therefore, it follows that to "call on the name of the Lord" includes both repentance and baptism.
Another example of calling on the name of the Lord is found in the character of Saul of Tarsus. On his way to Damascus, the Lord made it clear to Saul that he was guilty of sin, particularly of persecuting Christians (Acts 9:4-5). Saul asked, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). The Lord said unto Saul, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:6). Later, in a vision, the Lord told Ananias to meet Saul (Acts 9:11). Ananias expressed some apprehension, saying, "he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name" (Acts 9:14), that is, "on the name of the Lord."
Do the Scriptures teach that "calling on the name of the Lord" is the same as praying for salvation? After studying the conversion of Saul, we must reply, "No." Shortly before Ananias expressed his misgivings about Saul, the Lord said concerning Saul, "he prayeth" (Acts 9:11). If Saul had already called upon the Lord's name, why did Ananias express apprehension? In reality, Saul prayed, but until he obeyed the Lord, he was still in his sins (Acts 9:11; 22:16)!
How then did Saul call upon the name of the Lord, if not in prayer? Remember, the Lord told him earlier, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:6). When Ananias arrived, he said to Saul, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Therefore, by submitting to the commandment of baptism in order to have his sins washed away, he was calling on the name of the Lord.
The last text to be examined is found in Romans Chapter Ten. Paul wrote, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). From the text, we learn that those who have called upon the name of the Lord are the very same who have "heard," "believed" and "obeyed the gospel" (Romans 10:13-16). First, preachers must be "sent" (Romans 10:15). Second, preachers must be "gospel" preachers (Romans 10:15). Third, there is the need for men to "hear" the Gospel (Romans 10:14). Fourth, men must "believe" in the Lord (Romans 10:14). Fifth, the believer must obey the Gospel. Sadly, Paul wrote: "But they have not all obeyed the gospel" (Romans 10:16). This Scripture is reminiscent of the Great Commission given by the Lord. Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15-16).
As mentioned before, as men submit to the Lord's commandment of baptism, they call upon the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). Baptism is the act of obedience by which one is brought into contact with the blood of Christ, which washes away his sins (Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Revelation 1:5). Peter said that baptism is "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38) and that "baptism doth also now save us" (1 Peter 3:21).
While we cannot merit our own salvation, we still have the responsibility of fulfilling the obligations that our Savior has given us. If you have not called upon the Lord's name, do so today by faithful obedience to the Lord (Matthew 7:24-27; John 8:24; Luke 13:3; 12:8-9; Mark 16:16).