14. The God of our fathers.As nothing is more fit to provoke us joyfully to go forward toward God, than when we know that God doth prevent us with his free goodness, that he may call us back from destruction to life; so Ananias beginneth here. God, saith he, hath ordained thee to know his will. For by this means Paul is taught that God had respect unto him at such time as he went astray, and was altogether an enemy to his own salvation; and so God’s predestination doth abolish all preparations which sophisters imagine, as if man did prevent God’s grace by his own free will. In calling him the God of the fathers, he reneweth the remembrance of the promises, that the Jews may know that the new calling of Paul is joined with them, and that those fall not away from the law who pass over unto Christ. Therefore Paul confirmeth that by these words which he avouched before in his own person, that he had not made any departure from the God of Abraham, whom the Jews had in times past worshipped, but that he continueth in the ancient worship which the fathers did use, which he had learned out of the law.
Wherefore, when the question is about religion, let us learn by the example of Paul, not to imagine any new God, (as the Papists and Mahometans have done, and as all heretics use to do) but let us retain that God who hath revealed himself in times past to the fathers, both by the law, and also by diverse oracles. This is that antiquity wherein we must remain, and not in that whereof the Papists boast in vain, who have invented to themselves a strange God, seeing they have forsaken the lawful fathers.
The same is to be said at this day of the Jews, whose religion, seeing it disagreeth with the law and the prophets, their God must also be degenerate and feigned. For he who would in times past be called the God of Abraham and of the fathers, appeared at length in the person of his Son, that he may now be called by his own name, F1362 or title, the Father of Christ. Therefore, he which rejecteth the Son hath not the Father, who cannot be separated from him. And Ananias saith, that it cometh to pass, through the free election of God, that the truth of the gospel doth now appear to Paul; whereupon it followeth, that he did not attain unto this by his own industry, which the experience of the thing did also declare. For nothing was more stubborn than Paul until Christ did tame him. And if we desire to know the cause and beginning, Ananias calleth us back unto the counsel of God, whereby he was appointed and ordained; and assuredly it is a more precious thing to know the will of God, than that men can attain unto it by their own industry. F1363 That which Ananias affirmeth of Paul ought to be translated unto all, that the treasure of faith is not common to all; F1364 but it is offered peculiarly to the elect. Furthermore, it appeareth more plainly by the next member what this will of God is. For God spake at sundry times and many ways by his prophets, but last of all, he revealed and made known his will and himself wholly in his Son (<580101>Hebrews 1:1).
To see the Just.Seeing all the Greek books F1365 in a manner agree together in the masculine gender, I wonder why Erasmus would rather translate it in the neuter, Which is Just; which sense the readers see to be cold and far let [fetched]. Therefore, I do not doubt but that Just is taken in this place for Christ; and the text runneth very finely F1366 thus, because it followeth immediately after, and hear a voice from his mouth. And it is certain that all the godly and holy men did most of all desire that they might see Christ. Thence flowed that confession of Simeon,
Therefore this seeing, which godly kings and prophets did most earnestly desire, as Christ himself doth witness, (<421024>Luke 10:24) is not without cause extolled as a singular benefit of God. But because the sight of the eyes should profit little or nothing, which we know was to many deadly, he adjoineth the hearing of the voice. Ananias setteth down the cause why God did vouchsafe Paul of so great honor, to wit, that he might be to his Son a public witness; and he doth so prepare him, that he may learn not only for himself alone, F1367 but that he may have so much the more care to profit, because he shall be the teacher of all the whole Church.
16.And now, why tarriest thou?It is not to be doubted but that Ananias did faithfully instruct Paul in the principles of godliness; for he would not have baptized him if he had been void of true faith. But Luke passeth over many things, and doth briefly gather the sum. Therefore, seeing Paul doth understand that the promised redemption is now given in Christ, Ananias saith, for good causes, that nothing ought to stay him from being baptized. But when he saith, Why tarriest thou? he doth not chide Paul, neither doth he accuse him of slackness, but he doth rather amplify the grace of God by adding baptism. The like sentence had we in the tenth chapter, (<441047>Acts 10:47)
“Can any man let [hinder] those from being baptized with water who have the Holy Ghost given them even as we?”
