1. This history is worthy to be remembered even for this one cause, because it containeth the first beginning of the Church of Corinthus, which, as it was famous for good causes, both because of the multitude of men, and also because of the excellent gifts bestowed upon them, so there were in it gross and shameful vices. Furthermore, Luke showeth in this place with what great labor, and how hardly, Paul did win the same to Christ. It is well known what a rich city Corinthus was by reason of the noble mart, how populous, how greatly given to pleasure. And the old proverb doth testify that it was sumptuous and full of riot: All men cannot go to Corinthus. When Paul entereth the same, what hope, I pray you, can he conceive? He is a simple man, unknown, having no eloquence or pomp, showing no wealth or power. In that that huge gulf doth not swallow up his and desire which he had to spread abroad the gospel, by this we gather that he was furnished with wonderful power of the Spirit of God; and also that God wrought by his hand after a heavenly manner, and not after any human manner. Wherefore he boasteth not without cause, that the Corinthians are the seal of his apostleship, (<460902>1 Corinthians 9:2.) For they be twice blind, who do not acknowledge that the glory of God did more plainly appear in such a simple and base kind of dealing; and he himself showed no small token of invincible constancy, when, being vexed with the mocks of all men, (as the proud did contemn him,) he did notwithstanding stay himself upon God’s help alone. But it is worth the labor to note all the circum-stances, as Luke setteth down the same in order.
2. A Jew called Aquila.This was no small trial, in that Paul findeth none at Corinthus to lodge him save Aquila, who had been twice exiled. For being born in Pontus, he forsook his country, and sailed over the sea, that he might dwell at Rome. He was compelled to depart thence again by the commandment of Claudius Caesar. Though the commodiousness of the city was such, the plenty so great, the situation so pleasant, and there were also so many Jews there, yet Paul found no more fit host than a man that had been banished out of his own country, and also out of another soil. F1166 If we compare the great fruit which ensued immediately upon his preaching with such a base entrance, the power of the Spirit of God shall [more] plainly appear. Also we may see how the Lord, by his singular counsel, turneth those things to his glory, and the salvation of the godly, which seem contrary to the flesh, and unhappy. F1167 Nothing is more miserable than exile, according to the sense of the flesh. But it was far better for Aquila to be Paul’s companion, than to be in the highest office either at Rome or in his country. Therefore, this happy calamity of Aquila doth teach us, that the Lord doth often better provide for when he doth sharply punish F1168 us, than if he should most gently entreat us, and when he tosseth us to and fro in most extreme exile, F1169 that he may bring us unto the heavenly rest.
All Jews to depart from Rome.The estate of that nation was then very miserable, so that it is a wonder that they did not almost all depart from the worship of God. But this is a greater wonder, that the religion wherein they had been brought up prevailed against Caesar’s tyranny, and that so soon as Christ, the Sun of righteousness, did arise, few were turned unto him. Notwithstanding, I do not doubt but that the Lord suffered them F1170 to pass through many troubles, that they might the more willingly, yea, the more greedily receive the grace of redemption offered them; but the more part F1171 became dull in their misery, F1172 few did submit themselves to be taught when the Lord did punish them, as did Aquila and Priscilla. Yet, if Suetonius say the truth, they were expelled through hatred of the name of Christ, and so calamity might have more provoked and angered a great part, because they were wrongfully accused for that religion which they did detest.
3. They were of the same trade.This place teacheth that Paul, before he came to Corinth, was wont to work with his hands; and that not upon pleasure, but that he might get his living with his handiwork. It is not known where he first learned his occupation; notwithstanding it appeareth by his own testimony that he wrought principally at Corinth. And he showeth a reason, because the false apostles taught freely without taking any thing, that they might craftily creep in, therefore the holy man would not give place to them in that point, lest he should cause the gospel of Christ to be evil spoken of, (<460912>1 Corinthians 9:12,15.) But we may easily gather out of this place, that whithersoever he came, (until he was occupied in the continual labor of teachings) he wrought of his occupation, that he might get his living. When Chrysostom saith that Paul was a cordiner he doth no whit dissent from Luke, because they were wont at that time to make tents of skins.
4.He disputed in the synagogue. It is a wonder how that crept in which is in the Latin books, F1173 that Paul put in the name of Christ: unless it were because some reader would supply the want of the general sentence. For Luke setteth down two things in this place: to wit, that Paul disputed among the Jews; secondly, that he began more plainly to profess Christ after that Silas and Timotheus were come. And though it be likely that he began to speak of Christ even at the first entrance, because he could not omit the principal point of the heavenly doctrine, yet that doth not hinder but that he might use some other manner of disputation. Therefore I take [peiqein] that is, to persuade,for to induce by little and little. For, in my judgment, Luke doth signify, that forasmuch as the Jews did handle the law coldly and foolishly, Paul spake of the corrupt and wicked nature of man, of the necessity of grace of the Redeemer which was promised, of the means to obtain salvation, that he might awake them; for this is a fit and brief F1174 preparation unto Christ. Again, when he saith that he was forced in spirit to teach that Jesus was Christ, his meaning is, that he was enforced with greater vehemency to intreat and speak of Christ freely and openly. So that we see that Paul did not utter all things at one time, but he tempered his doctrine as occasion did serve.
