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13 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. 6When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. 7He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 8But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. 12When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord. 13 Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; 14but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.” 16So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: “You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. 17The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance 20for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. 21Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ 23Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; 24before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25And as John was finishing his work, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.’
26 “My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. 27Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. 28Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30But God raised him from the dead; 31and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. 32And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors 33he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm,
Barnabas and Saul Commissioned
The Apostles Preach in Cyprus
Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. 6When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. 7He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 8But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. 12When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
13 Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; 14but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.” 16So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak:
“You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. 17The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance 20for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. 21Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ 23Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; 24before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25And as John was finishing his work, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.’
26 “My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. 27Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. 28Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30But God raised him from the dead; 31and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. 32And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors 33he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm,
‘You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.’
34 As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,
‘I will give you the holy promises made to David.’
35 Therefore he has also said in another psalm,
‘You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.’
36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; 37but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. 38Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; 39by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you:
‘Look, you scoffers!
Be amazed and perish,
for in your days I am doing a work,
a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.’ ”
42 As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people urged them to speak about these things again the next sabbath. 43When the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
44 The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. 46Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. 47For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles,
so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. 49Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. 50But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region. 51So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. 52And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Here followeth an history, not only worthy to be remembered, but also very profitable to be known, how Paul was appointed the teacher of the Gentiles; for his calling was, as it were, a key whereby God opened to us the kingdom of heaven. We know that the covenant of eternal life was properly concluded with the Jews, so that we had nothing to do with God’s inheritance, forasmuch as we were strangers, (Ephesians 2:12;) and the wall of separation was between, which did distinguish those of the household from strangers. Therefore it had profited us nothing, that Christ brought salvation unto the world, unless, the disagreement being taken away, there had been some entrance made for us into the Church. The apostles had already received commandment touching the preaching of the gospel throughout the whole world, (Mark 16:16,) but they had kept themselves until this time within the borders of Judea. When Peter was sent to Cornelius, it was a thing so new and strange, that it was almost counted a monster, [prodigy.] Secondly, that might seem to be a privilege granted to a few men extraordinarily; but now, forasmuch as God doth plainly and openly appoint Paul and Barnabas to be apostles of the Gentiles, by this means he maketh them equal with the Jews; that the gospel may begin to be common as well to the one as to the other. And now the wall of separation is taken away, that both those who were far off and those which were nigh hand may be reconciled to God; and that being gathered under one head, they may grow together to be one body. Therefore Paul’s calling ought to be of no less weight amongst us, than if God should cry from heaven in the hearing of all men, that the salvation, promised in times past to Abraham, and to the seed of Abraham, (Genesis 22:17) doth no less appertain unto us at this day, than if we had come out of the loins of Abraham. For this cause is it that Paul laboreth so much 772772 “Multis locis,” in many passages, omitted. in defense and avouching of his calling, (Galatians 1:17, 12-24;) that the Gentiles may assuredly persuade themselves that the doctrine of the gospel was not brought to them by chance, neither by man’s rashness, but, first, by the wonderful counsel of God; secondly, by express commandment, whilst that he made that known to men which he had decreed with himself.
1 There were in the church. I have declared in the fourth to the Ephesians, (Ephesians 4:11) and in the twelfth of the First to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 12:28,) what difference there is (at least in my judgment) between doctors and prophets. It may be that they are in this place synonyma, [synonymous,] (or that they signify both one thing,) so that this is Luke’s meaning, that there were many men in that church endowed with singular grace of the Spirit to teach. Surely I cannot see how it can hang together, to understand by prophets those which were endowed with the gift of foretelling things; but I think rather that it signifieth excellent interpreters of Scripture. And such had the office to teach and exhort, as Paul doth testify in the fourteenth of the First to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 45:37.) We must mark Luke’s drift: Paul and Barnabas were ministers of the church of Antioch; God calleth them thence now unto another place. Lest any man should think that that church was destitute of good and fit ministers, so that God did provide for other churches with the loss of it, Luke preventeth this, and saith, that there was such store there, that though it did help others, yet did there remain sufficient for the use thereof; whereby appeareth how plentifully God had poured out his grace upon the Church, whence rivers, as it were, might be deducted and carried into diverse places.
So even in our time God doth so enrich certain churches more than others, that they be seminaries to spread abroad the doctrine of the gospel. It must needs be that Manaen, who was brought up with Herod, came of some noble family. And this doth Luke recite of purpose that he may set forth to us his godliness who, despising worldly pomp, had coupled himself to the simple and despised flock of Christ. He might, indeed, have been a principal courtier if he had been ruled by ambition; but that he may wholly addict himself to Christ, he refuseth not to change those smokes of honor with [for] reproach and ignominy. For if we consider in what state the Church stood then, he could not give his name to the gospel, unless he should make himself subject 773773 “Quin se... subjiceret,” without subjecting himself. to common infamy. Therefore the Lord meant to teach us, by his example, to despise the world, that those may learn with a valiant and lofty mind to despise the world, who cannot otherwise be true Christians, unless they cast away those things which are precious to the flesh, as hurtful lets and hindrances.
2 And they ministered to the Lord. The word which Luke useth doth not only signify to be occupied about holy things, but also sometimes to bear public offices. And because the holy rites of the Gentiles did for the most part consist upon [of] burnt-offerings and sacrifices, it is oftentimes taken for to offer sacrifice; which sense did well like the Papists, that they might prove that the apostles did use some sacrifice. But admit it were so; yet do they foolishly pretend for defense of their mass, that the teachers of Antioch did sacrifice. First, forasmuch as the word is of the plural number, it followeth that every one of them did say mass. But letting toys pass, I say we must consider what manner of sacrifice Christ commended to his Church. The Papists feign that the office of priesthood is enjoined them, to sacrifice Christ and by sacrificing him to redeem peace with God. There is so little mention made hereof in Scripture, that the Son of God doth rather challenge this honor to himself alone. Wherefore Christ’s Church hath another priesthood, to wit that every man may offer himself and his to God; and that the public ministers may sacrifice to God, souls, with the spiritual sword of the gospel, as Paul teacheth, (Romans 15:16.) Moreover, the prayers of all the godly are the spiritual calves of the lips, (Hosea 14:2,) wherewith God is well pleased, when they are offered up upon the holy altar; that is, in Christ’s name, [as] in the thirteenth to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 13:15.) Therefore, when Luke saith that the prophets and teachers ministered to God when the Spirit spake to them, I understand nothing else but that they were in the public action. He addeth fasting, that we may know that their minds were then free from all impediments, that nothing might hinder them from giving attendance to prophesying. But the question is, 774774 “Dubium est,” it is doubtful. whether they kept a common fast, or Luke doth only signify that they were fasting then until that time. This is, without question, that these circumstances were expressed, that Paul’s calling may carry the more credit amongst us.
Separate to me. God commandeth that Paul and Barnabas be sent by the consent of the Church, thither whither he had appointed them to be sent; whereby we gather that there is no lawful election of pastors, save only wherein God is chief. For whereas he hath commanded that the Church should elect pastors and bishops, he hath not therefore granted men so much liberty, but that he will bear the chief sway as the chief governor. The ordinary election of pastors differeth from this appointing of Paul and Barnabas, because it was requisite that they should be appointed by the heavenly oracle to be the apostles of the Gentiles; which is not necessary to be done daily in ordaining pastors. But they agree in this, that as God did testify that Paul and Barnabas were already appointed by his decree to preach the gospel, so none may be called unto the office of teaching save only those whom God hath already chosen to himself after a sort.
Furthermore, there is no need that the Spirit should cry to us out of heaven, that he is called of God about whom we are, 775775 “Divinitus vocatum esse eum de quo agitur,” that he of whom we treat (whose election is in question) is divinely called. because we receive those, as it were, from hand to hand, (as they say,) whom God hath furnished with necessary gifts, forasmuch as they are framed and made fit by his hand. But whereas Luke saith in this place, that Paul was appointed by the voices and consents 776776 “Suffragiis,” by the suffrages. of the Church; it doth seem not to agree with Paul’s own words, where he doth deny that he was called of men, or by men, (Galatians 1:1.) I answer, that he was made an apostle long before, (and that by no voices [suffrages] of men,) before such time as he was sent unto the Gentiles; and he had now already executed the office of an apostle many years, when he was called to go unto the Gentiles by a new oracle. Wherefore, that he may have God for the author of his apostleship, it is not without cause that he excludeth men. And he doth not now command that he be ordained by the Church therefore, [viz.] that his calling may depend upon men; but God publisheth that his decree, which was as yet known to a few, and that with a public commandment, and he commandeth that it be sealed with the solemn subscription of the Church. Therefore, this is the meaning of the words, That this is the time wherein Paul must preach the gospel among the Gentiles, and the wall being pulled down, he must gather a Church of the Gentiles, who were before strangers from the kingdom of God, (Ephesians 2:14.) For although God had used him hitherto at Antioch and elsewhere, this was now added as a peculiar thing, that God did intend to adopt the Gentiles into the same inheritance of life with the Jews. But and if he were thus created a teacher of the Church from the beginning, he should not then have been called at that time by men. For, seeing the Lord doth pronounce that he had called him, what doth he leave for the Church, save only that they subscribe obediently? For men’s judgment is not here put as in a doubtful matter, neither have their voices and consents any freedom. But we must mark what I have already said, that Paul and Barnabas are not now only appointed teachers, but they have an extraordinary office enjoined them, that they may begin to bring the grace of God commonly unto the Gentiles. And that do the words import, when it is said, Separate to the work For undoubtedly he speaketh of a new work, and which had heretofore not been used.
But how is Barnabas in this place appointed to be Paul’s companion and fellow in office, who, as far as we can read, did never execute the office of teaching? yea, who did always give Paul leave to teach, without saying anything himself? I answer, that he had occasions enough offered him to speak in Paul’s absence, so that they had both of them enough to do. For one could not always be present in all places. It is not to be doubted but that he did faithfully discharge that duty which God had enjoined him, and that he was no dumb looker on. And why should we wonder that Luke doth not set down his sermons in plain words, seeing that he scarce repeateth one of a thousand of Paul’s?
The Spirit said. Whatsoever Macedonius and his sect object that they may turn their backs, 777777 “Tergiversandi causa,” for the sake of tergiversation. yet we have a more plain and sound testimony of the divine essence of the Spirit in this place, than that they can escape it and make it frustrate. There is nothing more proper to God than with his power and commandment to govern the Church alone; but the Spirit challengeth this right when he commandeth that Paul and Barnabas be separated to him, and testifieth that they were called by his beck. Assuredly we must needs confess that the body of the Church is lame and without a head, unless we confess that it is God who ordereth the same at his pleasure, who setteth teachers over it, who governeth the proceedings and order thereof. We shall have afterwards chapter 20, in Paul’s sermon, (Acts 20:28,) that all bishops are placed by the Holy Ghost, which govern the Church; but no man is to be counted a lawful pastor of the Church, as the same Paul witnesseth, save he which is called of God; neither doth God point out false prophets by any other mark, save only by this, that he hath not sent them; therefore, we gather that the Holy Ghost is God indeed, whose authority is sufficient to choose pastors, and who hath the chief rule in choosing them, which is likewise confirmed out of the words of Isaiah,
“And now, behold, the Lord hath sent me, and his Spirit,”
Furthermore, we must note out of these words, that he is a person truly subsisting in God; for if we admit Sabellius’s invention, that the word Spirit importeth no person, 778778 “Hypostasin non designet,” does not designate a hypostasis. but that it is a bare adjunct, [epithet] that shall be a foolish and absurd speech, that the Holy Ghost hath said, 779779 “Inepta et absurda erit loqutio, quod Spiritus Sanctus dixerit,” the expression, “that the Holy Spirit said,” will be absurd and inept. Isaias also should foolishly ascribe to him the sending of a prophet.
3. When they had fasted and prayed. That they may obey the oracle, they do not only send Paul and Barnabas away; but also with a solemn rite they appoint them to be the apostles of the Gentiles; it is without question that this was a public fast. Luke said before, that they were fasting, forasmuch as they were busied in their ministry: it might be that that was according to the custom; but now there is another reason, for in appointing a public fast, which used to be done in hard matters and of great importance, they provoke both themselves and others unto an earnest ferventness in prayer, for this is oftentimes added in Scripture as a help to prayer; but (it was a matter of such weight to erect the kingdom of Christ amongst the Gentiles) the teachers of Antioch do not without cause earnestly pray the Lord, that he will enable his servants; 780780 “Ut det pares servis suis humeros,” that he may make the shoulders of his servants equal to the burden, may fit them for the office. and that was not the end of their prayer, that God would, by his Spirit of wisdom and discretion, govern their judgments in choosing, because all disputation or doubting concerning this matter was taken away; but that God would furnish those with the Spirit of wisdom and strength whom he had already chosen to himself, that he would strengthen them with his power against all the invasions of Satan and the world, that he would bless their labors, that they might not be unfruitful, that he would open a gate for the new preaching of the gospel.
