The acts of the apostles by john calvin edited from the original english translation of



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COMMENTARY

UPON

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
BY JOHN CALVIN

EDITED FROM THE ORIGINAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF
CHRISTOPHER FETHERSTONE, STUDENT IN DIVINITY,

BY HENRY BEVERIDGE, ESQ

VOLUME SECOND

CHRISTIAN CLASSICS ETHEREAL LIBRARY
GRAND RAPIDS, MI

http://www.ccel.org





CHAPTER 14

In the chapter last going before, Luke declared how Paul and Barnabas took in hand their embassage unto the Gentiles. Furthermore, it might seem to be an unprosperous and unlucky beginning, in that they were not only expelled out of Antioch, but also enforced by the obstinate wickedness of certain to shake off the dust from their feet. But though they had but short entertainment F857 in one place, yet do they not yield; because they consider that the Lord had called them upon that condition, that they should do their duty though the whole world and Satan did say nay. Therefore, we see that they came not only ready to teach, but also armed to enter conflicts, that they might courageously proceed in publishing the gospel, even through the midst of combats.

And assuredly, that which was once spoken to Jeremiah is common to all the prophets and ministers of God,

“They shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail,”


(<240119>Jeremiah 1:19.)

Now, whithersoever they fly, they carry with them the same courage F858 still; whereby it appeareth that they were not only furnished for one combat, but even for continual warfare; which Luke doth now prosecute. F859 He saith first, that they came to Iconium, and therewithal he showeth that they sought not there some haven where they might rest quietly; but they entered the synagogue as if they had suffered no hurt at all.



I refer the word Kata to auto, forasmuch as it signifieth among the Grecians, together, or at the same time, rather unto the Jews than unto Paul and Barnabas. Therefore, I interpret it thus, not that they went in both together, but that they followed the multitude at the solemn and appointed time of the meeting, whence we gather that they spake not secretly with a few men, but in a great assembly of people; whereby they declare their boldness and ready desire; they are so far from fearing envy, or avoiding danger. F860

That a great multitude believed. As Luke did before show the power of the Spirit in Paul and Barnabas, so now he commandeth another grace of God in that prosperous success which they had. For one only sermon which they made was not without fruit, but it brought forth many children of God, as well of the Jews as of the Gentiles. If one, or two, or a few, had believed, they might have thought that they sped well; but the Lord confirmeth them far better, when as they gather such plentiful fruit of their doctrine even in a short time. For they knew that so many hearts of men were converted to believe, not so much by their voice, as by the power of the Spirit; whereby they might also assure themselves that they themselves were defended by the outstretched hand of God, which did not a little encourage them.



Acts 14:1-4

1. And it came to pass at Iconium, that they went together [or at the same time] into the synagogue of the Jews, and spake so, that a great multitude both of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2. And the Jews which believed not stirred and with envy infected the minds of the Gentiles against the brethren. 3. Therefore, they were long time conversant there, behaving themselves boldly in the Lord, who bare witness of the word of his grace, granting that signs and wonders might be done by their hands. 4. And the multitude of the city was divided: and some stood with the Jews, and some with the apostles.

2. And those Jews which believed not. Lo, they are persecuted now afresh, and that by the Jews, for they were like firebrands to inflame the minds of the Gentiles; for it is to be thought that the Gentiles could abide to hear the gospel preached, unless they had been incensed to resist by these fans. F861 I interpret kakwsai in this place for to resist F862 with a malicious affection, or to enforce to do hurt. Under the name brethren, Luke comprehendeth, in my judgment, all the godly; to wit, that they were vexed and troubled whosoever embraced the gospel, as if some pernicious sect had risen to spread discord, to trouble the peace of the city, to shake the public state; yet if any had rather restrain it unto Paul and Barnabas I am not greatly against him.

3. A long time. Luke declareth here, that Paul and Barnabas did not depart the city so soon as they saw some set against them, for when he saith that they behaved themselves boldly, he giveth us an inkling F863 that there was cause of fear offered them. Whence we gather that they stood stoutly, and that through rare constancy and courage they counted all dangers as nothing, until they were compelled by violence to depart to another place. This clause, epi kuriw, may be expounded diversely, either that they behaved themselves stoutly in the Lord’s cause, or that they trusted to his grace, and were thereby encouraged. I have followed that which was more common, that they behaved themselves freely and boldly in the Lord, that is, being holpen not by their own strength, but by his grace. He showeth immediately after, after what sort they were encouraged in the Lord; to wit, because [that] he approveth the doctrine by signs and miracles. For seeing that they knew thereby that the Lord was present with them, and that his hand was nigh to help them, they were worthily pricked forward to behave themselves stoutly. But in noting one kind, he doth not exclude other kinds, for the Lord did lift them up unto boldness, and establish them in constancy by other means. But it seemeth that Luke did speak of miracles expressly, because the Lord showed in them his power openly before all the people. Therefore, Paul and Barnabas were not a little emboldened when the Lord did so deliver their doctrine from contempt.

