How did Paul fetch out the followers of Jesus in Acts 9?

I've always thought that it was simply their practice of calling on the name of the Lord (precisely "Jesus") aloud as the phrase "calling on the name" is mentioned twice there: firstly when Ananias is telling the Lord about Saul's persecuting early Christians:

And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. (Acts 9:14 KJV)

secondly when , while Saul was preaching about Jesus in a synagogue, the listeners were amazed by that:

But all that heard [him] were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? (Acts 9:21 KJV)

Later in the book of Acts we are given some additional information to chapter 9 - Ananias also asked Saul to call o the name of the Lord when he was baptizing Saul:

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16 KJV)

However, I just found out that the phrase "to call on the name of the Lord" may have little to do with literal naming - but rather could be merely a figure of speech.


4 Answers 4



Using (or calling on) the name of Jesus was a sign of his early followers. It was both a literal term (in that Christians used the name to perform miracles) and figurative one (as it strongly identifies Jesus' followers).

It's probable that this way of identifying believers comes from the first volume of Luke-Acts:

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”—Luke 9:49-50 (ESV)

(It's not obvious from the way the New Testament is commonly arraigned, but Acts and Luke were written by Luke on commission from Theophilus. Acts 1:1-2 explicitly labels itself as a sequel.)

Luke is repeating an even earlier tradition that's recorded in Mark:

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.—Mark 9:38-41 (ESV)

The context of this particular story seems to be someone (who was not part of the disciples' group) using the name "Jesus" to perform miracles. We see an examples of this practice a number of times in Acts, including:

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”—Acts 3:6 (ESV)

Peter emphasizes in Acts 3:16, that the man was healed "by faith in [Jesus'] name". It seems that this very act was what prompted the Jewish leaders to later give Saul the authority to bind believers:

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”—Acts 4:5-12 (ESV)

While the actual case was about a man healed using the words "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth...", the concern of the Jewish leaders was whether the healing was powered by God or by some demonic force. The conclusion of the trial was that the leaders "called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus." (Acts 4:18 ESV) So this seems to be more figurative: using the name of Jesus as a sign of authority.

The passage you mainly ask about is instructive in the way that it uses the word name:

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”—Acts 9:10-16 (ESV)

It seems that the primary sense of the word, as used here, is to identify someone or something. Therefore, the primary sense of "calling on the name of the Lord" is to identify someone as part of the group who follows Jesus.


Inductive study of the phrase "call(s/ed) upon the name of the Lord," brings much to light.

**Acts 2:16 shows that Acts 2:21 is a quote from Joel 2 and that YHWH is actually the name called upon.

16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 'And it shall be in the last days,' God says, 'That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; 18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy. 19 'And I will grant wonders in the sky above And signs on the earth below, Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. 20 'The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood, Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. 21 'And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

We know that the Old Testament translators replace the actual name "YHWH" with "the LORD" (see Strong's #3068)

Thus Joel 2:32 actually says,

"And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of YHWH Will be delivered . . ."

Thus we know see it is actually, whoever calls upon the name YHWH will be saved.

This passage in Joel is again quoted in Romans 10:13
for "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved."

This act of calling upon the name of YHWH is recorded often in the OT:

Genesis 4:26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the YHWH.

Genesis 12:8 Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the YHWH.

Genesis 13:4 to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of YHWH.

Gen 21:33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of YHWH, the Everlasting God.

Genesis 26:25 So he built an altar there and called upon the name of YHWH, and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac's servants dug a well.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of YHWH.

1 Kings 18:24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of YHWH, and the God who answers by fire, He is God." And all the people said, "That is a good idea."

2 Kings 5:11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, "Behold, I thought, 'He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the YHWH his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.'

Lamentations 3:55 I called on Your name, O YHWH, Out of the lowest pit.

Zephaniah 3:9 "For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may call on the name of the YHWH, To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.

We see from Psalms 116:4, that they were literally calling on His name!

Psalms 116:4 Then I called upon the name of YHWH: "O YHWH, I beseech You, save my life!"

