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It is written:
Joel 2:32-And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls.
I hear it all the time from my denominational friends:
“If you want to be saved, just call out from your heart and pray to the Lord and you will be saved: for whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!”
By the end of this study, you will see from at least three clear Scriptures that “calling on the name of the Lord” to be saved in our day and age is primarily a reference to baptism.
The first example of the New Testament equating “calling on the name of the Lord” with baptism is from the second chapter of the Book of Acts. The prophecy of Joel 2:32 was referenced here by the Apostle Peter:
Acts 2:21-AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS THAT WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.’
Now, how did Peter interpret this passage?
When the believers in Jesus heard of their guilt and need for salvation, Peter told them:
Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Notice the connections between the two verses: the name of the LORD (Acts 2:21) and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38); the salvation (Acts 2:21) and the remission of sins (Acts 2:38); and the “calling” (Acts 2:21) with “repent and….be baptized” (Acts 2:38).
There was no reference to a sinner’s prayer, accepting Christ in your heart as Savior, etc. Simply call on the name of the Lord by obeying His plan of salvation.
Calling On The Name Of The Lord = Baptism
The second example is from Acts 9. Saul (an unbeliever who finally believed in Jesus and repented of his sin) was praying and fasting for three days and nights (Acts 9:1-11). If anyone could be saved by praying the sinner’s prayer, it would have been him! But he was not yet saved.
After those three days, he was told:
Acts 22:16-And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
Could language be more plain?
Please notice that Paul was still in his sins till he was baptized.
Further, his action of baptism is specifically equated with “calling on the name of the Lord.” Indeed, the Greek of the passage is even more clear.
The words “be baptized” and “wash away your sins” are in the imperative in the Greek New Testament, denoting commands. Moreover, the words “arise” and “calling on” are two aorist participles, denoting action that occurs simultaneously with the imperative verbs.
“Those who oppose the necessity of baptism also claim that calling on the name of the Lord is what washes away a person’s sins and not baptism. They believe that calling on the name of the Lord is done by a person asking Jesus to come into his heart, but this is not true as we will see. I will admit that it is grammatically possible for calling on the name of the Lord to precede both baptism and wash away your sins. However, it is also grammatically possible that calling on the name of the Lord occurs at the same time as baptism and wash away your sins. So, which is the correct one? To find our answer, we must examine the whole counsel of God, but first, notice what Wayne Jackson says: In submitting to immersion, one is actually by that act “calling on” the Lord’s name. Lenski observes that the aorist participle, “calling on his name,” is “either simultaneous with that of the aorist imperatives [get yourself immersed and washed] or immediately precedes it, the difference being merely formal” (1934, 909) (The Acts of the Apostles 286). So, be baptized and wash away your sins are both aorist imperatives. Whenever the aorist tense is used together with the imperative mood, it indicates a great urgency for this command to be carried out. So the emphasis is on being baptized. As Wayne Jackson pointed out, calling on the name of the Lord is an aorist participle, and it is closely associated with the aorist imperatives be baptized and wash away your sins. So, it is grammatically possible that submitting yourself to baptism is to call on the name of the Lord….There should be no doubt for those who examine Saul’s conversion with an honest heart that baptism is essential for salvation and it is the point at which a person’s sins are washed away.” (Cougan Collins, IS BAPTISM NECESSARY FOR SALVATION?, 1325-1375 (Kindle Edition); Lone Grove, OK)
Calling On The Name Of The Lord=Baptism
A third example of how calling on the name of the Lord for salvation is a reference primarily to baptism is seen in 1 Peter.
1 Peter 3:20-21-who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Peter tells us that baptism was foreshadowed by the Flood in Noah’s day and age. This Flood which saved the Noahs (the type) looked forward to how baptism saves us today (the antitype). Notice how the Flood saved the Noahs , and how it saves us. The world was defiled by sin, until the Flood waters came: and the Noahs were set down into a new cleansed state. In the same way, we are in our sins until the waters of baptism come. Then we are saved “through the water” of baptism just like the Noahs were.
Yet what is truly interesting is that word translated as “answer” (Greek, eperotema) in 1 Peter 3:21.
It was a Greek word that could be translated as “answer,” “pledge,” and “appeal.” The word meant all of these things. Yet what is fascinating is the meaning of the word used here when understood as “appeal.”
