Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
3. To whom also he showed himself alive, after that he had suffered, in many proofs, while that he is seen of them by the space o f forty days, and he intreateth of the kingdom of God. 4. And when he had gathered them together, he commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but that they should wait for the promise of the Father; whereof, saith he, ye have heard of me: 5. Because John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, after a few days.
3. Unto whom, etc He addeth this, that he might make the resurrection to be believed, as a thing most necessary to be known, and without the which the whole gospel falleth fiat to the ground, neither remaineth there any more faith. And that I may omit to speak of other discommodities that come by being ignorant of the resurrection of Christ, the gospel loseth his whole authority, unless we know and be also fully persuaded that Christ being alive, speaketh unto us from the heavens. Whereunto Luke hath chiefest respect in this place. Therefore, that the truth hereof might not be called in question, he saith that it was proved by many signs and tokens. Those which Erasmus, following an old interpreter, doth call arguments, I have translated proofs. For Aristotle doth call that τεκμηριον, in the first book of his Rhetorics, which is necessary in signs. This is, therefore, that which I said before, that Christ did make manifest his resurrection unto his apostles by evident tokens, which did serve instead of necessary proofs, lest they should doubt of the same. Furthermore, he doth not reckon up those tokens and signs, saving only that he saith, that Christ did appear unto them about the space of a month and one-half oftentimes. If he had but once appeared unto them, it might have been somewhat suspicious, but in showing himself so often unto them, he dissolveth all doubts which might arise in their minds, and by this means, also, he putteth away the reproach of the ignorance which he said was in the apostles, lest it discredit their preaching.
He intreateth of the kingdom of God He telleth us again that the apostles themselves were well taught 19 before such time as they took upon them to teach others; therefore, whatsoever things they uttered and brought to light, either by word or by writing, touching the kingdom of God, they are those speeches which Christ himself uttered. And hereby doth he briefly set down the end of the doctrine of the gospel; namely, that God may reign in us. Regeneration is the beginning of this kingdom, and the end thereof is blessed immortality; the middle proceedings are in a more ample going forward and increase of regeneration. But that this thing may appear more evidently, we must first note, that we are born, and that we live aliens and strangers from the kingdom of God, until such time as God doth fashion us again unto a new life. Therefore, we may properly set the world, the flesh, and whatsoever is in man’s nature against the kingdom of God, as contrary to it. For the natural man is wholly occupied about the things of this world, and he seeketh felicity here; 20 in the mean season, we are as it were banished from God, and he likewise from us; but Christ, by the preaching of the gospel, doth lift us up unto the meditation of the life to come. And to the end he may the better bring this to pass, he reformeth all our earthly affections, and so having striped us out of the vices of our flesh, he separateth us from the world. And, like as eternal death is prepared for all those which live after the flesh, so in as much as the inward man is renewed in us, that we may go forward in the spiritual life, we draw nearer unto the perfection of the kingdom of God; which is the society of the glory of God. Therefore, God will reign in and amongst us now, that he may at length make us partakers of his kingdom. Hereby we gather that Christ did principally intreat of the corruption of mankind; of the tyranny of sin, whose bond-slaves we are; of the curse and guiltiness of eternal death, whereunto we all are subject, and also of the means to obtain salvation; of the remission of sins; of the denying of the flesh; of spiritual righteousness; of hope of eternal life, and of like such things. And if we will be rightly instructed in Christianity, we must apply our studies to these things.
