Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 10:26-31; MARK 4:22-23;
LUKE 8:17; 12:2-7
26. Fear them not therefore: for nothing is covered that shall not be revealed, and nothing is hid that shall not be known. 27. What I say to you in darkness speak you in light: and what you hear in the ear proclaim on the housetops. 28. And fear not those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul: but rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in gehenna. 29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father? 30. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.
22. For nothing is hid which shall not be revealed; and nothing is secret that shall not come to light. 23. If any man have ears to hears, let him hear.
17. For there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed, and nothing concealed that shall not be known and come to light.
2. For nothing is covered which shall not be laid open, and nothing is hid wich shall not be known. 3. Therefore, those things which you have spoken in darkness shall be heard in light: and what you have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed on the housetops. 4. And I say to you my friends, Be not afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5. And I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after that he hath killed, hath power to throw into gehenna: yea, I say to you, Fear him. 6. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? 7. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered: fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:26. Fear them not therefore When the apostles saw the gospel so greatly despised, and recollected the small number of believers, they might be apt to throw away hope even for the future. Christ now meets this doubt, by declaring that the gospel would be widely spread, would at length rise superior to all the hindrances which might arise from men, and would become generally known. The saying, nothing is covered that shall not be revealed, has some appearance of being a proverb: but we restrict it in a special manner to the doctrine of salvation, which Christ promises will be victorious, whatsoever may be the contrivances of men to oppose it. Though he sometimes preached openly in the temple, yet, as his doctrine was rejected, it was still concealed in dark comers: but he declares that the time for proclaiming it will come; which, we know, happened shortly afterwards. In no part of the earth was there ever such thunder heard as the voice of the gospel, which resounded through the whole world. As this promise ought to fill them with courage, Christ exhorts them to devote themselves to it with boldness and perseverance, and not to be alarmed, though they see the gospel hitherto despised, but, on the contrary, to become its zealous preachers.
The passage which I have taken from Mark was, perhaps, spoken at a different time, and in a different sense: but as the sentences in that place are concise, I have followed the meaning which appeared to me the most probable. After having commanded the apostles to assemble burning lamps by sending out a bright light to a great distance, he immediately afterwards adds, nothing is hidden which shall not be revealed. Now the lamp of the gospel was kindled by the apostles, as it were in the midst of darkness, that by their agency it might be raised on high, and shine throughout the whole world. The passage in the eighth chapter of Luke’s Gospel is precisely alike. As to the passage in the twelfth chapter, there is no room to doubt that it has the same meaning, though there is a difference in the words: for Christ there commands the apostles to bring to light what they had spoken in darkness. This means, that hitherto they had only spoken in whispers about the gospel, but that their future preaching would be so public, that it would spread to the most distant parts of the world.
28. And fear not those who hill the body To excite his disciples to despise death, Christ employs the very powerful argument, that this frail and perishing lift ought to be little regarded by men who have been created for a heavenly immortality. The statement amounts to this, that if believers will consider for what purpose they were born, and what is their condition, they will have no reason to be so earnest in desiring an earthly life. But the words have still a richer and fuller meaning: for we are here taught by Christ that the fear of God is dead in those men who, through dread of tyrants, fall from a confession of their faith, and that a brutish stupidity reigns in the hearts of those who, through dread of death, do not hesitate to abandon that confession.
We must attend to the distinction between the two opposite kinds of fear. If the fear of God is extinguished by the dread of men, is it not evident that we pay greater deference to them than to God himself? Hence it follows, that when we have abandoned the heavenly and eternal life, we reserve nothing more for ourselves than to be like the beasts that perish, (Ps 49:12.) God alone has the power of bestowing eternal life, or of inflicting eternal death. We forget God, because we are hurried away by the dread of men. Is it not very evident that we set a higher value on the shadowy life of the body 595 than on the eternal condition of the soul; or rather, that the heavenly kingdom of God is of no estimation with us, in comparison of the fleeting and vanishing shadow of the present life?
These words of Christ ought therefore to be explained in this manner: “Acknowledge that you have received immortal souls, which are subject to the disposal of God alone, and do not come into the power of men. The consequence will be, that no terrors or alarms which men may employ will shake your faith. “For how comes it that the dread of men prevails in the struggle, but because the body is preferred to the soul, and immortality is less valued than a perishing life?”
Luke 12:5. Yea, I say to you, Fear Him This is an emphatic, 596 repetition of the statement. Christ must be viewed as saying, that when we give way to the dread of men, we pay no respect to God; and that if on the contrary we fear God, we have an easy victory in our hands, so that no efforts of men will draw us aside from our duty. The experience of every age shows the great necessity of this exhortation to the ministers of Christ, and likewise to all believers in general: for there never was a period when men did not rise furiously against God, and endeavor to overwhelm the Gospel. 597 All are not armed indeed with equal power to hold out to believers the dread of death, but the greater number are animated by that savage ferocity, which discovers itself as soon as an opportunity occurs. Frequently, too, Satan brings forward giants, in whose presence the servants of Christ would fall down lifeless, were it not that this doctrine fortifies them to maintain unshaken perseverance.