And because like moderation is profitable at this day, it is convenient for faithful teachers wisely to consider where to begin, lest a preposterous and confused order do hinder the proceeding of doctrine. Furthermore, though there were ferventness enough in Paul, yet it is no inconvenient thing that he was made more courageous by some new help, not that he was encouraged by shame, or the hope which he reposed in his fellows, but because he considered that this help was sent him, as it were, from heaven. But this forcing in the spirit is not taken for a violent or external impulsion, (as they say, F1175) as those which were called Phoebades and frantic men were wont to be carried away with devilish madness; but there was more ferventness added unto the wonted inspiration of the Spirit which was in Paul, so that he was moved with new power of God, and yet did he of his own accord follow the Spirit as his guide. Whereas Paul did testify that Jesus is Christ, I expound it thus: when he had thoroughly taught the Jews concerning the office of the Redeemer, he declared by testimonies of Scripture that this is he which was to be hoped for, because all those things agree to him which the law and the prophets attribute to Christ. Therefore, he did not simply affirm, but using a solemn testification, he proved Jesus, the Son of Mary, to be that Christ who should be the Mediator between God and men, that he might restore the world from destruction to life.
6. And when they gainsayed him, and railed upon him, shaking his garments, he said unto them, Your blood be upon your own head; I will go henceforth clean unto the Gentiles. 7. And going thence, he entered into the house of a certain man named Justus, a worshipper of God, whose house joined to the synagogue. 8. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household: and many of the Corinthians which heard believed, and were baptized. 9. And the Lord said by night, by a vision, to Paul, Fear not, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10. Because I am with thee, and no man shall lay hand on thee to hurt thee: because I have much people in this city. 11. And he remained there a year and six months, teaching them the word of the Lord.
6.When they gainsayed.The Jews suffered Paul after a sort until he came unto the manifest preaching of Christ. And here brake out their rage. And we must note the speech, that they go from gainsaying unto blaspheming and railing. For it falleth out thus for the most part, when men take to themselves such liberty, that the devil doth inflame them by little and little unto greater madness. For which cause, we must take good heed that no wicked lust or desire provoke us to resist the truth; and, above all, let that horrible judgment terrify us which the Spirit of God thundereth out by the mouth of Paul against all rebels. For undoubtedly, in that Paul by shaking his garments gave some token of detestation, it was no human or private indignation, but zeal kindled by God in his heart; yea, God raised him up to be a preacher and setter forth of his vengeance, to the end the enemies of the word might know that they should not escape scot free for their stubbornness. We spake somewhat touching this sign of execration or cursing in the thirteenth chapter, (<441351>Acts 13:51.) Let the readers repair thither. The sum is, that God is sorer displeased with contempt of his word than with any wickedness. And surely, men be quite past hope when they tread under foot, or drive from them, the only remedy of all evils and maladies. Now, as the Lord cannot abide rebellion against his word, so it ought to sting and nettle us full sore. My meaning is this, that when the wicked enter combat with God, and, as it were, arm themselves to resist, we are called, as it were, by the heavenly trumpet unto the conflict, because there is nothing more filthy than that the wicked should mock God to his face, whilst we say nothing, and that they should even break out into reproaches and blasphemies.
Your blood. He denounceth to them vengeance, because they be without excuse. For they can shift no part of their fault from themselves, after that despising the calling of God they have endeavored to put out the light of life. Therefore, seeing they bear the blame of their own destruction, he doth also affirm that they shall be punished. And in saying that he is clean, he testifieth that he hath done his duty, it is well known what the Lord giveth all his ministers in charge in Ezekiel, (<260318>Ezekiel 3:18.) If thou show not unto the wicked that he may convert, F1176 I will require his blood at thy hand. Therefore Paul (because he did what he could to bring the Jews to repentance) doth acquit himself of all guiltiness. And by these words, teachers are warned that unless they will be guilty of blood before the Lord, they must do what in them lieth to bring those which go astray into the way, and that they suffer nothing to perish through ignorance.
