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



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33. I have not. As he showed of late what an hurtful plague ambition is; so now he showeth that they must beware of covetousness, [avarice] and he maketh himself an example again, even in this point, that he did covet no man’s goods; but did rather get his living with the work of his hands. Not that it was sufficient to find him without some help, but because in applying his handy-work, he spared the churches, that he might not be too chargeable to them, so much as in him lay. We must note, that he doth not only deny that he did take anything violently, as hungry fellows do importunately wring out preys oftentimes, but also he affirmeth that he was clean from all wicked desire. Whence we gather, that no man can be a good minister of the word, but he must also contemn money. And surely we see that nothing is more common, than that those corrupt the word of God, to win the favor of men, who are altogether filthily given to get gain. Which vice Paul doth sharply condemn in bishops elsewhere, (<540303>1 Timothy 3:3).

34. Yea, ye know. He doth not, in these words, precisely set down a law which all the ministers of the word must needs keep; for he did not behave himself so loftily and lordlike, that he did take that away which the Lord had granted to his servants, but doth rather in many places maintain their right, which is, that they be maintained with that which is common, <401010>Matthew 10:10; <460914>1 Corinthians 9:14; <480606>Galatians 6:6; <540517>1 Timothy 5:17; <500410>Philippians 4:10, 16; <471108>2 Corinthians 11:8. Whereunto belongeth that, that he suffered many churches to minister unto him food and raiment. Neither did he only freely receive wages for the work which he did in any place of those who were there, but when he was in necessity at Corinth, he saith that he robbed other churches to relieve his poverty. Therefore, he doth not simply command pastors to maintain their life with their handy-work, but immediately after he declareth how far forth he exhorteth them to follow his example. Those men of Corinth did not deny him that which was due to him; F1304 but seeing that the false apostles did boast that they did their work freely, and get thereby praise among the people; Paul would not be behind them in this point, nor give them any occasion to accuse him falsely; as he himself affirmeth (<460915>1 Corinthians 9:15, and <471110>2 Corinthians 11:10). Therefore, he warneth that there be no stumbling-block laid in the way of the weak, and that their faith be not overthrown. For to receive the weak, importeth as much as somewhat to bear with their rudeness and simplicity, as it is (<451401>Romans 14:1).

And to remember. We read this sentence in no place word for word; but the Evangelists have other not much unlike this, out of which Paul might gather this. Again, we know that all the sayings of Christ were not written; and he repeateth that general doctrine of the contempt of money; whereof this is a true token, when a man is more bent to give than to take. Neither did Christ speak only politicly, F1305 as if those who are liberal are therefore blessed, because they bind other men unto them with their benefits, and it is a kind of bondage to owe anything; but he had respect unto an higher thing, because, he which giveth to the poor lendeth unto the Lord, (<201917>Proverbs 19:17) that those be faithful and good stewards of God, who impart to their brethren some of that plenty which they have lent them; that men draw nearer unto God in nothing than in liberality. We do also read these titles of liberality in profane authors; and a good part of the world confess that these things are true, but they consent (as it is in the proverb) with ass’s ears. For the common life doth show how few be persuaded that nothing ought more to be wished, than that we bestow our goods to help our brethren. For which cause the disciples of Christ must more studiously think upon this felicity, that abstaining so much as in them lieth, from that which is another man’s, they accustom themselves to give. And yet they must not do this with an haughty heart, as if it were a miserable thing for them to be in any man’s danger; F1306 either through ambition, that they may bind other men to them; but only that they may exercise themselves willingly in the duties of love, and by this means make known the grace of their adoption.

36. And kneeling down. The inward affection is indeed the chiefest thing in prayer; yet the external signs, as kneeling, uncovering of the head, lifting up of the hands, have a double use; the first is, that we exercise all our members to the glory and worship of God; secondly, that by this exercise our sluggishness may be awakened, as it were. There is also a third use in solemn and public prayer, because the children of God do by this means make profession of their godliness, and one of them doth provoke another unto the reverence of God. And, as the lifting up of the hands is a token of boldness F1307 and of an earnest desire, so, to testify our humility, we fall down upon our knees. But he sealeth up and concludeth that sermon which he made before with prayer; because we can hope for no profit of our doctrine, save only from the blessing of God. Wherefore, if we be desirous to do any good by teaching, admonishing, and exhorting, let us always end after this sort; to wit, with prayer.

