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What is Calling on the Lord? — Part 1

Calling on the name of the Lord is a central and crucial practice in the Christian life. By calling on the Lord’s name we are saved initially, and we receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17, 21; Rom. 10:13). By calling we are also rescued from distress, trouble, sorrow, and pain (Psa. 18:6; 118:5; 50:15; 86:7; 81:7). By calling we can enjoy the riches of the Lord and His full salvation (Rom. 10:12-13; Psa. 116:13).

By calling we can enjoy the riches of the Lord and His full salvation.

Although calling on the name of the Lord can be considered as praying, it is different from praying. Calling is to invoke the living person of the Lord Jesus in a simple, direct, genuine, and pure way. With prayer, it is possible to have a motive other than to simply contact the Lord Himself. However, when we call upon the name of the Lord, it is as when a child calls for his mother, desiring her presence. This kind of prayer by calling is not for the purpose of obtaining an answer but to have a direct contact with the Person of the Lord Himself. Second Corinthians 3:17 tells us that the Lord is the Spirit, and this resurrected Lord’s name is Jesus. Because the Lord Jesus is a living Person, when we call on His name, saying, “Oh, Lord Jesus,” or “Jesus is Lord,” He responds, and we get the reality of His person, the Spirit. Moreover, while prayer may be silent, calling on the name of the Lord is something audible. When Saul of Tarsus went to Damascus to persecute the believers, he found them by hearing them call on the name of the Lord (Acts 9:14). As Stephen was being martyred, he loudly called upon the name of the Lord (Acts 7:59).

The Bible is replete with examples of ones who called on the name of the Lord. According to the Old Testament, men began to call on the Lord starting with Enosh showing that this practice existed with the third generation of mankind (Gen. 4:26). The Old Testament goes on to record how so many godly men called on the Lord. Abraham (Gen. 12:8); Isaac (Gen. 26:25); Moses (Deut. 4:7); Job (Job 12:4); Jabez (1 Chron. 4:10); Samson (Judg. 16:28); Samuel (1 Sam. 12:10); David (2 Sam. 22:4); Jonah (Jonah 1:6); Elijah (1 Kings 18:24); Elisha (2 Kings 5:11); and Jeremiah (Lam. 3:55) all continued this practice. In the New Testament, the believers were characterized as those who called on the name of the Lord (Acts 9:14). The apostle Paul, who began to call on the Lord Jesus at his conversion and baptism (Acts 22:8, 16), told us that as called ones, we call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place (1 Cor. 1:2).

The way to call on the Lord is to first open your heart to Him in a pure way (2 Tim. 2:22) and then to open your mouth and call on Him audibly (Psa. 81:10). Christians should not be silent, as those who worship dumb idols, but should worship God by calling on the name of Jesus (1 Cor. 12:2-3). As believers in Christ, we should call on the Lord daily (Psa. 88:9) and for as long as we live (Psa. 116:2). May we all be those who enjoy His riches by calling on Him!

For further reading on this subject, please see Life-Study of Genesis, message 25; Calling on the Name of the Lord; and footnote 1 of Acts 2:21 in the New Testament Recovery Version, published by Living Stream Ministry.

From Issue No. 67, November 2003

What is Calling on the Lord? — Part 2

In Acts 22 where Paul recounts the day of his conversion, he repeated the instructions given to him then by Ananias, “Rise up and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (v. 16). The significance of this particular counsel Ananias gave Saul that day can be easily understood when connected to the record of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9. Earlier, Saul had witnessed the stoning of Stephen and heard the cry of this faithful martyr as he called upon the Lord, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (7:59). In Saul’s determined persecution of the church, he received authority from the chief priests to bind all those who called upon the name of Jesus (9:14), and he was known throughout the synagogues as “the one who ravaged those who call upon this name in Jerusalem” (v. 21). From this record, it is clear that one identifying trait of the early New Testament believers was their calling upon the Lord’s name. Eventually, as Paul testifies, he also became a lover of Jesus who called upon His name.

How great a gift is the name of the Lord Jesus given to us believers.

In Genesis 4, a record of the progression of the fall of mankind, the concluding verse says, “And to Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time men began to call upon the name of Jehovah” (v. 26). The name Enosh means “frail, mortal man.” Knowing the meaning of Enosh helps us understand the preciousness of this simple practice of calling on the Lord’s name. We who are so frail and who suffer the distresses, troubles, sorrows and pains of human life can simply cry out the name of our Lord Jesus just as the Old Testament saints called upon Jehovah, the name of God in His intimate relationship with man.

The Lord’s lovers and seekers have always suffered misunderstanding in their pursuit of a closer relationship with Him. There are some who are skeptical about this matter of calling on the Lord’s name, which has a rich history and solid base throughout the Scriptures. They misunderstand and some even misrepresent this precious way to contact the Lord, which is to call on the name of our Savior who is a living Person. We call on the Lord’s dear name because we love Him. Our calling on Him helps us turn our heart to Him amid this evil age filled with distractions.

How great a gift is the name of the Lord Jesus given to us believers! In the words of a beloved hymn, what better way to turn our eyes upon Jesus and cause the things of earth to grow strangely dim than to call upon the name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9)! By the simple act of calling upon His name, we have the most practical way to live the Christian life. No wonder Paul told Timothy, “Flee youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). May we experience the riches and sweetness of the Lord Jesus by calling on His name and say, as did F.W. Faber in his famous hymn, “O Jesus, Jesus, dearest Lord! Forgive me if I say, for very love, Thy sacred name a thousand times a day."

For further reading on this subject, please see Enjoying the Riches of Christ for the Building up of the Church As the Body of Christ, chapter twelve, by Witness Lee, published by Living Stream Ministry.

From Issue No. 68, December 2003

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