What Does It Mean to Call Upon the Name of the Lord?

Recently, I was on an independent Fundamental Baptist dating ministry website (like eHarmony), by invitation of the sponsoring pastor, and I was reviewing their presentation of the gospel. After a solid presentation of numerous verses relating to salvation, the presentation closes like this:

7) Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and take you to Heaven someday when you die:
Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
* The word call means, in this verse, to pray.

Here is a sample prayer:

“Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and that I deserve hell for my sin. Please forgive me of my sin and I trust in Jesus alone as my only way to get to Heaven. Please come in my heart and save me and take me to Heaven someday when I die. Amen.”

I wonder if this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote Romans 10. Did Paul imagine that two millennia after he penned Romans 10, people all over the globe would be told that if they sincerely asked Jesus in their hearts they can be assured of being saved because of the promise in Romans 10:13?

Another website says: "We must pray to receive Christ" and then cites Romans 10:13 as the proof text. Is this adding to the gospel? Where does the Bible say we must pray to be saved?

A different Baptist church website looks like this:

Won't you call on Him in prayer today? It's a promise from God - the Bible says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13

Is it true that “call” means to pray in this verse? Can we say “Whosoever shall pray to the Lord shall be saved?” Would anyone dare say: “If you pray this prayer you are saved?” Who would be so bold as to assure someone of salvation based upon a prayer?

The truth is the word call is never translated “pray” in any of the numerous times it is used in the NT. (Notice the various ways the AV/KJV translates epikaleomai G1941 — call on 7, be (one's) surname 6, be surnamed 5, call upon 4, appeal unto 4, call 4, appeal to 1, appeal 1.) Did you notice it wasn't pray one time?

The verse is never translated “whosoever prays to God will be saved.”

In an effort to explain what it means to “call upon the name of the Lord,” the entire context of Romans 10 must be examined. Paul was writing a letter, and he never intended for isolated verses to be pulled out of his letter and used arbitrarily. Romans 10:12-14 reads like this:

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

Romans 10:14 should never be separated from verse 13. Romans 10:14 asks this question:

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?”

This is a critical point. Whatever it means to “call on” can’t be done without belief. Therefore, “call upon” can’t simply mean “say words in the form of a prayer.” In this follow-up question to verse 13, Paul explains that you can’t call upon the name of the Lord if you have not believed in Him whom you are calling upon. The context is very helpful. The context provides much clarification. Paul helps me understand that it is not the action of “calling upon” that saves me, but my faith in the One upon whom I am calling.

In Romans 4, Paul reminded his reader that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. Abraham was not declared righteous because he prayed to God. The book of Genesis does not record any prayers that Abraham offered up to God.

If “call upon” is the same as “pray to,” why didn’t Paul just say that? He could have. He uses the word “prayer” in 10:1 and the word “pray” in Romans 8:26 speaks of the Spirit of God making intercession for us when we pray.

No, “call upon” is not the same as “pray to.”

The emphasis upon verse 13 is not an explanation of how to be saved, but a promise from God and the promise is extended to “whosoever.”

Salvation, according to Paul, is no longer limited to just the descendents of Abraham. Verse 12 makes it clear that the context of the “whosoever” is Jews and Greeks. Now Greeks (Gentiles) can also be included in the promise that God will save those who “call upon the name of the Lord.”

The phrase “call upon the name of the Lord” is a way of expressing a dependency upon the Lord to be one's Savior. This person is invoking the “name of the Lord” as the name of the One who is their Savior. This person who is calling upon the name of the Lord has already believed in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead (10:9). He would not be invoking the name of the Lord as the One who saves him if he thought Jesus was still dead. Dead people can’t save people. No, the very reason the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is being invoked as Savior is that the person has already believed upon Him. He has already recognized that he is helpless to save himself. This is why the name of the Lord Jesus Christ must be invoked. Who is the one saving you from sin? “The Lord Jesus is my Savior” is the testimony of anyone who is a believer. This person believes that God saves those who appeal to the gospel as their only hope for salvation in faith. This appeal is not the articulation of words, in the form of a man-made prayer, but it is an acknowledgement of a complete dependency upon God for salvation from the heart.

