Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
25. For David saith of him, I saw the Lord before me always, because he is on my right hand; lest I should be moved. 26. For this my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover, my flesh shall rest in hope: 27. Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption. 28. Thou hast made known unto me the ways of life, thou shalt fill me with gladness with thy face. 29. Men and brethren, seeing that I may boldly speak unto you of the patriarch David, because he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher remaineth with us until this day. 30. Therefore, seeing he was a prophet, and did know that God had sworn unto him with an oath that it should come to pass, that Christ should rise of the fruits of his loins, concerning the flesh, who should sit upon his throne; 31. He knowing this before, spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption.
25. The resurrection, 110 which was both declared and witnessed by certain and evident testimonies, and which might also have been gathered out of the continual doctrine of the prophets, was to be proved to the Jews as some new and strange thing. And no marvel. For we see that although Christ had oftentimes beat 111 the same into his disciples’ heads, yet did they profit but a little. And yet did they retain certain principles of true doctrine, which might have made a way for them unto the knowledge of Christ, as we shall see by and by. Therefore, because the gift of the Spirit was a fruit of the resurrection of Christ, he proveth by the testimony of David that Christ must needs have risen again, that the Jews may thereby know that he was the author of the gift. For he taketh it as a thing which all men grant, that he was raised up from death, that he may live not for himself, but for his. Now we see Peter’s drift; that that ought to seem no strange thing which was foretold so long before; and that Jesus is also Christ, because David did prophecy of him, as of the tied of the Church.
First of all, we must see whether this place ought altogether to be understood of Christ, as Peter affirmeth; that done, if there be any thing in the words worth noting, we will in order discuss it. Peter denieth that that agreeth with David which is said in this place:
“Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption,”
because David’s carcass was corrupt in the grave. It seemeth at the first blush to be but a light argument. For a man might easily object, that the word is not to be urged, forasmuch as David meant nothing else, save only to exempt himself from destruction. Therefore, howsoever corruption did touch him, yet doth that no whit hinder but that he may easily say that he was safe from the danger thereof, because he knew that the Lord would deliver him. Yea, it seemeth to be a repetition of the former sentence, according to the common custom of the Hebrew tongue. Which if it be so, the sense shall be plain, that God will not suffer him to be oppressed with death, or that death should consume him. And this interpretation is confirmed by that where we read hell, it is in Hebrew סל, (seol;) where we read corruption, there it is שחת, (shachat;) both these words do signify the grave. By this means David should say twice, that he shall be delivered from death by the grace of God. Finally, he saith the same thing in this place, which he saith, (Ps 49:15,) “God shall redeem my soul from the hand of hell.” Like as, on the other side, when he speaketh of the reprobates, he is wont to take “going down into the grave” for destruction. I answer briefly, that there is some greater thing expressed in this place than the common redemption or deliverance of the godly. David, indeed, doth promise that God will be his eternal deliverer, as well in life as in death. Neither had he been much better for this, to have been once delivered from one danger, unless he had hoped that he should be safe even unto the end through God’s protection; but he speaketh of such safety as is not common. 112 And surely the words do sound that he speaketh of some new and singular privilege. Admit I grant that it is a repetition, and that there is all one thing uttered in these two members, “Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell;” and, “Thou shalt not suffer me to see corruption;” yet do I deny that it is simply to be understood that God will deliver his Holy One from eternal destruction; for freedom from corruption is promised by name. Neither do I pass for this, that שחת (shachat) doth signify the grave, as סל, (seol,) which is put in the former member. For although I do not stand nor contend about the words, yet must we respect the etymology. Therefore, forasmuch as the grave is called שחת, (shachat) because it doth corrupt man’s body with rottenness, it is not to be doubted but that David meant to note that quality. Therefore, the place is not so much expressed by this word, as the condition of rotting. So that the sense is, that God will not suffer him of whom the Psalm speaketh “to rot or corrupt in the grave.” And forasmuch as David was not free from this necessity, it followeth that the prophecy was neither truly nor perfectly fulfilled in him.