Furthermore, we must note this phrase, that the Lord gave witness to the gospel in miracles, for it showeth the true use of miracles. This is, indeed, the first end, that they may show to us the power and grace of God; but because we be wrong and perverse interpreters of them, lest they be drawn unto abuse and corruption, God doth never suffer them to be separated from his word. For if miracles were wrought at any time without his word; first, that was very seldom; secondly, there came but small fruit thereof; and God hath wrought miracles, for the most part, whereby the world might know him not simply, or in his bare majesty, but in his word. So Luke saith, in this place, that the gospel was established by miracles, not that some confused religion might possess the minds of men, but that Paul’s doctrine going before they might be brought unto the pure worship of God.

Whence we may easily gather how foolishly the Papists deal, when as they endeavor to lead away the world from the reverence of God and the gospel by bare miracles. For we must hold that principle, that those miracles which came from God at any time did never tend to any other end but that the gospel might have his perfect and full authority.

Now must we see whether the gospel command us to call upon the dead, to burn incense to idols, to translate unto reigned saints the grace of Christ to take in hand vowed pilgrimages, to invent profane worshippings, whereof there is no mention made in the Word of God; but there is nothing more contrary to the gospel than that these superstitions should take place. Whereupon it followeth that the Papists do wickedly make engines of the shoars F864 of the gospel to oppugn it. To the same end tendeth that which Luke saith, that the Lord granted that by the hands of his servants miracles might be done; in which words he teacheth that those were only ministers who obeyed God, and that he was the author, who used their hand and industry. Wherefore, in speaking properly, we cannot say that they were Paul and Barnabas’s miracles, but the miracles of God alone, who doth so work by men, that he will not have his glory darkened by their ministry.



Furthermore, we must note the title of the gospel, which Luke putteth in here, that it may be made to us more amiable; for in calling it the word of grace, it hath a most pleasant taste, because salvation is offered to the world in it through Christ. And we must understand the contrariety with the law, wherein only the curse is set before us. Therefore, let us remember that God speaketh to us in the gospel to this end, that he may reconcile himself to us, and may testify that he is merciful to us.: Neither doth this hinder that it is the savor of death unto death to the reprobate, (<470216>2 Corinthians 2:16) because they change not the nature thereof by their fault. Read those things which we have spoken in the second chapter touching signs and wonders.

4. The multitude was divided. The most troublesome part of the tragedy F865 followeth now, for the city is divided into two parts; and at length Paul and Barnabas (being enforced by the uproar of the people) depart unto another place. If it be demanded what was the original of the discord, assuredly it flowed from the gospel, to which, notwithstanding, there is nothing more contrary than to cause discord; but the forwardness of men causeth that the gospel, which ought to be the bond of unity, is (so soon as it cometh abroad) the occasion of tumults. Wherefore, so soon as any schism ariseth, before we condemn those who seem to be the authors, it behoveth us wisely to consider who ought to bear the blame. We hear here that one city was divided, F866 whereby some were brought unto Christ. The Spirit of God pronounceth this to the praise, and not the shame, of Paul and Barnabas. The same rule must we observe at this day, lest the gospel be burdened with false envy, if it bring not men together F867 unto God, but the wicked rage against it. It is assuredly a miserable matter to see division among men. But as the unity is accursed which doth separate us all from God, so it were better that a few should depart an hundred times from all the whole world, and, in the mean season, come in favor again with God, than that disagreeing with him continually, they should have peace with the world. F868



Acts 14:5-10

5. And when there was an assault made of the Gentiles and Jews, together with their rulers, to do them violence, and to stone them, 6. When they knew the matter, they fled into cities of Lycaonia, to Lystra and Derbe, and to the country lying nigh there about on every side: 7. And there they preached the gospel. 8. And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, who had been lame from his mother’s womb, neither had he ever walked. 9. This man heard Paul speak: who, beholding him, and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10. Said with a loud voice, Arise upright upon thy feet. And he leapt up and walked.

5. Mark how far forth the holy champions of Christ did suffer. They give not back when their enemies do only set themselves against them; but when the sedition waxeth hot, and they be in danger of stoning, though they have many favorers of their doctrine, they go no further, but remembering the saying of Christ, wherein he warneth the faithful in patience to possess their souls, they avoid the fury of the enemy. And though they fly, lest they F869 throw themselves headlong into death, yet their constancy in preaching the gospel doth sufficiently declare that they feared not danger. For Luke saith that they preached the gospel in other places also. This is the right kind of fear, when the servants of Christ do not run willfully into the hands of their enemies, of them to be murdered, and yet they do not foreslow [abandon] their duty; neither doth fear hinder them from obeying God when he calleth; and so, consequently, they can afford, if need be, to go even through death itself to do their duty.

