(from a manuscript of a sermon preached on 12/4/11 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Romans 10, and let’s read verses 9 through 13:
Romans 10: (9) Because if you confess [the] Lord Jesus with your mouth, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from [the] dead, you will be saved. (10) For with [the] heart [one] believes unto righteousness, and with [the] mouth [on]e confesses unto salvation. (11) For the Scripture says, Everyone believing on Him will not be put to shame. (12) For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord of all is rich toward all the ones calling on Him. (13) For everyone, whoever may call on the name of [the] Lord will be saved.
Today, the Lord willing, we’re going to focus on verse 13, and in particular, what it means to “call on the name of the Lord.” Of course, it’s no secret what the conclusion is going to be; if you’re familiar with what we’ve been teaching all these years, you’ll know. So why even preach about it? Well, for one thing, it’s important that we see all the different terms that the Bible uses to describe belief of the gospel. (See there? I already gave it away.) When we look at the different ways that the Bible describes the gospel and belief of the gospel, we’re able to get more of an appreciation of the richness of seeing all the different vantage points from which we can view the same thing. Also, when we’re talking to others about what a biblical term means, we can learn how this term fits into the truth of the gospel. And if someone is just coming to find out what one phrase means in particular, we can direct that person to the gospel.
So let’s get into the phrase “call on the name of the Lord.” This phrase, or some variation of it, is found many times throughout the Bible. You can also hear this phrase plenty in religious circles. Is what the Bible means by “calling on the name of the Lord” the same thing as what most religionists mean by “calling on the name of the Lord”? I’m sure you know the answer to that – it’s a big NO. Some actually believe it means to just verbally call out, “Lord,” directed toward whoever they think Jesus is. But let’s look at Matthew 7:21-23:
Matthew 7: (21) Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but the [one]s who do the will of My Father in Heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name do many works of power? (23) And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, those working lawlessness!
Now let’s compare Romans 10:13 to the first part of Matthew 7:21. I’ll read one right after the other: “For everyone, whoever may call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” Is there a contradiction here? There is if you think that calling on the name of the Lord means the same thing as saying to Jesus, “Lord, Lord.” But of course there is no contradiction. Calling on the name of the Lord is NOT just saying “Lord, Lord” to Jesus. Many people will be saying “Lord, Lord” to Jesus who will be cast into hell.
So let’s first look at the verb “to call on.” The Greek is ep-ee-ka-LEH-o-ma-hee, which comes from the preposition EP-ee, which means “upon,” “on,” “towards,” “at,” “to,” or “unto,” and the verb ka-LEH-o, which means to call, summon, invoke, or appeal. It is the same word that is used in Acts 25:11. Let’s turn over there. This is Paul speaking:
Act 25: (11) For if I indeed do wrong and have done anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die. But if there is nothing of which they accuse me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.
The Greek word for “appeal to” here is the same word for “call on” in our passage in Romans. Now that’s interesting, isn’t it? How does someone “call on” the name of the Lord in the sense of “appealing to” the name of the Lord? Well, to “appeal” means to make an earnest or urgent request for help. It is similar to “invoke,” which means to earnestly summon for help or support. To “summon” means to request. So now we’re getting a picture of what it means to “call on.” It is to urgently or earnestly request or summon someone for help or support.
Let’s next look at the phrase “the name of the Lord.” Notice that the Holy Spirit through Paul doesn’t say, “whoever may call on the Lord will be saved.” He says, “whoever may call on the NAME of the Lord will be saved.” Why did he put “name” in there? Well, the topic of the NAME of the Lord could be an entire sermon or series of sermons unto itself. We see this phraseology used throughout Scripture. But let’s just briefly go over what “name” means in this context. We saw back in Romans 9:17 that God raised up Pharaoh to display His power in Pharaoh, so His NAME would be publicized in all the earth. Think about what that means while we turn to some more passages that speak of the NAME of God the Father and God the Son. What book of the Bible do you think we’re going to be reading the most from when we look at passages that talk about God’s NAME? It’s the Psalms. When we sing the Psalms, we praise His NAME over and over. Think about what it means to praise God’s NAME.
Psalm 7: (17) I will thank Jehovah according to His righteousness, and will praise the name of Jehovah most high.
Psalm 8: (1) O Jehovah, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth; [You] have set Your glory above the heavens!
Psalm 9: (10) And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Jehovah, have not forsaken those who seek You.
