Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
40. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Be ye saved from this froward generation. 41. Those, therefore, which willingly embraced his words were baptized: and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42. And they continued in the apostles’ doctrine, and in fellowship, and breaking of bread, and prayers.
40. And with many Although in these things which we have had hitherto, Luke did not recite the words of St Peter, but did only briefly touch the chief points; notwithstanding he telleth us again in this place, that Peter did not use doctrine only, but did add the pricks of exhortations. And he expresseth plainly that tie stood much 131 hereupon. Whereas he saith, that he did exhort and beseech, he noteth therein his earnestness. For it was not so easy a matter for them by and by 132 to take their leave of those errors wherewith they were of late infected, and to shake off the government of the priests whereunto they were accustomed. Therefore it stood him upon to pull them violently out of this mire. The sum was this, that they should beware of that froward generation. For they could not be Christ’s unless they would depart from his professed enemies. The priests and scribes were then in great authority, and forasmuch as they did cover themselves under the visor [mask] of the Church, they did deceive the simple, this did hinder and keep back a great many from coming to Christ. Also some might waver, and other some might fall away from the right faith. Therefore Peter plainly declareth that they are a froward generation, howsoever they may boast of the title of the Church. For which cause he commandeth his hearers to separate themselves from them, lest they entangle themselves in their wicked and pestiferous fellowship. Whereas he saith, Be ye saved, he signifieth unto them that they shall surely perish if they couple themselves with such a plague. And surely experience doth teach us, how miserably those men are tossed to and fro who cannot discern the voice of their pastor from the voice of other men; 133 and again, what an hindrance softness and sluggishness is to a great many, whilst they desire to stand in a doubt. 134 Therefore he commandeth them to depart from the wicked if they will be saved. And this point of doctrine is not to be neglected. For it were not sufficient to have Christ set before us, unless we were also taught to flee those things which do lead us away from him. And it is the duty of a good shepherd to defend his sheep from the wolves. So at this day, to the end we may keep the people in the sincere doctrine of the gospel, we are ever now and then enforced to show and testify how much Papistry differeth from Christianity, and what a hurtful plague it is to be yoked with the unfaithful enemies of Christ. Neither ought Peter to be accused of railing, because he calleth the reverend 6tthers, who had the government of the Church 135 in their hands at that day, a froward generation For those dangers which may draw the soul unto destruction are to be showed by their names. For men will not beware of poison, unless they know that it is poison.
41. They, therefore, which willingly. Luke showeth more plainly how fruitful this one sermon which Peter made was: to wit, that it gained unto Christ about three thousand men. And therewithal he declareth the nature and force of faith when he saith, that with a prompt and ready 136 mind they embraced his word. Therefore, faith must begin with this readiness and willing desire to obey. And because many do show themselves at the first very willing, who afterward have in themselves no constancy or continuance, lest we should think that it was some sudden pang 137 which by and by fell away, Luke doth also afterward commend their constancy, who (as he said) did willingly embrace this word of the apostles, showing that they were joined unto the disciples, or that they were engrafted into the same body, and that they continued in their doctrine. Therefore we must neither be slow to obey, nor yet swift to leap back; but we must stick fast, and stand stoutly to that doctrine which we did forthwith (without any tarriance [delay]) embrace. Furthermore, this example ought to make us not a little ashamed. For whereas there was a great multitude converted unto Christ with one sermon, an hundred sermons can scarce move a few of us; and whereas Luke saith that they continued, there is scarce one amongst ten that doth show even a mean desire to profit and go forward, yea, rather, the more part doth soon loathe our doctrine. Woe be, therefore, to the sluggishness and lightness of the world!
42. In their doctrine Luke doth not only commend in them the constancy of faith or of godliness, but he saith, also, that they did constantly give themselves to those exercises which serve to the confirmation of faith; to wit, that they studied continually to profit by hearing the apostles; that they gave themselves much to prayer; that they did use fellowship and breaking of bread very much.
As touching prayer and doctrine the sense is plain. Communication or fellowship, and breaking of bread, may be taken diversely. Some think that breaking of bread doth signify the Lord’s Supper; other some do think that it signifieth alms; other some that the faithful did banquet together 138 among themselves. Some do think that κοινωνια, doth signify the celebrating of the Holy Supper; but I do rather agree to those others who think that the same is meant by the breaking of bread. For κοινωνια, unless it have somewhat added unto it, is never found in this sense; therefore, I do rather refer it unto mutual society and fellowship, unto alms, and unto other duties of brotherly fellowship. And my reason why I would rather have breaking of bread to be understood of the Lord’s Supper in this place is this, because Luke doth reckon up those things wherein the public estate of the Church is contained. Yea, he expresseth in this place four marks whereby the true and natural face of the Church may be judged. Do we then seek the true Church of Christ? The image thereof is lively depainted and set forth 139 unto us in this place. And he beginneth with doctrine which is, as it were, the soul of the Church. Neither doth he name all manner of doctrine, but the doctrine of the apostles, that is, that which the Son of God had delivered by their hands. Therefore, wheresoever the pure voice of the gospel doth sound, where men continue in the profession thereof, where they exercise themselves in hearing the same ordinarily that they may profit, without all doubt there is the Church.
Hereby we may easily gather how frivolous the boasting of the Papists is, whilst that they carelessly 140 thunder out with fall mouth the name of the Church; whereas, notwithstanding, they have most filthily corrupted the doctrine of the apostles. For if it be duly examined, we shall find no sound part at all; and in most points they do as much dissent from the same, and have as little agreement therewith as light with darkness. The rule of worshipping God, which ought to be fetched out of the pure Word of God alone, is only made and patched together 141 amongst the Papists, of the superstitious inventions of men. They have translated unto the merits of works the hope of salvation, which ought to have rested in Christ alone. The invocation of God is altogether polluted with innumerable profane dotings of men. Finally, whatsoever is heard amongst them, it is either a deforming of the apostles’ doctrine, or else a clear overthrowing (and destroying) of the same. Therefore, we may as easily refute the foolish arrogancy of the Papists, as they can cloak their dealings with the title of the Church. For this shall be the state, 142 whether they have retained the purity of doctrine, from which they are as far as hell is from heaven. But they are wise enough in that point, because they will have no controversy moved about doctrine. But we, as I have said, may freely contemn that vain visor, [mask,] forasmuch as the Spirit of God doth pronounce that the Church is principally to be (esteemed and) discerned by this mark, if the simplicity or purity of the doctrine delivered by the apostles do flourish (and be of force) in the same.
In fellowship. This member and the last do flow from the first, as fruits or effects. For doctrine is the bond of brotherly fellowship amongst us, and doth also set open unto us the gate unto God, that we may call upon him. And the Supper is added unto doctrine instead of a confirmation. Wherefore, Luke doth not in vain reckon up these four things, when as he will describe unto us the well-ordered state of the Church. And we must endeavor to keep and observe this order, if we will be truly judged to be the Church before God and the angels, and not only to make boast of the name 143 thereof amongst men. It is certain that he speaketh of public prayer. And for this cause it is not sufficient for men to make their prayers at home by themselves, unless they meet altogether to pray; wherein consisteth also the profession of faith.
“Multum institisse.” insisted much.
“Alienorum,” of strangers or aliens.
“Medii stare,” to hold a middle course, remain undecided.
“Ordinarium Ecclesiae regimen,” the ordinary government of the Church.
“Communiter,” in common.
“Ad vivum depicta,” painted to the life.
“Conflata est,” compounded.
“Hic enim erit status,” for the state (of the question) shall be.
“Inane...nomen,” the empty name.