  • All of NT exegesis is complicated by the fact that the NT authors appear to be ignorant of the Hebrew scriptures and rely entirely on the Greek OT scrolls. For them "the lord" (capitalization is a modern thing) referred to God. So introducing the tetragrammaton is not supported by any extant texts (though JWs are able to produce a fragment that might be an LXX with a fragment of the tetragrammaton). But your point is sound that the allusion is to Joel and Joel refers to God, not to Jesus: Brenton LXX: Joe 2:32b ...whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved:..
    – user10231
    Mar 6, 2016 at 21:51
  • @WoundedEgo - A.) Jesus argued that even the Jews were ignorant of Scripture, set aside the commandment of God for traditions of men, and hadn't understood the truth that the law of mercy triumphs over judgment, (sacrifice); B.) He argued they couldn't possibly have understood the Prophets, because they couldn't accept a Messiah who would usher in Mercy and Reconciliation; C.) Regardless of Christianity's validity - Jesus was right, and still is. D.) Jews don't assert that the Tetragrammaton is God's actual name. Mar 7, 2016 at 7:16

Outline: 1.) Question Restatement; 2.) Answer - Invoking Jesus' Name was to Repudiate Rabbinicism; 3.) Explanation - Scriptural Context.

1. Question Restatement:

Acts 22:16 - And now what is your resolution? Take a stance - be baptized, Calling upon the Name of the Lord - be released from under your sins.

  1. Should Calling Upon the Name be understood figuratively?
  2. But if Literal: - What exactly does that mean?
  3. And, how would that have allowed the Jews to recognize and persecute Christians?

2. Answer - Invoking Jesus' Name was to Repudiate Rabbinicism:

Calling Upon the Name, (ἐπικαλεσάμενος), was literally An Appeal (ἐπερώτημα) to live under a greater Legal Authority :

NASB, 1 Peter 3:21-22 - ... baptism now saves you, ... an appeal to God for a good conscience - through ... Jesus Christ ... 22 And [all] authorities and powers [have] been subjected to Him.

Under the Law of Liberty, Christians were free from condemnation under the Law - but they also forfeited the right to accuse under that law :

NASB, 1 Peter 3:8-16 - To sum up ... be harmonious, sympathetic ... 9 not returning evil for evil ... but giving a blessing instead; 16 ... so that ... those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

Sefer Shoftim, Mamrim Chapter 3: Consequently, living under the Law of Liberty put those authorities to shame - with serious implications.

3. Scriptural Context - Explained by the Prophets:

Acts argues that Calling Upon the Name fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law - in order to appeal for Mercy, (Acts 1:16, 3:18, etc).

Acts also Argues that this was Declared by the Prophets:

NASB, Acts 10:43 - Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who [trusting] in Him receives forgiveness of sins.

This form of Appeal is even analogous to modern secular law :

3.1. "Trust" - In the Promise that God Loves:

Analogous To: Good Faith.

NASB, Zeph. 3:8-17 - “Therefore ... declares the Lord ... My decision is to gather nations ... 9 ... That all of them may call on the name of the Lord ... 12 ... And they will take refuge in the name of the Lord. .. The Lord has taken away His judgments against you.

3.2. "In the Name" - Invoking a Greater Authority:

Analogous To: Legal Authority.

In the Name is idiomatic of With the Authority - and effectively the same things, (See Related Question: "What is calling on the name?").

3.3. "For Release" - To be set Free from Condemnation:

Analogous to: Supersedeas Clause.

NASB, Romans 8:1-39 - 31 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

2 Cor. 5:17: - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old [charges] passed away; behold, new things have come.

3.4. "Through Baptism" - To Set Aside the Former Standard:

Analogous To: Entire Agreement.

NASB, Romans 6:3 - Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?

NASB, Romans 7:1: - Or do you not know, ... that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?

3.5. "Taking a Stance" - To Live under the Law of Liberty:

Analogous To: Obligations.

NASB, James 2:12-16 - So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

2 Cor 5:18-19 - 18 Now ... God, ... through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was ... not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