Psalm 18: (49) On account of this I will extol You, O Jehovah, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name,
Psalm 20: (7) These [trust] in chariots, and these in horses, but we will make mention in the name of Jehovah our God.
Psalm 25: (11) For Your name's sake, O Jehovah, even pardon my iniquity for it [is] great.
Psalm 29: (2) Give to Jehovah the glory of His name; worship Jehovah in the majesty of holiness.
Psalm 34: (3) O magnify Jehovah with me; and let us exalt His name together.
Psalm 68: (4) Sing to God, sing praise to His name; lift up [a song] for Him who rides in the deserts, by His name Jehovah; yea, exult in His presence.
Psalm 83: (18) And let them know Your name is Jehovah, that You alone [are] the Most High over all the earth.
Psalm 86: (9) All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You; yea, Lord, [they] shall glorify Your name. (10) For You [are] great and do wonderful things; You alone [are] God. (11) Teach me Your way, O Jehovah; I will walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (12) With all my heart I will thank You, O Lord my God; and I will glorify Your name forevermore.
Psalm 96: (2) Sing to Jehovah; bless His name, bear news of His salvation day by day.
Psalm 103: (1) Bless Jehovah, O my soul, and all within me, [bless] His holy name. (2) Bless Jehovah, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; (3) [He] who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; (4) who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you [with] kindness and tender mercies;
Psalm 106: (47) Save us, O Jehovah our God, and gather us from the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name, to exult in Your praise.
Psalm 109: (21) But You, O Jehovah the Lord, work with me for Your name's sake; deliver me because Your mercy [is] good.
Psalm 113: (1) Praise Jehovah! Praise, O servants of Jehovah; praise the name of Jehovah. (2) Blessed [is] the name of Jehovah from now on and forevermore. (3) From the rising of the sun to its going, Jehovah's name [is] to be praised.
Psalm 115: (1) Not to us, O Jehovah, not to us, but to Your name give glory; on account of Your mercy, on account of Your truth.
Psalm 119: (55) O Jehovah, I have remembered Your name in the night and have kept Your Law.
Psalm 124: (8) Our help [is] in the name of Jehovah, the Maker of the heavens and earth.
Psalm 135: (1) Praise Jehovah! Praise the name of Jehovah; sing praise, servants of Jehovah; (2) [those] who stand in the house of Jehovah in the courts of the house of our God; (3) praise Jehovah! For Jehovah [is] good! Sing praises to His name, for [it is] delightful. … (13) O Jehovah, Your name [endures] forever; O Jehovah, Your memorial [is] from generation and generation.
Psalm 143: (11) O Jehovah, because of Your name, enliven me; in Your righteousness, bring my soul out of distress.
Psalm 148: (5) Let them praise the name of Jehovah; for He commanded, and they were created. … (13) Let them praise the name of Jehovah; for His name alone is exalted; His glory [is] above the earth and heavens.
Proverbs 18: (10) The name of Jehovah [is] a tower of strength, the righteous runs into it and is set on high.
Isaiah 25: (1) O Jehovah, You [are] my God. I will exalt You; I will thank Your name; for You have done a wonderful thing: counsels from afar; faithful faithfulness.
Isaiah 42: (8) I [am] Jehovah; that is My name; and I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to engraved images.
Isaiah 47: (4) Our Redeemer; Jehovah of Hosts [is] His name, the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 54: (5) For your Maker [is] your husband; Jehovah of Hosts [is] His name; and your Redeemer [is] the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of all the earth.
Isaiah 63: (16) For You [are] our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; You, Jehovah, [are] our Father, our Redeemer; Your name is from everlasting.
Jeremiah 10: (6) There is none like You, O Jehovah; You [are] great, and Your name [is] great in might. (7) Who would not fear You, O King of nations? For it is fitting to You, because there is none like You among all the wise of the nations, and in all their kingdoms. (8) But they are at once foolish and animal like; their tree [is] an instruction of vanities. (9) Silver beaten into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the craftsman and the hands of the goldsmith. Violet and purple [is] their clothing; they [are] all the works of skillful ones. (10) But Jehovah [is] the true God, He [is] the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to stand His indignation. (11) So you shall say to them, The gods who have not made the heavens and the earth, they shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens. (12) It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom, and who stretched out the heavens by His understanding. (13) When He utters His voice, [there is] a noise of waters in the heavens. He causes the vapors to go up from the ends of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind out of His storehouses. (14) Every man is stupid from [lack of] knowledge; every refiner is put to shame by the carved image. For his molten image is a lie and no breath is in them. (15) They [are] vanity, the work of delusion. In the time of their judgment they shall perish. (16) The Portion of Jacob is not like these. For He [is] the Former of all things; and Israel is the tribe of His inheritance; Jehovah of Hosts is His name.