8. A certain man at Lystra. Luke reciteth one miracle which we may think F870 was one of many; but there was mention made of it alone by reason of the famous event. For we shall see by and by what happened. Luke reckoneth up the circumstances, which do more plainly set forth the power of God, when he saith that the man did never walk, and that he was a cripple even from his mother’s womb, and that he was suddenly healed by the voice of Paul alone before the eyes of all men, and that his legs, which were dead, were made nimble, so that he leapt up without making any stop. F871

9. He heard Paul speak. Hearing is set down first, that we may know that the faith which Luke will commend by and by was conceived of Paul’s doctrine. Therefore, when he heard Paul, he hoped to be healed. But the question is, whether this was promised to him specially; for God doth not command us to hope for everything by and by, F872 when he offereth unto us eternal salvation in the gospel. I answer, that this was a singular and extraordinary motion of the Spirit of God in the cripple, as it was on the other side in Paul, when he knew his faith by beholding him only. It may be that many may receive the gospel, and yet they shall not be cured of those diseases wherewith they are vexed. But forasmuch as God was determined to show a token of his grace in the cripple, he prepared his mind before, and made him capable of this that should come upon him. F873 Wherefore we must not make this a common rule, because the cripple believed that he should be healed, but it was a peculiar preparation to receive the gift of healing. And this kind of faith is likewise particular which giveth place to F874 miracles, which many of God’s children do want, who are, notwithstanding, indued with the Spirit of adoption.

Whom when Paul beheld steadfastly. We know how doubtful and how deceitful a thing the countenance of man is, therefore there could no sure judgment be given thereby of faith, which hath God alone to be witness thereof; but, as I have already said, the cripple’s faith was revealed to Paul by the secret inspiration of the Spirit, as he was to the apostles their only guide and master to work miracles.

10. He said with a loud voice. Many old books, F875 and those of great credit, add, “I say to thee in the name of Jesus Christ,” and surely we see how careful the apostles were to magnify the name of Christ in all miracles; therefore I think that that was expressed by Luke, and yet we cannot find it commonly now in the printed books, [copies.] Whereas Luke saith afterward, that the lame man leapt up, it serveth not only for the commendation of God’s power, but also such readiness and willingness to obey did testify that he was rightly prepared by the Lord; so that he did already walk in mind when as his feet were as yet dead. Although his speed in rising made the power of God more manifest, to which end also Paul exalted his voice, that the sudden change might the more move the multitude.



Acts 14:11-13

11. Furthermore, when the multitude had seen what Paul had done, they lifted up their voice, saying, in the speech of Lycaonia, Gods being made like to men are come down to us. 12. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter, and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the captain of the speech. F876 13. And Jupiter’s priest, which was before their city, bringing bulls and crowns [chaplets] unto the gates, would have done sacrifice with the multitude.

11. Furthermore, the multitude. This history doth abundantly testify how ready and bent men are unto vanity. Paul uttered not that word abruptly, Arise; but he added it as it were a conclusion to the sermon made concerning Christ. Yet the people ascribe the praise of the miracle unto their idols, as if they had heard no word of Christ. Indeed, it is no such wonder, that the barbarous men fell unto superstition which they had learned F877 from their childhood, so soon as they saw the miracle. But this vice is too common every where, and it is so bred in us, to be perverse and wrong interpreters of the works of God. Hence come such gross dotings of superstitions in Popery, because catching rashly at miracles, they take no heed to doctrine. For which cause we must take the better heed, and be the more sober, lest we happen with the sense of the flesh to corrupt (whereunto we are so bent) the power of God, which shineth and appeareth to us for our salvation. And no marvel if the Lord would have only a few miracles wrought, and that for a short time, lest through the lust of men they should be drawn unto a far contrary end; because it is unmeet that he should set his name to be mocked of the world, which must needs be, when that which is proper to him is translated unto idols, or the unbelievers corrupt his works, to invent corrupt worshipping, while that setting the word aside, they catch at every divine power which they feign. F878

Gods like to men. This was an opinion drawn from old fables, which, notwithstanding, took the beginning of truth. F879 The books of the poets are full of these toys, that the gods were often seen upon earth in the likeness of men; and yet we may well think that this carne not of nothing, F880 but rather that profane men did turn that into fables, which the holy fathers taught in times past concerning angels. And it may be that Satan, when he had men besotted, did with diverse jugglings delude them. This is of a truth, whatsoever was God’s, whensoever it went with the infidels, F881 it was corrupt by their wicked inventions. The same must we likewise think of sacrifices, wherein God did exercise his F882 even from the beginning, that they might have the external signs of godliness and of the worship of God. And after that the unbelievers invented to themselves strange gods, they abused the sacrifices unto their sacrilegious worship. When the men of Lycaonia see unwonted power in the cripple that was healed, they persuade themselves that it is a work of God; this is all well. F883 But it was evil done, in that they forge to themselves false gods in Paul and Barnabas, according to the old [wonted] error, for what is the cause that they prefer Barnabas before Paul, save only because they follow the childish surmise [fiction] concerning Mercury, the interpreter of the gods, in which they had been nourished? By which example we are taught what a mischief it is to be accustomed and acquainted with errors in youth, which can so hardly be rooted out of the mind, that even through the works of God, whereby they ought to have been redressed, they wax more hard.