37. Great weeping. No marvel if all the godly did entirely love this holy man. for it had been a point of too gross unthankfulness to despise him whom the Lord had so beautified with so many excellent gifts. And the chief cause of their weeping was, as Luke noteth, because they should see him no more. For they did bewail their own condition, and the condition of all the whole church of Asia, not in vain, which they saw to be deprived of an inestimable treasure. And when the Spirit commendeth their tears by the mouth of Luke, as witnesses of sincere godliness, he condemneth the rashness of those who require at the hands of the faithful hard and cruel constancy. For that is false whereof they dream that those affections proceed only of corruption, which we have naturally from God. Wherefore, the perfection of the faithful consisteth not in this, that they put off all affections; but that they be moved therewith only for just causes, and that they may moderate the same.



Chapter 21



Acts 21:1-6

1. And when it came to pass that we had loosed, being pulled away from them, we came with a straight course to Coos, and the next day to the Rhodes, and thence to Patara; 2. And when we had gotten a ship, which sailed over to Phenicia, when we were entered into it, we launched. 3. And when Cyprus began to appear to us, leaving it on the left hand, we sailed into Syria, and came to Tyrus: for here the ship did unlade her burden. 4. And when we had found disciples, we stayed there seven days; who said to Paul by the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. 5. And when the days were ended, we departed and went our way; and they all, with their wives and children, accompanied us, until we were out of the city; and when we had kneeled down upon the shore, we prayed. 6. And when we had taken our leave one of another, we went up into the ship; and they returned home.

1. Luke reckoneth up briefly the course of his sailing; and that not only to win credit to the history, that we may know what was done in every place, but that the readers may weigh with themselves the invincible and heroic fortitude which was in Paul, who would rather be tossed and troubled with such long, unlevel, F1308 and troublesome journeys, that he might serve Christ, than provide for his own quietness. Whereas he saith that they were drawn and pulled away, it is not simply referred unto the distance of places; but because the brethren stood on the shore, so long as they could see the ship wherein Paul and his companions were carried. He nameth the havens where the ship arrived, F1309 for this cause that we may know that they sailed quietly without trouble of tempest. Let us search the describers of countries F1310 touching the situation of the cities whereof he maketh mention; it is sufficient for me to show Luke’s purpose.

4. And when they had found disciples. Though the number of the faithful was but small, yet there came some seed of the gospel thither, according to the prophecies Of the prophets, (<232318>Isaiah 23:18) lest Tyrus should be altogether void of the blessing of God. And here, as in other places going before, Luke calleth Christians disciples, that we may know that those alone are numbered in the flock of Christ who have embraced his doctrine by faith. For that is a vain F1311 and false profession for a man to give his name to Christ, and not to understand what he teacheth or speaketh. And let the readers mark, that Paul stayed seven days at Tyrus, for no other cause, saving that he might strengthen them. So that we see, that whithersoever he came he foreslowed [neglected] no occasion to do good.

They said by the Spirit. Namely, with the approbation of speech, that Paul might know that they spake by the Spirit of prophecy. Surely this was no small temptation to cause him not to finish the journey which he had taken in hand, seeing the Holy Ghost did dissuade him from the same. And this was a very fair color F1312 to fly from the cross, if he had cared for his own safety, to be drawn back as it were with the hand of God.

Notwithstanding, he ceaseth not to hold on thither whither he knew he was called by the Lord. Notwithstanding, here ariseth a question, how the brethren can dissuade him by the Spirit from doing that which Paul did testify he doth by the secret motion of the same Spirit? Is the Spirit contrary to himself, that he doth now loose Paul whom he held bound inwardly? I answer, that there be diverse gifts of the Spirit; so that it is no marvel if those who excel in the gift of prophecy be sometimes destitute of judgment or strength. F1313 The Lord showed to these brethren, of whom Luke maketh mention, what should come to pass; yet, nevertheless, they know not what is expedient, and what Paul’s calling doth require, because the measure of their gift doth not reach so far. And the Lord would have his servant admonished of purpose, partly, that through long meditation, he might be better furnished and prepared to suffer whatsoever should come, partly that his constancy might more plainly appear, when as being certified by prophecies of the doleful event, he doth, notwithstanding, wittingly and willingly, make haste to endure whatsoever things shall befall him.



5. With their wives and children. This was no small testimony of love, in that they accompanied Paul out of the city with their wives and children, which thing Luke doth report, partly that he might commend their godliness according as it deserved; partly that he might declare that Paul had that honor given him which was due to him. Whence we do also gather, that he meant nothing less than to provide for his own commodity, seeing that he was not kept back with so great good will, which was a pleasant bait to entice him to stay. And we must also note the solemn custom of praying in weightier affairs, and that being certified by God of the danger, they are more stirred up to pray.



