Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 10:1-8; MARK 6:7; LUKE 9:1-2
1. And having called the twelve disciples, 561 he gave them power against the unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure any disease and any sickness. 2. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3. Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alpheus, and Lebbeus, surnamed Thaddeus; 4. Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. 5. These, twelve in number, Jesus sent out, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, 562 and enter not into a city of the Samaritans: 6. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 563 7. And when you have departed, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8. Cure the diseased, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give. 564
7. And he calleth the twelve, and began to send them out two and two, and gave them power against 565 the unclean spirits.
1. And having called the twelve, 566 Jesus gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases. 2. And sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to cure the diseased.
The calling of the Apostles is here described to us, not as on a former occasion, when the Lord Jesus Christ, intending to prepare them for their office, selected them for admission into his private circle. They are now called to immediate performance, are ordered to prepare themselves for the work, receive injunctions, and, that there may be no want of authority, are endued with the power of the Holy Spirit. Formerly, they were held in expectation of future labor: now, Christ announces that the hour is come when they must put their hands to the work. It is proper to observe, however, that he does not as yet speak of perpetual apostleship, but only of temporary preaching, which was fitted to awaken and excite the minds of men, that they might be more attentive to hear Christ. So then they are now sent to proclaim throughout Judea that the time of the promised restoration and salvation is at hand at a future period, Christ will appoint them to spread the Gospel through the whole world. Here, he employs them as assistants only, to secure attention to him where his voice could not reach afterwards, he will commit into their hands the office of teaching which he had discharged. It is of great importance to observe this, that we may not suppose it to be a certain and fixed rule laid down for all ministers of the word, when our Lord gives instructions to the preachers of his doctrine as to what he wishes them to do for a short time. From inattention to this point many have been led astray, so as to demand from all ministers of the word, without distinction, conformity to this rule. 567
Matthew 10:1. And having called the twelve disciples The number, twelve, was intended to point out the future restoration of the Church. As the nation was descended from twelve patriarchs, so its scattered remains are now reminded by Christ of their origin, that they may entertain a fixed hope of being restored. Although the kingdom of God was not in so flourishing a state in Judea, as to preserve the nation entire, but, on the contrary, that people, which already had miserably fallen, deserved doubly to die on account of ingratitude in despising the grace which had been offered to them, yet this did not prevent a new nation from afterwards springing up. At a future period, God extended far beyond Zion the scepter of the power of his Son, and caused rivers to flow from that fountain, to water abundantly the four quarters of the world. Then God assembled his Israel from every direction, and united into one body not only the scattered and torn members, but men who had formerly been entirely alienated from the people of God.
It was not without reason, therefore, that the Lord, by appointing, as it were, twelve patriarchs, declared the restoration of the Church. Besides, this number reminded the Jews of the design of his coming; but, as they did not yield to the grace of God, he begat for himself a new Israel. If you look at the beginnings, it might appear ridiculous that Christ should bestow such honorable titles on persons who were mean and of no estimation: but their astonishing success, and the wide extension of the Church, make it evident that, in honorable rank and in numerous offspring, the apostles not only are not inferior to the patriarchs, but greatly excel them.
Gave them power The apostles had almost no rank among men, while the commission which Christ gave them was divine. Besides, they had neither ability nor eloquence, while the excellence and novelty of their office required more than human endowments, 568 It was therefore necessary that they should derive authority from another source. By enabling them to perform miracles, Christ invests them with the badges of heavenly power, in order to secure the confidence and veneration of the people. And hence we may infer what is the proper use of miracles. As Christ gives to them at the same time, and in immediate connection, the appointment to be preachers of the gospel and ministers of miracles, it is plain that miracles are nothing else than seals of his doctrine, and therefore we are not at liberty to dissolve this close connection. The Papists, therefore, are guilty of forgery, and of wickedly corrupting the works of God, by separating his word from miracles.
2. The first, Simon, who is called Peter The Church of Rome displays extreme folly in drawing from this passage their doctrine of the primacy. That Simon Peter was the first among the apostles we readily allow, but what was true in reference to a few persons, cannot, on any proper grounds, be extended to the whole world. Besides, the circumstance of his being mentioned first, does not imply that he possessed authority over his companions. Granting all that they ask regarding Peter, his rank will be of no avail to the Roman See, till they prove that wicked and sacrilegious apostles are Peter’s successors.
5. Into the tray of the Gentiles This makes still more evident what I have lately hinted, that the office, which was then bestowed on the apostles, had no other object than to awaken in the Jews the hope of an approaching salvation, and thus to render them more attentive to hear Christ. On this account, he now confines within the limits of Judea their voice, which he afterwards commands to sound everywhere to the farthest limits of the world. The reason is, that he had been sent by the Father to be
the minister of circumcision, to fulfill the promises, which had anciently been given to the fathers, (Ro 15:8.)
Now God had entered into a special covenant with the family of Abraham, and therefore Christ acted properly in confining the grace of God, at the outset, to the chosen people, till the time for publishing it were fully come. But after his resurrection, he spread over all nations the blessing which had been promised in the second place, because then the veil of the temple had been rent, (Mt 27:51,) and the middle wall of partition had been thrown down, (Eph 2:14.) If any one imagine that this prohibition is unkind, because Christ does not admit the Gentiles to the enjoyment of the gospel, let him contend with God, who, to the exclusion of the rest of the world, established with the seed of Abraham alone his covenant, on which the command of Christ is founded.
