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Bentley C.F. Chan

Given the popularity of the name Joel today, it is surprising how little we know about the prophet Joel. We know almost nothing about him beyond his name and his father’s name. We are not sure of his occupation (though he was familiar with the temple services) or even the historical period in which he lived (probably shortly before one of the exiles, the Assyrian or the Babylonian).

Joel is never explicitly called a prophet, not even in the book that bears his name. He is men­tioned nowhere in the Old Testament outside the book of Joel (though there were others named Joel in the historical books).

Yet the name Joel means “YHWH is his God,” and we read that the word of Yahweh came to Joel, the son of Pethuel. And it was through this obscure prophet that Yahweh, the God of Israel, has chosen to give one of the greatest prophetic statements in all of Scripture:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of YHWH comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of YHWH shall be saved. (Joel 2:28-32a)

It is no exaggeration to say that this proclamation is one of the pillars of New Testament salvation — even infusing it with Joel’s special soterio­logical language and vocabulary. C.H. Dodd notes that Joel “played a significant part in moulding the language in which the early Church set forth its convictions about what Christ had done and would yet do”.[1]

The key sentence in Joel’s proclamation — “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of YHWH shall be saved” — contains the theology of salvation in a nutshell, albeit in embryonic form. It is God’s answer to the timeless question, “What must I do to be saved?” Joel’s answer is simple yet far-reaching: The one who calls on the name of YHWH shall be saved. It is efficacious for salvation because it draws us directly to the very person of Yahweh our God, the one who saves.

In scope and purpose, Joel’s pronouncement is eternal and not merely occasional, for it covers the sweep of God’s plan of salvation, beginning with the Israel of Joel’s own time and place.

Yet in Yahweh’s eternal plan, Joel’s pronouncement later became, on the day of Pentecost, the inaugural statement to usher in the age of the church and the Holy Spirit, thus providing the exegesis of Peter’s soterio­logy (Acts 2:16f) and the seeds of Paul’s (Romans 10:13).

We notice that Peter’s statement in Acts 2:21 and Paul’s in Romans 10:13 both speak of calling on the name of “the Lord” rather than on the name of YHWH (Yahweh). This adaptabil­ity is to be ex­pected from the Jewish reluctance to vocal­ize the name YHWH. Yet it leads to the vital question of whether Peter and Paul also had in mind the calling on the name of Jesus.

The evidence, notably in Acts 2, points to both calling on the name of YHWH and calling on the name of Jesus, with the former being the foundation and antecedent of the latter. In his message at Pentecost, Peter cites, almost verbatim, an entire passage from Joel 2, which then becomes the well­spring for his salvation message. As a Jew, Peter would know that “the Lord” is a substitute term for YHWH, all the more so because Peter quotes extensively from Joel, even speaking of the “day of the Lord” (the day of YHWH).

Peter and Paul both refrain from modifying “call upon the name of YHWH” to “call upon the name of Jesus,” preferring to leave it in its Septuagint rendering, “call upon the name of the Lord” (which would be understood as referring to YHWH if read from the LXX).

Yet at the same time, the flow of Peter’s message indicates that he is drawing his listeners to salvation in the name of Jesus, the one whom God had made “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

This is neither doublespeak on Peter’s part, nor an unthinking con­flat­ion of the names Yahweh and Jesus in the title Lord, for a resolution can be found in one of Peter’s key statements, embedded in his own sermon, that the works of Jesus are ultimately God’s works done “through him”: [2]

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know (Acts 2:22).

Just as Yahweh is our Savior,[3] so Jesus Christ is our Savior.[4] Just as Joel 2:32 is the foundation and antecedent of Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13, so the calling on the name of YHWH is the foundation and antecedent of the calling on the name of Jesus.

In this light, I am pleased to commend to all readers the present work by Pastor Rosablanca Suen, “Salvation in the Name of YHWH”. I am impressed with the title she has chosen for the book, for it immediately places our focus on the name YHWH. This is most appropriate not only because Joel 2:32 itself speaks of the name YHWH, but also because it sets right the dependence of Jesus’ name upon Yahweh’s.

Rosa deftly — and with moderation — navigates the multiple layers in Joel, whose pronounce­ments touch on several eras of salvation his­tory, including Joel’s own histori­cal set­ting, but also the New Testament age and even the eschato­logical future. For example, Joel speaks of Judah and Jerusalem in his own historical milieu, yet also in the language of escha­to­logical fulfill­ment (“Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem to all generat­ions,” Joel 3:20).

Finally and most vitally, Rosa’s overarching purpose for her book is that people may be inspired to draw near to God by calling on His name. The book is an interweaving of biblical exposition and devot­ional writing that will guide the reader to God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.

To Rosa my friend and coworker over the decades, thank-you for writing this book, and may God use it to bless many to the glory of His great name, Yahweh.

Montreal, Canada

July 2021

[1] C.H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures: The Sub-Structure of New Testament Theology, pp. 63-64, James Nisbet & Company, London, 1952.

[2] The dependence of Jesus’ works on God’s is seen in statements such as, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (John 14:10); “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (8:28); “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (5:19).

[3] Isaiah 43:11; 49:26; 60:16; Hosea 13:4; Titus 1:3; 1 Timothy 2:3; Jude 1:25.

[4] Titus 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 2:20.



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