The laying on of hands which Luke reckoneth up, in the third place, was a kind of consecration, as we have said, (Acts 6:6.) For the apostles retained the ceremony which was used amongst the Jews, according to the old custom of the law; as also kneeling, and such rites, which were profitable to exercise godliness. In sum, this is the end why they laid their hands upon Barnabas and Paul, that the Church might offer them to God, and that they might with their consent declare that this office was enjoined them by God; for the calling was properly God’s alone, but the external ordaining did belong to the Church, and that according to the heavenly oracle.
4. Being sent out by the Holy Ghost. There is no mention made here of the election made by the Church, because it was altogether a divine calling; the Church did only receive those who were offered them by the hand of God. He saith, that they came first to Seleucia, which was a city of Syria. There was, indeed, a country of the same name; but it is more likely that Luke speaketh of the city, which was not far from Cyprus by sea.
5. He saith that they began to preach the gospel first in Salamis, a famous city of Cyprus. Notwithstanding, they seem to begin amiss; for whereas they were sent specially to the Gentiles, they preach the word of God, nevertheless, to the Jews, I answer, that they were not so addicted to the Gentiles, that, setting aside the Jews, it stood them upon to go straight to the Gentiles, for when God did make them teachers of the Gentiles, he did not depose them from the office which they had heretofore exercised; so that there was no reason to let them, but that they might take pains, both with Jews and Gentiles; 781781 “Ita nulla ratio prohibuit quin Judaeis promiscue et Gentibus operam suam conferrent,” so nothing prevented them from bestowing their labor promiscuously on Jews and Gentiles. yea, farther, it was meet that they should begin with the Jews, as we shall see in the end of the chapter. Moreover, Luke addeth by the way, that they were helped by John; for his meaning is not that he was their minister for any private use, or for the uses of body; but rather in that he was their helper to preach the gospel, he commandeth his godly study [zeal] and industry; not that the degree of honor was equal, but because the labor was common to all; for which cause he had the less excuse afterward, seeing that he forsook the holy calling.
6. When they had passed over. It is to be thought that this their passage was not altogether without fruit; and, assuredly, Luke would never have passed over with silence a general repulse; but it was sufficient for him to say that they were not idle in the office of teaching in their journey, seeing that he maketh haste unto a famous history, which he will set down immediately. And forasmuch as Salamis, situated upon the east coast, did look toward Syria, it was requisite that Paul and Barnabas should pass through the midst of the island unto the other side, that they might come to Paphos; for Paphos was a city situated upon the sea-coast toward the south. Furthermore though all the island was dedicated to Venus, yet Paphos was the principal seat of the idol. For which cause the goodness of God is more wonderful, in that he would have the light of his gospel to pierce into such a filthy and cruel [dire] den. For we may thereby gather what manner of integrity and chastity, and honesty and temperance, was in that city, in that religion did grant liberty to the inhabitants to commit all manner of shameful and heinous offenses.
They found a certain fake prophet. Seeing that religion was quite corrupt among the Jews, it is no marvel if they fell away unto many wicked superstitions. And forasmuch as they had hitherto professed that they worshipped a certain peculiar god, this was a fair color to deceive withal, seeing that they might pretend the name of the unknown God at their pleasure; but this is a wonder how it was possible for Elymas, with his juggling, to cozen a grave and wise man. For we know that the Jews were at that time hated of all the world, and especially of the Romans, and with hatred was coupled extreme contempt of them.
Now Luke doth not without cause expressly commend Sergius’s wisdom, lest any man should think that his foolishness and lightness was subject to the seducings of the sorcerer. His meaning was, indeed, to show in a clear mirror how frivolous and vain man’s wisdom is, which cannot beware of such gross subtlety of Satan.
And assuredly where the truth of God doth not appear, the more men seem to be wise, the more filthily foolish are they. We see what filthy monsters of superstition did reign amongst the most witty Gentiles, and such as were furnished with all manner of learning. Therefore, there is neither judgment nor wisdom, save only from the Spirit of God. And this is the just vengeance of God upon all idolaters, that being delivered up to a reprobate sense they can discern nothing, (Romans 1:28.) Though it may be that Sergius Paulus, being weary of superstitions, did then begin to desire a more pure worship of God, at such time as he [did] light upon that sorcerer. Which if we receive, it was surely a wonderful judgment of God, that he suffered a man godly-affected to throw himself headlong into the [deadly] snares of Satan. But God doth sometimes so exercise his elect, that he causeth them to wander many ways, before they be directed into the right way.
7. And whereas Sergius Paulus, desiring some better thing than that which he had learned from his childhood, was unaptly drawn aside unto diverse superstitions, I gather hereby that he sendeth for Paul and Barnabas of his own accord, to teach him. Therefore, he had conceived a certain reverence and fear of God, though he knew him not as yet; and forasmuch as he was persuaded that that was the true God which was worshipped in Judea, he desired to know out of his word a pure and certain rule of godliness. So soon as he hath tasted of the dotings of the false prophet he standeth in doubt. And it is not to be doubted, but that God doth solicit his mind, that he may not be altogether stayed in vanity, though he suffered himself to be deceived for a time by a wicked man.
8. To turn away the deputy from the faith. No marvel if the seducer seek to put away the light, whereby he saw his own darkness driven away. 782782 “Discuti,” dispelled. The same stour [contest] have we at this day with a number of babblers, who use to sell their smokes, and to shut, by all shifts possible, the eyes of the simple, that they may not behold the Sun of righteousness, being now risen. We must wrestle with such lets; for as there be [not] always and everywhere magicians present, which procure us some business, 783783 “Nam ut non semper et ubique praesto sint magi qui negotium nobis facessant,” for though magicians are not always and everywhere present to give us trouble. Satan thrusteth in lets 784784 “Avocamenta,” enticements. enough, which possess our minds to drive away Christ, which the flesh is too ready to receive. Finally, both the enticements of the world and the wicked affections of our flesh are as many charms, whereby Satan ceaseth not to overthrow the faith.
9. And Saul, who was also called Paul. Luke showeth now how God brake the bond wherein the deputy was bound. For seeing that he was too much addicted to the magician, he could not embrace true doctrine as one that was free and at liberty; for the devil keepeth those minds (which he hath entangled) in his slavery after a wonderful and incredible manner, that they cannot see even the most plain truth; but so soon as he was once vanquished, Paul could easily enter in unto the deputy. And mark what Luke saith, that the faith is overthrown when the word of God is resisted. Whence we may gather that faith is so grounded in the word, that without this shore 785785 “Fultura,” prop or support. it fainteth at every assault; yea, that it is nothing else but the spiritual building of the word of God.
10. O thou full of deceit. It was not without a cause that Paul was thus hot and angry; for he had no hope to do any good if he should deal after some moderate and mild sort. We must always begin with doctrine, and those are also to be admonished, exhorted, and pricked forward, who do not as yet appear to be altogether obstinate. Neither doth Paul so vehemently inveigh against the sorcerer at the first dash; but when he seeth him maliciously and manifestly fight against the doctrine of godliness, he handleth him like a bond-slave of Satan. Thus must we deal with the desperate enemies of the gospel, in whom appeareth open contumacy and wicked contempt of God, especially when they stop the way before others, And lest any man should think that Paul was out of measure angry, Luke saith plainly that the inspiration of the Spirit was his guide. Wherefore this heat of zeal is not only not to be reprehended, but it ought to make the profane condemners of God sore afraid, who fear not to rebel against his word; forasmuch as this judgment is given upon them all not by mortal man, but by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of Paul.
As touching the words, this place refuteth their error who think that Paul took his name of the deputy, as if he had set up some token of victory. There may many reasons be brought, and those strong enough, on the contrary; but this one place is sufficient, where Luke showeth that at such time as the deputy was not brought to the faith he had two names. And it is not to be doubted but that he retained his own name 786786 “Gentile... nomen,” his family name. amongst the Jews; and we know that this was a usual thing, that those who were citizens of Rome should borrow some Italian name. Luke joineth subtlety with deceit, which is contrary to sincerity; to wit, whilst crafty men transform their wit hither and thither, so that they have in them no simplicity; though the Greek word which Luke useth signifieth ready boldness to do hurt; but the former signification agreeth better. By the son of the devil is meant a reprobate and desperate man. Such are all those which resist maliciously, and as it were of set purpose, that which is just and right; therefore Paul addeth, that he is a great enemy of all righteousness.
Dost thou not cease to pervert? He calleth all that means whereby the Lord bringeth us unto himself the ways of the Lord. He testifieth that this is plain and straight; and he accuseth the sorcerer for making the same crooked, full of turnings, and doubtful, with his boughts and turns. Whence may be gathered a profitable doctrine, that it cometh to pass through the subtlety of Satan that we do not readily, with straight course, go unto the Lord. For he showeth us in his word a plain way, and such as is not thorny. Wherefore we must take good heed of seducers, which trouble the way with their ditches or thorns, or else make the same hard and unpleasant.
And it shall be convenient to repeat here that which I touched before, that the servants of Christ must not be blamed if they do sore inveigh against the professed enemies of sound doctrine, unless we will accuse the Holy Ghost of intemperance. Neither am I ignorant how easily men may fall in this point; for which cause godly teachers must take so much the more heed, first, that they favor not the affections of the flesh too much under the color of zeal; secondly, that they break not out with headlong and unseasonable heat where there is yet place for moderation; thirdly, that they give not themselves over to foolish and uncomely railing, but only that they express the unseemliness of the thing by gravity and weight of words. Such was the vehemency of holy zeal and of the Spirit in the prophets, which if dainty and soft men judge troublesome and raging, they consider not how dear and precious God’s truth is to him.
Now there riseth not one Elymas to subvert the faith but many, and those which are far more wicked. For we see with what sacrilegious boldness they despoil God of all honor; with what filthy corruptions they profane all religion; how cruelly they throw miserable souls headlong into eternal destruction; how unseemly they mock Christ; how filthily they disfigure all the whole worship of God; with what cruel reproaches they rend the holy truth of God; with what barbarous tyranny they lay waste the Church of God; so that you would say that they tread God under foot. And yet there be many crabbed philosophers who would have these furious giants flattered and clawed by the back. 787787 “Blanditiis mulceri,” soothed by flattery. But forasmuch as it doth evidently appear that such did never taste what that meaneth, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,” (Psalm 69:9,) let us, bidding adieu to their coldness, or rather sluggishness, be most hot, 788788 “Usque ad summum fervorem efferamur, “let us be carried even to the highest pitch of fervour. as becometh us, in maintaining the glory of God.
11. Behold the hand. The hand is put here to punish; 789789 “Ad plagam infligendam,” for inflicting a blow. a whereby he doth signify that God is the author of this punishment, and that he is only the minister. Furthermore, I think that this hability is that which Paul calleth δυναμις, or power, (1 Corinthians 12:28.) For as they did excel in power of the Spirit to help the faithful with miracles, so had they the whip in their hand to tame the rebellious and obstinate withal. Such vengeance of God did Peter show upon Ananias and Sapphira, (Acts 5:5.) But because miracles ought, for the most part, to resemble the nature of Christ, who is all gentle, sweet, bountiful, and merciful; therefore he would seldom have the apostles to show examples of the contrary power. Neither must we think that they were endued with this power to punish any man so often as it seemeth good in their own eyes, but the same Spirit of God, which did thus arm them, did direct them unto the lawful and right use. Therefore we must remember that which we had before, that Paul spake by inspiration of the Spirit. Furthermore, it was a very fit kind of punishment. For seeing that the sorcerer essayed to darken the sun, and to take from others the benefit of the light, he was, by good right, cast into horrible darkness.
But now, forasmuch as many of the Papists do far exceed this sorcerer at this day in ungodliness, it is a wonder why they be suffered to be so bold without being punished. Is the hand of God weakened? Is he less careful for his glory? Hath he no care to revenge the gospel? I answer, that this visible punishment which was once laid 790790 “Inflicta,” inflicted. upon the sorcerer, and such as this, are perpetual examples of God’s wrath against all those who are not afraid either to corrupt and deprave, or openly with slanders to resist the pure doctrine of the gospel. For we do know that miracles were wrought for a time to this end, that they may continually be in force, and be fresh before our eyes, and that they may give us light to behold the judgments of God, which we cannot see so plainly; but it is not for us to prescribe God this or that way to punish his enemies. Sergius Paulus, who, before he came to man’s estate, had no taste of true religion, who, from his childhood, was infected with diverse superstitions, and had very hard lets, which kept him back from embracing the faith; lastly, who was bewitched with the dotings of the sorcerer, that he could scarce come to the faith, had need of no small helps. Hereby it came to pass that God did, as it were, reach his hand out of heaven manifestly, though he helped us all in his person; for the same gospel, the authority whereof was then established, is at this day preached to us, and yet, notwithstanding, God doth not so linger, but that he showeth his fearful power diverse ways against the enemies of the gospel, unless our eyes were so dull when he showeth his judgments that we cannot see.
