Calvary Road Baptist Church

September 19, 2014 - 319 West Olive Avenue, Monrovia, California 91016 (626) 357-2711

“CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD”

This morning I would like to address a matter that has disturbed me for some time, what I perceive to be something of a deviation from careful and reverent attention to the gospel and the sinner’s response to the gospel that is set forth in God’s Word. However, before bringing that before you, allow me to first set the stage by pointing out a more obvious error that is somewhat easier to detect.

How many of you have heard well-intentioned Christians, with a good many pastors and preachers among them, indicate that a sinner becomes a Christian by “accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Savior”? Or perhaps, someone will give personal testimony related to his own conversion by making mention that “I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.” Of course, the problem with that line of verbal testimony is that it is nowhere supported in scripture. The nearest thing to acceptance found in the New Testament is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, in which he declares, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved,” Ephesians 1.6. Thus, in the New Testament the sinner does no accepting. Rather, God the Father does the accepting of those who are in His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I would suggest that an honest appraisal of the Bible’s description of a sinner’s conversion to Christ should conclude that God the Father accepting the sinner in Christ is most certainly not the same thing as the sinner accepting Christ. Do a thorough study in God’s Word of accept and accepted and you will find nothing comparable to this notion of “accepting Jesus Christ.” In scripture, one finds God accepting such things as petitions, offerings, and individuals. However, the notion of a sinner accepting Jesus Christ is a concept quite foreign to the Bible.

As an aside, please take time to reflect on the serpent’s temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden, when he said to her, “and ye shall be as gods,” Genesis 3.5. Ask yourself is there a bit of this temptation involved when the sinner does something that in scripture we see only God doing, accepting people or actions, when the sinner supposedly accepts Jesus Christ as his savior? In light of our observation that only God accepts anyone’s person or offering, I think it should frighten any seasoned Christian to learn of someone supposedly accepting Jesus Christ as the means by which they claim they became a Christian.

Does this mean that everyone who says he became a believer in Jesus Christ when he accepted Christ as his savior is lost? Not at all. It means that the statement about accepting Jesus Christ as one’s savior does not reflect Bible truth. Therefore, the matter should be looked into with all seriousness. It is important to discern what someone means by what someone says.

Now that I have established to your satisfaction that what is meant by what someone says may not necessarily be scriptural, even though it is almost universally accepted (pardon the pun) without question, I would like for you to consider yet another comment that is frequently made and allowed to pass without criticism or reflection of any kind. I refer to the phrase “Call on the name of the LORD.” A quick search reveals that the phrase “the name of the LORD” appears more than 105 times in the Bible, while the phrase “call on the name of the LORD,” or “call upon the name of the LORD,” or some nearly identical variation of the phrase is found twenty-two times. Those twenty-two verses will be a part of this sermon for your examination when it is posted to the church web site for you to read. (See below)

Some people think they are Christians because they “called on the name of the LORD.” Some of those same people are not really Christians. Of course, we recognize that different people can mean entirely different things when they say they “called on the name of the LORD.” That is why it is so very important for a discerning and experienced gospel minister to carefully discuss the matter with the hopeful Christian in order to see if such a statement truly reflects a likely conversion experience.

Allow me to shed what light I can on the matter by discussing this practice of “calling on the name of the LORD” under three headings:

First, REVIEW WITH ME SOME REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLES FROM GOD’S WORD OF CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD

The first mention of such a thing in scripture is found in Genesis 4.26:

“And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.”

Of course, Enos was a descendant of Seth, the son born to Adam and Eve after Cain slew his brother Abel. It was during the lifetime of Enos that men began “to call upon the name of the LORD.”

The next mention in God’s Word of such a thing is found in Genesis 12.8:

“And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.”

This event took place following the LORD’s appearance to Abram in Mesopotamia and his stay in Haran, when he, his wife, and his nephew Lot were in the Promised Land.[1]

The third mention in God’s Word of someone calling on the name of the LORD was once more Abram, this second time for him was after he had gone down to Egypt during a famine and had returned to the Promised Land, in Genesis 13.4, once more at the place called Bethel:

“Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.”

