We Call On Him

In some respects, Christianity was a distinct break from what went before—such as in relation to the law (see Rom. 10: 4). In others, the NT revelation builds on the old—that is, it is developmental. One area where this can be seen is in relation to the matter of calling on the name of Jehovah, and the Spirit of God clearly intends us to make a connection between what is taught in the OT with what is taught in the New.

   The first mention of the practice of calling on the name of Jehovah is in Genesis 4: 26: “And to Seth, to him also was born a son, and he called his name Enosh. Then people began to call on the name of Jehovah”. That this was a positive development is indicated by its connection, not with the line of Cain, but with the line of Seth (whose name means appointed, and from whom the Messiah would be descended). The language used suggests that calling on the name of Jehovah was a new thing that commenced after the birth of Enosh, many years after the creation of Adam. Since the genealogy of Seth is repeated again in the following chapter, this suggests that the first reference is of special significance. Calling (or crying) to Jehovah implies both distance and a recognition of the human condition (significantly, the name Enosh means weak, mortal).

   In Genesis 12: 8, we find Abram building an altar, and calling on the name of Jehovah (see also Gen. 13: 4; 26: 25). Thus the way for weak, mortal man to approach to God is by means of blood sacrifice—one of the oldest lessons in the Bible. Indeed, we may say that Abram was characterised by calling on the name of the Lord (see Gen. 13: 4; 21: 33; 26: 25), thereby demonstrating his dependence on God throughout his earthly pilgrimage. This was also to be the portion of the nation that would come out of his loins, for “what great nation is there that hath God near to them as Jehovah our God is in everything we call upon him for?” (Deut. 4: 7; see also 1 Kings 8: 52). As for individuals who called upon Jehovah, the OT is replete with examples (see Judges 15: 18; 1 Kings 18: 24 etc.). It not surprising that there are also multiple references in the Psalms, for these poems are largely a record of the OT believer’s experience with God (see Ps. 3: 4; 4: 1 etc.).

    When we come to the NT we find the same pattern of calling upon Jehovah, although it now as the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus while the prophet speaks of “whosoever shall call upon the name of Jehovah shall be saved” (Joel 2: 32), when Peter quotes the same Scripture, he distinctly connects it with “Jesus the Nazaraean” (Acts 2: 22). To cry out to Jehovah is to cry out to the man Christ Jesus. Again, “For there is no difference of Jew and Greek; for the same Lord of all [is] rich towards all that call upon him. For every one whosoever, who shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved. How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without one who preaches?” (Rom. 10: 12–14, my emphasis). Indeed apart from one reference to the Father (see 1 Pet. 1: 17), it is only Christ that is distinctly said to be called upon—and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is deliberate, the Spirit of God seeking to fix in our minds that Christ is Jehovah. Christianity is characterised by calling on the Lord’s name—the first Corinthian epistle is addressed to “all that in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1: 2), and as believers, we are to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2: 22).

   The idea of some that to “call on this name” (Acts 9: 21) only means to call on God in the name of the Lord Jesus is unsustainable. Paul “thrice besought the Lord” (2 Cor. 12: 8) that the thorn in the flesh might be removed from him, and the context clearly demonstrates that it was Christ Himself that he addressed. Stephen, in being stoned, cries out, directly addressing the Lord Jesus in prayer (see Acts 7: 59). John, in almost the last words of the Bible, exclaims: “Amen; come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22: 20). All of these prayers are spoken, not merely in His name, but to the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, if to call (epikaleo) on the name of the Lord only means praying in His name, then invoking (epikaleo) God as Father (see 1 Pet. 1: 17), means praying, not to the Father, but only in the name of the Father. Praying in the name of the Father is not Scriptural. Thus the plain teaching of the Bible is that calling on the name of the Lord Jesus in Christianity is both a continuation and a development of the OT practice of calling on the name of Jehovah. The OT saints call on him as Jehovah; we call on Him as Lord Jesus.