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Greek Word Study - Call Upon

The rulers of ancient Athens had an uprising on their hands. Rebel forces were amassing an army; war was eminent. Quickly the leaders “sent to ask help from Thessaly, with whom they had an alliance.” The word in Greek history which meant “to summon help from one’s ally” was epikaleo (eh pee kah LEH oh). This word came to have some interesting uses in the New Testament.

When Paul was on trial before Festus in Acts 25, Festus was about to send Paul back to Jerusalem to be tried by the Jews. Knowing that this would mean immediate death, and knowing his rights as a Roman citizen, Paul quickly declared, “I appeal to Caesar.”

We can make two observations, so far, about this work epikaleo, which means to call for help. First, people call for help when they know they’re in such big trouble that they cannot handle it alone. Second, the cry for help is directed toward someone who has both the power and the willingness to help. Your best ally is someone who has the resources to help you and has made a pledge to come to your rescue when necessary.

Both Old and New Testaments promise that a heavenly Ally is available to us. “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Rom. 13:13). This divine Ally is both the Father (1 Peter 1:17) and the Son (1 Cor. 1:2), for either is properly called “the Lord.”

When Stephen was stoned all earthly hope was gone, so he called upon the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7:49). Likewise, when the sinner finally realizes that all is lost, he is baptized into Christ, “calling upon the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The Lord hears the cry for help from the baptismal waters and rushes to the rescue.