The testimony of the one who is a believer in Romans 10 is: “If I am going to be saved, it is God who will have to save me.” This is why saved people frequently and without hesitation confess or profess with their mouth “the Lord Jesus.” This profession or confession is not a prayer but a testimony (either orally or in writing or any other means of communicating) of their faith in Christ. Those who believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead have as their testimony that “Jesus is Lord.” He is not just a man. He is God Incarnate—the Son of God. He is the Lord—which is precisely why God raised Him from the dead. Believers appeal to or invoke the name of the Lord Jesus as the One who saves them from sin and death because there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which a person can be saved (Acts 4:12). When asked, “How do you know you are going to heaven when you die?” believers will always invoke the name of the Lord Jesus as the reason they know they are saved (1 John 5:13). It is not the fact that they have prayed a prayer that saves them. God knows their heart.

Believers’ faith is not in their prayer, but in the promises of God found in the gospel. Like Abraham who believed God’s promise for a future son (the child of promise, Romans 9:9) to carry forward Abraham’s name, today’s believers in Christ invoke or appeal to the name of the resurrected Lord Jesus as the One they are depending upon for salvation. They would never appeal to their own righteousness. They would never appeal to their keeping of the law as sufficient to save them. Their appeal, instead, is found in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead.

Genesis 4:26 speaks about a day when men began to call upon the name of the Lord. On what day did you “call upon the name of the Lord to be your Savior?” When did you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the tomb to be your Savior?

I can’t help but wonder how many people have been led to pray a prayer from Romans 10:13 who have subsequently never publically confessed Jesus before men. Jesus said (using the same Greek word Paul used) “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Mt 10:32).

Obviously, it is imperative that we don’t attempt to make Romans 10:13 say something it is not saying. Jesus is not communicating that anyone who has ever said “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” can be assured that Jesus will confess their name before the Father in heaven. In the same way, anyone who calls out to God to save them cannot be assured that those words have obligated God to save them.

Someone would be foolish to think that the articulation of the words “God save me” is what saves a Christian from hell. People are saved from hell because of their faith in the gospel—not their faith in the words they have said as an expression of that faith.

A person who has previously prayed a prayer of salvation, like the one on the webpage, must be taught that his faith should never be in the fact that he prayed to God. Instead, his faith must be in the “name” of the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified for the sins of the whole world and subsequently rose from the grave in demonstration of the power of the gospel to save all who believe.

If you have previously prayed for salvation and have yet to experience any peace in your salvation, let me encourage you to examine what your faith was truly in—was it faith in your prayer or faith in the promises of a God Who cannot lie?


  1. Excellent post my friend. My wife has been calling on me to take care of her for 32 years. She has depended on, relied on, had faith in, and trusted me to take care of her. I like the way you handled it.

  2. Wonderful article. Glad to know there are a few out there that have refused to follow the other gospel that has taken over so many churches. I do have a suggestion. I understood what you were trying to say, but you need to correct the part were you said, "He is not a man. He is the Lord." Maybe you could say He is not only a man, but He is also God.

    1. Romans 10:13 says all who call upon the name of YHWH shall be saved. If you do some research you will find that evil people removed the name of the Father and replaced it with Lord over 7000 times. They also planted a false name Jesus when his name is Yahshua. The Catholic Church did this. Jesus means earth pig in Latin. Rome has tricked us. They are pagan idoliters.

    2. Romans 10:13 says all who call upon the name of YHWH shall be saved. If you do some research you will find that evil people removed the name of the Father and replaced it with Lord over 7000 times. They also planted a false name Jesus when his name is Yahshua. The Catholic Church did this. Jesus means earth pig in Latin. Rome has tricked us. They are pagan idoliters.

    3. How to know if you believe in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead acording to Romans 10 9

    4. How to know if you believe in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead acording to Romans 10 9

    5. How to know if you believe in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead acording to Romans 10 9

  3. Thank you Wesley--great attention to theological detail. I have have edited the blog.

  4. This was helpful as my understanding was fuzzy on what the word meant. What a diference this makes on our theology!

  5. I was meditating on the Word and came across Acts 2:21 this morning. I started to wonder what it REALLY means to call upon the name of the Lord. So when I was done with my prayer time, I trotted off to my computer to see if I could come up with an answer. And I did - thanks to you, praise God! Your explanation is excellent and I believe right on the mark. Thank you for being obedient to our Father.