And that the Psalm ought altogether to be expounded of Christ, the thing itself doth prove. For seeing that David was one of the sons of Adam, he could not escape that universal condition and estate of mankind,
“Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,”
the grave standeth open (I say) for all the children of Adam, that it may swallow them up, and consume them; so that no man can exempt himself from corruption. So that, beholding ourselves apart from Christ, we see the grave prepared for us, which threateneth to us corruption. Wherefore, if David be separated from Christ, that shall not belong to him which is here said, that he shall be preserved from the grave. Therefore, when he boasteth that he shall be free from the grave, as touching corruption, without all doubt he placeth himself in the body of Christ, wherein death was overcome, and the kingdom thereof abolished. But and if David do promise himself exempting from the grave in another respect, save only so far forth as he is a member of Christ, hereby it appeareth that this freedom must begin at Christ as at the head. What man soever shall be of sound judgment shall easily know that this is a good argument. God did put all mankind under corruption; therefore, David, inasmuch as he was of the number of men, could not be free from the same. Neither is it to be doubted, but that the Jews, before whom this sermon was made, forasmuch as without question that maxim was of force amongst them, that they were to hope for the restoring of things at the hands of Christ alone, did the more readily stay themselves upon 113 the words of Peter; because they saw that that could no otherwise be which the words do import, unless they should apply it to the Messias. For they were not come to that point of impudence, at least those of whom mention is made here, that they durst cavil in matters which were evident; for God had then offered unto his disciples those which were godly hearers, and apt to be taught. They sought the Messias in the Old Testament. They knew that David was a figure of him. There was amongst them some religion and reverence of the Scriptures then; but now the impudency of all the whole nation almost is desperate. Howsoever they be urged, they wrench themselves out one way or other. 114 Where there is no way to escape, yet they break through; although they be overcome, yet will they not yield; neither is it to be doubted but that this their shameless forwardness is a punishment for their ungodliness. But let us return unto Peter’s sermon.
Seeing that David doth not only affirm that God also shall be his deliverer, but doth express a singular way and means; namely, that he shall not be subject to the corruption of the grave, Peter doth for good causes gather, that that doth not properly appertain unto him, for that his body was corrupt in the grave. And now, because this had been somewhat hard to be spoken among the Jews, he mollifieth the hardness with a circumlocution. For he doth not flatly deny in one word that that was fulfilled indeed in David, but doth only by the way 115 signify so much unto them, because he lieth consumed in the grave after the common custom of other men. And David did so prophesy of Christ, that he did both apply this consolation unto himself privately, and’ also extend the same unto the whole body of the Church. For that which is sound and perfect in the head is spread abroad, being afterward poured out into all the members. Neither is it to be denied but that David spoke of himself in this place; yet only so far forth as he beheld himself in Christ, as in the mirror of life. First, he hath respect unto Christ; after that he turneth his eyes toward himself, and others the faithful. So that we have a general doctrine prescribed unto us in this plate, concerning the nature of faith, the spiritual joy of conscience: and the hope of eternal deliverance.
I saw We must hold this principle. If we will have God present with us, we must set him before our eyes; and that before he do appear; for the prospect of faith pierceth far further than unto the present experience. Therefore faith hath this property, to set God always before it as a guide in all dangers and confused matters. For there is nothing that doth so much hold us up, as when we know that God is present with us; as the opinion of his absence doth often cast us down, and at length quite discourage us. David addeth, That he took not heed in vain unto the direction of God. “He is (saith he) at my right hand;” whereby he doth signify that we need not to fear lest we be deceived, 116 when as we set him before us at present; for we shall always feel his help most ready. Faith, in hoping for the help of God, ought to prevent and overgo 117 all experience, and whatsoever is perceived by the sense; but so soon as it shall give this glory to God, that it doth behold him in his Word, although he be absent, and so, consequently, invisible, it shall be overcome with the effect of the thing. For the measure of faith is not able to comprehend the infinite greatness of the power and goodness of God. He draweth a similitude from those which, when they will underprop the weak, or strengthen the fearful, do join themselves unto their side. Not to be moved, is not to be thrown down from their degree, but to remain firm in their estate; like as also Ps 46:5, God is in the midst of it, therefore shall it not be moved. For although it come to pass sometimes that the godly be sore shaken, yet because they come to themselves again, they are said to continue firm. Therefore, there is no cause why they should be afraid of falling, who are upholden by the help of God. Like as, on the other side, those which place their strength anywhere else save only in God, they shall be like to fall at every blast of wind, but at any mean wind of temptation they shall fall to the ground.
26. For this my heart rejoiced Joy of the soul, gladness of the tongue, and quietness of all the whole body, do ensue upon sure hope and confidence; for unless men be quite past feeling, 118 they must needs be careful and sorrowful, and so, consequently, miserably tormented, so long as they feel themselves destitute of the help of God. But that sure trust which we repose in God doth not only deliver us from carefulness, 119 but doth also replenish our hearts with wonderful joy (and gladness.) That is the joy which Christ promised to his disciples should be full in them, and which he testified could not be taken from them, (John 16:22, John 17:13.) He expresseth the greatness of the joy when he saith, That it cannot be kept in, but that it will break forth into the gladness of the tongue. 120 כבוד, doth signify, indeed, glory, but it is taken in that place, as in many others, for the tongue And so the Grecians have truly translated the same. The rest of the flesh doth signify the quietness of the whole man, which we have through the protection of God. Neither is this any let, because the faithful are continually out of quiet and tremble; for as in the midst of sorrows they do nevertheless rejoice; so there are no troubles so great that can break them of their rest. If any man object, that the peace of the faithful doth consist in the spirit, and that it is not in the flesh: I answer, that the faithful do rest in body; not that they are free from troubles, but because they believe that God careth for them wholly, and that not only their soul shall be safe through his protection, but their body also.
