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



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19. There came. Paul and Barnabas can hardly stay the people from doing sacrifice; but a company of knaves do, with small ado, persuade them to stone Paul, whom of late they made a god. Whereby appeareth how much more men be bent unto superstition than unto the true worship of God, and how arrogant superstition is, which will always bear the chief sway in appointing the worship of God. The servants of God seek no other thing but to bring men under obedience of him, which is salvation and felicity alone. They challenge to themselves no lordship, they hunt after no gain; and yet the world cannot abide them. For almost all men murmur; and now and then there rise tumults. Those who are thus stubborn against God, they be too ready to believe seducers, and willingly submit themselves to their tyranny. So the Pope had liberty to deceive at his pleasure, and not only to oppress miserable souls with slavery, but also cruelly to torment them. Whatsoever he commanded it was obediently received, and even at this day, though he make impossible laws, yet dare no man once mutter against them. Nevertheless, the yoke of Christ is sweet, (<401130>Matthew 11:30,) and yet few there be who will suffer it.

Therefore, in this history is most lively painted out unto us the forwardness of the world. Paul might have reigned under the title of Mercury, with the commendation of all men; he will not be a god. Because he serveth Christ faithfully, he is stoned. His constancy is commended, to the end we may follow it. He was indeed wonderfully delivered by the Lord; but as touching himself he suffered a most cruel kind of death. Therefore, we must make like account of this testimony, which he doth also recite in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (<471125>2 Corinthians 11:25,) as if he had been slain. Furthermore, we need not doubt but that the common sort made insurrection against him outrageously. F897 So that, what violence soever the wicked do to the servants of Christ, it is never called in question; the laws are whist, [silent;] judgments cease; the magistrate is asleep; there is no patron to be found.



20. As the disciples. Though no man defended Paul, yet Luke showeth that the godly were desirous of his life; F898 yet they did so moderate themselves, lest they should attempt anything with great danger to no end, seeing they could not help him unless it were done privily. And surely we must always mark what the Lord hath brought to our hand. If I, standing upon the bank, shall see a man in the midst of the water, and cannot reach him my hand when he is like to be drowned, F899 what is remaining for me to do but to commend him to the Lord? And [but] if there be any hope to help him, then must I endanger myself. F900 Therefore, we will not say that Saint Paul was left alone by the disciples through sloth, seeing they could not help him; and they declare their love and care when they stand about him after he is cast out.

They went to Derbe. It appeareth plainly by this that Paul was miraculously saved, seeing that, on the morrow, after he was cast out for dead, he taketh his journey, being fresh and sound; whence it is also gathered what an invincible heart he bare against all evils and afflictions. For he creepeth not into a corner, where, like an overworn soldier, he may live idly; but he goeth to the same places where he was uncourteously and cruelly handled but a little before. Notwithstanding Luke showeth that the church was first planted among the men of Derbe, he addeth afterward, that Paul and Barnabas returned unto the churches which they had ordained, that they might confirm the disciples; whereby by he giveth us to understand that the use of the Word consisteth not in instruction only, whereby the hearer is only taught, but that it is also available for confirmation of faith, in admonishing, exhorting, and reproving. And Christ doth not only command his ministers to teach, but also to exhort; and Paul saith that the Scripture is profitable not only to teach, but also to exhort, (<550316>2 Timothy 3:16.) Wherefore, let not pastors think that they have done their duty as they ought, when they have well trained up their people in true knowledge, unless they employ themselves to this part also. Again, let not the faithful neglect the Word of God, as if the reading and preaching thereof were unnecessary; because there is no man who hath not need of continual confirmation.