12. Then when the deputy saw This is that which I said, that the snares were broken wherein Elymas kept him entangled, for he was brought by the miracle unto faith, because the reverence of doctrine is the beginning of faith, and the preparation. Therefore, forasmuch as he saw an evident token of the power of God, he knew that Paul was sent of God, and so he began to reverence his doctrine, whereof he did doubt before. If God do now miraculously strengthen in the minds of many the faith of the gospel, which is shaken with so many and such strong engines; if he bring to pass, after an incredible manner, that the course of faith doth pass through a thousand lets, being content with this his grace, let us not murmur against him, or reason the matter with him, as if our condition were worse, if he do not daily show such miracles as we would desire.
13. Here is set down another of Paul’s stations; for, being departed from Paphos, when he came to Antioch of Pisidia, he made there a worthy 791791 “Memorabilem,” memorable. sermon, which Luke will recite, together with the success; but before he come to that, he doth by the way speak of the departure of John, because it was afterwards a cause of doleful disagreement. When he saith, Paul’s companions loosed from Paphos, he doth, in the first place, mean Paul himself; secondly, the other, one excepted. So that by noting his softness, he praiseth others which followed Paul with great 792792 “Indefatigabili,” indefatigable. constancy.
14. Entering, upon the day of the Sabbaths. He putteth the plural number instead of the singular, as it falleth out oftentimes in other places of Scripture; for they were wont to assemble themselves together upon the Sabbaths, lest their rest should be unprofitable and sluggish. The institution of the Sabbath had another end also, that it might be a figure of the spiritual rest when as the faithful, being dead to the world and the flesh, abandon their own will, and cease from their works. Because we have the truth hereof in Christ, whilst that being buried together with him we put off the old man; therefore the old figure is past. But God had respect also unto the politic use, that the Jews, being free from all other cares and businesses, might keep their holy assemblies; so that the ceasing off from earthly works did give a place to their heavenly exercises. So, even at this day we must use holy days; for we must therefore omit all other things that we may the more freely serve God.
15. After the lecture [reading] of the law. There is no mention made of prayers, and yet, undoubtedly, they were not omitted or foreslowed, [neglected;] but because Luke did intend to set down the sermon made there by Paul, no marvel if he reckon up those things only which did belong unto the order of teaching. And this is a notable place, out of which we learn after what sort they handled doctrine at that time among the Jews. The law and the prophets had the first place; because there must nothing be set before the Church which was not drawn out of that fountain. Also we gather by this that the Scripture was not suppressed among a few, but that both one and other 793793 “Omnes... promiscue,” all promiscuously. were admitted to the reading thereof, afterward those who were able, and had the grace to teach and exhort, had the second place, as interpreters of the Scripture which was read. Notwithstanding Luke showeth, last of all, that every one was not suffered to speak, lest confusion should arise by liberty; but the office of exhorting was committed to certain men, whom he calleth rulers of the synagogue, or masters. Therefore Paul and Barnabas begin not forthwith to speak, lest they disturb the accustomed order with too much haste; but they do modestly stay till they have liberty granted them to speak, and that with their leave who had authority by public consent. We know how corrupt the state of that people was then; and Luke will at length declare, in the end of the chapter, that these men of Antioch were too stout and stubborn in receiving 794794 “Respuenda,” rejecting. the grace of Christ; and yet there remained this goodness among them, that their assemblies were honestly and decently governed; 795795 “Compositi,” arranged. for which cause such evil favored confusion is so much the more shame fill which is seen at this day among those who will be counted Christians. The Papists do indeed sing 796796 “Cantillant,” chant. the Scriptures in their churches with shrill and sounding voice, but in an unknown tongue, so that the people reap no fruit thereby. There is seldom any doctrine used; and it were better for the wicked babblers even then to hold their peace, who thrust in their own unclean inventions instead of the Word of God, and pollute with the stink of their impiety whatsoever is holy.
If there be in you? This speech doth signify that what grace soever is in men to edify the Church, it is, as it were, committed 797797 “Depositum,” deposited with. to them; although the word in, according to the Hebrew phrase, may be superfluous. Therefore, I stand not greatly upon that, because the sense may be plain, If you have any exhortation which is apt and profitable for the people. An exhortation doth not exclude doctrine. But it seemeth that this word was commonly used among them; because it is properly the office of the teacher to utter no new thing of his own brain, but to apply the Scripture, wherein is comprehended the whole wisdom of the godly, unto the present use of the people. Thus, they do not only teach, but also apply the doctrine which they have elsewhere, unto the edifying of the Church, which I think is meant by the word exhortation.
16. We must note the state of this sermon, lest we think that he uttered words in vain. Paul seemeth, indeed, to begin even at the very first beginning, but he speaketh nothing but that which is most convenient for the present purpose. His purpose is to bring the Jews unto the faith of Christ; and that he may the better do this, it is needful to declare that they excel other nations in this one thing, because the Savior was promised them, whose kingdom is their principal and only felicity. This is, therefore, Paul’s beginning, that whereas they were chosen in times past to be the peculiar people of God; whereas they had so many benefits bestowed upon them from time to time, though they showed themselves most unworthy, this did depend upon the promise of the Messiah, and did tend to that end, that God might govern them by the hand of the Messiah; and that therefore they have nothing whereof they may boast, unless they be gathered under their Head; yea, that unless they receive him when he is offered, the covenant of life which God had made with their fathers shall be void, and the adoption shall be frustrate. This is the drift of the first part of the sermon: that this is the principal point of the law and the foundation of God’s covenant, that they have Christ for their Captain and Governor, that he may restore all things among them; that without him religion cannot stand, and that they shall be most miserable without him. Thence Paul passeth unto another member, that Jesus, whom he preacheth, is Christ indeed, through whom salvation is offered to the people; also he declareth the means of the redemption purchased by him. Furthermore, he intreateth of his power and office, that they may know what good things they ought to hope for at his hands. The conclusion containeth a chiding; for he threateneth to them horrible judgment, if they refuse the author of salvation, who offereth himself, even of his own accord, whom earnestly to desire the law and prophets provoke. This is, in a manner, the sum; now let us discuss every point by itself.
Men and brethren. Because Paul knew that there were many bastardly sons of Abraham, or such as were grown out of kind, 798798 “Degeneres,” degenerate. he calleth the Jews to whom he speaketh by a double name. First, he calleth them brethren, having respect unto common kindred, notwithstanding he showeth therewithal that they shall be true Israelites if they fear God, and that even then they are likewise true hearers, because “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In like sort he maketh the faithful attentive, and purchaseth audience among them, as if he should say, Seeing many boast that they are sons of Abraham, who were unworthy of such honor, show yourselves to be no bastardly seed. Let us learn by this that it is not a fault common to one age only, that good and sincere worshippers being mixed with hypocrites, have the name of the Church common among them. But we must have a great care hereof, that we be indeed that which we are called; which thing the true fear of Almighty God will bring to pass, and not the external profession alone.
17. The God of this people. This preface did witness that Paul did go about no new thing, which might lead away the people from the law of Moses. There is but one God, who is God of all nations; but he calleth him God of that people, to whom he had bound himself, and who was worshipped amongst the posterity of Abraham, amongst whom alone true and pure religion was to be found. To the same end tendeth that which is added immediately, He chose our fathers. For he testifieth by these words that he seeketh nothing less 799799 “Nihil se minus captare,” that there is nothing he less desires. than that they may fall away from the true and living God, who hath separated them from the residue of the world. Neither do I doubt but that he did more manifestly express that he did not preach to them an unknown or strange God, but the same who revealed himself long ago to their fathers; so that he doth briefly comprehend the sound knowledge of God, grounded in the law, that their faith, conceived out of the law and prophets, may continue firm.
Notwithstanding, he doth, in the mean season, commend and set forth the free love of God toward that people. For how came it to pass that only the children of Abraham were the Church and inheritance of God, save only because it pleased God to dissever them from other nations? For there was no worthiness to distinguish them; but the difference began at the love of God, wherewith he did freely love Abraham.
Of this free love of God, Moses doth oftentimes put the Jews to mind, as Deuteronomy 4:7, 8, 10, 14, 32, 34, and in other places; wherein God did set before us a mirror of his wonderful counsel, in that finding no excellence in Abraham, an obscure person and miserable idolater, he doth, notwithstanding, prefer him before all the world. Furthermore, this election was common to all the people, as was also circumcision, whereby God did adopt to himself the seed of Abraham; but there was also a more hidden election, whereby severing to himself a few of many children of Abraham, he did declare, that not all who came of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh are reckoned in the spiritual stock.
He did drive out a people. Paul teacheth that all those benefits which God bestowed afterwards upon the Jews, did proceed and flow from that free favor which he did bear toward their fathers. For this was the cause that they were delivered by the wonderful power of God, and brought by his hand into the possession of the land of Canaan, after that he had driven out so many nations for their sake. For it is no small matter for the land to be deprived of her inhabitants, that she might receive strangers. This is the fountain and root of all good things whereunto Paul calleth us, that God chose the fathers. This was the reason and cause which moved God to so great patience, that he would not cast off that rebellious people, who should otherwise have destroyed themselves a thousand times with their own wickedness. Therefore, where the Scripture maketh mention that their sins were pardoned, it saith that God remembered his covenant. He saith that they were exalted, though they were strangers, that they may remember how worthy and gorgeous their deliverance was.
18. He suffered their manners. The compound verb hath greater force and grace in the Greek, whereby the mercifulness of God is expressed in suffering the people, whom he knew to be stubborn and disobedient. And Paul giveth us to understand again, that the election of God was the cause that his goodness did strive with the wickedness of the people. 800800 “Sustinendo populo,” in sustaining the people. Notwithstanding, we must note that God did so take pity upon his elect people, whilst that he will continue firm in his purpose, that he did, notwithstanding, sharply punish the rebellious and wicked. He spared the people indeed, so that he did not quite destroy them, as he might by good right; but he found also means that their wickedness might not remain unpunished. And so that of Isaiah was fulfilled,
“If the multitude shall be as the sand of the sea,
a remnant shall be saved,” (Isaiah 10:22.)
20. He gave them judges. Under this name the Scripture comprehendeth rulers and governors; and here is another testimony of the infinite goodness of God toward the Jews, in that he pardoned so many backslidings in them. For it is likely that Paul handled those things more at large, which Luke gathereth briefly. And we know what was the estate of the people during all that time, seeing that through untamed wantonness they did ever now and then shake off the yoke. They were often punished with most grievous plagues, yet so soon as they were once humbled, God delivered them from the tyranny of their enemies. So that he saved the body thereof alive, amidst many deaths, four whole ages and one-half. And hereby it appeareth how unworthy they were of the favor of God, which they did despise and reject so often, unless the constancy of the election had gotten the victory. For how is it that God is never wearied, but that he keepeth promise with those who are truce-breakers an hundred times, save only because turning his eyes toward his Christ, he hath not suffered his covenant, grounded in him, to decay or perish?
21. Afterward they desire. And this change was all one as if they would quite and manifestly overthrow the government which he had appointed, whereof God himself complaineth in Samuel, (1 Samuel 8:5, 7.) But the stability of the election saved them from being punished as such madness did deserve; yea, the wicked and unlawful desire of the people was to God a new and incredible occasion to erect the kingdom whence Christ should afterward come. For how is it that the scepter came to the tribe of Judah, save only because the people were desirous to have a king? And assuredly the people dealt wickedly; but God, who knoweth how to use evil things well, turned that offense into safety. Whereas Saul was thrown down from the kingdom, it served to reprove the fault of the people, (1 Samuel 15:28,) but immediately when the kingdom is established in David’s family the prophecy of Jacob was verified, (Genesis 49:10.)
