In this article we shall focus on the above quotation from Joel 2:32. Like the Old Testament references considered in the last three issues of The Lampstand, this quotation also deals with the important matter of the inclusion of Gentiles in the Divine purpose. It is quoted or alluded to many times, showing to us that it was an important “stock quotation” used by the apostles, and indeed also by the Lord to show that Gentiles would be involved in the salvation of God.
In Romans 10:13 Paul cites Joel 2:32. He has just made the point that the requirements for salvation are the same for Jew and Gentile. Both had to confess with their mouths the Lord Jesus and to believe in their hearts that God had raised Him from the dead (Rom 10:9,10). In verse 12 he alleges that seeing God is Lord overall (both Jew and Gentile, cp 3:29,30), He is “rich unto all that call upon him.” This last phrase is taken from Joel 2:32, which is cited as proof in the following verse, “for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
How does Joel 2:32 prove that Gentiles, too, are included in God’s family. The word “whosoever” is unrestricted and all-embracing, just like the words “every one” (Num 21:8) and “any man” (John 12:26). No longer could Jews claim exclusive privileges. But while the verse shows the scope of the Divine calling, it also shows upon what conditions salvation would be made available, namely, “calling on the name of the Lord”. Just what this means we will consider next, but it is noteworthy that this phrase is found in Genesis 4:26: “then began men to call upon the name of Yahweh”. In later times Asaph records Yahweh’s wish that men should call upon Him “in the day of trouble”, and He assures them He will deliver them (Psalm 50:15, cp 81:7).
Peter, Joel and Pentecost
The most notable usage of Joel 2 in the New Testament is Peter’s on the day of Pentecost. He used this chapter to explain why it was that the apostles of the Lord were able to speak in tongues. He quotes extensively from Joel 2:28–32, and points out that three notable things will take place at the same time, namely,
1 Spirit gifts would be granted (Acts 2:17,18)
2 The ruling Jewish “heavens and earth” would be destroyed (v19,20)
3 Salvation would be preached in a Name (v21)
What is the Name of Salvation?
Having explained why the apostles were able to speak in the foreign languages of the proselytes gathered in Jerusalem from “all nations” for Pentecost, Peter “interrupts” his quotation from Joel’s prophecy to explain the meaning of the Name which if called upon would bring salvation. In his words that follow he explains the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, showing that God had predetermined them. His resurrection from the dead was the seal of Divine approval, marking him out to be “both Lord (‘Kurios’, cp Psalm 110:1 quoted in v34,35) and Christ” (anointed, ie Messiah cp Psalm 132:11 which is quoted in v30).
Concluding his summary of the identity and role of Jesus before this Jewish audience, he said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel known assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v36).
This is highly significant because Peter here synthesises the Name of salvation which men must call upon to be saved. Joel had said that men must “call upon the Name of the Lord (Yahweh)”, but Peter gives us the historical development of this Name, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus when asked what must be done in order to be saved, Peter replied, “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins… ” (v38). In the chapters which follow in Acts there is a decided emphasis upon this Name whereby men might be saved (3:16,18,20; 4:10,12,17,18,30).
Peter Returns to Joel 2
It is interesting to note that Peter returns to complete the citation from Joel in verse 39, for the words, “even as many as the Lord our God shall call”, are based on the concluding words of Joel 2. The RSV puts it this way: “… for in Mount Zion… shall be those who escape (AD 70), as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls”.
So here we have an interesting point: those who call upon the Lord shall be saved, but they are also called by the Lord in the first instance. It is God who is “taking out of the Gentiles a people for His Name”, but these same people, be they Jew or Gentile, must all call upon the Name of the Lord.
The Word “Whosoever”.
The word “whosoever” is given the widest application, for in Joel 2:28 we read that “all flesh” would have God’s Spirit poured upon it. In Acts 2:39 Peter expounds that this promise was available to his audience, their children and to all that are ”afar off”. In this final expression he alludes to another Old Testament “stock quotation” proving it was the Divine will that Gentiles should be incorporated into God’s purpose: “I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off (Gentiles), and to him that is near (Jews), saith Yahweh” (Isa 57:19; Eph 2:13–18).
Further References to Joel 2:32 in the New Testament
1 John 3:12–16 Jesus and Nicodemus
In his words to Nicodemus, Jesus revealed that salvation would not depend on nationality but attitude towards him! Hence it would be available to men of all nations who would believe in Him. Twice the Lord affirmed that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” His use of the word “whosoever” is identical to Peter’s and Paul’s.
2 Acts 9:14,21 Ananias and Saul
When Ananias was told to go and visit Saul of Tarsus he protested, recalling his history and the purpose of his visit to Damascus. He said to the Lord, “And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. It appears that this expression from Joel 2:32 was a concise way the body of the believers was designated. Just a few verses on we find it again, “Is not this he which destroyed them which called on this name…?” (v21).
It is intriguing to note, and incidentally confirms the inspiration of Scripture, that Paul uses this phrase again when he tells the story of his conversion before the Jews in Jerusalem many years later. He recounts the words of Ananias to him, “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth… And now why tarriest thou? arise and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:12–16).
3 Acts 10:43 Peter and the House of Cornelius.
Significantly and appropriately, in the house of Cornelius, the “first Gentile convert”, Joel 2:32 finds its way into Peter’s discourse. In his final words Peter says, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins”. Peter was initially hesitant to go to Cornelius, but soon, by the Spirit’s influence, he went and in his discourse acknowledged that “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (v34). It would appear that, as his words proceeded, the fulness of the meaning of Joel’s words, which he had cited earlier on the day of Pentecost, dawned upon him.
4 1 Peter 1:15–17 Peter Summarises Life’s Lessons
In his epistle, written sometime later, Peter again brings together essential truths he had learnt from Joel’s remarkable prophecy.
i In verse 15 he says, “But as he which hath called you is holy… ” (cp Joel 2:32).
ii In verse 17 he exhorts, “And if ye call on the Father (cp Joel 2:32), who without respect of persons judgeth… ” (Acts 10:34).
Thus we can see how Peter refers to events in which he was personally involved in his life, for our learning.
Joel 2:32 was a significant Old Testament quotation, being referred to many times by Peter and Paul. The word “whosoever” is noteworthy for it seals the call of the Gentiles, if they will but call on the name of the Lord. Call they must upon this Name, but they must always remember that God has “called” them in the first instance.
It is a good exercise to note these cross quotations in your Bible as this will serve to remind us of these lessons and teaching of the apostles each time we read them.