4. Gathering them together, he commanded, etc They had before done the duty of Apostles; but that lasted but a while; and, secondly, so far forth that they might with their preaching awake the Jews to hear their Master. And so that commandment to teach, which Christ had given them, (Mt 10:7,) whilst he lived with them upon earth, was, as it were, a certain entrance into their apostleship which was to come, for which they were not yet ripe. Therefore, their ordinary function was not laid upon them, until such time as Christ was risen again; but they stirred up their nation (as I have said) like criers, that they might give ear to Christ. And then at length, after the resurrection, they were made Apostles, to publish abroad throughout the whole world that doctrine which was committed to them. And whereas after they were made Apostles, Christ commandeth them as yet to abstain from their office, that is done not without just cause; yea, many causes may be alleged why it should be so. That filthy forsaking of their Master was yet fresh; many notes and tokens of unbelief were yet fresh. Whereas, they had been so thoroughly taught, and had so suddenly forgotten all, they showed a manifest token of their great dullness of wit. Neither were they free from sluggishness, which could not otherwise fitly be purged, than by deferring the promised grace, that he might the more sharpen their desire. But this cause is chiefly to be noted, that the Lord did appoint a certain time for the sending of the Spirit, that the miracle might be the more apparent. Again, he suffered them to rest a while, that he might the better set forth the greatness of that business which he was about to commit unto them. And thereby is the truth of the gospel confirmed, because the Apostles were forbidden to address themselves to preach the same, until they should be well prepared in succession of time.
And they were commanded to stay together, because they should all have one spirit given them. If they had been dispersed, the unity should not have been so well known. Though they were scattered abroad afterwards in divers places, yet because they brought that which they had from one and the same fountain, it was all one, as if they always had had all one mouth. Furthermore, it was expedient that they should begin to preach the gospel at Jerusalem, that the prophecy might be fulfilled,
“There shall a law go out of Zion,
and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem,” (Isa 2:3.)
Although the participle συναλιζομενος, may be diversely translated, yet Erasmus his translation did please me best, because the signification of gathering together will agree better with the text, [context.]
They should wait for the promise It was meet that these should be accustomed to obey first, who should shortly after lay Christ’s yoke upon the neck of the world. And surely they have taught us by their example, that we must work and rest at the Lord’s pleasure alone. For if, during our life, we go on warfare under his banner and conduct, surely he ought to have no less authority over us than any earthly captain hath in his army. Therefore, as warlike discipline requireth this, that no man wage unless he be commanded by the captain, so it is not lawful for us either to go out, or to attempt any thing, until the Lord give the watchword; and so soon as he bloweth the retreat, we must stay, [halt.] Moreover, we are taught that we are made partakers of the gifts of God through hope. But we must mark the nature of hope as it is described in this place. For that is not hope which every man feigneth to himself unadvisedly, but that which is grounded on the promise of God. Therefore Christ cloth not suffer his apostles to look for whatsoever they will, but he addeth expressly the promise of the Father. Furthermore, he maketh himself a witness thereof; because we ought to be so sure and certain, that although all the engines of hell gainstand us, yet this may remain surely fixed in our minds, that we have believed God. I know, saith Paul, whom I have believed, (2Ti 1:12.) And here he putteth them in mind of those things which are written in John 14:15, 16,
“I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may continue with you; I say the Spirit of truth,” etc.
“I have spoken these things unto you while I am with you.” “And the Spirit, whom my Father shall send in my name, shall teach you all things,” (John 14:25, 26,) etc.
“When the Spirit of truth shall come, whom I will send from my Father, he shall bear witness of me,” (Joh 15:26.)
“If I shall go hence, I will send you the Comforter, who shall reprove the world,” (Joh 16:7.)
And he had said long before,
“He which believeth in me, out of his belly
shall flow rivers of living water,”
5. Because John truly Christ repeateth this unto his apostles out of John’s own words. For some part of them had heard that at John’s mouth, which the Evangelists report, “I truly baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” Now Christ pronounceth that they shall well perceive that that is true indeed which he said. Furthermore, this serveth greatly to confirm the sentence next going before, for it is an argument drawn from the office of Christ. And that thus: John was sent to baptize with water, he fulfilled his function as it became the servant of God. The Son of God is sent to baptize with the Holy Ghost; it remained, therefore, that he do his duty. Neither can it be otherwise but he must do that which his Father hath commanded him to do, and for which also he came down into the earth. But it seemeth a very absurd thing to restrain that unto the visible sending of the Holy Ghost, which was spoken universally of regeneration. 21 I answer, that Christ did not then only baptize with the Holy Ghost, when as he sent him under the form of fiery tongues; for he had baptized his apostles before this; and he baptizeth all the elect thus daily. But because the sending of the Holy Ghost after so glorious a sort was a token of the hidden grace wherewith he doth daily inspire his elect, he doth fitly apply thereunto the testimony of John. And truly this was as though it had been the common baptism of the Church. For besides that the apostles did not receive the Spirit for themselves only, but for the use of all the faithful, there was also declared the universal favor of Christ towards his Church, while that he poured out thereupon the gifts of his Spirit in great abundance.
