Joel prophesied of the last dispensation of time which would be inaugurated by great signs performed by God (Joel 2:28-32). The last days of which Joel spoke began to be fulfilled in Acts 2 as the inspired apostle Peter affirmed in verses 16-21. In these last days, the promise is whosoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:21). While many in the religious world think this is a prayer to Jesus to save them from their sins, the Bible teaches otherwise. In context in Acts 2, Peter went on to prove that they audience was guilty before God for crucifying Jesus the Christ (Acts 2:22-36). Once convicted, they asked what to do. Remember whoever would call on the Lord would be saved. However, Peter did not lead them in a prayer. What did he tell them to do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. (Acts 2:38-40).
Calling on the Lord to be saved was an appeal to God through repentance and baptism to be saved, having past sins remitted. Baptism saves us; it is an appeal to God for a clean conscience in response to the guilt of sin our conscience presents (1 Peter 3:21).
By inspiration, Paul affirmed that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). Paul understood that he was not speaking of a prayer a sinner–who has never come to God, yet to become a Christian–makes. Paul/Saul was religious his entire life. He affirmed his belief in God and the Old Testament, but he did not recognize that Jesus was the Christ, the fulfillment of all the Messianic prophecies. Then Jesus revealed Himself to Paul (Acts 9:3-5). When Paul asked Jesus, “what do you want me to do?” Jesus did not say, “Well, you are already talking to me, just ask me to save you.” No. Jesus said, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). Paul now believed in Jesus. He called Him Lord. He began to obey the Lord’s directives. Paul also fasted and prayed for three days (Acts 9:9, 11). However, Paul later in Acts 22 recalled what happened in the city of Damascus that day that he called on the name of the Lord. In Acts 22:16, Paul recounted how Ananias, the preacher, came to him and said, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Paul believed in God, believed in the Bible, saw Jesus in a vision, talked to Him, believed He was Lord, and fasted and prayed for three days, but he still had not called on the name of the Lord. He still had his sins. They had to be washed away. Jesus told Paul/Saul that he would be told what he must do. Ananias was dispatched by the Lord and told Paul/Saul to get up, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
This last phrase, “calling on the name of the Lord” shows that baptism was this appeal to the name of Jesus. After all, baptism is in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5). We ought to let the Bible define and explain its own expressions rather than placing our own notions on the text. It is clear in Acts 2 and Acts 22 that ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ involves baptism, the appeal to God for the forgiveness of sins.
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