22.And exhorting them. This was the principal way to confirm, in that they provoke the disciples who had before embraced the Gospel and did profess it, to go forward by exhorting them; for we are far from being so ready and stout F901 as we ought. Therefore our laziness needeth pricks, and our coldness must be warmed. But because God will have his exercised with diverse combats, Paul and Barnabas admonish the disciples to be ready to suffer tribulation. A very necessary admonition, that we must go on warfare in this world, that we may live well and godly. If the flesh should not molest us, if Satan should attempt nothing, if the wicked should not trouble us with some stumbling-blocks, it were no such troublesome thing to persevere; because that were a sweet walk through a soft and pleasant way; but because there arise on every side, and every minute of an hour, [moment,] infinite assaults, which provoke us to fall away, there ariseth the hardness, F902 and therefore is it that the virtue of constancy is so rare. Therefore, to the end we may persist even unto the end, we must be prepared for war.

But Luke speaketh not in this place only of the persecutions which the adversaries raise against us with drawn swords and flaming fires; but he comprehendeth under the word tribulations, all sorrows and miseries whereunto the life of the godly is subject; not because the faithful alone are miserable; because this is the common state both of the good and bad. Whence also cometh that famous proverb, It is the best not to be born; and the next to die very quickly. F903 But when as God doth oftentimes spare the wicked, and doth fat them with prosperity, he is more sharp and hard, F904 toward his children. For besides common molestations, they are oppressed peculiarly with many discommodities, and the Lord doth humble them with such exercises, keeping their flesh under correction lest it wax wanton; he awaketh them, lest they lie sleeping upon earth. Unto these are added the reproaches and slanders of the wicked; for they must be, as it were, the offscourings of the world. Their simpleness is laughed at; but they use F905 wicked mocks and scoffs, principally against God. Last of all, the lust of the wicked breaketh out into open violence; so that they have need to strive F906 with many tribulations, and it cannot be but that all their life shall be envied and unquiet amidst so many enemies. But this is the best comfort, and which is sufficient enough to confirm their minds, that this way (though it be hard and sharp) leadeth unto the kingdom of heaven. For we gather by this that the miseries of the godly are more happy than be all the doting dainties and delights of the world.



Therefore, let us remember, first, that this condition is set down for us, that we suffer many tribulations; yet let us also remember to add this, to mitigate the bitterness thereof, that by them we be brought unto the kingdom of God. Furthermore, their babbling is frivolous, F907 who gather hereby that patience is a work which deserveth eternal salvation, seeing that the cause of salvation is not in this place handled, but after what sort God useth to handle his in this world; and the comfort is added, not to extol the dignity and merit of works, but only to encourage the godly, that they faint not under the burden of the cross. All mankind, as we have said before, as well one as other, is subject to many miseries; but the afflictions of the reprobate are no thing else to them but the very entry of hell; but these turn to the saints to an happy and joyful end, and for them they fall out well; and so, consequently, they be helps for salvation, because they take part with Christ. F908 We must note that Paul and Barnabas being not content with the plural number, do plainly set down many tribulations, lest any man, after he hath suffered one or two, or F909 a few, do at length sink down. F910 Therefore, let the faithful think that they must pass through continual miseries; that done, let them prepare themselves not for one kind of persecution only, but for diverse kinds. For though God handle some men more courteously and gently, yet doth he pamper none of his so daintily that he is free from all tribulations.



Acts 14:23-28

23. And when by voices [suffrages] they had ordained them elders through all churches, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had believed. 24. And passing over through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25. And when they had spoken the word at Perga, they went down to Attalia: 26. And thence they sailed to Antioch, from whence they were commended to the grace of God unto the work which they had fulfilled. 27. And when they were come, when the Church was gathered together, they showed what great things God had done by them, and that he had opened to the Gentiles the door of faith. 28. And they were there no small time with the disciples.