22. I have found David, my servant. This title was not so much cited in praise of the person, as that Paul might make the Jews more attentive to receive Christ. For the Lord doth testify that his mind was thoroughly set upon David for no light cause, but he commandeth in him some singular thing; and by extolling him so highly, his intent is to lift up the minds of the faithful unto Christ in his person. The place is taken out of the fourscore and ninth Psalm, (Psalm 89:20.) Only Paul putteth in that which is not there to be found, that David was the son of Isai, [Jesse,] which amplifieth the grace of God. For seeing that Isai [Jesse] was a breeder of cattle, it was a wonderful work of God to take the least of his sons from the sheepfolds, and to place him in the throne of the kingdom. By the word found, God meaneth that he had gotten such a man as he would. Not that David had brought to pass by his own travel and industry that he should meet God, being such a one, but the phrase is taken from the common custom of men.
But the question is, Seeing that David fell so grievously, how God giveth testimony of his continual obedience? We may answer two ways; for God had respect rather unto the continual course of his life, than unto every of his particular actions. Secondly, he did thus set him forth, not so much for his own merit as for his Christ’s sake. Assuredly he had deserved, by one wicked fact, eternal destruction for him and his, and, so much as in him lay, the way of the blessing of God was shut up, that there might nothing but vipers’ seed come of Bathsheba. But that so filthy a fact, in the death of Uriah, (2 Samuel 11:27) turneth to a contrary end by the wonderful counsel of God, because Solomon is born and cometh of that unlooked-for wedlock, which was full of treachery, and, finally, polluted with many spots. And though David sinned grievously, yet because he followed God all the course of his life, he is praised without exception, that he showed himself obedient to God in all things; though (as I have said before) the Spirit carrieth us into a farther thing; yea, the common calling of all the faithful in Christ, the head, is here depicted out to us.
23. According to promise. This clause doth also prove that which I have already said elsewhere, that in sending Christ, the Lord had respect only unto his own faithfulness and goodness; for he sent him because he had promised so to do. And as the promise doth testify that salvation was free, so it doth also purchase no small credit to the gospel; because it appeareth by this that Christ came not at a sudden, of whom there was never anything spoken; but that he who was promised from the beginning was now given in his time. But the promises which Luke here toucheth by the way are famous and well known. And they were so common among the Jews, that they called Christ commonly by no other name but the Son of David, (Matthew 22:42; Matthew 15:22.) He saith that Jesus was raised up to Israel; because, though salvation belong to the whole world, yet was he first a minister of circumcision to fulfill the promises made to the fathers, (Romans 15:8.) He translated the Hebrew name Jesus into σωτηρ in Greek. So that he uttered one thing twice, and yet here is no superfluous repetition; because he meant to declare that Christ is indeed and doth perform that which the name given him by God, by the voice of the angel, doth import.
24. We know what office John had, to wit, to prepare the way of the Lord. Therefore Paul bringeth in his testimony, that he may prove to the Jews that he preached no false Christ, but the true Christ of God, whom that most famous forerunner had before commended; not that man’s testimony is sufficient to prove so weighty a matter; but there was another respect to be had to John whom all men almost did think to be a prophet of God. Therefore hence cometh the authority of the testimony, that a crier sent from heaven, and no private man, speaketh of Christ. And Paul reciteth two things summarily concerning John, that he taught the baptism of repentance before Christ’s coming. Secondly, that casting from him of his own accord the title and honor of the Messiah, he submitted himself to Christ.
The baptism of repentance. Baptism brought in contrary to the rite and custom of the law was a token of great alteration. For it was unlawful to renew anything before Christ’s coming. The Jews had indeed in the law their baptisms or washings, which were also exercises of repentance, but John was the author of new and strange baptism, or rather the minister, who put them in hope of the restoring long looked-for and desired. When he calleth it the baptism of repentance he doth not exclude remission of sins, but he speaketh according to the circumstance of the place, because this baptism was a preparation unto the faith of Christ. And we must note the phrase, that he preached baptism. Whereby we are taught that the sacraments are then rightly administered, when doctrine is joined with the visible figure; for the mouth of the baptizer must not be dumb, because the sign is vain without doctrine.
25. When John fulfilled his course. The second member of the testimony, that when John drew near to the end of his course he sent his disciples to Christ; for he had fashioned them before with the rudiment of baptism, and then he sent them to Christ (as they say) from hand to hand. And this interrogation, Whom do ye think me to be? is not a question of one that doubteth. For John reproveth and chideth the Jews, because they did falsely give to him the honor of the Messiah. Though it may be read in one text, I am not he whom you take me to be; yet the other reading is more usual, as it hath also greater force to refute the error. Furthermore, his testimony doth deserve greater credit, in that he doth willingly refuse the honor offered him, (which he might have taken to himself, not without commendations) and doth submit himself to another. There cannot, assuredly, be any suspicion of ambition, or of seeking after honor here, which may discredit his words.
Behold, he cometh; that is, he is about to come, the Hebrew phrase, which is common enough in the New Testament. Whereas he confesseth that he is unworthy to loose the latchets of Christ’s shoes, it is a proverbial figure, whereby he abaseth himself so much as he can, lest his greatness darken Christ’s glory; for he meant to do that faithfully which was given him in charge, that Christ alone might have the preeminence. Therefore he saith, that how great soever he be, yet he is nothing in respect of Christ. For though God’s servants have their dignity, yet being compared to Christ, they must all be as nothing, that he alone may excel; as we see all stars vanish away, that they may give place to the brightness of the sun.
26. Men and brethren. Paul doth again prick forward the Jews to embrace Christ; for this ought to have raised no small study and attentiveness in their minds, when as they saw [heard] their salvation handled, and that the message of salvation was appointed properly for them. He calleth them children of Abraham not only for honor’s sake, but that they may know that they be heirs of eternal life; and he speaketh them so fair that it might not grieve them to depart from the scribes and priests whom they worshipped, because they must needs receive Christ. Furthermore, we must remember that which I said before, though the gate of the kingdom of heaven were set open to the Gentiles, yet were not the Jews thrown down from their estate; but were counted the first-begotten in God’s family; therefore is it that he saith, that salvation was sent to them, because they were first in order; yet because the carnal kindred was of itself of no great importance, and the ungodliness of many brake out, Paul speaketh specially unto the true worshippers of God, signifying that words were but vain, unless the fear of God reign in their hearts, which may receive them, and, receiving them, may foster them. We must note this title of the gospel, that it is called the word of salvation. Wherefore, their hardness must needs be great 801801 “Plusquam ferrea,” more than that of iron. whom it doth not allure with the sweetness that is in it; but though it be such naturally, yet is it made accidentally “the savor of death unto death” to the reprobate, (2 Corinthians 2:16.)
27. He doth wisely, and in due time, prevent an offense which might have been a great hindrance to their faith, [men’s faith.] For Jerusalem was God’s sanctuary, the king’s seat, the fountain of truth, and the light of the whole world; but Christ was put to death there. Furthermore, nothing could seem more absurd to look to than to receive him who was cast out of the temple of God; and to seek the doctrine of salvation any where else than there whence God himself had testified it should come. Moreover, by believing in Christ, they seemed to make a departure from the Church; and, therefore, this one objection was strong enough to refute all Paul’s sermon, Why dost thou force upon us, under color of God’s covenant, a man whom the principal part of the holy people condemned? This objection doth Paul answer, lest it hinder the course of the gospel; and not that only, but he turneth it also to the contrary part; for seeing that the author of life was despised and rejected at Jerusalem, Paul exhorteth the men of Antioch, at least those who among them feared God, that they receive him so much the more joyfully; for this doth the causal word declare, as if he should have said, Seeing that Jerusalem knew not her good, it behoveth you to be the more awakened and inflamed, lest the same unthankfulness and forwardness be found in you.
But he useth another reason to remove the offense, to wit, that their ungodliness was so far from diminishing any whit of Christ’s divine excellency, that it ought rather to serve to prove and establish the same, for whereby doth Christ better appear than because all that was fulfilled in him which had been foretold in the law and prophets? (Luke 24:25, 26.) Furthermore, what got the enemies of Christ, save only that in him shined the plain truth of the Scripture? It must needs be that Christ should be rejected of the chief, for it was so foretold,
“The stone which the builders refused hath
God made the head of the corner,” (Psalm 118:22.)
Christ must needs have been condemned among the wicked, that he might acquit us before God; it was expedient that sins should be laid upon him, that he might make satisfaction for the same; that he should be offered upon the cross, that the shadowish sacrifices of the law might cease; for even the Scripture contained these things, (Isaiah 53:4, 5; Daniel 9:26.)
Therefore, the more violently the captains of the people sought to extinguish Christ, they did in very deed prove him to be Christ, and the Lord did wonderfully deceive [frustrate] them, so that their obstinate impiety doth more edify the faith of the godly than destroy it. Of the same sort are almost all offenses which lead away weak and inconstant souls from Christ; for if they would thoroughly ponder the whole process of the work of God, there should be matter of confirmation where they faint. Therefore it cometh to pass, for the most part, that 802802 “Nostra socordia,” by our sluggishness. we be troubled with offenses and stumbling-blocks, because, whilst we behold those things which belong to Christ with purblind eyes, 803803 “Torvis aut lusciosis,” with stern or purblind eyes. we imagine that to be black which is white; and we see how far Paul is from dissimulation, and how freely 804804 “Ingenue,” ingenuously. he professeth the truth of the matter, that Christ was hated not only of the common sort, but also of the chief chieftains; and that he was not hissed at by a few, but oppressed by the wicked conspiracy of all the people. That was hard and hateful at the first conflict; but Paul opposeth a more strong engine, that God used them against their wills as a touchstone, whereby he might try his Son. Seeing that the gospel standeth in the same state at this day, let us not be ashamed, with Paul, to confess that the proud princes of the world, and those who bear the greatest sway in the Church, are the deadly enemies of Christ, seeing that doth rather turn to Christ’s praise than reproach; for by this means is the Scripture fulfilled.
Seeing they knew him not. Though deliberate malice did enforce the rulers to oppress Christ, yet doth Paul truly impute it to ignorance, 805805 “Sicut alibi, quum dicit, absconditam esse mundi principibus evangelii sapientiam,” as elsewhere, when he says, That the wisdom of the gospel was hid from the princes of the world, omitted. because otherwise they would never have crucified the Lord of glory, (1 Corinthians 2:8.) For the malice of the wicked is like to raging madness, and in seeing it doth not see. Undoubtedly, we need not doubt of this, that they were deprived of a sound mind and the light of the Spirit, who were not afraid to fight against God to their own destruction. Again, he hitteth them in the teeth with ignorance of the Scripture; and lest any should object that he speaketh of some dark and unknown manner; he addeth also, that he doth speak of no other prophecies than of those which are read every Sabbath day; as if he should say, that the oracles of Scripture are most plain and known to the most ignorant, and yet they knew them not. Thus doth Paul teach how monstrous their unbelief was, that he may make the hearers loathe it; and by this example are we taught, that although the Lord appears to us by the Scripture, yet all men have not eyes. After that also the blockishness of the nation waxed more gross, as Paul saith elsewhere, that there is a veil put before their face, that they cannot see Moses when he is present, (2 Corinthians 3:15.) In the mean season, we must note that we are recalled to the Scripture, lest the authority of great men deceive us, neither is there any cause why any man, inventing to himself a prejudice according to the wicked meaning of other men, should think that he is acquitted; for Paul exhorteth the men of Antioch to judge out of the Scripture against the visored governors of the Church; 806806 “Larvatos Ecclesiae praesules,” pretended prelates of the Church. for this cause is it given, that it may be read; and reading is not appointed in vain by the Lord; but that all godly men may thereby profit and judge what is right.
This they fulfilled. So that we see that not only creatures void of understanding, but even the very devil, and also the wicked, are subject to the power 807807 “Providentiae,” the providence. of God, that he may execute by them that which with himself he hath decreed. The same had we in the third and fourth chapters, (Acts 3:23; Acts 4:28,) that when the enemies of Christ did most of all rage to destroy him, yet could they not obtain their purpose; but rather they brought that to pass with their own hands which God had in his counsel determined; which thing maketh not a little for commendation of God’s truth, because he is not only of sufficient power to perform those things which he hath promised; but also those who go about to bring his counsels to nought do their endeavor to establish them, though it be against their will. For how should not the truth of God stand which the chiefest enemies are enforced to fulfill? Yet wisdom is necessary here, lest we join God and Satan together.
For the Jews are not therefore excusable, because they fulfilled the Scriptures; because we must consider their wicked will, and not the event, which they did not look for, yea, which ought to be counted a miracle. If we look into their work by itself, it is quite contrary to God; but as God doth, in the sun and other planets, by wonderful cunning, temper contrary motions, and such as strive among themselves, so he directeth the perverse endeavors of the wicked, by his secret power, unto another end than they thought upon and did desire, lest they should do any thing but that which he would. They, indeed, as touching themselves, do contrary to his will; but it falleth out according to the will of God after an incomprehensible manner. Forasmuch as this course is contrary to nature, no marvel if the wisdom of the flesh see it not. Therefore, it must be discerned with the eye of faith, or rather it must be reverenced; and those dogs who bark against it must be despised with their wantonness. 808808 “Petulantla,” petulance.