I will go undo the Gentiles.Though the Jewshad showed themselves to be most ready to be taught, yet ought Paul to have employed himself to teach the Gentiles, whose apostle and minister he was made; but here he expresseth the passage whereby he withdrew himself from the stubborn Jews for all. For he observed this course in teaching, that beginning with the Jews he might couple the Gentiles with them in the society of faith, and so might make of both together one body of the Church. When there remained no hope to do any good among the Jews,then the Gentiles only remained. Therefore, the sense is this, that they must be deprived of their own inheritance, that it may be given to the Gentiles, and so be wounded, partly that being stricken with fear, yea, being cast down, F1177 they might come to soundness of mind; partly that the emulation or striving of the Gentiles might prick them forward unto repentance. But because they were incurable, reproach and shame servedfor this purpose only to bring them into despair.
7. Departing thence.Paul did not change his lodging which he had with Priscilla and Aquila, because he was weary of their company; but that he might more familiarly insinuate himself and come in favor with the Gentiles. For I suspect that this Justus, of whom Luke maketh mention, was rather a Gentile than a Jew. Neither doth the highness of the synagogue any whit hinder; for the Jews were scattered abroad, so that they had no certain place of the city to dwell in. Yea, it seemeth that Paul did make choice of the house which did join to the synagogue, that he might the more nettle the Jews. The title and commendation ascribed to Justus confirmeth this opinion; for it is said that he was a worshipper of God. For though the Jews had not sincere religion, yet because they did all profess the worship of God, it might have seemed that godliness took place commonly in all the whole nation. But because it was a rare matter among the Gentiles to worship God if any drew near unto true godliness, he hath this singular testimony given him which is set against idolatry. Also, I think that the Corinthians, of whom Luke speaketh shortly after, were Gentiles. Nevertheless, lest we should think that Paul’s labor was altogether fruitless which he bestowed among the Jews, Luke reckoneth up two of them which believed, Crispus and Sosthenes, of whom Paul himself speaketh in the first chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (<460101>1 Corinthians 1:1,14.) For in his salutation he maketh Sosthenes his fellow in office, after that he saith that he baptized Crispus. I take it that he is called the ruler of the synagogue, not as if he alone did bear rule and had the government, because Sosthenes hath the same title given him shortly after, but because he was one of the chief men.
9. And the Lord said.Though the fruit of Paul’s doctrine (in that he gained some daily to Christ) might have encouraged him to go forward, yet is the heavenly oracle added for his farther confirmation. Whence we gather that there were great combats set before him, and that he was sore tossed divers ways. For the Lord did never, without cause, F1178 pour out his oracles; neither was it an ordinary thing with Paul to have visions, but the Lord used this kind of remedy when necessity did so require; and the thing itself doth show that there laid upon the holy man a great weight of business, under which he might not only sweat but almost faint, unless he had been set on foot again, and refreshed with some new help. And it is not without cause that he saith that his coming was base and contemptible, and that he was conversant there in fear and trembling, (<460203>1 Corinthians 2:3.) For mine own part, I think thus, that the wonderful power of the Spirit, wherewith Paul was endued before, was holpen with the oracle. Furthermore, forasmuch as the Scripture distinguisheth visions from dreams, as it appeareth by the twelfth chapter of the book of Numbers, (<041206>Numbers 12:6,) Luke meaneth by this word vision,that when Paul was in a trance he saw a certain shape or form whereby he knew that God was present with him. Assuredly, it is not to be doubted but that God appeared by some sign.
Fear not.This exhortation showeth that Paul had cause of fear ministered unto him; for it had been a superfluous thing to correct fear, or to will him not to fear when all was well and quiet, and especially in a man so willing and ready.
Furthermore, when the Lord (to the end he may have his servant to do his duty faithfully and stoutly) beginneth with restraining fear, by this we gather that nothing is more contrary to the pure and free preaching of the gospel than the straits of a faint heart. And surely experience doth show that none are faithful and courageous ministers of the word whom this fault doth hinder; and that those only are rightly prepared and addressed to teach to whom it is granted with boldness and courage of heart to overcome all manner [of] danger. In which respect, he writeth to Timothy that the spirit of fear is not given to the preachers of the gospel, but of power, and love, and sobriety, (<550107>2 Timothy 1:7.) Therefore, we must note the connection of words, Fear not, but speak, which is all one as if he should have said, Let not fear let thee to speak. And because fear doth not only make us altogether without tongue, but doth so bind us that we cannot purely and freely speak that which is needful. Christ touched both briefly. Speak, (saith he,) and hold not thy peace; that is, speak not with half thy mouth, as it is in the common proverb. But in these words there is prescribed to the ministers of the word of God a common rule, that they expound and lay open plainly, and without color or dissimulation, whatsoever the Lord will have made known to his Church; yea, let them keep back nothing which may make for the edifying or increase of God’s Church.
