Bible Study Opportunities
Calling Upon the Name of the Lord
By Jon W. Quinn
"Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13). We are so very thankful that our God loves us and is willing to save those who trust in Him. This verse is a wonderful promise. Salvation belongs as a gift of God to those who “call on the name of the Lord.”
Someone Called For You God was the first one to place a call. Our salvation occurs when we properly respond to that call. The Lord once described his calling of Israel to repentance this way: “But as for Israel He says, 'All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.'" (Romans 10:21). He must have similar feelings about how the world is responding to His gracious invitation today.
The passage does not teach exactly what we must do or how we do it. It is a summary. It does not get specific by telling us exactly what is to be said or done. But there is no need to worry. The Bible does give us all that information.
An Off Track Tract
Many tracts have been published and circulated which misinform people regarding what one must do to be saved. These tracts inform people they can be saved right now by “calling on the name of the Lord” but then explain how this is done by turning to other sources than the word of God. They usually suggest that “calling on the name of the Lord” involves sincerely praying a short prayer which goes something like this: “Lord Jesus. I am a sinner. I believe that you died for me and live again. Please come into my heart and forgive me for my sins. In Jesus' name, Amen.” The problem? The Bible nowhere teaches this!
God is calling men and women to Himself today through the teaching of the gospel. “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”. (2 Thessalonians 2:13,14). It is this same gospel that is God's “power” unto our salvation (Romans 1:16).
Man Must Call Upon the Lord
To be saved, one must appropriately respond to God's call. This is referred to as “calling on the name of the Lord.” In the Book of Acts, we have many examples of people hearing God's call, and responding by calling upon Him for their salvation. What exactly did they do?
First, they never prayed that “sinner's prayer” discussed at the beginning of this article! Some people, because of the prevalence of the tracts which contain it, think it is actually something the Bible teaches. It is not! It isn't there! Note that this is not a discussion about how Christians are to deal with their sins (yes, Christians are told to pray for forgiveness) nor is it a discussion about how to be forgiven under the Old Law prior to the death of Christ on the cross. Rather this is about what one who is not yet a Christian must do when initially coming to the Lord for salvation.
What Did They Do?
Well, they “called upon the name of the Lord.” But this did not include the aforementioned prayer. I recently corresponded with a fellow about this. He had published a document which advised people how to be saved from their sins. He included a carefully worded prayer similar to the one mentioned earlier in this article. When I told him I could not find that prayer in the Bible, he asked what prayer would I suggest instead. He was still interpreting “calling on the name of the Lord” as a prayer. I responded this way:
Steve, I really do not have such a suggestion for a prayer with reference to the Biblical plan of salvation. If I had found such a prayer in the Bible, I would give it to you and tell you the reference. But I cannot find one.
In the Book of Acts, we have recorded for us many, many conversions. I do not recall a single convert who was told to pray in order to be saved.
The nearest I can come is the phrase "calling on the name of the Lord." But I am not at this time convinced that this phrase refers to prayer. More likely, it refers to calling upon God by our trusting obedience of His gospel. I believe it is responding by faith to His grace.
Here's why: I look at the phrase as it is used in the Bible. When people were told to "call upon the name of the Lord", what did they do when they complied? Of course, this phrase was initially used in prophecy. Acts 2 records Peter referring to Joel's prophecy and saying that day has arrived ("This is that which was spoken by Joel" (vs.16) and "Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (vs. 21)) Peter continues his preaching down to verse 37 whereupon he is interrupted by the people who, pierced in their hearts, want to know "What must we do?"
Now, Peter had already told them that they had to "call on the name of the Lord." So, if that phrase does refer to a prayer, then I would think he would say so. And I think the prayer you suggested would be a very good prayer to pray if that is what they were told to do. But that is not what Peter tells them. See verse 38 for his answer. See also verse 41 for the result. No such prayer is involved at all, even though these people called upon the name of the lord that day and received salvation from their sins.
There is another conversion that also comes to mind. Saul of Tarsus was told to call "on His name." Now, I am sure you are familiar with the account of what happened on the road to Damascus. We know that Saul, blinded, was led into Damascus. For three days he neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:9). But he was doing something. He was praying (Acts 9:11). Ananias is sent to Saul so that Saul might regain his sight and be told that he is to be God's instrument to the Gentiles. Saul (Paul) later explains what God told him through Ananias (Acts 22:12-16). Notice particularly that last verse where Saul is told what he needed to do to wash away his sins calling on the name of the Lord. Again, he had been praying for three days, but he still had not had his sins washed away nor had he "called on the name of the Lord" in the sense of being saved from his sins.
Many other example of conversions, but to my knowledge none involve this prayer, or one like it. Even in Romans 10:13 and the surrounding context no prayer is mentioned. I believe "calling on the name of the Lord" means the same thing in Romans as it does in Acts 2 and Acts 22 above.
However, if you are aware of such a prayer being prayed, please let me know where to find it. I do tell people they need to "call upon the name of the Lord" and then I proceed to show them how people in the New Testament did that, and advise them to do the same. Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois March 12, 2000