28. When as they found no cause of death. It was very pertinent to the matter that they should know that Christ was put to death guiltless, for we could not have been justified by his death, if he had suffered death for his own evil deeds; therefore it was requisite that he should be guiltless, that his death might be a satisfaction for the sins of the world. And, undoubtedly, I think that Paul did plainly declare that Pilate condemned Christ, not according to the office of a judge, but that he consented that he should be put to death after that he was overcome with the ungodly requests of the people; and also that the Jews were driven by lust, and not enforced by reason, to desire Christ’s death.: For it stood him upon to terrify the hearers, that they might not couple themselves 809809 “Se adjungerent socios,” join themselves as associates. to so wicked a fact. But Luke doth now in few words set down, after his common custom, those things which Paul did then more at large declare.
29. When they had fulfilled all things; to wit, which it pleased God should be done by them. For they did so handle Christ that there was nothing of the prophecies of the Scripture left unfulfilled. By this means is the stumbling-block (which the understanding of the flesh conceiveth by reason of the ignominy of the cross) taken away, that the Son of God was not laid open to the furious fury of the wicked; but he obeyed his fathers decree. Furthermore, it doth also in Scripture appear what condition was appointed for him in times past. Whereas he saith that Christ was buried by the same which had slain him, it seemeth contrary to the history of the gospel; but it may be that Luke did take the word buried indefinitely. And if it please you to refer it unto the same, it shall be synecdoche. For he was buried with Pilate’s leave; and at the appointment and pleasure of the priests there were watchmen set to watch the grave. Therefore, though Joseph and Nicodemus did bury Christ, (Matthew 27:57,) that is ascribed improperly, and yet not absurdly, to the Jews; because it is not Paul’s drift in this place to commend the good deed, but to prove Christ’s resurrection; because God took him out of the grave whom his enemies had shut up there. Therefore he giveth us to understand that the body of Christ was not taken thence privily or by stealth, but that it was laid in a place both famous and known to the adversaries; and so, consequently, that even they were set to watch it; and yet for all this it was not found: whence we may gather the certainty of the resurrection.
30. God hath raised him up. The death of Christ was the salvation of the godly, yet joined with the resurrection; therefore doth Paul stand longer upon this second point. For he should never have persuaded his hearers that they were to seek salvation in Christ’s death, unless the power of Almighty God had appeared in raising Christ from death.
31. After that he hath said that Christ came out of the grave, which was beset with the hired ministers of the adversaries, he addeth now that he appeared to many of the disciples, which bare faithful witness to the people. And he calleth them witnesses, either in respect of their office; because they were chosen for this purpose, as we have already said in the first chapter, (Acts 1:8;) or else declaring simply that they professed openly and freely that which they knew concerning Christ. Whereupon it followeth that the matter was made known openly 810810 “Probe fuisse testatem,” was well attested. at Jerusalem. And the proof was not so light; because, in the fearful power of the enemies, who were ready and bent to resist, and did omit nothing, there were, notwithstanding, such as did openly affirm that Christ rose again, and were also such as saw that thing with their eyes; for if there had been any refutation in readiness, the scribes would not have neglected it.
32. We preach to you glad tidings. He doth now challenge to himself the office and honor of an apostle, that he may be heard as a lawful minister of God. And he saith the sum of the embassage enjoined him is, that that is revealed and given in their time which was promised in times past. And in few words doth he comprehend many and great matters. First, he giveth them to understand that he bringeth in nothing which is new, or contrary to the law and prophets, but that he did reveal the fulfilling of that doctrine which they themselves did confess, and were persuaded to have been delivered by God. Whereupon it followeth that they cannot refuse that which he offereth them, but they shall break the covenant made with the fathers by God, so much as in them shall lie; secondly, he commandeth the faithfulness of God, because it doth now in very deed appear that there was nothing promised in times past unadvisedly or in vain; but he doth chiefly extol the greatness of the grace given at length in Christ. For we must note the comparison between them and the fathers, when he saith, that they had gotten that which was promised to the fathers. For the more liberally the grace of God is poured out upon them, the more filthy shall their unthankfulness be, if they shall despise or loathe that inestimable good thing. For what else were this, but to cast down at their feet a treasure even reached out to them, that they might take hold thereof, and so consequently laid in their lap, the hope whereof was reverently embraced by the fathers, when it was showed them afar off, and which they did foster 811811 “Patienter foverint,” patiently foster. during their whole life.
But some man may ask this question concerning those who lived under the law, whether even they were not made partakers of the promises? I answer, that there is such a society of the same grace among us which doth not hinder the long distance. But this was Paul’s meaning, that their faith stood, as it were, in doubt until Christ appeared, in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen; as he teacheth, (2 Corinthians 1:19, 20.) Therefore we be the heirs of the same kingdom of heaven, and partakers of the same spiritual good things, which God bestoweth upon his children; also, God gave to them some taste of his love in this life, as we taste him now. But Christ, who is the substance of all good things and of eternal life, was only promised to them, but he is given to us; and they desired him, as being far off; we enjoy him, being present.
33. To their children, namely, to us. It is certain that Paul speaketh of natural children, who had their beginning of the holy fathers, which we must therefore note, because certain brain-sick men, drawing all things unto allegories, dream that there is no respect to be had in this place of kindred, but only of faith. And with such an invention they make the holy covenant of God of none effect, where it is said,
“I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed,”
It is faith (say they) alone which maketh us the children of Abraham. But I say, on the other side, that even those who are born the children of Abraham according to the flesh, are also counted the spiritual children of God, unless they grow out of kind through unbelief 812812 “Nisi sua infidelitate degenerent.” unless they degenerate through their own infidelity. For the boughs be naturally holy, because they spring from a holy root, until they become profane through their own fault, (Romans 11:16.) And assuredly it is Paul’s drift to allure the Jews unto Christ; and that he may do this, they must be distinguished from the common sort by some privilege. And yet it followeth not thereupon (which these knaves do odiously object) that the grace of God is tied to the carnal seed; because, though the promise of life came by inheritance to the posterity of Abraham, yet many were deprived by their unbelief. Therefore faith is the cause, that of a great multitude only a few are counted children. And that is the double election whereof I spake before. The one common to the whole nation alike; because the first adoption of God containeth the whole family of Abraham. The other, which is restrained unto the secret counsel of God, and is at length established by faith, that it may be confirmed to men.
Therefore Paul doth well and truly affirm that that was performed to the Jews which God had promised to the fathers. For it was promised to them also, as Zacharias saith in his song, “The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would give himself for us,” etc. And yet the worthiness of that nation doth not hinder but that the grace of Christ may also spread itself throughout the whole world; because the first-begotten hath the first degree of honor, so that he doth, notwithstanding, leave the second place to his brethren. For in that after the old people were cast off, the possession of the church was left empty for strangers, it began to be a new occasion of gathering the Church of the Gentiles; but and if that people had stood in the faith, the Gentiles had been joined into the common society of honor.
After that he had raised Christ. The word raised, in my judgment reacheth farther than it doth where it is shortly after repeated. For he doth not only say that Christ rose from the dead, but that he was appointed of God, and, as it were, brought to light by the hand of God, that he might fulfill the office of the Messiah, as the Scripture teacheth everywhere that kings and prophets are raised up. 813813 “A Domino,” by the Lord, omitted. For the word αναστησαι is sometimes taken in this sense: And this reason moveth me thus to think, because God, by sending his Son into the world, did fulfill his promise made to his servants in times past, by the effect itself.
Likeas, in the second Psalm. Though the Greek books, 814814 “Codices,” manuscripts. agree in the number, yet we must not pass over that which Erasmus saith, that many of the old writers read the first Psalm. And it may be that Luke wrote so; for that which at this day is counted the second Psalm, might have been called the first not without reason, seeing that it is likely that the first Psalm was added instead of a proem by the scribes and priests, by whose industry the Psalms were gathered into one body. For the name of the author is not set to it, and it doth only exhort to meditate upon the law of God. But there is no great weight in that matter. 815815 “Sed in ea re non est multum momenti,” but the point is not of much importance. For this is the chiefest thing, that we know how properly and how well Paul applieth the testimony taken out of the Psalm unto the matter which he hath in hand. We do not deny that David, when he saw that he was on every side assailed by his enemies, and that they were of greater power and might than that he was able to resist them, doth set against them God’s aid, who he knew was the author of his kingdom and reign. But forasmuch as he was a figure of the true Messiah, we know that those things were shadowed in his person, which do appertain, wholly and perfectly to the Messiah alone. And the text itself doth prove sufficiently that there is not only a simple and bare thanksgiving contained there, agreeable to David’s kingdom, but it is a higher prophecy. For it is well known that David did in his life scarce taste of the hundredth part of the glory which is spoken of in this place, concerning which we have spoken more at large, chapter 4.
Now let us look higher into the words: Kings are indeed called sons of God, (Psalm 82:6.) But seeing that God doth intend to prefer David before all other kings, and to exempt him out of the number of them, this title of honor is given to him principally above all other; not because so great honor resteth in his person, because by this means he should pass 816816 “Praestantior esset,” be more excellent than. the angels, as it is in the Epistle to the Hebrews, 1st chapter. Therefore he is thus gorgeously set out in respect of Christ, whose image he was, that God doth not take him for one of the common sort, or for some one of a great multitude, but he doth, as it were, acknowledge him to be his only begotten Son. The proof followeth, because God did beget him when he established the kingdom in his hand. For that was not done by man’s industry, but God showed from heaven the invincible power of his hand, whereby it might plainly appear that he reigned according to God’s counsel. Therefore this begetting, by him mentioned, must be referred unto the understanding of knowledge of men; to wit, because it was then openly known that he was begotten of God, when as he was set upon the throne of the kingdom wonderfully, contrary to the hope of all men, and did, by the heavenly power of the Spirit, break infinite conspiracies; because he could not reign until he had brought all nations round about him in subjection, as if a certain world were subdued.
Now, let us come unto Christ. He came not into the world without testimony, whereby he did prove that he was the Son of God. For his glory did appear as became the only begotten Son of God, as it is written, John 1:14, and he saith everywhere that he hath God for the witness and maintainer of this honor. Therefore God begat Christ, when he gave him certain marks, whereby he might be known to be his true and lively image and Son. And yet this doth not let but that Christ is the Wisdom begotten of the Eternal Father before time. But that is the secret generation; and now David declareth that it was revealed to men; so that the relation is, as we have said, unto men and not unto God; because that which was hidden in the heart of God was make known to men. And it is a very fine figure, because Christ’s divinity was no less declared and established, than if he had been begotten of God before the eyes of men. I know that Augustine’s deep sight 817817 “Augustini argutiam,” the subtlety of Augustine. doth please some, that by today is meant perpetuity. But when as the Spirit of God himself is his own interpreter, and whereas he doth expound that by the mouth of Paul which he had said by David, we must not invent any other sense. And forasmuch (as the same Paul doth witness) that Christ was declared to be the Son of God in power when he rose from the dead, (Romans 1:4,) we gather that this was the principal token of celestial excellency, and that the Father did then bring him truly to light, that the world might know that he was begotten of him. Therefore, though God began to raise Christ when he came into the world, yet his raising was then, as it were, perfect and full; because whereas he was humbled before, having taken, as it were, the form of a servant, (Philippians 2:7,) he did then appear to be the conqueror of death and the Lord of life; so that he wanted nothing of that majesty which was meet for the Son of God, and that for the only begotten Son.
34. That he should not return. He addeth now the other member, that Christ was once raised from death that he may live for ever, as Paul teacheth, Romans 6:10,
“He dieth no more, neither shall death have dominion over him any more; because he liveth to God.”
For the hope conceived of Christ’s resurrection should be slender and cold, if he were yet subject to destruction, or to any change. Therefore he is said to be entered into the kingdom of God, that he may also give to his [people] eternal felicity, living for ever. For because Christ rose rather for our sake than for himself, the perpetuity of life which the Father hath given him reacheth unto us all, and is ours. Notwithstanding the place of Isaiah which is here cited, seemeth to make but a little for proof of Christ’s immortality, I will give you the holy things of David, (Isaiah 55:3.) But it is not so. For seeing Isaiah speaketh of the redemption promised to David, and affirmeth that the same shall be firm and stable, we do well gather by this the immortal kingdom of Christ, wherein the eternity of salvation is grounded. And Paul followed the Greek interpreters when he put holy things for mercies. Chessed, which signifieth meek, merciful, and gentle, is wont by the Grecians to be translated holy. Therefore they translated הסדי of David, the holy things of David, whereas the prophet meaneth rather the grace promised to David. But Paul granted this to the ignorant and weak, who were better acquainted with the Greek reading, especially forasmuch as the force of the testimony consisteth in another point. For this is Paul’s meaning in sum, If the grace be eternal which God saith he will give in his Son, the life of his Son must be eternal, and not subject to corruption. 818818 “Mutationi,” change. For we must hold this rule, that all the promises of God are in Christ yea and amen, (2 Corinthians 1:20;) and that therefore they cannot be of any force unless he do quicken them.