23. When they had ordained elders. By this it appeareth sufficiently, that it is not enough if men have been once taught the doctrine of godliness, and to have [hold] the sum of faith, unless they go forward continually; therefore, Christ did not only send his apostles to preach the gospel, but he commanded also that there should be pastors appointed, that the preaching of the gospel might be perpetual and in daily use. Paul and Barnabas do mark that this order was set down by Christ, when they assigned pastors to every church, lest, after their departure, doctrine should cease and be whisht, (silent.) Furthermore, this place teacheth, that the Church cannot want an ordinary ministry, neither can any be counted Christians before God but those who, during their whole life, are willing to learn. I take it that those are called elders, in this place, who had the office of teaching enjoined them; for it appeareth by Paul that some were only censors of manners, and such as had authority to punish enormities, (<540517>1 Timothy 5:17.) Now, forasmuch as Luke saith, that they were set over every church, the difference between their office and the office of the apostles is gathered hence. For the apostles had no certain place of abode, but they went to and fro to found new churches; but pastors were set and appointed, every man to his own church, and were, as it were, placed to watch F911 over their congregations.

Had ordained by election. The Greek word ceirotonein doth signify to decree, or ordain a thing, by lifting up the hands, as they used to do in the assemblies of the people. Notwithstanding, the ecclesiastical writers do often use the word ceirotoneia, in another sense; to wit, for their [the] solemn rite of ordaining, which is called in Scripture laying on of hands. Furthermore, by this manner of speech is very excellently expressed the right way to ordain pastors. Paul and Barnabas are said to choose F912 elders. Do they this alone by their private office? F913 Nay, rather they suffer the matter to be decided by the consent of them all. F914 Therefore, in ordaining pastors the people had their free election, but lest there should any tumult arise, Paul and Barnabas sit as chief moderators. Thus must the decree of the council of Laodicea be understood, which forbiddeth that the people have liberty granted them to elect. F915

They having prayed with fasting. They had a double end and reason of their prayer; the first, that God would direct them with the spirit of wisdom and discretion to choose the best and most meet men, for they knew that they were not furnished with so great wisdom but they might be deceived; neither did they so much trust to their diligence, but that they knew that the principal point did consist in the blessing of God, as we see men’s judgments err daily where the heavenly government is not, and that all their labor is nothing worth where the hand of God is not. These be the true signs and tokens F916 of the godly to call upon the Spirit of God, that he may govern their counsels. And if so be it this rule be to be observed in all businesses so often as the government of the Church is in hand, which dependeth wholly upon his will and pleasure, we must F917 beware that we attempt nothing unless we have him for our guide and governor. And the second end of their prayer was, that God would furnish with necessary gifts those pastors which were chosen. For it is a harder matter to fulfill such a function faithfully as a man ought, than that man’s strength is sufficient for it. Therefore, they crave God’s help even in this part also, having Paul and Barnabas for their authors.

They fast likewise, that even that may be a help F918 to stir up the ferventness of their prayers; for we know how great our coldness is otherwise. Not because it is always necessary that we should pray fasting, seeing that God doth invite even those who are full to give thanks; but when we are urged by any necessity to pray more fervently than we used commonly to do, this is a very profitable provokement. And now we have already declared what a weighty matter the choosing of pastors is, wherein the soundness of the Church is handled. Wherefore, no marvel if Luke write that they used extraordinary prayers. And it is profitable for us to mark this use, and other [uses] of fasting, lest we imagine with the Papists that it is a meritorious work, or lest we place the worship of God in it, seeing it is of itself nothing, neither is it of any importance with God, save only inasmuch as it is referred unto another end. F919



They committed themselves to the Lord. We gather hereby, first, what great care Paul and Barnabas had for the salvation of those who, by their industry, F920 were turned unto the Lord; for they testify, that in this infirmity of the flesh men be subject to more dangers, than that their faith can continue steadfast through his [its] own strength. Therefore, this is the only refuge and aid, if the Lord keep them continually whom he hath once received. And when Luke saith, that they were commended to God in whom they believed, there cometh no small confidence hence unto us; because he assigneth this office to God as proper to him, to save and defend all those who by true faith have embraced his word.

24. Passing through Pisidia. We have already said that Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch of Pisidia. Being now about to return to Antioch of Syria, whence they were sent away, they go through Pamphylia, which is the middle region toward the mount Taurus. And Perga and Attalia are cities lying near together. And whereas Luke saith, that they preach the Word in the one only, we may thereby guess that they had not opportunity offered them everywhere to teach, which they were wont to neglect or let pass nowhere.

