In Christianity today the phrase, ‘calling upon the Name of the Lord’ has become used by many as a phrase by which a person can be saved without doing anything else. As a result, after admitting they are sinners, many people now believe they are saved simply because they called on Jesus to save them. Let’s go ahead and see if we can understand what this phrase actually means.
The first time the phrase is used in the Old Testament is by the prophet Joel, speaking of what people will do in the future in order to be saved. And the first time it’s used in the New Testament is by Peter as he quotes Joel’s words in the very first Gospel sermon ever preached in Acts 2:16-21, which tells us that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled during this time.
When we carefully read Acts 2, after informing those present that ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ we see the response of those present, they asked ‘what shall we do?’ Acts 2:37 they were asking, what must they do to be saved? In what way do we call upon the Lord? If calling on the Name of the Lord simply meant confessing your sinfulness and inviting Jesus into your heart, then surely, Peter would have told them to do just that, but he didn’t, he said.
Notice what those present on that day did, even before they asked the question, ‘what must we do?’ they heard the Gospel, Acts 2:14 / Acts 2:41, and they believed the Gospel, Acts 2:37, and they repented of their sins, Acts 2:38 /Acts 2:41. So what we see here are faith, repentance and baptism. This was how they called upon the Name of the Lord.
The apostle Paul had been taught the Gospel and demonstrated faith and repentance, Acts 22:6-10, again, if calling upon the Name of the Lord simply meant confessing your sinfulness and inviting Jesus into your heart, then surely, Ananias would have told Him to do just that, but he didn’t, he said.
Again, what we see here is faith, repentance and baptism, Acts 9:18. This was how Paul called upon the Name of the Lord. A little later Paul goes on to write about how God saves people from their sins when he writes to the Romans, notice also that he quotes from Joel 2:32 just as Peter did.
It’s such a shame that many people just read this one verse without reading it in its context. A careful reading of the text shows us that calling on the Name of the Lord involves hearing and believing the Gospel, Romans 10:14, it involved a change of heart, which is repentance, and it involved publicly confessing faith in Jesus as the Christ, Romans 10:9-10, it involved obeying the commands of the Gospel, Romans 10:16 / Romans 10:19-21.
If calling on the Name of the Lord simply meant confessing your sinfulness and inviting Jesus into your heart, then surely, Paul would have told them to do just that, but he didn’t, he said.
Paul after saying, ‘everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved,’ goes on to ask a series of questions which tells us what this phrase means. In other words, to call upon the name of the Lord means we must hear the Gospel, believe the Gospel and obey the Gospel. When someone calls upon the name of the Lord, they are simply obeying God’s plan of salvation to hear God’s word, believe that Jesus is the Son of God, repent and be baptized.
As I mentioned earlier, there are thousands of people in the religious world today who believe they are saved because they’ve called upon the name of the Lord. Sadly, saying the name ‘Lord’ won’t save anyone, Matthew 7:21-23, it won’t save anyone unless it’s accompanied by obedience to the Gospel, Mark 16:16 / Matthew 29:19-20.