35. Thou shalt not suffer thy Holy One. This place was likewise cited by Peter in the first sermon, set down by Luke in the second chapter, (Acts 2:27,) where I expounded the same; therefore, let the readers repair thither. Only I will touch this briefly, that David putteth two Hebrew words for the grave, as he useth repetitions commonly; the former whereof is derived of desiring or lusting, because the grave devoureth all things as an insatiable gulf; and the other of corruption. According to this etymology David’s meaning is faithfully expressed in Greek; for the quality of the grave is noted, when as it receiveth the corpse, and doth, as it were, swallow it up, that it may rot there, and may at length perish when it is consumed. Paul affirmeth that that belongeth to Christ alone, that he was free and saved from corruption; for though his body was laid in the grave, corruption had, notwithstanding, no title to it, seeing that it lay there whole, as in a bed, until the day of the resurrection.
36. When David had served his time. Lest any man should think that that place intreateth of David, Paul showeth briefly that this agreeth not to David in all points, whose corpse was rotten in the grave. Therefore it remaineth, that because this was a privilege belonging to Christ alone, that David prophesied of him in spirit. Nevertheless, we must note the proportion between the members and the head; for as the truth of this prophecy was found whole and perfect in Christ alone, as in the head, so it taketh place in all the members according to the measure and order of every man. And forasmuch as Christ rose to this end, that he may fashion and make our base body like to his glorious body, (Philippians 3:21;) upon this condition do the godly go down into the pit, that rottenness may not [finally] consume their bodies. Therefore, according to the hope of the resurrection to come, David saith by good right that he shall not see corruption; for that ought not altogether to be counted corruption for which there is a better restoring prepared; for the bodies of the faithful corrupt to this end, that they may put on blessed incorruption in their time. Yet this is no let but that the estate of the head and members may be far unlike, and that we may follow the Son of God afar off and lazily. 819819 “Lente,” slowly.
Now we see that both things are true and fitly said, that David and the rest of the faithful, inasmuch as they shall be like to their head, shall not see corruption, and yet the Son of God alone shall be free from corruption wholly. We must note the phrase, when he saith, that David served his age, or the men of his time.
The old interpreter distinguisheth it otherwise, and certain Greek copies agree thereto, to wit, that David served the will of God in his time; which reading, though it is to be allowed, 820820 “Tametsi probabilis est,” though it is probable. yet it doth not cause me to mislike the other. For it is neither superfluous nor cold, that he slept by the will of God, or the counsel of God; because the meaning thereof is, that God, in the death of David, did not forget that prophecy; as if he should say that the body of David lay in the grave not without the counsel or purpose of God, until it should rise again, that the effect of the prophecy might be extended unto Christ. If no man mislike that which I say, we are taught hereby to what end men live in the world, to wit, that one man may help another. For every man doth not live, neither is born, for himself, but mankind is knit together with a holy knot. Therefore, unless we be disposed to overthrow the laws of nature, let us remember that we must not live for ourselves, but for our neighbors.
But here may a question be asked, whether we ought not also to care for our posterity? I answer, that the ministry of the godly is also profitable for the posterity, as we see that David, being dead, doth profit us more at this day than a great part of those which live with us; but Paul meaneth simply, that the faithful during their whole life employ themselves and their offices to help their neighbors, and that death is unto them as a goal, because they have made an end then, when the Lord calleth them out of the world. The sum is, that we must have respect first to our time, that we may serve our brethren, with whom and among whom we lead our life; and, secondly, we must do our endeavor that the fruit of our ministry may redound unto our posterity. Seeing that God prescribeth his servants this law, their rashness cannot be excused who feign that the dead pray for us, and that they do no less serve the Church than whilst they lived.
By the counsel of God he fell on sleep. Paul might have said simply that David died; he addeth by the counsel of God, that we may know that that was not fulfilled in the person of the prophet which is read in the Psalm. Notwithstanding, we are taught that the bond of life and death is in like sort appointed for us by God, as it is Psalm 90:3,
“Thou sendest out men, and makest them to pass over; again thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men.”
Yea, Plato setteth down this very eloquently, that it is meet that men pass out of the world not without the leave and pleasure of God, by whose hand they are placed there as a standing for a time. 821821 “Cujus manu in ea, tanquam in statione, ad tempus locati sunt,” by whose hand they are placed in it for a time, as at a station. And for this cause, when he speaketh of David’s death, he maketh mention of the counsel of God, that we may know that corruption did not happen to him by chance, as if God had forgotten his promise; but that it came to pass by God’s providence, that the faithful might know that the prophecy was to be referred unto another. To sleep, and to be laid unto the fathers, are forms of speech so well known and so common, that they need no exposition.
38. Therefore, be it known unto you. After that he hath declared the mean whereby salvation is purchased through Christ, he doth now intreat of his office and power. And this is the principal point, to know what good things we have by the coming of Christ, and what we are to hope for at his hands. And although Luke setteth down in a word that Paul preached of the benefits of Christ, yet there is no cause why any man should doubt but that so great matters were handled weightily, and only according as their dignity did require. By this word, Be it known unto you, Paul meaneth that nothing should hinder them from knowing such an excellent and plain matter, save only sloth; and that, therefore, it was an absurd thing that those benefits of God should be hidden from the faithful which were offered by Christ. For he was sent with the shrill preaching of the gospel, which our faith ought to hear, that it may enter into the sure possession of his good things; for we must know what he is, that we may enjoy him truly. Forgiveness of sins is set first, whereby God doth reconcile us unto himself. That which God will have preached to all his people doth he show to be necessary for all men; for Paul speaketh not to one or two, but to all the Jews which were at Antioch.
Therefore, we must first mark that we be all enemies to God through sin, (Colossians 2:13.) Whereupon it followeth that we are all excluded from the kingdom of God, and are given over to eternal death, until God receive us to favor by the free forgiveness of sins. We must also note this, that God doth pardon to us our sins, and that he is reconciled through the Mediator, because like as without him there is no satisfaction, so neither is there any pardon or forgiveness of guiltiness. These be principles of our faith which are not learned in the schools of the philosophers, that all mankind is condemned and drowned in sin, that there is in us no righteousness which is able to reconcile us to God; that the only hope of salvation resteth in his mercy, whilst that he doth freely forgive us; and that those remain under the guilt which fly not unto Christ, and seek not forgiveness 823823 “Expiationem... peccati,” expiation of sin. in his death.
And from all things. He doth secretly prevent that which might seem contrary to the former doctrine. For look how many ceremonies of the law there were, so many exercises were there to obtain remission of sins. Therefore, the Jews might readily object, If he alone do reconcile God to us, our sins being done away, to what end serve so many washings and sacrifices, which we have hitherto used according to the prescript of the law? Therefore, lest the ceremonies of the law hinder the Jews, Paul teacheth that Christ doth that which they were not able to do. Not that Paul spake so briefly and compendiously, (for he did not hope that the Jews would at the first come unto Christ, casting from them suddenly the affiance which they had in the righteousness of the law;) but it was sufficient for Luke briefly to collect 824824 “Perstringere,” glance at. the sum of those things which he then taught in just and due order. His meaning is, that the Mediator took away that let from the Jews wherein they did stick. The ceremonial law ought indeed to have been a schoolmaster to lead them by the hand unto Christ; all rites commanded by God were helps to help and further their faith; but as men use preposterously to corrupt the holy ordinances of God, they stop the way before themselves by their ceremonies, and they shut the gate of faith, that they could not come to Christ. They thought they had righteousness in sacrifices; that by washings was gotten true cleanness; that God was pleased with them so soon as they had ended their external pomp: in sum, forsaking the body, they laid hold upon vain shadows. God did indeed appoint no unprofitable or vain thing in the law; wherefore ceremonies were sure and undoubted testimonies of remission of sins. For God did not lie in these words, Let the sinner do sacrifice, and his iniquity shall be purged. But as Christ was the end of the law, and the heavenly pattern of the tabernacle, so the force and effect of all ceremonies did depend upon him; whereby it is proved that they were vain shadows, when he was set aside, (Hebrews 8:5.) Now we see Paul’s drift and purpose; to wit, that he meant to draw away the Jews from the false and perverse confidence which they reposed in the law; lest being puffed up, they should think that they had no need of Christ’s help, or lest they should seek only external felicity in him.
Be justified in the law. This place doth plainly show what the word justified doth import in all other places where it is used; to wit, to be delivered and acquitted. There was mention made of remission of sins; Paul affirmeth that there is no other way whereby we can obtain the same but the grace of Christ. Lest any man should object that there be remedies to be found in the law, he answereth that there was in them no force. Therefore the sense is plain, that they cannot be justified from sin in the law, because the rites of the law were neither just nor lawful prices to remove guiltiness; they were nothing worth of themselves to deserve righteousness, neither were they sufficient recompenses to appease God. Certainly, it cannot be denied (but wickedly) that that justification annexed to remission of sins is, as it were, the means and way to obtain the same. For what else doth Paul go about but to confirm that saying, that our sins are forgiven us through the benefit of Christ, by answering contrary objections? And he proveth it, because neither satisfactions, neither all the rites of the law, call justify us from sin. Therefore he is justified by Christ, who is freely loosed from the guilt and judgment of eternal death to which he was subject. This is the righteousness of faith, whilst that God counteth us just, by not imputing our sins.
This only propriety of the word is sufficient to refute the cavils of the Papists, who hold that we are not justified by pardon or by free accepting, but by habit and infused righteousness. Therefore, let us not suffer them to rend in pieces unworthily and wickedly this text of Paul, when he saith that they are justified from all things, that we may be assured of remission of sins. And now we must know that the law of Moses is set against Christ, as the principal mean to obtain righteousness, if there had been any besides Christ. Paul disputeth, indeed, of ceremonies; but we must note that there was nothing omitted in them which might serve to purge sins and to appease God. Yet there was not one of all the ceremonies of the law which did not make man guilty, as a new handwriting; as Paul teacheth, Colossians 2:14. What then? Assuredly God meant to testify that men are justified by the death of his Son alone, because he made him sin for us who did [knew] no sin, that we might have righteousness in him, (2 Corinthians 5:21.) Whereupon it followeth that whatsoever satisfactions are invented by men, they tend to rob Christ of his honor. In the law and in Christ signify as much as by the law and by Christ, according to the Hebrew phrase.
From all things. By this member is refuted the wicked invention of the Papists, who teach that only original sin and actual sins committed before baptism are clearly and freely forgiven by Christ, and that others are redeemed by satisfactions. But Paul saith plainly that we are justified from sins by Christ throughout the whole course of our life. For we must remember that the ceremonies [rites] of the law were committed to the Jews, that as well the profit as the use thereof might flourish daily in the Church; that is, that the Jews might indeed understand that their sacrifices and washings were not continually reiterated in vain. If the truth and substance of them be found in Christ, it followeth that there is no other satisfaction or sacrifice to put away sins but his death; otherwise there should be no analogy or proportion between this and the old figures. The Papists call us back unto repentance and the keys, as if the ceremonies of the law were not exercises to think upon repentance, and as if the power of the keys were not annexed unto them. But the faith of the godly was holpen by such helps, that they might fly unto the grace of the Mediator alone. Therefore, let this remain sure and certain that the righteousness which we have in Christ is not for one day or a moment, but it is everlasting, as the sacrifice of his death doth daily reconcile us to God.
39. Every one that believeth. Paul showeth how men obtain the righteousness of Christ; to wit, when they receive it by faith; and that which faith doth obtain is not obtained by any merits of works. Wherefore, Paul’s opinion is plain, that we are justified by faith alone, which, notwithstanding the Papists oppugn [oppose] and strive against no less obstinately than bitterly, nevertheless, it is requisite that we know what the word believe doth import, which is made unsavory to the Papists through ignorance. There be also other benefits of Christ which we reap by faith; for when he regenerateth us by his Spirit, he restoreth in us the image of God; and after that the old man is crucified he fashioneth us unto newness of life. But it was enough for Luke to express this one thing, how men return into favor with God, from whom they be estranged by sin, because we may easily pass thence unto the residue.