26. When they had been commended. Luke might have said that they were ordained there to be the apostles of the Gentiles; but by a circuit of words F921 he doth more plainly express that they were neither sent away of men, neither did they attempt any thing trusting to their own strength, but that their whole journey, together with the success, was committed to God, the author thereof. Therefore, their preaching was no man’s work, but a work of the grace of God. And the word grace is referred as well unto the power and efficacy of the Spirit, as also unto all the rest of the signs of favor; because all those gifts be free which God bestoweth upon his servants. And the sentence may be thus resolved, that they prayed God that he would show forth his grace to further the labors of his servants.

27. After they had called the Church together. As those who return from an embassage used to give an account of their acts, so Paul and Barnabas declared to the Church all the sum of their voyage, that it may thereby appear what good success they had, and how faithfully they behaved themselves in their office; and also that they may exhort the faithful to give thanks to God, as the thing itself gave them large matter; F922 therefore Luke saith, Not that they did extol the things which they themselves had done, but whatsoever things the Lord had done by them. It is word for word with them; but according to the phrase of the Hebrew tongue, it is all one as if it had been said, in them, or by them, or towards them, or simply to them, in the dative case. Therefore Luke doth not say sun autoiv, but meta autwn; which I say for this cause, lest any unskillful man ascribe some part of the praise to Paul and Barnabas, as if they had been partners with God in the work; whereas he doth rather make him the only author of all those famous facts which they had done.

Luke addeth immediately after, that the Lord had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles; for though they were sent unto the Gentiles, yet the strangeness [novelty] of the matter causeth them to wonder not a little; and not only the sudden change did make the Jews astonished, but also because it was to them as it were a monster, that unclean men, and such as were strangers F923 from the kingdom of God, should be mixed with the holy seed of Abraham, that they might both together make one and ‘the same Church of God. They are now taught by the event itself, that it was not for nothing that there were apostles sent to them. Moreover, it is said that the door of faith was set open to the Gentiles, not only because the gospel was preached to them with the external voice, but because, being illuminated by the Spirit of God, they were called effectually unto the faith. The kingdom of heaven is indeed set open to us by the external preaching of the gospel; but no man entereth in save he to whom God reacheth out his hand; no man draweth near unless he be drawn inwardly by the Spirit. Therefore, Paul and Barnabas show and prove by the effect that their calling was approved and ratified by God, because the faith of the Gentiles was, as it were, a seal engraven by the hand of God to establish the same, as Paul saith, (<451625>Romans 16:25; <470307>2 Corinthians 3:7.)





CHAPTER 15



Acts 15:1-5

1. And certain which came down from Judea did teach his brethren, that unless they should be circumcised according to the manner of Moses, they could not be saved. 2. And when there arose sedition, and disputing not a little to Paul and Barnabas against them, they appointed that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to the apostles and elders to Jerusalem about this question. 3. And when they were sent by the Church, they passed through. Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles, and they brought great joy to all the brethren. 4. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the Church, and of the apostles and elders, and they showed what things soever God had done with them. 5. And there arose certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That, it was needful that they should be circumcised, and to declare that the law of Moses must be kept.

1. When Paul and Barnabas had endured many combats against the professed enemies of the gospel, Luke doth now begin to declare that they were tried by domestic war; so that it was meet that their doctrine and ministry should be proved by all means, to the end it might the better appear that they were furnished by God, and armed against all the assaults of the world and Satan. For that was no small confirmation for their doctrine, in that being shaken and battered with so many engines, it stood nevertheless, neither could the course thereof be broken off by so many hindrances. Therefore, to this end doth Paul boast that he suffered fights without and terrors within, (<470705>2 Corinthians 7:5.) This history is most worthy the noting; for though we do naturally abhor the cross and all manner [of] persecution, yet civil and domestic discord is more dangerous, lest haply they discourage us. F924 When tyrants bend their force and run violently upon men, flesh indeed is afraid; and all those who are not endued with the spirit of fortitude do tremble with all their heart; but then their consciences are not properly touched with any temptation. For this is known to be as it were the fatal estate of the Church. But when it falleth out so that the brethren go together by the ears, and that the Church is on an uproar within itself, it cannot be but that weak minds shall be troubled and also faint; and especially when the controversy is about doctrine, which alone is the holy bond of brotherly unity. Finally, there is nothing which doth more indamage the gospel than civil discord, because it doth not only pierce and wound weak conscience, but also minister occasion to the wicked to backbite.