But when he saith, Wash away thy sins, by this speech he expresseth the force and fruit of baptism, as if he had said, Wash away thy sins by baptism. But because it may seem that by this means more is attributed to the outward and corruptible element than is meet, the question is, whether baptism be the cause of our purging. Surely, forasmuch as the blood of Christ is the only means whereby our sins are washed away, and as it was once shed to this end, so the Holy Ghost, by the sprinkling thereof through faith, doth make us clean continually. This honor cannot be translated unto the sign of water, without doing open injury to Christ and the Holy Ghost; and experience doth teach how earnestly men be bent upon this superstition. Therefore, many godly men, lest they put confidence in the outward sign, do overmuch extenuate the force of baptism. But they must keep a measure, that the sacraments may be kept within their bounds, lest they darken the glory of Christ; and yet they may not want their force and use.
Wherefore, we must hold this, first, that it is God alone who washeth us from our sins by the blood of his Son; and to the end this washing may be effectual in us, he worketh by the hidden power of his Spirit. Therefore, when the question is concerning remission of sins, we must seek no other author thereof but the heavenly Father, we must imagine no other material cause but the blood of Christ; and when we be come to the formal cause, the Holy Ghost is the chief. But there is an inferior instrument, and that is the preaching of the word and baptism itself. But though God alone doth work by the inward power of his Spirit, yet that doth not hinder but that he may use, at his pleasure, such instruments and means as he knoweth to be convenient; not that he includeth in the element anything which he taketh either from his Spirit or from the blood of Christ, but because he will have the sign itself to be an help for our infirmity.
Therefore, forasmuch as baptism doth help our faith, that it may reap forgiveness of sins by the blood of Christ alone, it is called the washing of the soul. So that the washing, spoken of by Luke, doth not note out the cause; but is referred unto the understanding of Paul, who, having received the sign, knew better that his sins were done away. F1368 Though we must also note this, that there is no bare figure set before us in baptism, but that the giving of the thing is thereto annexed; because God promised nothing deceitfully, but doth, indeed, fulfill that which under the signs he doth signify. Notwithstanding, we must again beware that we tie not the grace of God to the sacraments; for the external administration of baptism profiteth nothing, save only where it pleaseth God it shall. By this there is also another question answered which may be moved. For seeing Paul had the testimony of the grace of God, his sins were already forgiven him. Therefore, he was not washed only by baptism, but he received a new confirmation of the grace which he had gotten.
In calling upon the name of the Lord.It is out of question that he meaneth Christ, not because the name of Christ alone is called upon in baptism, but because the Father commandeth us to ask of him whatsoever is figured in baptism; neither doth the operation of the Spirit tend to any other end, saving that it may make us partakers of his death and resurrection. Therefore, Christ is appointed to excel in baptism, yet inasmuch as he is given us of the Father, and inasmuch as he poureth out his graces upon us by the Holy Ghost. Whereby it cometh to pass that the calling upon the name of Christ containeth both the Father and the Son.
Wherefore, Ananias doth not mean, that the name of Christ must only be named, but he speaketh of prayer, whereby the faithful do testify, that the effect of the outward sign is in the power of Christ alone. For the sacraments have neither any power of salvation included in them, neither are they anything worth of themselves. Wherefore, this member is, as it were, a correction of the former saying, because Ananias doth, in plain words, send Paul from reposing confidence in the external sign unto Christ.
It is well known how much the Papists differ from this rule, who tie the cause of grace to their exorcisms and enchantments; and they are so far from studying to direct the miserable people unto Christ, that they rather drown Christ in baptism, and pollute his sacred name by their enchantments.
17. And it came to pass, that, when I was returned to Jerusalem, and prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18. And saw him say to me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: because they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. 19. Then I said, Lord, they know that I did cast into prison, and did beat in every synagogue those which did believe in thee: 20. And when the blood of thy witness, Stephen, was shed, I did also stand by and consented to his death, and kept the raiment of those which slew him. 21. And he said unto me, Go: because I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. 22. And they heard him unto this word, then they lifted up their voice, saying, Away with such a fellow from off the earth: for it is not meet that he should live.
17. And it came to pass.This had not been the last conclusion, F1369 if Paul had not been cut off [stopped short] with their outrageous outcries. Notwithstanding, his drift and purpose doth plainly appear by the former text, [context] for he beginneth to intreat of his ministry, that he may show that he departed not from the Jews of his own accord, as if he withdrew him of malice from taking pains with them; but he was drawn unto the Gentiles contrary to his expectation and purpose. For he came purposely to Jerusalem, that he might impart with his own nation that grace which was committed to him. But when the Lord cutteth off his hope which he had to do good, he driveth him thence. But there was a double offense which Paul goeth about to cure. For they both thought that the covenant of God was profaned if the Gentiles should be admitted into the Church together with them, and nothing did grieve the proud nation so much as that others should be preferred before them, or so much as made equal with them. Therefore Paul’s defense consisteth in this, that he was ready, so much as in him lay, to do them the best service he could; but he was afterward enforced by the commandment of God to go to the Gentiles, because he would not have him to be idle at Jerusalem. Whereas Erasmus translateth it, That I was carried without myself, is in Greek word for word, That I was in a trance; whereby he meant to purchase credit to the oracle. Also the circumstance of the time and place doth confirm the same, in that the Lord appeared to him as he prayed in the temple; which was an excellent preparation to hear the voice of God, Concerning the manner of seeing, F1370 read that which we touched about the end of the seventh chapter.