Acts 21:7-14

7. And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came down to Ptolemais, and after that we had saluted the brethren, we abode with them one day. 8. And on the morrow, we which were with Paul departed, and came to Cesarea; and, entering into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven, we abode with him. 9. And this man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. 10. And when we abode many days, there came a certain prophet from Judea, named Agabus. 11. When he was come to us, he took, Paul’s girdle, and, binding his own feet and hands, he said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, The man which owneth this girdle shall the Jews thus bind at Jerusalem, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. 12. And when we had heard these things, both we, and also the rest which were of that place, requested him that he would not go up to Jerusalem. 13. Then Paul answered and said, What do you, weeping and afflicting my heart? I truly am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus. 14. And when he would not be persuaded, we were quiet, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

7. Luke doth briefly declare that Paul was also received at Ptolemais by the brethren. This is a city of Phenicia, standing upon the sea-coast, not far from the borders of Judea, from which Paul and his companions had no long journey to Cesarea. But if the readers be disposed to know farther touching the situation of regions, let them resort unto the describers of places and countries [geographers]. Furthermore, he saith, that when he came to Cesarea, they lodged with Philip, whom he calleth an Evangelist, though he were one of the seven deacons, as we may see in the sixth chapter (<440605>Acts 6:5). By this we may easily gather, that that deaconship was an office which continued but for a time; F1314 because it had not otherwise been lawful for Philip to forsake Jerusalem, and to go to Cesarea. And in this place he is set before us, not as a voluntary forsaker of his office, but as one to whom a greater and more excellent charge was committed. The evangelists, in my judgment, were in the midst between apostles and doctors. For it was a function next to the apostles to preach the gospel in all places, and not to have any certain place of abode; F1315 only the degree of honor was inferior. For when Paul describeth the order of the Church, (<490411>Ephesians 4:11) he doth so put them after the apostles, that he showeth that they have more room given them where they may teach than the pastors, who are tied to certain places. Therefore, Philip did for a time exercise the office of a deacon at Jerusalem, whom the Church thought afterward to be a meet man to whom the treasure of the gospel should be committed.

9. Four daughters. This is added for the commendation of Philip, not only that we might know that his house was well ordered, but also that it was famous and excellent through the blessing of God. For, assuredly, it was no small gift to have four daughters all endowed with the spirit of prophecy.

By this means the Lord meant to beautify the first beginnings of the gospel, when he raised up men and women to foretell things to come. Prophecies had now almost ceased many years among the Jews, to the end they might be more attentive and desirous to hear the new voice of the gospel. Therefore, seeing that prophesying, which was in a manner quite ceased, doth now after long time return again, it was a token of a more perfect state. Notwithstanding, it seemeth that the same was the reason why it ceased shortly after; for God did support the old people with diverse foretellings, until Christ should make an end of all prophecies. F1316 Therefore, it was meet that the new kingdom of Christ should be thus furnished and beautified with this furniture, that all men might know that that promised visitation of the Lord was present; and it was also expedient that it should last but for a short time, lest the faithful should always wait for some farther thing, or lest that curious wits might have occasion given to seek or invent some new thing ever now and then. For we know that when that ability and skill was taken away, there were, notwithstanding, many brain-sick fellows, who did boast that they were prophets; and also it may be that the frowardness of men did deprive the Church of this gift. But that one cause ought to be sufficient, in that God, by taking away prophecies, did testify that the end and perfection was present in Christ; and it is uncertain how these maids did execute the office of prophesying, saving that the Spirit of God did so guide and govern them, that he did not overthrow the order which he himself set down. And forasmuch as he doth not suffer women to bear any public office in the Church, it is to be thought that they did prophesy at home, or in some private place, without the common assembly.



10. A certain prophet. Though Luke doth not plainly express the same, yet do I conjecture that this Agabus was the same of whom mention is made in the eleventh chapter, (<441128>Acts 11:28) who foretold that there should be famine under the reign of Claudius Caesar. And when as Luke calleth him a prophet, as of late he called, the four daughters of Philip, he signifieth that it was not a common but a peculiar gift. Now, we must see to what end the persecution which was at hand was now again showed by Agabus. As concerning Paul, he was sufficiently told already. F1317 Therefore, I do not doubt but that this confirmation was added for other men’s sake; because the Lord meant every where to make known the bonds of his servant, partly that they might know that he entered the combat willingly, partly that they might perceive that he was appointed of God to be a champion to fight for the gospel. It was surely a profitable example of invincible constancy, seeing that he offered himself willingly and wittingly to the violence of the adversaries; and no less profitable is it for us at this day, that his apostleship should be confirmed with this voluntary and no less constant giving over of his life.