Skipping over six occurrences of calling on the name of the LORD, we come to Second Samuel 22.4:

“I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”

This follows the record of David’s defeat of Goliath with a sling in Second Samuel 21, and is a declaration that David repeated in Psalm 18.3.

Passing over several psalms in which the phrase is used by David, we come to Joel 2.32, no doubt the most familiar of the Old Testament verses in which this familiar phrase is found:

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.”

This is the final verse of Joel’s prophecy that the Apostle Peter refers to in his Pentecostal sermon in Acts chapter two, when he explains the source of the signs and wonders that attracted those multitudes of men to hear him preach the gospel and at which time he assigned to them responsibility for Christ’s crucifixion.

We now move to the New Testament, specifically Peter’s just referred to Pentecostal sermon, and that portion of his sermon in which he cites the verse we just read, Acts 2.21:

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

We next turn to Acts 22.16, and the Apostle Paul’s testimony of his conversion as told to an unruly mob of unbelieving Jewish men in Jerusalem, recounting to them what he was told by Ananias in Damascus three days after the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus:

“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

We have read seven of the twenty-two verses containing the phrase “call on the name of the LORD.” I would now like you to consider two verses at once, Romans 10.13-14:

13     For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

14     How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

This passage has to be the most familiar to folks who attend independent Baptist churches, since these two verses are typically central to the presentation of the gospel and the gospel tracts that are most often used by independent Baptist churches. Of the twenty-two places in God’s Word that this phrase “call on the name of the LORD” or something very much like it is found, we have read and very briefly explained the context of nine of them, from the Old Testament patriarch Abram, to David, to the apostles Peter and Paul.

Next, WE WILL REVISIT THOSE VERSES WE HAVE READ THAT DO NOT CORRELATE TO A SINNER BEING SAVED FROM HIS SINS OR A BELIEVER WORSHIPING GOD

First, consider with me Genesis 4.26:

“And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.”

Though Christian commentators for the last two centuries seem to be completely unanimous that this verse refers to genuine believers appropriately calling on the name of the LORD in real worship, Jewish scholars were virtually unanimous in their opinion that the opposite is true. Nineteenth century English Baptist pastor and scholar John Gill, who thoroughly studied the Jewish scholars, writes in his own commentary on Genesis 4.26,

The Jews give a very different sense of these words; the Targum of Onkelos is,


“then in his days the children of men ceased from praying in the name of the Lord;”

                  and the Targum of Jonathan is,


                            “this was the age, in the days of which

                            they began to err, and they made themselves

                            idols, and surnamed their idols by the name of the

                            Word of the Lord;”

                           with which agrees the note of Jarchi,

“then they began to call the names of men, and the names of herbs, by the name of the blessed God, to make idols of them:”

 

and some of them say, particularly Maimonides, that Enos himself erred, and fell into idolatry, and was the first inventor of images, by the mediation of which men prayed to God. . . .”[2]

Did John Gill agree with the Jewish scholars he cited? No, he did not. However, I am not so sure the Christian commentators are all right and the Jewish scholars were wrong, because of one nagging and undeniable reality; where were these people when the Flood came and there were only eight believers saved by the Ark? I do not accept that believers perished in the Flood. I contend, as does every Christian commentator I have ever heard of, that only the unsaved perished in the Flood, and that Noah and his family (the eight) were the only believers alive on earth before the Flood. Therefore, where were all these people who called on the name of the LORD? Is it possible this verse records unbelievers calling on the name of the LORD? Don’t make up your mind yet.

Next, consider with me Genesis 12.8:

“And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.”

What is interesting about this verse, of course, is that Abram was not at this time justified in the sight of God. His salvation, if you want to call it that, does not come until Genesis 15.6, where we read,

“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

The implications of Abram’s actions at this point are significant.

Third, consider Genesis 13.4, which also takes place prior to his Genesis 15.6 justification:

“Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.”

This may come as a shock to you, but there can be no doubt that Abram was what we would call an unsaved man on the two occasions we have just read when “Abram called on the name of the LORD.” The Apostle Paul, in Romans 4.1-5 and in Galatians 3.6, fixes Abraham’s salvation precisely on the occasion recorded in Genesis 15.6, after he twice is recorded to have called on the name of the LORD. As well, James agrees with the Apostle Paul, in the epistle he wrote, James 2.23. Thus, Abram was not saved when he called on the name of the LORD, and calling on the name of the LORD was not the occasion at which time he was saved.

