Monday, January 15, 2007


The Scripture teaches those who are lost in sin to "call on the name of the Lord" and they shall be saved. What does it mean to "call on the Lord" for salvation? Does it mean to literally say the words, "I call on you Jesus for salvation", and you then and there you are saved? Or is something else invovled in "calling" on the Lord for salvation? What does the Scripture say?

The instruction to call on the Lord originates in the Old Testament when Joel predicts the salvation that would commence when God poured out His Spirit (Joel 2:28-32). In Acts 2, Peter says that Joel's prediction was fulfilled that day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles Acts 1:26-2:2 says,
26And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. 1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Following the miraculous outpouring, the crowd of thousands was excited and astonished over what was occuring. In response, Peter said that what they were seeing and hearing was the fulfillment of what Joel predicted. At the end of the Joel prophecy, which Peter quotes, it says, "AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." (Acts 2:21). Following this citation, Peter tells the crowd that Jesus is the Messiah who they crucified but God raised from the grave. When the crowd believed this, they asked, "Brethren, what shall we do?" What would you answer?

What follows is the explanation for how we call on the name of the Lord. Peter responded, "repent, and let each of ye be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . ." (Acts 2:38). The way we are to understand Acts 2 is explained the following way. Generally speaking, a person is saved by calling on the Lord. But specifically, a person is saved by turning from sin and then being baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk 16:15,16). There is no contradiction.

Acts 22:16 is the text we turn to to learn of Saul's, also known as Paul, salvation. The book of Acts tells us about the conversion of Paul which began when Paul saw and heard Jesus Christ as he was on the road to Damascus. He was heading there to arrest Christians and to bring havoc on the church. But following the miraculous intervention, he obeyed Jesus by going to Damascus where he would be told what to do. Paul, being blinded by the light he saw, waited with praying and fasting until Ananias came. Jesus sent this disciple to him to tell Saul that he would be a witness of what he had seen and heard. And then Ananias said the following to Saul:
"Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name." (Acts 22:16)
There are some important conclusions to draw from this text. First, Paul was still in his sin and was therefore NOT saved while on the road to Damascus or at any time in the three days prior to this moment. Second, Paul was commanded to be baptized (a verb for immersion) thus invalidating options like sprinkling, pouring, or NOT being baptized. Third, remission of sins is connected to baptism thus making it the place and time where God's saving grace is first received. And fourth, Saul was calling on the name of the Lord which shows that faith is being demonstrated in baptism. The teaching here parallels what we saw in Acts where they were given the general teaching that salvation comes by calling on the Lord, and the specific teaching that you call on Him by repenting and being baptized. Saul was saved by faith by calling on the Lord in the act of baptism. Is this taught anywhere else in Scripture?

In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter says that baptism "now saves you" as it is the anti-type of the water, not the ark, which Noah was brought safely through: Noah was saved by the grace of God through water. The Greek supports this conclusion. The antecedent of baptism (1 Pt. 3:21) is the water which eight souls were brought safely through. And corresponding to "that" (the water of the flood) baptism "now saves you". Peter is saying that as Noah was saved by God through the water, so in baptism is the sinner saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Peter answered HOW baptism saves in verse 3:21. It is not a washing of the flesh, but it is (this is from the NASB) "an appeal to God for a clean conscience". He is says that it saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The power of baptism is not in the water or in the works of the flesh, but in the power of Jesus' resurrection. We understand that the power to cleanse is in the blood of Christ and not in H2O or works of the flesh. We understand that we are saved by faith. And this is what Peter describes when he says that "baptism now saves you".

When someone hears the Gospel and asks how he or she may be saved, tell them they may be saved if they call on the Lord for salvation. Then more specifically, tell them they should turn from sin and in baptism be united with Christ in His "death, burial, and resurrection". This is the pattern we see in Acts 16 with the Philippian jailer who asked how to be saved and was told to believe in Jesus. Paul then teaches them WHAT to believe in the same hour because the jailer is baptized. Thus we see the same pattern. The jail called on the Lord for salvation by repenting and being baptized. In Baptism by faith they call on God's power to save (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12). Paul clearly links the power of Christ's sacrifice to the adult baptisms we see all through the Book of Acts (note to my Catholic friend: references to "households" do not infer that infants were baptized).

Baptism isn't about human effort or meritorious works. Baptism that is depicted and commanded in the New Testament is an act of faith where a sinner calls on God to save his soul.
See also Praying to be Saved: Not the 'Sinner's Prayer'


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