“The key word here is appeal, which translates the Greek word eperotema (pronounced ep-eh-ROE-tay-mah). Unfortunately the word eperotema is not easy to translate, and it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament so that comparisons might be made with its use in I Peter 3:21…“A final view is that the word basically means an appeal to God for or by a good conscience (as in the NASB, the RSV, and the NEB). Variations of this are prayer (Moffatt’s translation) and request (Rotherham’s Emphasized New Testament). With so many variations suggested it is difficult to be dogmatic in our translation of the word, but my firm conviction is that the last view is the correct one. The NASB translation is correct; baptism saves as “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” The first reason for this choice is the fact that the common meaning for the verb forms of this word is “to ask, to inquire, to request,” both inside and outside the New Testament….“In the final analysis the meaning both warranted by the lexicons and consistent with the contextual requirements is that of baptism as an appeal or prayer to God for a good conscience. (In this understanding the phrase “to God” or “toward God” [Greek, eis theon] goes with “appeal,” not “conscience.” It is not “a good conscience toward God” but “an appeal to God,” as the Greek word order itself suggests.) An appeal is a kind of question, in the sense of a request. Greeven says this meaning may be seen in the verb in Matthew 16: 1, and that the noun form in I Peter 3: 21 may be translated “prayer.” 6 Thus baptism is a prayer to God for a good conscience. Even though this prayer is something done by the human participant in baptism, it is consistent with salvation by grace because by its very nature it points beyond itself to God and simply underscores the divine working that is the heart and essence of baptism. The person who submits to baptism is by that very act calling upon God to do what he has promised to do in that moment. Baptism saves because it is the prayer of the human heart crying out to God for spiritual cleansing by His grace. From the standpoint of the human participant this is the most that it can be, but that is enough. God himself does the rest. This leads to the third and final reason why appeal is the preferred meaning of eperotema in I Peter 3: 21, namely, because this idea is equivalent to the “calling on His name” of Acts 22: 16. As we saw in the study of this passage above, in connection with his baptism the sinner Saul was exhorted to call upon the name of the Lord for salvation. That is exactly the point of I Peter 3: 21. Baptism saves us not because it is something we ourselves are doing but just because it is a prayer that calls upon the name of the only one who has the power to save, our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jack Cottrell, Baptism: A Biblical Study by Jack Cottrell, 2225-2277 (Kindle Edition); Joplin, Missouri; College Press Publishing Company)
You mean that “baptism” was understood as “calling on the name of the Lord” according to the Apostle Peter?
In further studying about the word family of eperotema, we learn:
“ἐρωτάω (erōtaō), ask, ask a question, request (2263); ἐπερωτάω (eperōtaō), ask (2089); ἐπερώτημα (eperōtēma), question, request, appeal (2090). CL & OT 1. In cl. Gk. erōtaō means to ask, ask a question. eperōtaō means to consult a person or to put a question. Later Gk. used it technically for putting a formal question at a meeting or in the process of making a contract. It may even mean to accept the terms of a treaty. In religious contexts both vbs. can mean to put a question to an oracle or a god. The noun eperōtēma can mean a question put to another person or to someone in authority for a formal, binding answer. 2. In the LXX erōtaō commonly means ask (e.g., Gen. 24: 47, 57; Exod. 3: 13; Isa. 41: 28). eperōtaō is used for the same idea (e.g., Gen. 24: 23; 26: 7; Isa. 19: 3), including inquiry of God (e.g., 65: 1). eperōtēma occurs only in Theodotion’s version of Dan. 4: 14 and in Sir. 33: 3….“3. The noun eperōtēma is found in the NT only at 1 Pet. 3: 21 in respect of baptism: “This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge [eperōtēma] of a good conscience toward God.” If “pledge” is an accurate meaning here, it denotes a statement of faith given by the one being baptized in answer to a formal question. This person should make such a statement with a clear conscience. Possibly it also means that baptism itself is a prayer to God for a good conscience. Or again, it may mean the answer by God to a such a question, i.e., the granting of a clear conscience toward God (cf. Heb 10: 19–25).” (Verlyn D. Verbrugge, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition, 209-210 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
My friends, it was the same Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:21 who connects baptism with salvation, who pointed out the same thing years earlier on the Day of Pentecost!
Calling On The Name Of The Lord=Baptism
Now, is that its’ only meaning?
But when addressing sinners for how to be saved, the Bible is clear that it is by “calling on the name of the Lord” in being baptized into Christ.
To all my denominational friends and preachers: let’s get rid of the notion that “calling on the name of the Lord” for salvation means speaking some prayer in your heart or at an altar somewhere. You do not find that in the New Testament!
Instead, when talking about sinners being saved:
Calling On The Name=Baptism.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.