  6. Replies
    1. It is so refreshing to know there are other churches that preach the truth. My dad's name is Pastor David A Rowan and pastors a church in Milton, FL called Faith Baptist Church. I came across this article searching for the most eloquent way to explain Romans 10. I know it was not by accident. No such thing :) thank you again.

  7. This seems to miss the whole point of what does it mean to call on the Name of the Lord. For the first thing, never once has this person explain WHAT IT THE NAME OF LORD. Clearly its not just using a new but believing in the Name. The Lord came in his Name that cause Abramham to call(Genesis 21:33) on so what was it, PROVIDER. He was the first to call on the Name of the Lord and it was because the LORD had clearly showed him that He was who He was, I AM. The one who you should look to for your needs to be met.To call on the Name of the Lord is to stand in what he came in. His Name is Holy, Provider, Master, Judgement, righteous, and truth. Hope this allowed you to see this also in such a few words, Amen.

  8. In every example of someone being saved in the book of Acts there is not one in which they are told to call upon the Lord by praying, not one. The only one we have a record of where someone prayed before they were saved is the apostle Paul. While praying he was waiting for someone to come tell him what he must do and when that person arrived he didn’t say to him you need to pray. If he had Paul would have most likely said, “I’ve been praying what more can I do, is there something different I need to say?” Also he was not told to believe in Jesus because it was obvious that he believed when he asked, “what would you have me do Lord?” No, he was told, “What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.”
    Did he still have his sins before he was baptized? According to Ananias he did. Was baptism something he had to do? Well, according to the Lord it was. You will be told what you must do. The only thing that is revealed that Ananias told him to do was, arise and be baptized and have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord. To call upon the Lord is to recognize the authority Jesus to forgive sins and to submit to his authority. Anything we are told to do that requires our obedient submission to Lord’s commands is calling upon His name. So baptism is calling upon the name of the Lord but no more than believing, and no more than confession, or repentance. Why? Because all of those are commands of the Lord and add up to obeying the gospel. Calling upon the name of the Lord and obeying the gospel are equivalent to each other.

  9. Thanks for such a great article on this topic. I am often dismayed at how swiftly someone is urged to say a "prayer of salvation" to get saved before a declaration of belief and faith in Christ's work on the cross and God's plan of salvation is uttered. This crucial element is clearly and lovingly outlined in this article.

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  11. Great write up and a lot of truth to theology however I respectfully disagree in some areas. The reason Bible tracts make salvation sound so easy is because it really is just that easy. Jesus says any man who calls upon me And I will in no wise cast out, can also mean praying, praying is a way of speaking directly to God. Exodus was not a large book in contrast to other books in old testament. my point is just because Abraham never specifies that he prayed to God does not necessarily mean that he didn't. Some authors in the bible just specified more or less. God bless

  12. Thank you Pastor Sean for this blog. I was in emergency unit in the hospital, I was seriously in pain in the night. I had major surgery earlier, I was discharged home after 6days. I returned to emergency unit after 4 days in pain. I was very uncomfortable in the night, I could not really pray, but from time to time I would say something to God. I feel asleep, then woke up with this msg, "whosoever shall call upon the name of the lord shall be saved by the lord "
    The voice was that of my Pastor, but I knew that was msg from God. Then I Prayed, save me oh God from this pain
    immediately, nurse came in to check on me, I told her how I felt, she administered pain Med and brought extra pilo, I got peace in my body. But I know I am born again, that msg part of what people are made to say when they want to give their life to God. As I went through the posting on this blog, I have better understanding of my msg
    "Have faith in God, pray to God, and stand upon his promises "

  13. It would seem that there has been a "witch-hunt" about this issue for some time. I do not know of a single person who says that they are saved BECAUSE of a prayer...the prayer (or call) was an expression of receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus said: "As many as RECEIVED Him, to them He gave the right to become the children (sons) of God."
    It is not faith in a prayer, but faith in the Savior that saves. Faith reaches out to a waiting Redeemer, and calls upon Him to be saved. Peter did it, the publican did it, Paul enjoins it, the Old Testament prophet recorded it. A person is saved by faith through receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. For many, this is expressed in a heart-cry to God the Savior.
    I think this is why we do not specifically read of this type of out-loud prayer in the Acts, it occurred within the heart and the Apostles witnessed the indwelling Spirit (Acts 10) or other repentant changes and did not need to encourage it.
    Prayer is not meritorious, it is not a work, it is the attitude of grateful reception of that which God offers.