18. Because they will not.Though the commandment of God alone ought to be sufficient enough to bind us to obey, yet to the end Paul might be the more willing to follow, Christ showeth him a reason why he will have him depart out of Jerusalem; to wit, because he should lose his labor there; but he was not chosen to that end that he might be idle, or do no good by teaching; though this were a sore trial, and such as we may think did sore shake him. F1371 Not long before the function of preaching the gospel was enjoined him, that his voice might sound throughout the whole world; now even at the first entrance he is inhibited; yea, his labor seemeth to be condemned of peculiar reproach when his witness [testimony] is rejected, because his person is hated. But it was meet that the holy servant of the Lord should be thus humbled, that all the preachers of the gospel might learn to give over themselves wholly to obey Christ, that when they be excluded from one place, they may be ready immediately to go to another, and that they may not be discouraged, nor cease off from doing their duty, though they be undeservedly loathed.
19. Lord, they know.By this speech Paul doth testify that he was not beside himself, or brought into perplexity, F1372 but that he did assuredly believe the oracle. For without doubt he knew Christ, whom he calleth Lord. And Paul objecteth, that it cannot almost be, but that when they see him so suddenly changed, such a spectacle will move them. Whence he gathereth that he shall not be unfruitful. He thought so indeed; but Christ answereth flatly, that he hath appointed him another charge, and he taketh from him the hope which he had in vain conceived touching the Jews. The question is, whether it were lawful for Paul to object these reasons to Christ; for it is as much as if he did avouch that that is probable, which Christ said could not be. I answer, that God giveth his saints leave, familiarly, to utter their affections before him; F1373 especially when they seek no other thing but the confirmation of their faith.
If any man stand in his own conceit, or stubbornly refuse that which God commandeth, his arrogancy shall be worthily condemned; but God vouchsafeth his faithful servants of a singular privilege, that they may modestly object those things which may call them back from the desire to obey; to the end that being free from lets, they may wholly addict themselves to serve God; as Paul, after that he was taught that it pleased the Lord that it should be so, he doth not gainsay nor contend any longer, but being content with that one exception, and making an end there, he maketh himself ready to take his journey, which he seemed to be loath to take. In the mean season, whereas the Jews are not touched with so many miracles, their stubbornness and pride, which cannot be tamed, is discovered. Which upbraiding did undoubtedly cause them to rage.
22.Away with such a fellow.Luke showeth here how outrageously Paul’s sermon was interrupted. For they do not only oppress him with their crying, but they desire to have him put to death; where it doth also plainly appear how frenzy [frenzied] pride is. The Jews conceived so great good liking of themselves, that they did not only despise all the whole world in comparison of themselves, but they stood also more stoutly in defense of their own dignity than of the law itself, as if all religion did consist in this, that Abraham’s stock might excel all other mortal men. So now they rage against and rail upon Paul, because he said that he was sent to be the apostle of the Gentiles; as if God were bound by his own liberality to suffer the contempt of his power F1374 in the wicked and unthankful, on whom he bestowed excellent graces above all other. And it is no marvel if there were such fierceness and fury at that day among the Jews, seeing that being by all means wasted, F1375 and accustomed to suffer extreme reproaches at this day, they cease not, notwithstanding, to swell with servile pride. But these be fruits of reprobation, until God gather together the remnant according to Paul’s prophecy (<451105>Romans 11:5).
23.And as they cried, and cast off their garments, and threw dust into the air, 24. The chief captain commanded him to be led into the camp; and he commanded that he should be scourged and examined, that he might know for what cause they cried so on him. 25. And when they had bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? 26. When the centurion heard that, he went to the chief captain, and told him, saying, What wilt thou do? for this man is a Roman. 27. And when the chief captain came, he said to him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? And he said, Yea. 28. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum I purchased this freedom. And Paul said, I was so born. 29. Then those who were about to examine him departed from him immediately: and the chief captain also was afraid, after that he knew that he was a Roman, and that he had bound him. 30. And on the next day, when he would know the truth, F1376 heloosed him from his bonds, and commanded the high priests and all the council to come together, and he brought Paul and set him before them.