The two clauses being very closely related to each other, it is an incorrect view which some unskilful persons take, by reading separately this clause, Fear them not For Christ, (as we have already said,) in order to cure that wicked fear of men, which draws us aside from the right path contrasts with it a devout and holy fear of God: otherwise the consequence would not follow that, if we fear God, who is the Lord of body and soul, we have no reason to fear men, whose power goes no farther than the body. With regard to the statement that men have power to kill the body, Christ made it by way of concession. God allows wicked men to enjoy such a degree of liberty, that they are swelled with confidence in their own power, imagine that they may attempt any thing, and even succeed in terrifying weak minds, as if they could do whatever they pleased. Now the proud imaginations of wicked men, as if the life of the godly were placed at their disposal, is utterly unfounded: for God keeps them within limits, and restrains, whenever it pleases him, the cruelty and violence of their attacks. And yet they are said to have power to kill by his permission, for he often permits them to indulge their cruel rage. Besides, our Lord’s discourse consists of two parts. First, in order to instruct us to bear with composure the loss of the bodily life, he bids us contemplate both eternal life and eternal death, and then arrives gradually at this point, that the protection of our life is in the hand of God.
Matthew 10:29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? Christ proceeds farther, as I have already hinted, and declares that tyrants, whatever may be their madness, have no power whatever even over the body: and that therefore it is improper in any persons to dread the cruelty of men, as if they were not under the protection of God. In the midst of dangers, therefore, let us remember this second consolation. As God is the guardian of our life, we may safely rely on his providence; nay, we do him injustice, if we do not entrust to him our life, which he is pleased to take under his charge. Christ takes a general view of the providence of God as extending to all creatures, and thus argues from the greater to the less, that we are upheld by his special protection. There is hardly any thing of less value than sparrows, (for two were then sold for a farthing, or, as Luke states it, five for two farthings,) and yet God has his eye upon them to protect them, so that nothing happens to them by chance. Would He who is careful about the sparrows disregard the life of men?
There are here two things to be observed. First, Christ gives a very different account of the providence of God from what is given by many who talk like the philosophers, and tell us that God governs the world, but yet imagine providence to be a confused sort of arrangement, as if God did not keep his eye on each of the creatures. Now, Christ declares that each of the creatures in particular is under his hand and protection, so that nothing is left to chance. Unquestionably, the will of God is contrasted with contingence or uncertainty 598 , And yet we must not be understood to uphold the fate of the Stoics, 599 for it is one thing to imagine a necessity which is involved in a complicated chain of causes, and quite another thing to believe that the world, and every part of it, is directed by the will of God. In the nature of things, I do acknowledge there is uncertainty: 600 but I maintain that nothing happens through a blind revolution of chance, for all is regulated by the will of God.
The second thing to be observed is, that we ought to contemplate Providence, not as curious and fickle persons are wont to do, but as a ground of confidence and excitement to prayer. When he informs us that the hairs of our head are all numbered, it is not to encourage trivial speculations, but to instruct us to depend on the fatherly care of God which is exercised over these frail bodies.
31. You are of more value This is true in general of all men, for the sparrows were created for their advantage. But this discourse relates peculiarly to the sons of God, who possess a far higher right than what they derive from creation. Now the rank which belongs to men arises solely from the undeserved kindness of God.
“La vie de ce corps, laquelle n'est qu'une fumee;” — “the life of this body, which is but a vapor,” (Jas 4:14.)
“Emporte poids;” — “carries weight.
“S'esforcans d'abattre et exterminer l'Evangile;” — “laboring to destroy and exterminate the Gospel.”
“La volonte de Dieu est mise a l'opposite de ce que tels Philosophes appellent Contingence: par lequel mot ils signifient un accident qui vient de soy és choses, sans qu’il y ait une certaine conduite d’enhaut.” — “The will of God is contrasted with what such Philosophers call Contingence: a term by which they denote an accident which comes of its own accord in events, without any fixed direction of it from above.”
We have formerly adverted to a leading tenet of the Stoics, that the distinction between pleasure and pain is imaginary, and that consequently the highest wisdom consists in being utterly unmoved by the events of life. The present allusion is to their notion of Fate, a mysterious and irresistible necessity, over which those beings whom they blindly worshipped were supposed to have as little control as the inhabitants of the earth. Calvin demonstrates that the serenity of a Christian differs not more widely from Stoical apathy, than the doctrine of a special Providence which is here taught by our Savior differs from Stoical Fate; that the believer in Providence adores the high and lofty One that inhabiteth, eternity, (Isa 57:15,) who hath, prepared His throne in the heavens, and whose kingdom ruleth over all, (Ps 103:19;) and, far from viewing the will of God as swayed by a higher power, traces every event to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, (Eph 1:11.) — Ed
“Je confesse bien que si on regarde la nature des choses en soy, on trouvera qu'il y a quelque Contingence;” — “I readily acknowledge that, if the nature of things in itself be considered, it will be found that there is some uncertainty.”