Jeremiah 16: (21) And, behold, I will make them know; this time I will cause them to know My hand and My might; and they shall know that My name [is] Jehovah.
Jeremiah 23: (5) Behold, the days come, says Jehovah, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and act wisely, and [He] shall do justice and righteousness in the earth. (6) In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely. And this is His name [by] which He shall be called, Jehovah our Righteousness.
Jeremiah 32: (17) Ah, Lord Jehovah! You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and Your outstretched arm; not any thing is too difficult for You, (18) who acts with loving-kindness to thousands, and repays the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their sons after them. The great, the mighty God, Jehovah of Hosts, [is] His name.
Jeremiah 33: (15) In those days, and at that time, I will cause a Branch of Righteousness to grow up to David. And He shall do judgment and righteousness in the land. (16) In those days Judah shall be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell in safety. And this is the name that shall be called on her: JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Jeremiah 51: (17) Every man is brutish in knowledge, every refiner is put to shame by idols. For his casted image [is] a lie, and no breath [is] in them. (18) They [are] vanity, the work of errors; in the time of their punishment they shall perish. (19) The Portion of Jacob [is] not like them, for He [is] the Former of all things, and He [is] the rod of His inheritance, Jehovah of Hosts is His name.
Ezekiel 20: (44) And you shall know that I [am] Jehovah when I have worked with you for My name's sake, [and] not by your evil ways, nor by your evil doings, O house of Israel, declares the Lord Jehovah.
Ezekiel 36: (21) But I had pity for My holy name which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations, there where they went. (22) Therefore, say to the house of Israel, So says the Lord Jehovah: I do not do [this] for your sake, O house of Israel, but only for My holy name which you profaned among the nations, there where you went. (23) And I will sanctify My great name which was profaned among the nations, which you profaned among them. And the nations shall know that I [am] Jehovah, declares the Lord Jehovah, when I am sanctified in you in their eyes.
Ezekiel 39: (25) So the Lord Jehovah says this: Now I will return the captivity of Jacob and will have mercy on all the house of Israel. And [I] will be jealous for My holy name.
Acts 9: (15) And the Lord said to him, Go, for this one is a chosen vessel to Me, to bear My name before nations and kings and the sons of Israel. (16) For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name. … (27) But taking hold of him, Barnabas led [him] to the apostles and told them how he saw the Lord in the highway, and that He spoke to him, and how in Damascus he spoke boldly in the name of Jesus. (28) And he was with them, going in and going out in Jerusalem, and speaking boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 19: (17) And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, those living in Ephesus. And fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
1 Corinthians 6: (11) And some [of you] were these things, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God.
2 Thessalonians 1: (11) For which we also continually pray concerning you, that our God would deem you worthy of the calling, and would fulfill all the good pleasure of [His] goodness, and work of faith in power, (12) so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and of [the] Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 15: (3) And they sing the song of Moses the slave of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous [are] Your works, Lord God Almighty, righteous and true [are] Your ways, King of the saints. (4) Who will not fear You, Lord, and glorify Your name? For You only [are] holy. For all the nations will come and will worship before You, because Your righteousnesses were made known.