Wherefore, we must diligently note this history, that we may know that it is no new example, if among those who profess the same gospel there arise some wranglings and strife about doctrine, when proud men can get them a name, (whereof they are so furiously desirous,) by no other means but by bringing in their own inventions. It is certain, that as there is but one God, so there is but one truth of this God. F925 Therefore, when Paul goeth about to exhort the faithful unto mutual consent, he useth this argument, “One God, one faith, one baptism,” etc., (<490406>Ephesians 4:6.) But when we see wicked men arise, who go about to divide [rend] the Church by their factions, and also either to corrupt the gospel ,with their false and filthy [spurious] inventions, or else to bring the same in suspicion, we ought to know the subtlety [artifice] of Satan. Therefore, Paul saith elsewhere that heresies come abroad, that those who are tried may be made manifest, (<461119>1 Corinthians 11:19.) And, assuredly, the Lord doth wonderfully make void the subtlety of Satan, in that he trieth the faith of his by such trials, and doth beautify his word with worthy and excellent victory; and causeth the truth to shine more clearly which the wicked went about to darken. But it is very convenient to weigh all the circumstances of the history which Luke noteth.



Which came down from Judea. This cloak and color was very forcible to deceive even good men then. Jerusalem was honored not without cause among all churches, because they reverenced it even as their mother. For the gospel was deducted, as it were, by pipes and conduits F926 from that fountain. These seducers come thence; they pretend the apostles; they boast that they bring nothing but that which they learned of them. They blind and blear the eyes of the unskillful with this smoke; and those who are light and wicked do greedily snatch at the color which is offered them. The perturbation of the Church doth, like a tempest, shake those who were otherwise good and moderate, so that they are enforced to stumble. Therefore, we must note this subtlety of Satan, that he abuseth the names of holy men that he may deceive the simple, who, being won with the reverence of the men, dare not inquire after the thing itself. Luke doth not express, indeed, with what affection these knaves were moved; yet it is likely that perverse zeal was the cause which moved them to set themselves against Paul and Barnabas; for there be certain churlish natures which nothing can please but that which is their own. They had seen that circumcision and other rites of the law were observed at Jerusalem; wheresoever they become, they can abide nothing which is not agreeable thereto, as if the example of one church did bind all the rest of the churches with a certain law. And though such be carried with a preposterous zeal to procure tumults, yet are they pricked inwardly with their ambition, and with a certain kind of stubbornness. Nevertheless, Satan hath that he would; for the minds of the godly have such a mist cast before them that they can scarce know black from white.

Therefore, we must beware first of this plague, that some prescribe not a law to other some after their manner, that the example of one church be not a prejudice F927 of a common rule. Also, we must use another caution, that the persons of men do not hinder or darken the examination of the matter or cause. For if Satan transfigure himself into an angel of light, (<471114>2 Corinthians 11:14,) and if, by sacrilegious boldness, he usurp the holy name of God, what marvel is it if he do like wickedly deceive men under the names of holy men? The end shall at length declare that the apostles meant nothing less than F928 to lay the yoke of the law upon the neck of the Gentiles; and yet Satan meant under this shift to get in. So it falleth out oftentimes that those who contrary [oppose] the doctrine of Christ, creep in under the title of his servants. Therefore, there is one only remedy, to come to search out the matter F929 with sound judgments; also it behoveth us to prevent an offense, lest we think that the faithful servants of God do therefore strive among themselves, because Satan doth falsely abuse their names, that he may set certain shadows by the ears together to terrify the simple.


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