Finally, WE REVISIT THOSE VERSES WE HAVE READ THAT SEEM TO CORRELATE WITH A SINNER BEING SAVED FROM HIS SINS OR A BELIEVER WORSHIPING GOD

First, consider David, in Psalm 18.3, and in Psalm 116.4, 13, 17:

18.3      I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

116.4    Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

116.13   I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.

116.17   I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

The sweet psalmist of Israel, whose heart was after God’s own heart, had rightly placed confidence that he could call upon the LORD in times of trouble. Be mindful, however, that these are references to calling on the LORD for deliverance from physical danger, and have no obvious reference to his salvation from sins, since Psalm 116.10 identifies David as already being a believer:

“I believed, therefore have I spoken.”

Joel 2.32 and Acts 2.21 come next:

2.32      And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

2.21      And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

The word “shall be delivered” in Joel 2.32 translates a Hebrew word that means to escape, to slip away, and virtually always with reference to physical deliverance.[3] The word “shall be saved” in Acts 2.21 is the Greek word swzw, which refers to preservation or rescue from both natural dangers and afflictions, and also spiritual and eternal dangers, depending upon the context in which the word is being used.[4] Which understanding of the word should we take to be true in Acts 2.21? I am inclined to think it refers to physical and spiritual deliverance, and I will tell you why. Ancient church historian Eusebius is reputed to have reported that when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD they killed the inhabitants of that city, all of whom were unbelievers, because the believers had already been driven out by persecution years earlier.[5] Therefore, there is cause, in my opinion, for embracing the notion that these two verses relate to a physical deliverance, without ruling out the likelihood that there also a spiritual deliverance somehow in view.

We next return to the Apostle Paul’s testimony in Acts 22.16:

“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

How are we to understand this verse? It seems somewhat perplexing to new Christians who are disturbed by the sequence of phrases in the verse; first, be baptized, then, wash away thy sins, and finally, calling on the name of the Lord. What does this mean? If you keep in mind that Paul uttered these words to an angry mob of Jewish men in Jerusalem who had accused him of wrongdoing, but that this took place after he had written his letters to the Galatians and to the Romans, there can be no doubt concerning what he did not mean. We know from Romans 4.1-5 that Paul used the experience of Abraham as the prototype of how every sinner’s justification takes place, by faith and apart from works of righteousness of any kind, except as evidence coming later to show that justification had indeed taken place. Galatians 3.6-9 establishes the very same principle of justification by faith alone. Therefore, what the Apostle Paul could not have meant by his testimony in Acts 22.16 is that his own personal relationship with Jesus Christ was established by either being baptized or by calling on the name of the Lord. Therefore, I understand Paul’s testimony here to be a summation voiced to him by the godly Ananias, wherein he rehearsed the entirety of Paul’s conversion experience, baptism, and first cries to the Lord as a believer, without regard to the sequence of the events. Therefore, this is what happened, but not in the order in which these events took place.

Finally, and most importantly, we consider Romans 10.13-14:

13     For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

14     How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

Allow me to remind you that the main body of Paul’s letter to the Romans is divided into four main sections, dealing the with the need for justification, the nature of justification, the nation of Israel in chapters 9-11, and the outworking of the Christian life in chapters 12-16. Romans 9 deals with Israel’s past, while chapter 10 deals with Israel’s present, and chapter 11 addresses Israel’s future. With that reminder in its proper place, and recognizing that the Apostle Paul is writing to the Roman Christians (who were mostly Gentile believers) about the present situation of Jewish people, specifically the unsaved Jewish nation, please turn to Romans 10 and read verses 12-17 with me:

12     For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

13     For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

14     How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15     And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

16     But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

17     So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

It is crucial to rightly understanding what Paul has written to recognize that his logical argument in this passage is arranged in the reverse sequence in which these things actually occur in a person’s life. In other words, Paul is pointing out in each subsequent verse the basis for what he has written. Please verify this by carefully reading the passage when you get home. For now, I will deal with the verses from last to first, to show clearly what Paul is teaching.