    1. Relying on His word, His promise, is relying on the one(our God and Savior Jesus Christ). How can someone who wants to have a relationship with The Lord be rejected? Jesus said just come and I will certainly not cast you out, Nasb. I'm not going to trust my works but His. I don't stand for Calvinism or the other. I can always tell a Calvinism preacher by the way He makes the gospel so complicated. Because of that ive had an awful time hearing the contradicting, works don't matter for salvation but... Feelings don't matter but... So I sat around waiting for God to do something though I know not what. Then Jesus shows me He has invited me Mathew 11:28-30,Isaiah 55:1, Romans 5:6,4:5. Told me to come to Him like I am and He will do ALL the saving and changing, Ezk 36:26,27. Its mind boggling to me hearing people say don't believe Jesus saved you when you asked.And Jesus says believe me I will save you if you do.

    2. Faith in the person who died for the ungodly, while we were helpless, sinners and His enemy (Romans 5:6,8,10) and who says he justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5) without works. Who says Come Isaiah 55:1,Mathew 11:28-30,John 6:37, Revelation 22:17 and I will save you.

  14. Jesus says its ok to ask. Read John 4:10. Don't tell people God doesn't do what He says He will. When people come to Jesus (John 6:37) to ask for salvation (Romans 10:13) responding to an invitation He has given (Isaiah 55:1,Mathew 11:28-30) He saves them. Gods word says so.

  15. I wrote this in Word, but it’s too large for one post, so I’ll break it up into parts:


    Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking post. I especially appreciated the Greek definition of this word/phrase, “calling upon.” The fact that it means an “appeal to” God, makes perfect sense. In fact, it’s the same Greek word that’s used in Acts 25:11-12 where Paul “appeals” to Caesar.

    However, with all respect and humbleness, I feel the application and definition of “calling upon” the name of the Lord is unclear. If I understand correctly, you’re saying that “calling on the name” is a “belief/faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and evoking His name, by confessing Him to others.” At what point then is someone saved?

    At the point of belief? Or at the point of our confession? It can’t just be “belief” in the Lord because even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). Also, faith without works is dead as it says in James 2:14-26:

    “14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
    18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

    1. PART TWO

      Dale Hope was correct in saying that “calling on the name of the Lord” and “obeying the gospel” are equivalent, and he brought up a very important verse that shows that in Acts 22:16. This verse shows that the act of baptism and calling upon the name of the Lord are one and the same. And it makes total sense since we, through baptism, are reenacting the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as is described in Romans 6, which is the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). But also take note that in Acts 22:16, baptism and calling on the name of the Lord, is also a removal of sin. “’Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and WASH AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on His name’” (Acts 22:16, emphasis is mine). And we all know we can’t be with God while in our sins. It also states that it’s a removal of sin in Acts 2:38 “38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Note: this verse makes it clear that this is also when we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; but that’s a subject for another time.

      Finally, 1 Peter 3:21 makes it clear exactly what it means to “call upon” the name of the Lord which, as you said, in the Greek means “appeal to.”

      (Emphasis is mine) 1 Peter 3:21 “Corresponding to that, BAPTISM NOW SAVES YOU—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an APPEAL TO God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

      1 Peter 3:21 makes it very clear that at the point of baptism we are saved, especially since baptism washes away our sin, it’s a reenactment of the gospel (Christ’s death, burial and resurrection), and it’s a “calling upon/appealing to” God to save us.

      So . . . “calling upon the name of the Lord” is baptism. If you read all the conversions in Acts, they are all baptized.

      All of this then makes Jesus’ words clear and understandable in John 3:5 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

      “Water” equals “baptism” in water.

      “Spirit” equals “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (which is received at the time of baptism, according to Acts 2:38).



  16. I would say that believing the gospel is obeying the gospel. This is the work of God,that you believe in Him whom He has sent, John 6:29. Jesus answered and said to her," If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you,'Give me a drink',you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." John 4:10