  • Your answer states that calling on the name of the Lord in Acts has only the figurative sense and has nothing to do with literal calling on the name "Jesus". However, it doesn't disprove that it could also be the literal calling, which means that that possibility still remains. Do you have any proofs that that was definitely not the literal calling on the name "Jesus"? Another thing that you didn't address is how did then Paul fetch the first followers of Jesus if their practice of calling on the Lord was nothing else then just doing what the OT prophets were admonishing people to do?
    – brilliant
    Mar 6, 2016 at 21:21
  • @brilliant - A.) I updated the answer, and terribly sorry. I removed this answer from a portion of a different answer - and it came out exactly opposite of what I was trying to say! Golden Calf? B.) To be clear, I suggest that Scripture consistently shows Calling Upon the Name as a VERY literal Legal Appeal, Invoking a Higher Authority - by Name; Mar 6, 2016 at 21:50
  • "I suggest that Scripture consistently shows Calling Upon the Name as a VERY literal Legal Appeal, Invoking a Higher Authority - by Name - Which name in the book of Acts was it exactly?
    – brilliant
    Mar 7, 2016 at 1:08
  • @brilliant - A.) Which Name? From Acts 10:43: B.) Immanuel - Is.7:14, Matt.1:23; Zeph.3:5; Zeph.3:145;Jer.30:21; Jesus/Salvation - Is.52:7; Is.62:11;Matt.1:21); "The Lord Our Righteousness"; Jer.23:6, 33:16;Zeph. 3:5;"King of Righteousness" : Heb.7; ps.110;4; C.) Name / Law Forgotten: Jer.33:27; Ez.20:15; etc; D.) A Name which represents the greatest authority-showing mercy to the merciful; a kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy. Regardless of how you pronounce the names--their meanings are always the same; E.) But really should be a different question ... Mar 7, 2016 at 4:50
  • "Which Name? From Acts 10:43" - Which means they were calling exactly the name "Jesus", otherwise, had they been calling any of the names of God given in the OT, there would have been nothing illegal in what they were doing then - nothing for Saul to identify them and consequently persecute them (Acts 9:14, 21)
    – brilliant
    Mar 7, 2016 at 13:19

Call oin the name of the Lord has 2 meanings: the word is I appeal unto Caesar.>> Now thats of course had nothing to do with which is and means that the name is called ypon us. If i wear saying means nothing if i am not an American. Paul used the name of Caesar because was a Roman. In order to take upon you the name of the Lord (means to believe in the sacrifice ,live wile him, being his etc.) then i have to be His. Thats why we must being baptised in the name of Jesus Christ (not just repeat the titles Father,Son,Spirit) but actually invoke and call upon yourself the name of Christ. Other passages to help you understand this are:

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. thahts literally being named by his name. Or call the name upon you.Yes must be invoked but with the right faith. Neither just invocation neither an ,understanding> alone are enough. but i have to know him and then being named by his name. *now because we know the verses that we are named by the name of Christ and we saw that the name is given by God. Take a look of to whom the name is and an other usage of the word epikaleo: Acts.15:*17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, **upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.* ἐπικέκληται (epikeklite) "called upon> :) you see? We know that the phrase is used in the old testament for his temple and some times for his people. But called on the Nations? how? :) that because we are now temple of God and all who are baptised in the name are named after him. So we see now that the name which are called ypon us is the actual name of the Lord (no 2 lords)

*There is a secondary use oif that word. to help you understand the meaning. but thats the passive voice of the verb epikaleo which is and means that he changed his name so that others now call him : 15:22 *Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; [namely], Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren"** avtually thats a sub category of the forst usage but seems you understand that litteraly means 12:12 And when he had considered [the thing], he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. Again literaly read as And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; epikaloumenon Peter.

2)Acts.2:21 And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Like we saw the meaning and practice of the name called ypon as is baptism in his name and praying in/through his name. One example is (we go to God in the name of His Son: 4:29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. :) you see? Thats praying (literaly) calling God as Lord and praying for the preaching of the name Jesus his Son.

Now the second meaning or way to call ypon is ,to call God (the Lord) by His name ;) Jesus said ,i came in my Fathers name> and and < Father glorify your name> and then and Peter said ;) ok i dont go farther for its to deep for here.. then Go and Peter said to them We know that the singular name of Jesus which God gave him and make him Lord is the only saving given name by heaven to earth through which we shalt be saved: Philip.2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; 11 And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father. :) we allready so the typical praying to God in the name of Jesus but now we see something more than Baptism or pray to God by faioth to his Son. Now we are to: singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord > and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

We are to pray TO God , TO the Lord but THROUGH the name of Jesus. here you have one more example of the actual meaning of call upon the name (epikaleo) ACTS 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon [God], and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

:) SORRY FOR MY BAD English (YES i know i am very ba on English). But if you give a change you will see that the Spirit is the same regarding the language. So we have 1)Call upon 1a) i go to God through faith in the work of his Son. 1b) i am named by his name, or His name is called upon me.(otherwise i dont have the right to call upon the name) and that means i am dead and buried with Christ through baptism in his name and resurrected in a new life through him by His Spirit. Now i know and (grow in knowledge) of the Lord so that i call ypon his name. Thats praying to him by his name. We dont call an other God, or a human biut we got o God in the revealed name tht was given to his Son in which

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.