Acts 2:19-20 says, “And I will show wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and notable day.” Literally, the Greek word translated “show” in verse 19 means give. Verses 19 and 20 in Joel’s prophecy are not related to the things which occurred on the day of Pentecost, but to the calamities of the judgment day of the Lord in the future. For a detailed consideration of the day of the Lord, I would refer you to note 123 in 2 Peter 3.
In 2:21 Peter goes on to say, “And it shall be that everyone, whoever calls on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.” Calling on the name of the Lord is not a new practice in the New Testament. It began with Enosh, the third generation of mankind, in Genesis 4:26. It was continued by Job (Job 12:4; 27:10), Abraham (Gen. 12:8; 13:4; 21:33), Isaac (Gen. 26:25), Moses and the children of Israel (Deut. 4:7), Samson (Judg. 15:18; 16:28), Samuel (1 Sam. 12:18; Psa. 99:6), David (2 Sam. 22:4, 7; 1 Chron. 16:8; 21:26; Psa. 14:4; 17:6; 18:3, 6; 31:17; 55:16; 86:5, 7; 105:1; 116:4, 13, 17; 118:5; 145:18), the psalmist Asaph (Psa. 80:18), the psalmist Heman (Psa. 88:9), Elijah (1 Kings 18:24), Isaiah (Isa. 12:4), Jeremiah (Lam. 3:55, 57), and others (Psa. 99:6). All these practiced calling on the name of the Lord in the Old Testament age. Isaiah also charged God’s seekers to call upon Him (Isa. 55:6). Even the Gentiles knew that the prophets of Israel used to call on the name of God (Jonah 1:6; 2 Kings 5:11). The Gentile raised up by God from the north also called upon His name (Isa. 41:25). It is God’s commandment (Psa. 50:15; Jer. 29:12) and desire (Psa. 91:15; Zeph. 3:9; Zech. 13:9) that His people call on Him. It is the joyful way to drink from the fountain of God’s salvation (Isa. 12:3-4), and the enjoyable way to delight oneself in God (Job 27:10), that is, to enjoy Him. Hence, God’s people must call upon Him daily (Psa. 88:9). It is such a jubilant practice that Joel prophesied (Joel 2:32) for the New Testament jubilee.
In the New Testament calling on the name of the Lord is mentioned first by Peter, in Acts 2:21, on the day of Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. This fulfillment is related to God’s outpouring of the all-inclusive Spirit economically upon His chosen people so that they may participate in His New Testament jubilee. Joel’s prophecy and its fulfillment for God’s New Testament jubilee have two aspects: on God’s side, He poured out His Spirit in the ascension of the resurrected Christ; on our side, we call on the name of the ascended Lord who has accomplished all, attained unto all, and obtained all. It is vitally necessary for us, the believers in Christ, to participate in and enjoy the all-inclusive Christ with all He has accomplished, attained, and obtained (1 Cor. 1:2). It is a major practice in God’s New Testament economy that we may enjoy the processed Triune God for our full salvation (Rom. 10:10-13). The early believers practiced this everywhere (1 Cor. 1:2), and it became a popular sign of Christ’s believers toward the unbelievers, especially the persecutors (Acts 9:14, 21). When Stephen suffered persecution, he practiced this (7:59), and his practice surely impressed Saul, one of his persecutors (7:58-60; 22:20). Then the unbelieving Saul persecuted these callers (9:14, 21) by taking their calling as a sign. Immediately after Saul was caught by the Lord, Ananias, who brought him into the fellowship of the Body of Christ, charged him to be baptized, calling on the name of the Lord, to show others that he also had become such a caller. By his word to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22, he indicated that in the early days all the Lord’s seekers practiced such calling. Undoubtedly he was one who practiced this, since he charged his young co-worker Timothy to do the same, that he might enjoy the Lord as he did.
The Greek word for “call upon” is epikaleo, composed of epi, upon, and kaleo, call by name, that is, to call out audibly, even loudly, as Stephen did (Acts 7:59-60).
Acts 2:21 speaks of calling on the name of the Lord. The name denotes the person. Jesus is the name of the Lord, and the Spirit is His Person. When we call, “Lord Jesus,” we receive the Spirit.
