Calling on the Name of the Lord
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
This promise is found throughout the Scriptures and is intended to instill in us the hope that God can and will save us, if we will turn to Him. Yet, among professed Christians today, this statement is the source of confusion and debate; many affirm that calling on the name of the Lord simply involves faith accompanied by repentance and prayer—specifically a “sinner’s prayer.” But is this what the Bible teaches? What is meant by calling on the name of the Lord?
We note, first, that calling on the name of the Lord is not merely a New Testament concept; it is rooted in the Old Testament. It is first mentioned in Genesis 4:26, but faithful individuals, like Abraham, David, and Elijah, also called on the Lord for salvation and blessing, and in worship (see Genesis 12:8; Psalm 18:6; 1 Kings 18:24). Yet, such was not simply making a request; it required seeking God, forsaking evil, and returning to the Lord (see Isaiah 55:6; Jeremiah 29:12-13). In essence, it meant, by faith, doing whatever God expected.
The New Testament continues with the same understanding but defines it in view of the grace shown through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible does not teach that a “sinner’s prayer” is the means to salvation. (In fact, the “sinner’s prayer” as it is taught today is found nowhere in the Old or New Testaments.) Instead, we learn that we are forgiven of our sins by God’s grace through our faith—which involves obedience—in the Lord (see Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 5:9).
So how do we call on the name of the Lord today? There are two passages in the New Testament that explicitly state that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). In Romans 10, we learn that calling on the name of the Lord includes various actions associated with faith and obedience: (1) hearing and believing the word of Christ (vv. 14-17) and (2) believing and confessing the Lordship of Jesus (vv. 8-12). We can now begin to outline what it means to call on the name of the Lord:
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved = Everyone who hears, believes, and confesses the name of Jesus will be saved
The New Testament does not, however, conclude with the above actions. We learn in Acts 2 that calling on the name of the Lord does involve recognizing Jesus as Lord but places other conditions on our salvation (forgiveness): (1) repentance and (2) baptism (v. 38). (It is worth noting that there is a connection between calling on the name of the Lord (v. 21) and being baptized in (literally, on) the name of Jesus Christ (v. 38)). Thus,
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved = Everyone who hears, believes, confesses, repents, and is baptized in the name of Jesus will be saved
Though many reject the necessity of baptism as part of calling on the name of the Lord, it is precisely at this point that God has determined that we are calling on Him for salvation. The Bible even says, Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on Him name (Acts 22:16; see also 1 Peter 3:21; Romans 6:3-4; Mark 16:16). Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, but anyone who has not heard, believed, repented, confessed, and been baptized has not called on His name. The question, then, comes to you and to me:
“Have I called on the name of the Lord?”