“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.” (Joel 2:28-32)
As as student of the Bible, you may have noticed that this passage is familiar. This is one of the passages that Peter quotes on the Day of Pentecost to demonstrate that what the people are seeing is from God. You may also recognize this phrase, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
We hear that phrase in just about every church of every tradition. Some use it to mean one thing and others disagree with that use of the phrase. My questions are: “What does ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ mean? And, “What does ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ look like?
Many years ago I heard a preacher say, “The Bible is its own best commentary!” The longer I live and the more I study, I find myself agreeing with him to an even greater degree. If we want to understand what “calling on the name of the Lord” is, then we should look at that phrase in the context of its usage in scripture.
Gen 4:26, “To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” In this context, the people of Enosh’s day began to follow God and call themselves by the name of the Lord. This indicates that they were claiming God as their God and identifying themselves as belonging to Him.
Gen 12:8, “From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.” Abram built and alter and worshiped God. His worship is calling on the Lord’s name.
Acts 22:16, Ananias tells Saul of Tarsus, “And now why do you wait? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Calling on the name of the Lord connects to forgiveness and immersion.
Rom 10:13, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” A direct quote from Joel. Calling on the name of the Lord connects to salvation.
1Co 1:2, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” The Christians in Corinth were continuing to call on the name of the Lord.
Calling on the name of the Lord is more than saying a one-time prayer. Calling on His name is more than asking the Lord into your heart. Calling on the name of the Lord is more than immersion for the forgiveness of sin. Calling on His name includes worshipping Him. It is something that Christians continue to do. It is calling yourself by His name as you give Him ownership of your life.
Luke uses the same Greek word in Acts 25:11 when Paul “appeals to Caesar.” Paul is not asking Caesar into his heart. Paul is not submitting to immersion into Caesar’s name or worshiping Caesar. He is submitting his legal case to the highest human authority he can. Paul calls on Caesar. This use of the word helps me get a picture of what “calling on the name of the Lord” looks like.
One who “calls on the name of the Lord” obediently gives themselves to the Lord, taking His name as their own, spending their lives in worship and continual service to Him, that is confessing that He is Lord and living for Him as the Lord of the Life. Paul would say it this way, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1)