27. Because thou shalt not leave To leave the soul in hell is to suffer the same to be oppressed with destruction. There be two words used in this place, both which do signify the grave amongst the Hebricians. Because שאול, doth signify to require, I suppose it is called סול, because death is insatiable; whence also cometh that translation, Hell hath enlarged her soul. Again, they set open their mouth like hell. And because the latter שחת, is derived and set for corruption, or consumption, that quality is to be considered, as David meant to note the same. Those things which are disputed in this place by divers, concerning the descending of Christ into hell, are in my judgment superfluous; because they are far from the intent and purpose of the prophet. For the word anima, or soul, doth not so much signify the spirit being of an immortal essence as the life itself. For when a man is dead, and lieth in the grave, the grave is said to rule over his life. Whereas the Grecians translate it holy, it is in Hebrew חסת, which doth properly signify meek, or gentle, but Luke did not much regard this, because it doth not much appertain unto the present purpose. Furthermore, gentleness and meekness is so often commended in the faithful, because it behoveth them to imitate and resemble the nature of their Father.
28. Thou hast made known. He meaneth, that he was restored from death to life by the grace of God. For in that he was, as it were, a man raised from death to life, he acknowledgeth that it was a great good gift of God. This was in such sort fulfilled in Christ, that there wanted nothing unto perfection. As for the members they have their measure. Therefore Christ was far from corruption, that he may be the first-fruits of those which rise from death, (1Co 15:23.) We shall follow him in our order at length, but being first turned into dust, (1Co 15:42.) That which followeth, that he was filled with gladness, with the countenance of God, agreeth with that: Show us thy face, and we shall be safe. And, again, The light of thy countenance is showed upon us: thou hast put gladness in my heart. For it is only the pleasantness of God’s countenance, which doth not only make us glad, but also quickens us; again, when the same is turned away, or troubled, we must needs faint.
30. Therefore, seeing he was a prophet He showeth, by two reasons, that it is no marvel if David do speak of things that should come to pass long after his time; the former is, because he was a prophet. And we know that things to come, and such as are removed far from the knowledge of men, are revealed unto the prophets. Therefore, it were wickedness to measure their speeches according to the common manner and order which we use in measuring the speeches of other men, forasmuch as they go beyond the long courses of years, having the Spirit for their director. Whereupon they are also called seers; because being placed, as it were, upon an high tower, 121 they see those things which, by reason of great distance, are hidden from other men. Another reason is, because Christ was promised to him peculiarly. This maxim was so common amongst the Jews, that they had ever now and then the son of David in their mouth, so often as there was any mention made of Christ. They be no such arguments, I confess, as do necessarily prove that this prophecy is to be expounded of Christ; neither was that Peter’s intent and purpose; but first he meant to prevent the contrary objection, whence David had such skill to foretell a thing which was unknown. Therefore he saith, That he knew Christ, both by prophetical revelation, and also by singular promise. Furthermore, this principle was of great (Ro 10:4) force amongst the better-minded sort which Paul setteth down, that Christ is the end of the law. 122 No man, therefore, did doubt of this, but that this was the mark whereat all the prophets did aim, to lead the godly unto Christ as it were by the hand. Therefore, what notable or extraordinary thing soever they did utter, the Jews were commonly persuaded that it did agree with Christ. Furthermore, we must note, that Peter doth reason soundly, when he gathered that David was not ignorant of that which was the chiefest point of all revelations.
He had sworn with an oath God swore not only to the end he might make David believe his promise, but also that the thing promised might be had in greater estimation. And to this end, in my judgment, it is here repeated, that the Jews may think with themselves of what great weight the promise was, which God did make so notable (and so famous.) The same admonition is profitable for us also. For we need not to doubt of this, but that the Lord meant to set forth the excellency of the covenant by putting in a solemn oath. In the mean season, this is also a fit remedy for the infirmity of our faith, that the sacred name of God is set forth unto us, 123 that his words may carry the greater credit. These words, “according to the flesh,” do declare that there was some more noble thing in Christ than the flesh. Therefore Christ did so come of the seed of David as he was man, that he doth nevertheless, retain his divinity; and so the distinction between the two natures is plainly expressed; when as Christ is called the Son of God, according to his eternal essence, in like sort as he is called the seed of David according to the flesh.
“Christi,” of Christ.
“Superiorem communi sorte,” superior to the common lot.
“Acquieverint,” acquiesced in.
“Eludunt,” they evade, practice evasion.
“Non esse periculum ne unquam nos ac fidem nostram frustratur,” there is no danger of his deceiving us or our faith.
“Stupeant,” be stupid or stunned.
“Quin erumpat in linguae exultationem,” but will burst forth into the language of exultation.
“Specula,” watch tower.
“Hoc principium quod Paulus tradit Christum esse finem legis,” etc., this principle which Paul delivers, viz., that Christ was the end of the law, was of great force, etc.
“Pignoris instar,” like a pledge, omitted.