Invitations to ‘call on the name of the Lord’ are often extended by preachers and especially, it seems, by tele-evangelists. This may be at the end of their sermon when they invite the audience to recite a prayer, often referred to as the “Sinner’s Prayer”. Sadly, and all too often, the only passage that religious institutions associate with the phrase “call on the name of the Lord” is Romans 10:13. Or sometimes, they start with Romans 10:13 and then jump to other Old Testament passages.

We’ll do all of that, but there is so much more to look at in the New Testament for us to understand what “call on the name of the Lord” truly means according to God’s word.

how Scripture answers "What does it mean to ‘call on the name of the Lord?’"

Under the new covenant, calling on the name of the Lord is directly connected to being baptized for remission of sins2,3. It follows one’s hearing and belief in the gospel (of truth)1,2,3 and includes the ongoing worship8 and service to each other9,10. God hears all who call on His name in this way5 (it is not an “inward call”) and responds by setting them apart with His Spirit4,9, as He promised3.

The concept of ‘calling on the name of the Lord” is seen throughout all periods of Scripture – since shortly after creation6-to Abram7,– through the Mosaic law5 and into the first century Christian age1,2,3,4,8,10. David describes5 the mechanism (God’s word) and the result (God’s salvation). The same mechanism and result carry through to the first-century Christian’s “calling” as well1,4,8,10.

With all of these references to “call on the Lord”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 – Old and New Testament – we never read about it involving a prayer or a literal “call to Jesus” to come into one’s heart or life. Instead, what we read a lot about are praying people (“God-seekers” if you will) that are confronted with the gospel message and consistently respond in obedient faith.

Scripture very clearly defines what it means to “call on the name of the Lord”2,3,8,9,10. It may be one of the greatest (and simplest) examples of Scripture interpreting Scripture. We can read one passage1 and wonder a little about what it means exactly, but find more2,3,8,9,10 that wonderfully define the first in perfect harmony!

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Anyone that “calls on the Lord” will be saved.

Paul’s letter to Gentiles primarily, arguing their equal inclusion/access to God. However, he also speaks to his kinsmen (Jews) stating his desire for them to be saved as well (vs 1). He goes on to say they are zealous for God but without knowledge…specifically knowledge of His word (vs 8). He then says they need to believe with their heart and confess with their mouth in order to be saved – all of which seems to be summarized into “calling on the name of the Lord” in vs 10.

The verses immediately following lay out the process — “How then will they call on Him…”  (vs 14) and proceeds to walk through what leads someone to “call on the Lord.”  The prerequisites are first hearing (someone being sent to preach) and then believing/obeying the gospel message.

How does it inform?

It’s clear from the context that “calling on” is predicated on one hearing the gospel and believing – the result of which is salvation.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

2
And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

Don’t delay, rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Paul is testifying to the Jews about his personal salvation while he was alone three days with Ananias.

How does it inform?

Paul, in his conversion, called on the name of the Lord (and washed away his sins) by being baptized.

Does it apply? Yes

3
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Peter quotes the prophet Joel that, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost proving that Jesus was the Christ and commanding them to repent and be baptized (vs 38).

How does it inform?

Peter’s sermon literally connects Joel’s prophesy with that very day, where the events that Joel had prophesied would come to pass (including, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”). The people respond with, “What shall we do [to be saved]?” They could as well have asked, “How do we call upon the Lord?” Peter tells them to repent and be baptized, receiving the promise of the Spirit.

Does it apply? Yes

4

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Give thanks to God, since He chose you to be saved through the setting apart by the Spirit and belief in the gospel – to this He called you by “our gospel” in order that you may obtain glory shared with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica where he is warning them about coming destructive forces to the faithful – those that succumb even being helped by God who “sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” (vs 11).
How does it inform?

Reiterates Romans1 and what we see on the day of Pentecost3 in that the gospel is what is heard (input) and, from the full context, the Spirit sets apart (output).

Does it apply? Yes

5

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

God hears (“is near”) to anyone that calls on Him “in truth” or His word (

John 17:17
).

David’s song of praise (about 1,00BC).

How does it inform?

David connects “calling on Him” through His word to salvation (God’s response).

Does it apply? Yes

6

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.

People began to call on the name of the Lord during the time of Seth/Enosh (son/grandson to Adam).

It offers no further explanation but does follow the contrasting of Cain’s worship/sacrifice with Abel’s, for which God “had regard” (and Cain’s “no regard”). It would seem that people (not just Cain and Abel) began offering worship (sacrifice) to God.

How does it inform?

There is acceptable worship and unacceptable worship. This passage doesn’t say exactly why one was regarded over the other, but suggests that all people began engaging in some form of worship (calling on the name of the Lord).

Does it apply? Yes

7
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.
He continued to the hill country east of Bethel and camped, between Bethel to the west and Ai to the east.  There he built an altar to God and called upon the name of the Lord (e.g. worshipped).

Abram has heeded God’s call to sojourn from Haran “to the land that I will show you” (vs 1).

How does it inform?

“Called on the name of the Lord” could mean several things here. After building the altar, it could mean that Abram prayed, but we see Abram leave and return again to place “where he had made an altar at the first” (3:4) in order to again, “call upon the name of the Lord.” As with the previous reference6 it’s more likely to simply mean that he worshipped God since Abram wouldn’t have needed to travel back to the altar in order to just pray.

Does it apply? Yes

8
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:

Salutation to the church in Corinth, those sanctified in Christ and all those that “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul’s introduction to his letter to the church in Corinth. Just after this Paul says, “I give thanks to my God always for you…” (vs 4)

How does it inform?

Paul, in his address to the church in Corinth (and indeed, “every place”), identifies the ongoing, collective activities of worship as calling on the name of Jesus.

Does it apply? Yes

9

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Brethern, you were called to freedom so don’t use it as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another in love.

Paul is making the argument that the Christian is freed from fleshly, carnal living because of their relationship in Christ (vs 1).  He illustrates this with their need to no longer be circumcised, which was a fleshly designation of the Old Law.  Instead, the Christian is to live/walk by the Spirit (vs 25).

How does it inform?

Paul highlights the freedom of/in the Christian’s “calling” and encourages them to use it in service to each other (rather than an opportunity to sin).

Does it apply? Yes

10
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
God the Father judges impartially according to each person’s deeds.  Therefore, if you call on Him, do so with fearful (e.g. reverent, obedient) conduct throughout your entire walk on this earth.

Peter’s letter addressed to the “elect exiles” (vs 1), or Christians that had been dispersed throughout the region.

The word “fear” here is understood better and is consistent with the broader definition that Scripture gives.

How does it inform?

Peter contextualizes “call on him” (God) as a lifelong effort of obedient conduct.

Does it apply? Yes

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