Calling on the name of the Lord is one of the hidden gems for us in the Bible and one of the great treasures among us in the Lord’s recovery. This life practice was first recovered in the local churches in 1966, and since then we all have been calling on the name of the Lord daily. But as Peter says, it is always good for our sincere minds to be stirred up again with a reminder (2 Pet. 3:1), and so, we should consider anew our calling “Lord Jesus!”
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking in the Spirit of God says, Jesus is accursed; and no one can say, Jesus is Lord! except in the Holy Spirit.
1 Cor. 12:3
O Jesus, Jesus, dearest Lord!
Forgive me if I say,
For very love, Thy sacred name
A thousand times a day.
In the New Testament there are three key verses that speak of declaring that Jesus is Lord. Romans 10:9 says “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” First Corinthians 12:3 says, “No one can say, Jesus is Lord! except in the Holy Spirit.” And Philippians 2:11 says that “every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” In the original Greek the declaration to be made in these three verses is quite simple and striking, just two or three words: Kyrios Iēsous (‘Lord Jesus!’) or Kyrios Iēsous Christos (‘Lord Jesus Christ!’), but it encompasses the bedrock faith of the Christian church in crystal form. The Greek phrase is notoriously difficult to render properly in translation. Literally, it reads, ‘Lord Jesus (Christ)!’ Because the nouns are in the nominative form (as in simple equational sentences) and not vocative (as if calling out to Him and as the literal English translation may suggest), the phrase is to be understood as a declaration. Yet in this declaration ‘Lord’ is the subject, not ‘Jesus’, and this is very difficult to bring across properly in English translation. ‘The Lord is Jesus’ fails to make much sense in English, and thus, almost all English versions are forced to opt for the less than fully accurate ‘Jesus is Lord.’ Lord refers at once both to the Lord of all the universe and, more significantly, to Jehovah in the Old Testament, which is rendered Κύριος (Kyrios) in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Thus, to declare that Kyrios is Jesus is to declare Jehovah’s incarnation and human living in the person of the Son. And to say that His name is Jesus is to say that the Lord is Jehovah as our salvation, as His name Jesus means in Hebrew, from which it comes. But everyone who makes this declaration knows the fact that Jesus was a person of ancient history, who was killed by Rome and Jerusalem; thus, His crucifixion is implied. That He is being declared Kyrios (‘Lord’) by the believers today indicates first that He is no longer dead but lives on, which points strongly to His resurrection from the dead, and that He has obtained the lordship over all, which depends on His ascension to the throne of His Father (Rev. 3:21). In the context of the church, where the declaration is made by His believers, His headship is affirmed, for what He is as Lord to the whole universe, generally, He is as Head to the church, His Body, particularly (Eph. 1:22-23). Even the future judgment, in the procession to eternity, is implied in this declaration, for Kyrios not only indicates that Jesus rules and reigns today but also implies that Jesus is the One to whom we all will give account in the future (John 5:22, 27; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8). The very eminent church historian J. N. D. Kelly calls this declaration the briefest one-clause Christology in the New Testament and possibly the only single phrase in the New Testament that can be said to function as a “confession or formula of faith” (Early Christian Creeds, 14, 23).
Thus, to declare that Jesus is Lord is no small matter; it is the substantial declaration of our faith in a simple and crystallized form. We must do it to be saved initially, we should do it to enjoy the experience of the Holy Spirit daily, and we ought to do it in anticipation of what every tongue will declare one day finally. How pleasing this is to God, who has highly exalted Jesus and given Him this name! But just to declare is quite objective. To call upon that name, as the Bible frequently describes and admonishes, is so very subjective because to call on that name, which solidly embeds that declaration, is to call upon the One we love, the One we turn our hearts to, the One we flee to in need, the One we greatly desire to abide in and be found in. “Lord Jesus!” “Lord Jesus!”…a thousand times a day!
Calling on the name of the Lord is a simple yet essential way to experience and enjoy the Lord, the One who is “rich to all who call upon Him” (Rom. 10:13). The practice of calling on the Lord’s name is evident in many places in both the Old and New Testament, and it is elucidated and commended in many places in the ministry of Witness Lee. The rich and long history of this practice is recounted—in crystallized fashion—in a wonderful note in the Recovery Version on Acts 2:21: “It shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Among other things, this note points out that “calling on the name of the Lord is not a new practice that began with the New Testament. Rather, it began with Enosh, the third generation of mankind, in Gen. 4:26” (note 1). As the note makes clear, calling on the Lord’s name was prevalent in the Old Testament: Enosh, Job, Abraham, Moses, David, and many others called upon the name of the Lord.