The man who owneth this girdle. It was an usual thing among the prophets to represent those things which they spake by signs; neither did they confirm their prophecies by using signs, through their own motion, but at the commandment of the Spirit, as when Isaias is commanded to go barefoot, (<232002>Isaiah 20:2) Jeremiah to put a yoke upon his neck, to sell the possession and to buy it, (<242702>Jeremiah 27:2, and <243207>Jeremiah 32:7) and Ezekiel to dig through the wall of his house privily, and in the same night to carry forth burthens, (<261205>Ezekiel 12:5). These and such like might seem to the common sort to be toys; F1318 but the same Spirit, who did apply signs to his words, did inwardly touch the hearts of the godly, as if they had been brought to the very thing itself. So this spectacle, mentioned by Luke, did no less move Paul’s companions, than if they had seen him bound in deed. The false prophets did afterward essay to delude the simple by this policy, as Satan is in a manner God’s ape, and his ministers do envy the servants of God. Zedekias made himself horns, wherewith he promised Syria should be pushed. Ananias, by breaking Jeremiah’s yoke, put the people in a vain hope of deliverance. God hath suffered the reprobate to be deluded with such delusions, that he might punish their unbelief.

But, forasmuch as there was in them no force of the Spirit, their vanity did no whit hurt the faithful. This is also worthy to be noted, that Agabus doth not set before their eyes a dumb spectacle, but he coupleth therewith the word, whereby he may show to the faithful the use and end of the ceremony.



12. Both we. Because they had not all one revelation, it is no marvel if their judgments were diverse. For seeing these holy men knew that there consisted much in the life or death of one man, they would not have him to come in danger rashly. And their desire is worthy [of] praise, in that they desired to provide for the common safety of the Church by keeping back Paul. But, on the other side, Paul’s constancy deserveth so much the more praise, when as he continueth so steadfast F1319 in the calling of God. For he was not ignorant what great trouble he should suffer by reason of his bands. But because he knoweth the will of God, which was his only rule in taking counsel, he maketh no account of all other things, that he may follow it. And, assuredly, we must be so subject to the will and pleasure of God, that no profit, no kind of reason may remove us from obeying him. F1320 When Paul doth reprehend the brethren, because they afflict his heart with weeping, he doth sufficiently declare that he was not hardened, F1321 but that he was brought unto some feeling and suffering together with them. F1322 Therefore, the tears of the godly did wound his heart; but that softness did not turn him out of the way, but that he proceeded to follow God with a straight course. Therefore, we must use such courtesy toward our brethren, that the beck or will of God have always the upper hand. Now Paul doth again declare by his answer, that the servants of Christ cannot be prepared to do their duty, unless they despise death; and that none can ever be well encouraged to live to the Lord, but those who will willingly lay down their lives for the testimony of the truth.

14. We ceased saying. If they had thought that he ran rashly unto death, they would not have ceased so. Therefore, they yield lest they resist the Holy Spirit, whereby they understand that Paul is governed. For that which they had heard before, by the mouth of Paul, that he was drawn, as it were, by the bands of the Spirit, was quite out of their heads by reason of the sorrow which they had conceived; but when they be taught again that it was the will of God that it should be so, they think it unlawful for them to resist any longer. And with this bridle must all our affections be kept in, that nothing be so bitter, or doleful, or hard, which the will of God may not mitigate and mollify. For so often as any thing which is hard or sharp doth fall out, we give God small honor, unless this cogitation prevail with us, that we must obey him.



Acts 21:15-25

15. And after these days, having taken up our burdens, we went up to Jerusalem. 16. And there came together with us certain of the disciples from Cesarea, bringing with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge. 17. And when we were come unto Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18. And on the morrow Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19. Whom after we had saluted, he told by order all things which God had done among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20. But when they had heard, they glorified the Lord, and said to him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousand Jews the be which believe; and they all are earnest followers of the law; 21. And it hath been told them concerning thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they must not circumcise their children, nor live according to the customs. 22. What is it then? The multitude must needs come together; for they shall hear that thou art come. 23. Therefore, do this which we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow upon them; 24. Them take, and purify thyself with them, and do cost on them, that they may shave their heads, and that all men may know that those things which they have heard concerning thee are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest and keepest the law. 25. And as concerning those which among the Gentiles have believed, we have written, decreeing that they observe no such thing, but that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from that which is strangled, and from fornication.
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