Verse 17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

No one would argue with this. The means by which God imparts faith to someone is by the hearing of His Word.

Verse 16: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?”

Referring to the prophet Isaiah, we see that not everyone who hears the Word of God preached is given faith. Some do not obey the gospel. Some do not believe what they are told.

Verse 15: “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

Obviously, for faith to be produced in people’s lives they have to hear the Word of God preached, which is why preachers are sent.

Verse 14: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”

This is why the importance of preaching God’s Word is emphasized and why preachers are sent. Without the gospel message being communicated, no one can call on Him in whom they have not believed. Notice the sequence. One properly calls on Him in whom they believe. Thus, Paul here clears up once and for all that faith must properly come first.

Verse 13: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Notice that calling on the name of the Lord comes first in the passage, but comes logically subsequent to faith in reality. Thus, a person must first come to faith before he properly calls on the Lord. He may call on the Lord before he has saving faith, as Abram did on two occasions, but such are only the desperate or the ignorant pleas of a lost man.

Verse 12: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.”

There is no difference in God’s present dealings with Jewish and Gentile unbelievers, He is the same Lord over all and is rich unto all that call upon Him. However, that calling upon the name of the Lord properly and efficaciously comes after one hears the Word, has faith, and believes to the saving of one’s soul.

My friend, it is a wonderful thing to call upon the name of the LORD. However, as we have seen, especially with Abraham on several occasions, it is possible for someone to get the cart before the horse, to call on the name of the LORD before one is a child of God by means of simple faith. So you see, it is very good for any child of God to call on the name of the LORD, to confidently cry out for deliverance and blessing, as we saw David proclaim was his practice in the psalms we read. However, to do as Abram did, to call on the name of the LORD before one is justified by faith is little more than a pretentious religious exercise that comes to no avail.

Now, perhaps you see why it is appropriate for even the most well-intentioned person to be helped by an experienced and discerning minister of the gospel. When the conviction of the Holy Spirit turns your life upside down it is likely there will be confusion about some very important issues. It is crucial at such times for the nature of the gospel to be emphasized and reemphasized, especially the truth that justification is by faith in Christ.

Contrary to that Biblical truth is the modern notion held by too many that the sinner must call upon the Lord to be saved from his sins. That is not true! Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, completely apart from works of righteousness, even such a work as calling on the name of the Lord. That should come after faith in Christ, because we have seen proof positive that it is not the same as faith in Christ. Confusion about calling on the name of the Lord is why great caution must be exercised, because while some sinners have come to faith in Christ and they describe it as calling on the name of the Lord, others have called on the name of the Lord without faith in Christ. The result? The same result as with Abram those two times he called on the name of the LORD before he believed in the LORD; nothing!

My friend, are you in need of God’s forgiveness? Do you need Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do not call on the name of the Lord. Without so much as a word uttered, come to Christ by faith and be saved. Then you can all on the name of the Lord to your heart’s content, as a child of God with access to come boldly to the throne of grace.

 

 "Call on the name of the LORD" verses:

Gen 4:26      And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.

Gen 12:8      And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

Gen 13:4      Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

Gen 16:13    And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

Gen 21:33    And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.

Gen 26:25    And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac's servants digged a well.

2 Sam 22:4   I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

1 Ki 18:24    And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.

2 Ki 5:11      But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

Ps 18.3         I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

Ps 116:4       Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

Ps 116:13     I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.

Ps 116:17     I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

Joel 2:32       And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

Zeph 3:9       For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.

Zech 13:9     And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

Acts 2:21      And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Acts 22:16    And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Rom 10:13   For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Rom 10:14   How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

2 Tim 2:22    Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

1 Pet 1:17     And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.



[1] Acts 7.2

[2] John Gill, The Baptist Commentary Series Volume I, John Gill’s Exposition Of The Old And New Testaments, Vol 1 (Paris, Arkansas: the Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., reprinted 2006), page 40.

[3] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 572. Note: See Joel 3.5 in Hebrew Bible.

[4] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 982-983.

[5] Reported by Matthew Poole, A Commentary On The Whole Bible, Volume 2, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), page 984.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org