13. Also Jupiter’s priest. Though Luke doth not express with what affection he [this priest] was moved to be so diligent, yet it is to be thought, that, forasmuch as there was great hope of most plentiful gain offered, he was moved with covetousness. For he had great hope of gain in time to come, if it should be noised abroad that Jupiter appeared there. For this opinion would by and by have followed, that Jupiter was more delighted in the temple of Lystra than in any other. And so soon as such superstition hath once filled the minds of men, they spare no cost to offer sacrifice. F884 The world is indeed of itself inclined to this, but then came the sacrificing priests, who are like fans and bellows. And it is not to be doubted, but that the whole multitude was moved with ambition, to be so desirous to offer sacrifice to Paul under the name of Jupiter, that their city might be the more famous and noble. Hence hath Satan so great liberty [license] to deceive, whilst that the sacrificing priests set nets to get gain, and the people are delighted to have errors confirmed.



Acts 14:14-18

14. Furthermore, when the apostles, Barnabas and Saul, had heard, rending their garments, they ran in into the, press, crying, 15. And saying, Men, why do ye these things? We be also men subject to like miseries as you are, preaching to you that you turn from those vain things unto the living God, who hath made heaven and earth, and the sea, and whatsoever are in them: 16. Who in times, past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, 17. Though he left not himself without witness, doing good, giving to us from heaven rain and fruitful times, replenishing with food and gladness our hearts. 18. And when they had thus said, they scarce appeased the multitude, that they should do [from doing] sacrifice to them.

14. When the apostles had heard. In that Paul and Barnabas rent their garments, and leapt into the midst of the multitude, it appeareth thereby how zealous they were for the glory of God; [no;] being content only to speak to the people, F885 they troubled the preparation of the sacrifice so much as they are able. It cometh to pass sometimes that even hypocrites refuse excessive honor; but they rather provoke the simple to give it them with their reigned modesty. There was no such thing in Paul and Barnabas; for they declared, both by words and also by all gesture of body, that they were so far from taking pleasure in that worship which the men of Lystra gave unto them, that they did utterly detest it. This is holy anger, wherewith the servants of God must be inflamed so often as they see his glory profaned and overthrown by the sacrileges of men. And, assuredly, no man shall be able otherwise to serve God sincerely and faithfully, unless he put on that affection of jealousy, whereof Paul speaketh in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (<471127>2 Corinthians 11:27) that those men to whom the Lord hath committed the charge of his Church be no less courageous and stout to defend the glory of their Lord, than a husband is vigilant to defend his wife’s chastity.

Therefore, we must take good heed that we suffer not that honor to be given us which may darken the glory of God; but rather so soon as there appeareth any profaning of God’s glory, let this heat break out, whereof we have an example in Paul and Barnabas. And though the teachers of the Church ought especially to be imbued with zeal, yet there is no one of the godly which ought not to be sore displeased, when he seeth the worship of God polluted or given to some other; because it is written of all,

“The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and the rebukes of them that rebuked thee fell on me” (Psalms 69:10.)

And if so be it holy men being yet compassed about with the flesh did so greatly detest idolatry, how shall we think them to be affected now, when they are stripped out of all the affections of the flesh? When as the world abuseth their names and persons unto superstition, it thinketh it doth them a great pleasure; but it is greatly deceived. For they will stand up first against their worshippers, and will indeed declare that they never make more account of anything, than that the worship of God might remain whole and sound to him. Moreover, there can be no greater injury done to them, than when the honor which is taken from God is given to them; which must needs be when any divine thing is ascribed and given them.



Whereas Luke saith that Paul and Barnabas did rent their garments, it appeareth by other places of Scripture that this rite and custom was used among the men of the east country, so often as they would by external gesture express either great sorrow or detesting of any thing. When Luke calleth Barnabas an apostle together with Paul, he extendeth the signification of the word farther than unto the chief [primary] order which Christ appointed in his Church; like as Paul maketh Andronicus and Junias excellent among the apostles. But if we should speak properly, they were evangelists and not apostles; unless peradventure because Barnabas was made Paul’s fellow in office, we place them both in like degree of office, so may he be truly called an apostle.
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