6. But go rather to the lost sheep The first rank, as we have said, is assigned to the Jews, because they were the firstborn; or rather, because at that time they alone were acknowledged by God to belong to his family, while others were excluded. 569 He calls them lost sheep, partly that the apostles, moved by compassion, may more readily and with warmer affection run to their assistance, and partly to inform them that there is at present abundant occasion for their labors. At the same time, under the figure of this nation, Christ taught what is the condition of the whole human race. The Jews, who were near to God, and in covenant with him, and therefore were the lawful heirs of eternal life, are nevertheless pronounced to be lost, till they regain salvation through Christ. What then remains for us who are inferior to them in honor? 570 Again, the word sheep is applied even to the reprobate, who, properly speaking, did not belong to the flock of God, because the adoption extended to the whole nation; as those who deserved to be rejected, on account of their treachery, are elsewhere called the children of the kingdom, (Mt 8:12.) In a word, by the term sheep, Christ recommends the Jews to the apostles, that they may dedicate their labors to them, because they could recognize as the flock of God none but those who had been gathered into the fold.
7. Preach, saying This is the preaching, 571 I spoke of, by which Christ intended to arouse the minds of the nation to expect an approaching redemption. The kingdom of heaven is at hand For the kingdom of heaven Luke substitutes the kingdom of God; but the meaning is the same. It was to inform the Jews, first, that they owed their restoration to divine agency, and not to the kindness of men; secondly, that under the reign of God their condition would be prosperous; and, thirdly, that the happiness which had been promised to them was not earthly and fading, but heavenly and eternal.
8. Cure the diseased As he has bestowed on them power, so he enjoins them to be faithful and liberal in dispensing it, and charges them not to suppress that power, which had been lodged with them for the common benefit of all. By those miracles he shows why he was sent by the Father, and what was the design of his Gospel. It is not without design that he enjoins them to raise the dead and heal the sick, instead of bringing diseases on the healthy and inflicting death on the living. There is an analogy and resemblance, therefore, which those miracles bear to the office of Christ; and this is intended to inform us, that he came to bestow upon us every blessing, to rescue us from the tyranny of Satan and of death, to heal our diseases and sins, and to relieve us from all our miseries.
Freely you have received 572 That they may be more willing to communicate the gifts which he had bestowed on them, he declares that they were not entrusted to them for their own individual renown, but in order that they might be, as it were, a sort of channels for transmitting the free bounty of God. “Consider whence you derived this power. As it flowed without any merit of yours from the pure grace of God, it is proper that, through your agency, it should flow freely to others.”
We know how unwilling every man is to communicate to others what he considers to belong to himself, and how any one who excels the rest of the brethren is apt to despise them all. No higher commendation could have been given to a liberal communication of spiritual gifts, than by the warning which Christ gives them, that no man surpasses another through his own industry, but through the undeserved kindness of God. Now Christ has presented to us in his ministers a proof of that grace which had been predicted by Isaiah, (Isa 55:1)
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milh without money and without price.
At the same time he shows, that no man will be a sincere minister of his word or dispenser of his grace, till he is prepared to bestow his labor gratuitously, 573 and that all hirelings basely corrupt and profane the sacred office of teaching. Yet it is not inconsistent with this gratuitous dispensation, that the teachers of the church receive public salaries, provided that they willingly and generously serve Christ and his church, and that their support is, in some sort, an accessory of their labor.
“Lors ayant appel, a soy ses douze disciples;” — “then having called to himself his twelve disciples.”
“N'allez point vers les Gentils;” — “go not towards the Gentiles.”
“Mats plustost allez aux ouailles de la matson d'Israel, qui sontperies;” — “but rather go to the flocks of the house of Israel, which are lost.”
“Vous l'avez receu pour neant, donnez-le pour neant;” — “you have received it for nothing, give it for nothing.”
“Sur les esprits immondes;” — “over the unclean spirits.”
“Puis apres avoir appel, ses douze disciples ensemble;” — “then after having called his twelve disciples together.”
“Voulant reigler indifferemment tous ministres de la parole selon ee qui est ici dk;” — “wishing to regulate indiscriminately all ministers of the word according to what is here said.”
“Et cependant une charge si excellente et nouvelle requeroit des graces plus grandes qu'on n'en pent trouver en l'homme;” — “and yet an office so excellent and new demanded higher graces than can be found in man.”
“Les autres en estans eslogncz et bannis;” — “the others being removed and banished from it.”
“Qui n'avons point une telle prerogative;” — “who have not such a prerogative.”
“La predication, ou publication;” — “the preaching, or publication.”
“Vous l'avez receu pour neant;” — “you have received it for nothing.”
“S'il n'est prest de s'y employer, et d'y mettre son labor gratuitement, et sans consideration de son profit;” — “if he is not ready to be employed in it, and to bestow his labor on it gratuitously, and without regard to his own gain.”