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”. Most 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. Let’s look at these, but there is much more to look at in order 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, to ‘call on the name of the Lord’ is directly connected to being baptized for the 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 other9,10,11. God hears all who call on His name in this way5 (it is not an “inward call”). He 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 – from shortly after creation6 to Abraham7, through the Mosaic law5,12,13, and into the first century Christian age1,2,3,4,8,10,11. 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 well1,4,8,10,11.

With all of these references to “call on the Lord”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 – Old and New Testament – we never read about it being a literal “sinner’s prayer” or “call to Jesus” to come into one’s heart or life. Instead, we read about praying people (“God-seekers” if you will12) who are confronted with the gospel message and consistently respond in obedient faith.

Are you calling on the name of the Lord in truth5? It must be according to His truth, not yours or some other preacher’s. It starts by submitting, just like the great apostle Paul did, and being baptized2.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

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.

Scripture-block application to this question

It’s clear from the context that “calls on” is predicated on one hearing the gospel and believing – the result of which is salvation – an individual’s broad response to God13 for salvation.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This passage certainly applies to answering what it means to “call on the name of the Lord,” but not how most apply it. It does not say anything about praying a special prayer.

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.

Also told by Luke (9:1-19) and again by Paul (26:12-18).

Scripture-block application to this question

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

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 (vss 14-36) on the Day of Pentecost proving that Jesus was the Christ and commanding them to repent and be baptized (vs 38). This verse concludes a quotation Peter gives from the prophet Joel 2:28-32.

Scripture-block application to this question

Peter says that everyone who “calls upon the name of the Lord” will be saved.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This is the first sermon recorded shortly after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension showing the first acts under the new covenant. After hearing Peter’s sermon that Messiah came and brought the salvation foretold by God through Joel, the people ask what they need to do to be saved (vs 37). 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 (vss 38-39).

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.

We should give thanks to God [the Father] in the name and authority of Jesus [the Son] since He chose you to be saved through the setting apart by the Spirit and belief in the gospel. This salvation is what He called you to by the gospel message we had preached, and its end is glorification with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica where he warns 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)

Scripture-block application to this question

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).

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).

Scripture-block application to this question

God will respond (e.g. draw “near”) only to those who “call on Him in truth”.

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).

The early creation account following the fall of mankind and the curse of sin (3:15).  This follows the specific account of Cain’s worship/sacrifice contrasted with Abel’s, for which God “had regard” (and Cain’s “no regard”) and Cain’s subsequent murder of Abel.

Scripture-block application to this question

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).

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 just been introduced in the Bible narrative.  Born of Terah in Ur of the Chaldeans and married to Sarai (11:31), he has heeded God’s call to sojourn from Haran “to the land that I will show you” (vs 1).

Genesis 12 begins accounting for a period known as the “Patriarchs”, or the “Patriarchal Dispensation”, beginning with Abraham.  Approximately 2,000 years have passed since Creation (Genesis 1).

Scripture-block application to this question

Abram builds an altar and “called upon the name of the Lord.”

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

After building the altar, we see in 13:4 Abram return to the place “where he had made an altar at the first” to once again, “call upon the name of the Lord.” Abram was offering worship to God. (Abram wouldn’t have needed to travel back to the altar to just pray.)

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)

Scripture-block application to this question

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

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).

Scripture-block application to this question

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).

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, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

If you call on God as your Father who impartially judges each person according to his/her works, make sure to behave with fear (e.g. obedience) throughout your sojourn on earth.  Remember you were set free from the futile ways passed down from your forefathers, bought not with perishable, material things but with the precious blood of Jesus, who like an innocent lamb was sacrificed.

Peter is writing to Christians in difficult times, reminding them to continue in their faith in Jesus. He says they should be “as obedient children” (vs 14) and be prepared for “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs 13).

Scripture-block application to this question

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

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Run from youthful passions and chase after righteousness, faith, love, and peace, as all who call upon the Lord with a single focus of heart/mind.

Paul’s instruction to Timothy regarding a young preacher’s behavior.

Scripture-block application to this question

Calling on the Lord is an ongoing, singleminded pursuit of good works and actions.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This passage follows Paul’s declaration of an eternal truth, “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: The Lord knows those who are his, and, Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (vs 19)

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Seek the Lord, calling on Him while He is near; let a man turn from his evil ways and sinful thoughts and turn to the Lord so that he might be forgiven by a compassionate God.

God is speaking through Isaiah the prophet around 700BC.  This chapter, along with the entire latter half of Isaiah starting around chapter 40, contains many confirmed Messianic prophecies along with images and foreshadowing of Christ and His coming Kingdom.  In this context, he mentions an “everlasting covenant” (vs 3) and includes the Gentiles (“a nation that you do not know” vs 5).

Scripture-block application to this question

Seeking God is equivalent to calling on Him.

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

I love God because He has heard my plea for mercy and responded, so I will worship all the days of my life.

A psalm/song without attribution but extolling personal thanksgiving to God for his deliverance and the demonstration of public worship as a result.
Scripture-block application to this question

Those who love God worship Him as they “will call on Him as long as they live.”

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This entire song is a tribute to calling on the name of the Lord. The song goes on to mention “calling on the name of the Lord” three more times through specific, formal worship acts of prayer (vs 4), praising Him (vs 13), and giving thanks through payment of our “vows to the Lord” (vs 17).

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Dawn Guthrie

Very helpful!!! Thank you!

Dawn Guthrie

In Matthew 12:31,32, Jesus speaks of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit being unforgivable. How does one blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?