On the Day of Pentecost when Christianity began, Peter told the thousands of Jews gathered there that day that “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Many people today incorrectly teach that this means to pray to Jesus and accept Him into your heart (i.e., the so-called “sinner’s prayer”). But this is shown to be a false understanding, not only by the context but even by the very words that Peter used. The word “call” means “to invoke” or “appeal to”; and “name” refers to one’s “authority.”
Paul used this same word (“call”) in Acts 25:11 when he exercised his right as a Roman citizen to “appeal unto Caesar.” Had he not been a Roman citizen, he would not have had this right to “call upon the name of Caesar.” So we can see that, in order to be saved, one must appeal to the authority of the Lord, not pray to Him, or call out His name, or just claim to “accept” Him.
The Lord said His word will judge us (John 12:48). So, imagine standing before a judge and appealing to his authority regarding whatever crime you may have committed. If you’re going to appeal to his authority, you must have done or be willing to do what he says. If he previously told you to do, for example, fifty hours of community service in order to have the charges dropped, yet you refused to do it (or you only did part of it), how can you then appeal to his authority? The charges will not be dropped!
Peter, by inspiration, said that we must call on the name of the Lord. However, afterward—after his listeners had expressed their desire to be saved—he told them how to make this “call” (this appeal to the Lord’s authority). He told them to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (v. 38). This makes it clear that baptism is for the purpose of having one’s sins forgiven and is the way that a penitent sinner “calls on the name of the Lord.” If it needs to be made even clearer, Acts 22:16 says expressly that Saul called on the name of the Lord by being baptized; he could appeal to the authority of the Lord in order to have his sins forgiven because he was obeying the Lord’s command, given for this very purpose.
It is a sad fact that so many today have “accepted Jesus as their personal Savior”, but refuse to obey Him in such a simple act of obedience. It’s not that they refuse baptism altogether; they just do it for a reason other than what the Scripture says. They believe they were saved prior to baptism, and that baptism is to be performed because they are already saved. Do not be deceived; nobody was saved in this way in the Bible and one cannot be saved in this way today. We must “appeal to His authority” in complete (and continued) obedience.
You may claim to have “accepted Jesus”; but the real question is “has He accepted you?”