So when you were reading and listening to all these passages about God’s NAME, what were you thinking? What does the NAME of the Lord, the NAME of Jehovah, MEAN? When the Bible speaks of God’s NAME, it is speaking of God’s ATTRIBUTES. Webster’s defines an “attribute” as “an inherent characteristic.” God’s ATTRIBUTES are God’s INHERENT CHARACTERISTICS – what His CHARACTER is. Put more simply, they define WHO GOD IS. And many of the places in the Bible that speak of the NAME of God are preceded or followed by a description of WHO GOD IS, what His CHARACTER is, what His ATTRIBUTES are. So let’s just think about God’s attributes. Who is God? What are His characteristics? Well, He’s the all-powerful sovereign creator and controller of the universe who existed before time began and will exist forever. He is all-knowing, everywhere present, and not able to be limited. He is infinitely just, righteous, and holy. He is infinitely loving, gracious, and merciful. Since He is infinitely holy and righteous, He cannot fellowship with anyone who has less than perfect righteousness. Yet no man by nature has a righteousness that fulfills the demands of God’s perfect Law and justice. How does God remain infinitely just, righteous, and holy, and yet show love, grace, and mercy to some who are not as holy as He is in their own character and conduct? The answer is in the NAME of Jesus Christ, God the Son. We saw in Jeremiah 23 and 33 that God promised to raise a righteous branch from David, and His name would be JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. OUR righteousness! How can Jehovah be OUR righteousness? We know that Jehovah is righteous. But how can He be OUR righteousness? Well, HIS righteousness must be COUNTED to us – IMPUTED to us – in order for it to be OUR righteousness. Jesus Christ was righteous FOR us, as our REPRESENTATIVE, our SUBSTITUTE, and HIS perfect righteousness, His perfect obedience, is COUNTED to all who believe. In Psalm 32:1, David speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works by saying, “Blessed are those whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed the man to whom the Lord will in no way charge sin.” How are lawlessnesses forgiven and sins covered? Can a holy God just look at sinful man and say, “Okay, I’ll just forget all about your imperfections”? NO! The sins of sinful man MUST be punished! Because of WHO GOD IS, because of HIS HOLY NAME, He CANNOT do anything CONTRARY to His Holy Name. He CANNOT let sin go unpunished. And since He is an infinitely holy God, sin is an infinite offense against Him and requires an infinite punishment. How, then, can God maintain His character – His NAME – when He shows love, grace, and mercy toward some – when He fellowships with some, and doesn’t punish them with infinite punishment? It all comes back to the NAME of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 1:21, the angel tells Joseph this about Mary: “And she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” The name “Jesus” means “Jehovah Salvation.” Right there in that name is the person and work of God the Son. Jesus is God. And Jesus saves. So what did Jesus do in order for God to maintain His character – His NAME – He shows love, grace, and mercy toward some – when He fellowships with some, and doesn’t punish them with infinite punishment? Well, the sins of all those who are called “HIS PEOPLE” – Jesus Christ’s people – in Matthew 1:21 were imputed to Him. All the sins of all His people were charged to His account, and God the Father poured out all His wrath on God the Son for all the sins of all His people when God the Son, Jesus Christ, was crucified on the cross. Jesus Christ endured God’s infinite wrath against the sins of His people, and He died for all of His people on that cross. God the Father was absolutely satisfied with the work of His only begotten Son and raised Him up on the third day. The work of Jesus Christ absolutely guaranteed the salvation of every single person for whom He died. God’s promise that Jesus would “save His people from their sins” is absolutely sure and certain. Not a single person for whom Christ died will go to hell, because their sins were already punished in the person of Jesus Christ on the cross. This shows how God can be both just and justifier, as Romans 3:26 says, and can be both a just God and a Savior, as Isaiah 45:21 says. The NAME of God – WHO HE IS – is a just God and a Savior. And the only way He can be both just God and a savior – to be infinitely holy and also to be gracious and merciful – to have His mercy and truth meet together and to have His righteousness and peace to kiss each other, as Psalm 85:10 says – is through the work of Jesus Christ. To believe on the NAME of Jesus Christ means to believe that the God-Man Mediator made COMPLETE satisfaction for EVERYONE for whom He died, TOTALLY ENSURING that EVERYONE for whom He died will be saved. To believe on the NAME of Jesus Christ means to believe that it is the work of Jesus Christ ALONE that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. To believe on the NAME of Jesus Christ means to believe in salvation conditioned on the work of Jesus Christ alone, TOTALLY APART from the sinner’s works and efforts.
So let’s go back to what it means to “call on the name of the Lord.” It is to urgently, earnestly request the Lord’s NAME – His character, His attributes – for help. It necessarily includes the RECOGNITION that the Lord is the only SOURCE of help when it comes to salvation. Psalm 121:2 says, “My help comes from Jehovah, the Maker of the heavens and the earth.” Psalm 124:8 says, “Our help is in the NAME of Jehovah, the Maker of the heavens and earth.” Psalm 146:5 says, “Blessed is he who has the God of Jacob in his help; his hope is on Jehovah his God.” The Psalms also describe the Lord as “our help and shield” and “my help and my deliverer.” In light of this, what does this say about what the one who is calling on the name of the Lord thinks about himself? Let me put it another way: Does anyone who truly calls on the name of the Lord believe that the Lord helps those who help themselves? There’s no way. Those who call on the name of the Lord believe that the Lord helps the HELPLESS. 2 Corinthians 3:5 says that we are not sufficient of ourselves to reason out anything as being out of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of GOD. If someone thinks that Christ died for everyone without exception and that God has given prevenient grace to everyone without exception so everyone without exception now has the ability to come to Christ of his own free will, then that person is NOT truly calling on the name of the Lord. He is calling on the name of an idol that cannot save. Those who TRULY call on the name of the Lord believe that HE and HE ALONE is their help and shield and deliverer, and there is NO HELP outside of the Lord, including any kind of self-help, whether by means of prevenient grace or anything else. The Lord is the GIVER of help, and we are the RECEIVERS of help, and there is no mixture of the two. In fact, any mixture of the two is damnable.