40. Take heed that that come not upon you. Because he had to do with stiff-necked men, or at least there were diverse in the company which were stiff-necked (as if he meant with a hammer to soften their stubbornnesses) he addeth a chiding unto doctrine. For if the Jews had been obedient and willing to obey, undoubtedly he would have sought sweetly to allure them unto Christ. But it was either their sluggishness, or else their willfulness, that caused him to be more angry; like as all those must be cited to appear before God’s judgment-seat who contemn the grace of Christ and the horrible judgment of eternal death must be denounced to those. He signifieth, indeed, that there is yet place left for repentance, when he willeth 825825 “Hortatur,” exhorteth. them to take heed; yet, notwithstanding, he telleth them therewithal, that unless they beware in time, the horrible vengeance of God is not far off.
Which is said in the prophets. The place which is cited is taken out of the first chapter of Habakkuk, (Habakkuk 1:5;) but because all prophecies were gathered into one volume or body, Paul saith that it is written in the prophets.
41. And yet he doth not recite word for word the words of Habakkuk, which go thus, “Behold, ye Gentiles, and see and wonder, and be astonished; because a work shall be done in your days which no man shall believe when it shall be told him.” Paul saith, “Behold, ye despisers,” that the Jews may know that the vengeance which was once brought upon their fathers is common to the despisers of the word; as if he should say, God doth at this day make no less account of his word, the contempt whereof he did once punish so sharply. Therefore, the prophet’s denunciation doth appertain unto all ages, so that the despisers cannot hope that they can escape that vengeance now whereof others have tasted. They boasted of the temple; they vaunted that they were the people of God; being puffed up with wicked pride, they despised all threatenings. Therefore Paul putteth them in mind of that which God by his prophets doth threaten to the despisers.
A work in your days. The sense is, Those who refuse to believe the word of God shall feel his hand, that being at length with plagues convicted, they may know that he spake in earnest. It is a common proverb, that experience is the mistress of fools. So the Lord doth indeed punish the wicked, 826826 “Re ipsa impios coarguit,” convicts the wicked by the reality. that being tamed with miseries, they may begin to confess his power. And what manner [of] punishment doth he denounce? Because you (saith he) do not believe my word, I will show an example among you which no man will believe; by which words he meaneth, that he will punish them, so that the world shall be afraid to see it. For as rebellion against God is a detestable monster, so it is no marvel if of itself it beget monsters of punishments. Therefore, we must beware, lest, if we cease to give credence to God’s word, we feel his hand more mighty than all our senses do comprehend, and even unto the astonying [astonishment] of all the whole world; and lest even we be made astounded through fear. Habakkuk prophesieth of the destruction brought upon them by the Chaldeans; but the punishment whereby God revenged the contempt of his gospel was more cruel, [severe.] Therefore, let us accustom ourselves to fear God and reverently embrace his word, lest some such things befall us.
42. When they were gone out of the synagogue. It may be also read, out of the synagogue of the Jews, and peradventure more fitly. For it is likely that they were gone out before the multitude was dispersed; and that is gathered out of the text because Luke saith shortly after, that when the synagogue was dissolved certain of the Jews did follow Paul and Barnabas. Therefore, the sense is, that Paul and Barnabas went out whilst the Jews were yet assembled, and that they were then requested by the Gentiles to take some pains with them in the mean season.
43. And that afterward there came certain of the Jews and proselytes to Paul, being both desirous to learn, and also that they might make profession of their faith. When as the old interpreter and Erasmus did translate it the Sabbath following, they did not understand Luke’s meaning. For seeing that he intreateth in this place of the Gentiles, I do not think that they choose a Sabbath wherein they may hear Paul and Barnabas. For that day was appointed for the Jews, but the Gentiles had no less opportunity upon other days. Therefore, to what end should they defer their desire and prayers until the eighth day? Yea, rather they covet to hear Paul whilst he is at leisure, and is not occupied in teaching the Jews. So that the Lord doth not suffer them to be idle until the Sabbath come, offering unto them matter in the Gentiles, wherein they may exercise themselves.
42 They would speak words. I have translated it as it is in Luke, though the article τα may be taken for τα αυτα, as in some other places. Then the sense should be, that they were requested that they would that week intreat of the same things before the Gentiles. Furthermore, whilst that the Gentiles do snatch greedily at every first opportunity, the Jews being quiet, 828828 “Fastidio pleni,” being full of disdain. do neglect that which is set before them; only that certain of them join themselves to Paul and Barnabas. Luke expresseth the proselytes by name, who seeing they had embraced the doctrine of the law, and did worship the God of Israel, were not puffed up with that pride which hindered the Jews, who made boast of their long stock and race.
43. Who speaking. The sense is doubtful. For it may be referred unto the Jews and proselytes, that they exhorted Paul and Barnabas that they should not faint, but stand stoutly in the grace of God. Neither did they want occasion; for they saw combats prepared for them; and that therefore they had need of invincible constancy to suffer and abide the brunts of the contrary faction. Wherefore that might very well agree, that being inflamed with a desire to go forward, they sought to encourage Paul and Barnabas to hold on. If you refer it unto Paul and Barnabas, the sense shall be this, that they did not reject those which came, but they entertained them courteously and gently, and confirmed and strengthened them, that they might persist in the grace which they had received. And this word grace doth first comprehend the faith of the gospel; secondly, those good things which come thence to us; or, that I may speak more briefly, the calling into the hope of eternal salvation.
44. And when the Sabbath came. The great assembly of the people doth prove that Paul and Barnabas loitered not between the Sabbaths, and they did not take pains with the Gentiles in vain; for the studies and desires of the people had been so prepared, that they all desired to know the whole matter more surely, which they did hope would be, if it should be discussed among the Jews. For we may guess that though they were allured with some sweet taste, yet were they not as yet thoroughly persuaded to receive the doctrine of the gospel without doubting, 829829 “Sine controversia,” without controversy. but that they came into the synagogue in a quandary, 830830 “Suspensi,” suspended. between hope and desire.
45. They were filled. It is no new matter for the rage of the wicked to be inflamed when the light of the gospel is set somewhat nearer; especially when they see the increase of sound doctrine, they break out with greater violence to resist. And it is to be doubted whether Luke do mean, by the word zeal, that they were moved with a certain wicked indignation, to set themselves against Paul and Barnabas, as ambition is the mother as well of envy as of all contention; or he take zeal for indignation conceived thereupon, because they did lament that the Gentiles were made equal with the people of God. For they counted this a very unmeet thing, that the holy treasure of doctrine, which was the proper inheritance of the children, should he, as it were, at all men’s feet.
Gainsaying and blaspheming. They were so sore set upon resisting, that they brake out at length into blasphemy. And Satan doth for the most part drive the wicked unto such madness, that when they be overcome with reasons and discouraged, they wax harder and harder; and wittingly and willingly they spew out at length blasphemies against God and the truth. Wherefore we must take so much the more heed when as the truth of God is plainly set before us, lest, if we be carried away with a desire to speak against it, we fall straightway into that steep down. 831831 “In illud praecipitium ruamus,” we rush instantly over that precipice.
46. When they had taken liberty. Luke showeth that the servants of Christ were so far from being discouraged with the stubbornness of the enemies, that they began, therefore, to inveigh against them afresh more freely. For though they had sharply pricked them, yet they did yet spare them a little; but now, when they see Christ obstinately rejected by them, they 832832 “Vicissim,” in their turn. excommunicate them and deprive them of the kingdom of God. And by this example are we taught that we must not use extreme severity, save only against those who are quite past hope. And the more bold the reprobate are to oppress the truth, the more courage ought we to take to ourselves. For the servants of God must be armed with invincible constancy of the Spirit, that they may never give place to the devil, nor to his ministers; as the Lord commandeth Jeremiah to encounter with the reprobate with a face of iron.
It was necessary. He accuseth them of unthankfulness, because, whereas they were chosen by God out of all people, that Christ might offer himself unto them, they refuse so great a benefit maliciously. And in the former member he setteth down the degree of honor and excellency whereunto God had exalted them; afterward followeth the upbraiding, because they do willingly cast from them so great grace; whereupon he concludeth that it is now time that the gospel be translated unto the Gentiles. In that he saith, that it was meet that it should first be preached to them, it doth properly appertain unto the time of Christ’s kingdom. For under the law, before Christ was given, the Jews were not only the first, but alone. Therefore was it that Moses called them a priestly kingdom, and the peculiar people of God, (Exodus 19:5, 6.) But the adoption of God rested then with them alone upon this condition, (the Gentiles being omitted,) that they should be preferred as yet before the Gentiles by the coming of Christ. For though Christ reconciled the world to his Father, yet they were former in order, who were already near unto God, and of his family. Therefore, that was the most lawful order, that the apostles should gather the Church first of the Jews, afterward of the Gentiles, as we saw in the first chapter, (Acts 1:18,) and in other places, so that the fellowship of the Gentiles did not take from the Jews the right of the first-begotten, but that they were always the chief in the Church of God. In this respect Paul saith, that the righteousness of God is made manifest in the gospel, first to the Jews, then to the Grecians, (Romans 1:16.) Such greatness of grace which God vouchsafed to bestow upon them, doth exaggerate and increase the greatness of their sin, whilst that they reject that which is so mercifully offered unto them. Therefore he addeth that they give judgment of themselves, that they are unworthy of eternal life. For seeing that the rejecting of the gospel is the denial of the righteousness of God, we need no other judge to condemn the unbelievers.
And after that ye reject. Paul seemeth to reason unfitly. For, first it was not of necessity that the Jews should be excluded, that the Gentiles might be admitted unto the hope of salvation; secondly, this was more convenient, that, after the Jews had embraced the gospel, they should grant the second place to the Gentiles. And Paul speaketh in like sort as if they could not grow together into one body, and as if the gospel could not come unto the Gentiles unless it were rejected of the Jews. And now was he not ordained to be the apostle of the Gentiles before he found such stubbornness in the Jews? 833833 “Cur ergo nunc demum ad gentes se convertit, quasi earurn vocatio ex electi populi infidelitate pendeat,” why then does he now only turn to the Gentiles, as if their calling depended on the infidelity of the chosen people? omitted. I answer, that there is great force in the words we are turned For his meaning is, that he is now turned away from the Jews, that he may addict and give over himself wholly to the Gentiles. If they had remained in their degree such turning had not followed, but he should have drawn the Gentiles also with a continual course, after that the Jews were received into the bosom; and he should have embraced them both together, know, forasmuch as the Jews turn their backs, and withdraw themselves from his ministry, he cannot look upon them and the Gentiles both at once. Therefore, taking his leave of them, he is enforced to translate his care unto the Gentiles. Therefore, unless the Jews had estranged themselves from the Church, the calling of the Gentiles should have been such as is by the prophets described: “In that day shall seven strangers take hold of the cloak of a man that is a Jew, and shall say, we will walk with you; because God is with you.” But now the Gentiles are called after a new and accidental manner; because, when the Jews were rejected, they entered into the empty possession. They ought to have been gathered unto the Jews; but after that they fell away, and were driven out, they came in their place. So that their death was the life of the Gentiles, and the natural branches being cut off, the wild olives were ingrafted into the holy root, until God do at length restore them also unto life, being ingrafted into their former root, that the Israel of God being gathered together from all quarters may be saved.
47. As he hath commanded. The place is taken out of Isaiah, where, notwithstanding, God doth rather speak unto his Son than unto the apostles. But we must note, that many things which the Scripture attributeth to Christ do appertain unto his ministers. I say many things; not all things: for there be certain titles proper to the person of Christ, wherewith to adorn the ministers were wicked sacrilege. Christ is called our Righteousness, because he was the only purging sacrifice, 834834 “Victima expiatrix,” expiatory victim and hath reconciled the Father to us by his death, and did rise again afterward, that, having overcome death, he might purchase for us eternal life. Therefore the whole substance of our salvation is in Christ’s person; but inasmuch as he worketh by his ministers, by resigning to them his office, he doth also impart with [to] them his titles. Of this sort is the preaching of the gospel. He alone was appointed by the Father to be our teacher; but he hath put in his place pastors and doctors, who speak, as it were, out of his mouth. So that the authority remaineth wholly to him, and he is nevertheless heard in his ministers. Therefore Paul doth fitly apply unto himself the testimony of Isaiah, where he intreateth of the preaching of the gospel.