Although, therefore, he doth daily baptize the elect of his Father, yet was this no let why he might not show forth this token to be remembered above all others, that the apostles might know that they were only entered by John; and that not in vain, seeing their perfection was hard at hand. And that is frivolous which some gather out of this place most commonly, 22 namely, that the baptism of John and the baptism of Christ were diverse. For here doth not he dispute in this place of baptism, but maketh only a comparison betwixt the person of John and the person of Christ. When as John did say that he did baptize with water only, he did not reason of what sort his baptism was; but what he himself was; lest he should arrogate that unto himself which was proper to Christ. As also, the ministers in these days ought not to speak otherwise of themselves; but they must acknowledge Christ to be the author of all those things which they do prefigure in the outward baptism, and leave nothing to themselves save only the outward administration. For when as these titles are attributed unto baptism, namely, that it is the laver of regeneration, (Titus 3:5,) a washing away of sins, the fellowship of death, and burying with Christ, (Ro 6:4,) and a grafting into the body of Christ, it is not declared what man, being the minister of the outward sign, doth; but rather what Christ doth, who only giveth force and efficacy unto the signs. We must always hold fast this distinction, lest, whilst we deck man too much, we take from Christ. 23
But here may a question be moved, why he doth rather name John here than any other; first, It is manifest enough that John did profess himself to be the minister of the outward sign, namely, of water, and that Christ was the author of the spiritual baptism; secondly, Because it was meet that John should decrease and Christ increase; and, thirdly, Because the apostles did so much esteem of John, (Joh 3:30,) it might have been that thereby the glory of Christ might have been obscured. Therefore, Christ, to the end he might reclaim them to himself, telleth them that John did only minister unto them the external baptism; notwithstanding, he confirmeth them also, lest they should doubt of the promise; for they did attribute very much unto John, and therefore were they persuaded that the baptism which they had received by him was not in vain. Now, if that the verity and force thereof must be looked for at Christ’s hands, then ought the apostles to hope that that shall surely be fulfilled which John prefigured.
So must we, in like manner, think that we are not in vain baptized with water by men, because Christ, who commanded the same to be done, will fulfill his office, and baptize us with the Spirit. So faith draweth a consequent from the outward sign unto the inward effect; yet doth it not attribute any more than is meet, either to the sign or to the minister thereof, because in the sign it only looketh unto the promise, which is Christ’s, and doth acknowledge him to be the only author of grace. Let us, therefore, use such a mean that we do in no part diminish Christ’s honor; and yet, nevertheless, let us hope for that fruit by our baptism which is noted in this place. By assigning so short a time our Savior maketh them more joyful to hope well. Whereupon it followeth, that that death was not to be lamented which brought with it presently so precious fruit. And let us note this also, that this word baptism is used improperly in this place, that the contrariety may be full. After the same sort, Paul, in his Epistle unto the Romans, (Ro 3:26,) after he hath set down the law of works, to the end that the contrary may answer on the other side, he useth the law of faith for faith itself.
“Ab unico magistro,” by the only master, omitted.
“Et ultimum bonum,” and it is his final good, omitted.
“Generaliter de gratia regenerationis,” generally of the grace of regeneration.
“Ex hoc loco et similibus vulgo colligunt,” commonly gather out of this and similar passages.
“Christum spoliemus,” we rob Christ.