According to the context, 2:21 is the conclusion of the quotation of Joel’s prophecy, which began in verse 17. The fact that verse 21 is the conclusion of the quotation indicates that the issue of God’s pouring out of His Spirit upon all flesh is their salvation through calling on the name of the Lord. God’s outpouring of His Spirit is the application of the Lord’s salvation unto His chosen people. To be saved is to receive this Spirit, which is the blessing of the gospel in God’s New Testament economy (Gal. 3:2, 5, 14). This Spirit is the Lord Himself as the breath (John 20:22) and the living water (John 4:10, 14) to us. To breathe Him in as our breath and drink Him as our living water, we need to call upon Him. Lamentations 3:55-56 indicates that calling upon the Lord is breathing, and Isaiah 12:3 and 4 indicate that calling upon the Lord is drinking. After we believe in the Lord, we need to call upon Him so that we may not only be saved but also enjoy His riches (Rom. 10:12-13). His riches are enjoyed through our calling upon Him by exercising our spirit. This is the real worship of God (John 4:24).
As we consider verse 21 in its context, we see that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh, that is, upon all human beings, is for the purpose that people will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. This is the reason Paul says that if one is to be saved, he needs to call on the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:12-13).
In Romans 10 Paul speaks of two matters—being justified and being saved. Being justified is somewhat of an inward matter, and being saved is somewhat of an outward matter. Paul says that in order to be justified we need to believe in our heart unto righteousness. If we believe in our heart that the Lord Jesus died for us and that God raised Him from the dead, we shall be justified in the presence of God. However, in order to be saved, we still need to call upon the name of the Lord.
When we preach the gospel and help others to be saved, we need to encourage them to call on the name of the Lord and say, “O Lord Jesus!” From experience we know that the stronger a person calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, the stronger will be his experience of salvation.
Let us suppose that someone who has heard the preaching of the gospel and who wants to be saved prays softly and weakly, “Lord Jesus, You love me, and You died for me. I believe in You.” It may be difficult to recognize that one who prays in such a weak manner is saved. However, suppose someone strongly calls on the name of the Lord Jesus and says, “Lord Jesus! O Lord Jesus! I’m a sinner, Lord, but You died for me! O Lord Jesus, I love You!” No doubt, anyone who prays like this, calling strongly on the name of the Lord, is saved. He may even be beside himself with joy in the Lord for His salvation.
According to Acts 7:59, when Stephen was being stoned, “he was calling upon the Lord and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Saul of Tarsus approved of this killing, and joined in the great persecution against the church in Jerusalem. According to 9:14, Saul had authority from the chief priest to bind all who called on the name of the Lord Jesus. His intention in going to Damascus was to arrest all those who called on the Lord’s name. This indicates that in the early days calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus was a sign of being a follower of the Lord. This calling must have been audible so that others could hear. Thus, it became a sign. At the time of Saul, the believers were those who called on the name of the Lord Jesus.
The Lord appeared to Saul on the way to Damascus, and Saul said, “Who are You, Lord?” (9:5). Later Ananias came to Saul and said to him, “Rise up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (22:16). Here Ananias seemed to be saying, “Brother Saul, you persecuted the saints for calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. They regard you as a persecutor, one who arrested the believers because they called on the name of the Lord. Now you have repented and have turned to the Lord. But how can those who consider you a persecutor recognize that you are now a brother? The only way for them to recognize you is that you call on the name of the Lord. So arise and be baptized by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. While you are being baptized and calling on the name of the Lord Jesus, the saints will be very happy to hear that you also call on this name.”
Today many believers do not have the practice of calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. Some who follow only traditional practices criticize those who call on the Lord’s name. As we have indicated, calling on the name of the Lord is not a new practice; it is not something invented by us. According to the Bible, calling on the name of the Lord was first practiced in Genesis 4.
We have seen that in 2:14-21 Peter, in his first message to the Jews, explains the economical filling of the Holy Spirit. This economical filling of the Holy Spirit was promised by God in Joel 2:28-29, 32.
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