I have made thee a light. It should seem that he speaketh in that place of such a calling of the Gentiles as doth not carry with it the casting off of the old people. For God doth rather associate strangers unto the Jews, who were before of the household. It is but a small matter, saith he, that thou be my minister in teaching Israel, because I have made thee a light to the Gentiles. God doth seem to begin his Church among the children of Abraham, and, that done, to reach out his hand to the Gentiles, that they may both make one Church by one consent of faith. But Paul doth in such sort cite the prophecy, as if it could not be fulfilled unless the Jews had been cast off. For he signifieth that the light of Christ was lighted to the Gentiles, after that they were cast into the darkness of death. I answer, that this cannot be necessarily proved out of the text, that Paul doth affirm that the Gentiles could not have been illuminated before the light of the Jews had been put out. For this may be the sense, Forasmuch as you have deprived yourselves of eternal life, there is no cause why ye should think that the grace of God is profaned, if, leaving you, we take care and charge of the Gentiles; for the Messiah is not given to you alone, but he is appointed to be the Savior of the whole world; as it is written, “I have made thee,” etc.; although, if you weigh the place of the prophet more thoroughly, you shall find the casting off of the old people included therein. For God pronounceth that he will be glorious and renowned in the ministry of Christ, though Israel be not gathered together. He addeth afterward, by way of exposition, that the power of Christ shall not be restrained unto one people only, because his light shall shed abroad his beams unto the farthest parts of the world unto salvation. It seemeth that Paul noteth this occasion of calling the Gentiles, namely, because, seeing he found no matter to exercise himself in among the Jews, he gave himself wholly to the Gentiles. We must note this by the way, in the words of the prophet, that salvation is put after light, according to that saying of Christ,
“This is eternal life, to know thee, the true God,” etc.
For if the knowledge of God alone bring to us salvation, it is likewise the only resurrection from destruction of eternal death, for us to be illuminated into the faith of Christ, after that we be delivered from the darkness of ignorance.
48. And when the Gentiles heard. The matter of the Gentiles’ joy was this, [viz.] when they heard that they were not called to salvation at a sudden, as if this had not been decreed before by God, but that that is now at length fulfilled which was foretold many years before. For doubtless it was small confirmation of their faith, because salvation was promised to them by the coming of Christ, whereby it did also come to pass that they did with more earnest desire and reverence embrace the gospel. To glorify the word of God may be expounded two manner of ways, either that they did confess that it was true which was prophesied by Isaiah, or that they embraced the doctrine which was set before them with faith. Assuredly there is a full subscription noted out, because they dispute or doubt no longer, so soon as they saw that Paul had gotten the victory. And surely we do then honor the word of God as we ought, when we submit ourselves obediently to it by faith; as it cannot be more grievously blasphemed than when men refuse to believe it. And here we see how the Gentiles were not hindered, by that stubbornness which they saw in the Jews, from giving their name to Christ. With like courage 835835 “Animi magnitudine,” magnanimity. must we despise and tread under foot the pride of the wicked, when, by their obstinacy, they study to stop the way before us.
And they believed. This is an exposition of the member next going before, at least in my judgment.: For Luke showeth what manner [of] glory they gave to the word of God. And here we must note the restraint, [reservation,] when he saith that they believed, (but) not all in general, but those who were ordained unto life. And we need not doubt but that Luke calleth those τεταγμενους, who were chosen by the free adoption of God. For it is a ridiculous cavil to refer this unto the affection of those which believed, as if those received the gospel whose minds were well-disposed. For this ordaining must be understood of the eternal counsel of God alone. Neither doth Luke say that they were ordained unto faith, but unto life; because the Lord doth predestinate his unto the inheritance of eternal life. And this place teacheth that faith dependeth upon God’s election. And assuredly, seeing that the whole race of mankind is blind and stubborn, those diseases stick fast in our nature until they be redressed by the grace of the Spirit, and that redressing floweth from the fountain of election alone. For in that of two which hear the same doctrine together, 836836 “Promiscue,” indiscriminately. the one showeth himself apt to be taught, the other continueth in his obstinacy. It is not, therefore, because they differ by nature, but because God doth lighten [illumine] the former, and doth not vouchsafe the other the like grace. We are, indeed, made the children of God by faith; as faith, as touching us, is the gate and the first beginning of salvation; but there is a higher respect of God. For he doth not begin to choose us after that we believe; but he sealeth his adoption, which was hidden in our hearts, by the gift of faith, that it may be manifest and sure. For if this be proper to the children of God alone to be his disciples, it followeth that it doth not appertain unto all the children of Adam in general. No marvel, therefore, if all do not receive the gospel; 837837 “Promiscue,” indiscriminately. because, though our heavenly Father inviteth all men unto the faith by the external voice of man, yet doth he not call effectually by his Spirit any save those whom he hath determined to save. Now, if God’s election, whereby he ordaineth us unto life, be the cause of faith and salvation, there remaineth nothing for worthiness or merits.
Therefore, let us hold and mark that which Luke saith, that those were ordained before unto life, who, being in-grafted into the body of Christ by faith, do receive the earnest and pledge of their adoption in Christ. Whence we do also gather what force the preaching of the gospel hath of itself. For it doth not find faith in men, save only because God doth call those inwardly whom he hath chosen, and because he draweth those who were his own before unto Christ, (John 6:37.) Also Luke teacheth in the same words, that it cannot be that any of the elect should perish. For he saith not that one or a few of the elect did believe, but so many as were elect. For though God’s election 838838 “Adoptio,” adoption. be unknown to us until we perceive it by faith, yet is it not doubtful or in suspense in his secret counsel; because he commendeth all those whom he counteth his to the safeguard and tuition of his Son, who will continue a faithful keeper even unto the end. Both members are necessary to be known. When election is placed above faith, there is no cause why men should challenge to themselves any thing in any part of their salvation. For if faith, wherein consisteth salvation, which is unto us a witness of the free adoption of God, which coupleth us to Christ, and maketh his life ours, whereby we possess God with his righteousness, and, finally, whereby we receive the grace of sanctification, be grounded without us in the eternal counsel of God; what good things so ever we have, we must needs acknowledge that we have received it of the grace of God, which doth prevent us of its own accord. Again, because many entangle themselves in doubtful and thorny imaginations, whilst that they seek for their salvation in the hidden counsel of God, let us learn that the election of God is therefore approved by faith, that our minds may be turned unto Christ as unto the pledge of election, and that they may seek no other certainty save that which is revealed to us in the gospel; I say, let this seal suffice us, that
“whosoever believeth in the only-begotten Son of God hath eternal life,”
49. The word of the Lord was spread abroad. Luke doth in this place declare the proceeding 839839 “Progressum,” the progress. of the gospel; wherein appeareth how true the parable of Christ is, when he saith that it is like to leaven, (Luke 13:21.) We heard before that there was great concourse of people, so that the seed of true doctrine was sown throughout the whole city. Luke saith now that it was spread farther, to wit, throughout the whole country.
50. Nevertheless, he declareth that that was done not without great pains and trouble. Therefore, the beginning of the calling of the Gentiles was joyful and prosperous, neither could Satan hinder the course of the grace of God; but in the mean season, it stood Paul and Barnabas upon (whom God had brought forth into the field 840840 “Athletas in arenam,” as wrestlers into the arena. ) to strive. And we must mark what Luke saith, that the religious and honest women, together with the chief men of the city, were enforced to persecute the servants of Christ. For this was no small offense to the rude, and those who were as yet scarce begotten in Christ, when they saw all those men and women which were of any account or estimation set against Christ, and also whatsoever was praise-worthy according to men. A great multitude of men received Christ, but it was but the multitude and the offscourings of men. Against them were set the chief men of the city, who with their pomp did easily oppress the base and obscure multitude. That might also cause doctrine to be suspected, yea, to be hated, in that godly and honest matrons to look to were enemies to it. If wicked, ungodly, and mischievous men should have issued out of their taverns and dens; if companies of whores should break out of their brothel-house, it should be no reproach to the gospel; yea, rather the dignity thereof should thereby appear more plainly; but now, what may the weak think with themselves, but that the doctrine which hath such adversaries is not of God? Therefore it was expedient that not only the faithful, who were as yet weak, should be confirmed by the Lord, lest their faith should fall, but also that the hand should be reached out to Paul and Barnabas, lest, being discouraged, they should leave off.
And by this example the Lord meant to teach us that we must valiantly resist such lets; 841841 “Offendiculos,” petty scandals. and that we must beware lest the vain visors of virtue 842842 “Inanes virtutum larvae.” empty masks or shows of virtue. do blind our eyes, so that we cannot see the glory of Christ which shineth in the gospel. For it is certain that all that virtue and honesty which is in men is mere hypocrisy where they set themselves against. Christ; though it may be that those who are rashly carried against Christ for a time may afterwards repent. Notwithstanding, we must thus think with ourselves, that whatsoever fair show of holiness those bear who resist the gospel, they are neither endued with the perfect fear of God, neither are they any thing else but a vain shadow, how greatly soever they boast of their virtue. Neither is it without cause that Christ hath this title given him, that he revealeth the cogitations of many hearts, (Luke 2:35.)
Religious. And what manner [of] religion could that be where there was no reverence of the Word of God? We must note that there be four kinds of men: as there be few which worship God sincerely and from the heart, so there be few who openly profess the manifest and gross contempt of him. These be two sorts. And the more part is neither quite without religion, neither is it altogether void of the common worship of God; but yet, notwithstanding, whilst they do coldly, and, as it were, overfields 843843 “Defunctorie,” in a perfunctory manner. play with God, if they be thoroughly examined they be but profane; like as, at this day, the ungodliness of many is after a sort shrouded under ceremonies, and the reigned profession of the worship of God. So that in all ages there have been certain worshippers of God who have worshipped him like stage-players, 844844 “Histrionici Dei cultores,” histrionic worshippers of God. whose holiness did wholly consist in gestures and vain pomps. In Paul’s time, even as at this day, a peculiar study of godliness was to be found in a few, whose religion, though it were impure, and their heart reigned, deceitful, and double, yet are they counted after a sort religious, in respect of their zeal. But hereby appeareth what account we may make of bare religion, which driveth headlong, through unadvised heat, the professors thereof, to resist the kingdom of God, and to oppress his glory. Furthermore, it is to be thought that though these matrons had not altogether given their name to Judaism, neither had they been nousled 845845 “Imbutae,” imbued with. in the doctrine of the law, yet were they half Jewesses, and that was the cause that they did so willingly take upon them the defense of the nation. For thus are women led about captive, being laden with sins, as Paul witnesseth.
51. When they had shaken of the dust of their feet. We may also gather, even by the commandment of Christ, (Matthew 10:14; Luke 9:5; 10:11,) that this was a token of cursing among the Jews. For it is not to be thought that Christ meant to have his [disciples] use an unknown sign, forasmuch as it was his purpose to terrify the gross and professed condemners of his doctrine. Furthermore, he meant by this means to declare that God doth so detest the wicked, that we must take meat heed that we have no fellowship with them, lest we be infected with their uncleanness. All the
wicked are said, indeed, to pollute the ground whereon they tread; but the Lord did never command that any, save only the condemners of his word, should be so rejected with such execration. If any adulterer or whoremonger, if any perjured person, if any drunkard,
“Si quis homicida,” if any murderer, omitted.
were to be excommunicate, this sign was not used. Therefore, it appeareth how intolerable the contempt of the word of God is in his sight; because, when as he commandeth that the dust of the feet be shaken off, it is as much as if he should pronounce that they are the bond-slaves of Satan, men past hope, and worthy to be banished
“Qui exterminentur,” to be exterminated.
from off the earth. Wherefore, let this so great;, severity teach us to reverence the gospel. Also the ministers of the word are taught with how great ferventness of zeal they must maintain the majesty of the word, that they do not coldly dissemble and wink at the contempt thereof.
52. The disciples were filled with joy This member may be expounded two manner of ways; That they were filled with joy and the Spirit, by hypallage, thus, With joy of the Spirit, or (which is all one) with spiritual joy; because there is no quietness, peace, or joy of conscience, but it cometh of the Spirit of God, in which respect Paul saith that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit, (Romans 14:17;) or that the word Spirit may contain under it other virtues and gifts. Yet this pleaseth me better, that they were filled with joy; because the grace of the Holy Spirit reigned in them, which alone doth so make us glad, truly and perfectly, that we are carried up above the whole world. For we must mark Luke’s drift, that the faithful were so far from being troubled and shaken with those stumbling-blocks, how great soever they were, with the reproach of their teachers, with the disquieting of the city, with terrors and threatenings, also with fear and dangers hanging over their heads, that they did with the loftiness of their faith despise valiantly the gorgeousness, as well of their reigned holiness as of their power. And assuredly, if our faith shall be well grounded in God, and shall be thoroughly rooted in his word; and, finally, if’ it shall be well fortified with the aid of the Spirit as it, ought, it; shall nourish peace and joy spiritual in our minds, though all the world be in an uproar.