Now as I was thinking about a good example of someone calling on the name of the Lord, my mind went to a person that Jesus Christ said went down to His house justified. Let’s turn to Luke 18 and read verses 9 through 14:
Luke 18: (9) And He also spoke this parable to some of those relying on themselves, that they are righteous, and despising the rest: (10) Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. (11) The Pharisee [was] standing, praying these things to himself: God, I thank You that I am not as the rest of men, rapacious, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. (12) I fast twice [on] the sabbath; I tithe all things, as many as I get. (13) And standing at a distance, the tax collector would not even lift up [his] eyes to Heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, the sinner! (14) I say to you, This one went down to his house having been justified, [rather] than that one. For everyone exalting himself will be humbled. And the [one] humbling himself will be exalted.
We first see that the Pharisee thanked God that he was not one of those sinners he so despised and that he was zealous to keep the law, even over and above what most do. Notice that the Pharisee attributed his status to God! He thanked GOD for enabling him to be righteous! He thanked GOD for enabling him to meet up to the standard that he believed God required! Any belief in salvation conditioned on the sinner, EVEN IF GOD ENABLES THE PERSON TO MEET THE CONDITION, is an abomination to God. Now we come to the tax collector. Here is a man who called on the name of the Lord. He urgently, earnestly pled for mercy based on the NAME, the ATTRIBUTES of the Lord. Many of the self-righteous religionists love to use the tax collector to defend their heresy that newly regenerated people don’t necessarily know about the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. They’ll ask, “How much did the publican know?” Well, THE BIBLE tells us how much he knew. The tax collector KNEW that he could not meet any condition and begged for mercy. The tax collector KNEW where mercy is found. The Greek word for “be merciful” is the same word that is translated “make propitiation for” in Hebrews 2:17. He KNEW that he did not have a righteousness that answered the demands of God’s law and justice in his own character and conduct, and he KNEW about propitiation, which is God’s wrath being appeased. And from Romans 10:1-4, we know that he was submitted to the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, which is God’s justifying the ungodly while remaining just through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. He CALLED ON THE NAME OF THE LORD, begging for mercy, believing the promise of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, and he was saved. Jesus Christ said that this one went down to his house justified. He concluded the parable with these words: “Everyone exalting himself will be humbled. And the one humbling himself will be exalted.” The Pharisee was one who exalted himself. He boasted in himself. Whatever one thinks makes the difference between salvation and damnation is what one boasts in. The Pharisee thought that his own deeds, which he thanked God for, made the difference. Romans 4:2 says that if anyone is justified by works, they have a boast, but not with God. The tax collector was one who humbled himself. He knew there was no room for boasting, as Romans 3:27 says. He knew that there was nothing he could do or be enabled to do that would make the difference between salvation and damnation. He knew that it was the work of Christ alone that made the difference. He gloried in the cross of Christ. THAT’S what it means to call on the name of the Lord. It is to humble yourself and know that your help comes from the Lord, that He is your rock and your stronghold and your salvation, that He is full of love and mercy to all who truly seek Him.
Let’s turn to Isaiah 55:1-7 to close:
Isaiah 55: (1) Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the water; and he who [has] no silver, come buy grain and eat. Yes, come buy grain, wine and milk without silver and with no price. (2) Why do you weigh out silver for [that which] is not bread, and your labor for what never satisfies? Listen carefully to Me and eat the good; and let your soul delight itself in fatness. (3) Bend your ear and come to Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will cut an everlasting covenant with you, the faithful mercies of David. (4) Behold, I gave Him a Witness to peoples, a Leader and Commander of peoples. (5) Behold, You shall call a nation You do not know; yea, a nation not knowing You shall run to You, because of Jehovah Your God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified You. (6) Seek Jehovah while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. (7) Let the wicked forsake his way and the man of vanity his thoughts, and let him return to Jehovah, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.