To call upon that name, as the Bible frequently describes and admonishes, is so very subjective because to call on that name, which solidly embeds that declaration, is to call upon the One we love, the One we turn our hearts to, the One we flee to in need, the One we greatly desire to abide in and be found in. “Lord Jesus!” “Lord Jesus!”…a thousand times a day!
Calling on the Lord’s name is vitally necessary in order 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).
Later in the same note, we find this marvelous utterance concerning the practice of calling on the Lord in the New Testament:
Calling on the Lord’s name is vitally necessary in order 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 enables us to enjoy the processed Triune God for our full salvation (Rom. 10:10-13). The early believers practiced this everywhere (1 Cor. 1:2), and to the unbelievers, especially the persecutors, it became a popular sign of Christ’s believers (9:14, 21).
Calling on the name of the Lord, then, is not something that we in the local churches invented—it was practiced by the early believers in the New Testament age and, before them, by many saints in the Old Testament. It is, however, something that the Lord began to recover among us in 1966 and that, no doubt, He is continuing to recover among us in the present. Brother Lee gives the following account of how calling on the Lord’s name began to be recovered among us:
One time, before the Lord’s Day morning meeting, while everyone was sitting quietly and waiting, as was our custom, I stood up and said, “Everyone who came to the meeting can say four words.” As I was speaking, I still did not know what the four words were. While I was speaking, I was considering. Then I spoke the following four words: “O Lord, Amen, Hallelujah!” Everyone practiced this on the spot, and some immediately composed some songs concerning it. Then this became prevailing. I knew that this was the Lord’s leading. So at that point we added another item—calling on the Lord’s name. At that time we were meeting in Elden hall in Los Angeles. Many saints had moved to the neighborhood of the meeting hall. In the early evening one could hear the voices of the saints calling, “O Lord Jesus!” Everyone was calling—calling in the homes, calling on the streets, and calling in the meeting hall. That fervent situation lasted for a considerable time. (CWWL, 1990, vol. 3, “The Up-to-date Presentation of the God-ordained Way and the Signs Concerning the Coming of Christ,” p. 535)
From the late 1960s onward, Brother Lee shared much, from different angles, concerning the significance of calling on the name of the Lord. The rich significance of this organic practice cannot be overstated. As the ministry of our brother helps us to realize, calling on the name of the Lord is our spiritual breathing. Like physical breathing, it is something we can do anywhere and at any time—even all the time! And like physical breathing, it is something that we cannot live without. In Lamentations 3:55-56 the prophet Jeremiah says, “I called upon Your name, O Jehovah, / From the lowest pit. / You have heard my voice; do not hide / Your ear at my breathing, at my cry.” Even when we, like Jeremiah, find ourselves in the lowest pit, we can breathe in the Lord by calling on Him, and we can be assured that He hears our voice.
The ministry also helps us to realize that, among many other things, calling on the name of the Lord is a way to be saved, to participate in and enjoy the Lord’s riches, to eat the Lord, to drink the all-inclusive Spirit, to touch the reality of the Lord’s name, and to be strengthened into the inner man. Hallelujah for such a way! Calling on the name of the Lord truly 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” (note 1 on Acts 2:21).
Regrettably, we do not have the space here to share more from Brother Lee’s ministry concerning the practice of calling on the name of the Lord. But we trust that what has been shared will stir us up to call “O Lord Jesus!” all the more, even at every time and in every place (1 Cor. 1:2). As we see more concerning the preciousness of the Lord’s name and the significance and simplicity of calling on His name, surely it will not be too much for us to call “Lord Jesus!” a thousand times a day. And surely we will be able to testify with much appreciation that, in the words of a hymn by M. E. Barber, “Just to breathe the Name of Jesus, / Is to drink of Life indeed” (Hymns, #73).
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Ministry sources: CWWL, 1968, 2:396-397; CWWL, 1970, 1:137-146; CWWL, 1970, 2:309-315, 327-328; CWWL, 1972, 1:67-71; CWWL, 1975-1976, 1:539-542; Life-study of Romans, 270-276.