10. Because I am.This is the former reason why Paul, having subdued fear, must manfully and stoutly do his duty, because he hath God on his side. Whereto answereth the rejoicing of David,
“If I shall walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall fear none ill: because thou art with me,”(<192304>Psalm 23:4.)
“If tents be pitched about me,” etc., (<192703>Psalm 27:3.)
The question is, whether he did not perceive that God was present with him elsewhere, as he had had experience of his help in divers places. For the promise is general,
“I am with you until the end of the world,”
Neither is it lawful for us to mistrust so often as we obey his calling, but that he will be present with us. But it is an usual thing with the Lord to apply that unto certain kinds when the matter so requireth, which he hath promised to do in all affairs; and we know that when we come to the push, then are we most desirous of help. Moreover, these two members are joined together, “I am with thee, and no man shall hurt thee.” For it falleth out sometimes that God doth help us, and yet doth he, to look to, suffer us to be oppressed, as he forsook not Paul even in the midst of death; and here he promiseth the peculiar defense of his hand, whereby he shall be preserved from the violence of his enemies.
But the question is, whether Paul needed any such confirmation, who ought to have been willing to enter [undergo] all manner [of] dangers. For what if he had been to suffer death, should he therefore have fainted through fear? I answer, that if at any time God pronounce that his servants shall be safe for a time, that doth no whit hinder, but that they may prepare themselves to suffer death valiantly; but as we distinguish between profitable and necessary, so we must note that there be some promises, which, if the faithful want, they must needs faint and sink down; F1179 and that other some are added when it is expedient so to be, which, though they be taken away, (because the grace of God doth nevertheless remain firm and sure,) the faith of the godly doth not fail. After this sort, Paul is commanded not to fear, because his enemies shall not touch him; and if so be he should have been oppressed even then with their violence, yet would he not have been afraid, but God would have his boldness and courage to increase even by this, because he should be without danger. If at any time the Lord bear with us so far forth, we are not to despise such a comfort of our infirmity. In the mean season, let this be sufficient for us to tread under foot all corrupt fear of the flesh, that so long as we fight under his banner we cannot be forsaken of him. And when it is said, “No man shall gainstand thee to do thee hurt,” the Lord doth not mean that he shall be free from violence and tumult whom the Jews did afterward deadly invade; but his meaning is, that their attempts shall be frustrate, because the Lord had determined to deliver him out of their hands. Therefore, we must fight stoutly that we may win the field. F1180
Because I have much people.The second reason why he should take a good heart is, because the Lord will raise up a great and populous church there, though it be to be doubted whether this member depend upon that which goeth next before; for the text will run fitly thus, Because the Lord determined by the hand of Paul to gather together a great church, he would not suffer the enemies to interrupt the course of his labors, as if he should have said, I will help thee, that thou mayest not fail my people whose minister I have appointed thee to be. I do willingly embrace this exposition, that divers reasons are not inferred which are to be read apart, but that they be so distinguished that they agree together. Furthermore, the Lord calleth those his people, who, though they might then for good causes be counted strangers, yet because they were written in the book of life, and were forthwith to be admitted into his family, they have this title given them not improperly. For we know that many sheep wander without the flock for a time, as the sheep have many wolves among them. Therefore whom the Lord determined shortly after to gather to himself, those doth he take for his people in respect of their future faith. But let us remember, that those are engrafted into the body of Christ who appertain unto the same by the eternal adoption of God; as it is written,
“Thine they were and thou gavest them me” (<431706>John 17:6.)
11. He continued there a year.We do not read that Paul stayed so long anywhere else save there; and yet it appeareth by his two epistles that he was not only likely to suffer much troubles, but that he had suffered many unjust and unmeet things by reason of the pride and unthankfulness of the people, so that we see that there was no part of warfare wherein the Lord did not wonderfully exercise him. Also, we gather what a hard and laborious matter the edifying of the Church is, seeing that the most excellent workmaster spent so much time about the laying of the foundation of one church only. Neither doth he boast that he had finished the work, but that the Lord had put others in his place, that they might build upon his foundation; as he saith afterwards that he had planted, and that Apollos had watered, (<460306>1 Corinthians 3:6.)
12. Now when Gallio was deputy of Achaia, the Jews rose with one accord against Paul, and brought him before the judgment-seat, 13. Saying, This man persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. 14. And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto them, If it were any injury or wicked fact, O Jews, I would according to reason maintain you: 15. But if it be a question of words and names, and your law, look ye to it yourselves; for I will be no judge in these matters. 16. And he drove them from the judgment-seat. 17. And when all the Greeks had caught Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, they smote him before the judgment-seat. Neither did Gallio care for any of these things.