Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
43. And there came fear upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were wrought by the apostles. 44. And all those which believed were joined together, and had all things common. 45. And they sold their possessions and substance, and did part them to all men, as every man had need.
43. And there came. He signifieth unto us that the show and sight of the Church was such, that it made others afraid which did not consent unto [its] doctrine; and that was done for the preserving and furthering of the Church. When there ariseth any seen all men set themselves stoutly against the same; and as novelty is odious, the Jews would never have suffered the Church of Christ to stand one minute of an hour, 144 unless the Lord had restrained them with fear as with a bridle. Furthermore, Luke noteth the manner of fear, that it was no such fear as bringeth men unto the obedience of Christ, but such as causeth men to stand in a doubt, and so, consequently, doth, as it were, so bind them hand and foot, 145 that they dare not hinder the Lord’s work. Like as there be some at this day who will willingly be ignorant of the gospel; or, at least, are so holden 146 with the cares of this world, that they cannot thoroughly join themselves unto Christ; and yet they are not so hard-hearted but that they confess that the truth is on our side; and, therefore, they rest, as it were, in the middle way, neither do they favor the cruelty of the wicked, because they are afraid to strive against God. And whereas he saith, Every soul, he speaketh thus by synecdoche. For it is certain that many did contemn the hand of God, and that other some were stricken with no great fear, but that they did furiously rage together against the Church. 147 But Luke’s meaning was this, that there appeared such power of God in the Church, that the people for the most part had not one word to say. 148
And many wonders. This member serveth also to the showing of the cause. For the miracles served to make them afraid, together with other works of God, although this was not the only reason, but one of many, why they were afraid to set themselves against God, who was on that side, as they did gather by the miracles; whence we gather that they are not only profitable for this to bring men to God, 149 but also to make the wicked somewhat more gentle, and that they may tame their furiousness. Pharaoh was a man of desperate stubbornness, (Ex 8:8, etc. 19,) and yet we see how miracles do sometimes pierce his obstinate heart. He forgetteth them by and by; but when the hand of God is heavy upon him, he is compelled through fear to yield. To be brief, Luke teacheth that the Jews were by this means kept back, that the Church, which might easily have been destroyed, might have got up her head. 150 Which thing we have oftentimes tried 151 even in our time. And he doth not only declare that they were bridled with fear, lest they should be so bold as to attempt so much as they lusted to do hurt to the Church, but that they were also humbled with reverence to the glory of the gospel.
44. And all Whereas I have translated it joined together, it is word for word in St Luke, Into the same, or into one, which may be expounded of the place; as if he should have said that they were wont to dwell together in one place. Notwithstanding, I had rather understand it of their consent (and agreement;) as he will say in the fourth chapter, “That they had one heart,” (Ac 4:32.) And so he goeth forward orderly, when, as he beginneth with their mind, he addeth afterward their bountifulness, as a fruit proceeding thence. Therefore, he giveth us to understand that they were rightly joined together with brotherly love amongst themselves, and that they did indeed declare the same, because the rich men did sell their goods that they might help the poor. And this is a singular example of love, and therefore doth Luke record the same, to the end we may know that we must relieve the poverty of our brethren with our plenty.
But this place hath need of a sound exposition, because of fantastical [fanatical] spirits, which do feign a commonalty or participation together of goods, whereby all policy or civil government is taken away; as in this age the Anabaptists have raged, because they thought there was no Church unless all men’s goods were put and gathered together, as it were, in one heap, that they might all one with another take thereof. Wherefore, we must in this point beware of two extremes. For many, under color of policy, do keep close and conceal whatsoever they have; they defraud the poor, and they think that they are twice righteous, so they take away no other men’s goods. Other some are carried into the contrary error, because they would have all things confused. But what doth Luke? Surely he noteth another order, when he saith that there was choice made in the distribution. If any man object that no man had any thing which was his own, seeing all things were common, we may easily answer. For this community or participation together must be restrained unto the circumstance which ensueth immediately; to wit, that the poor might be relieved as every man had need. We know the old proverb, “All things are common amongst friends.” When as the scholars of Pythagoras said thus, they did not deny but that every man might govern his own house privately, neither did they intend to make their own wives common; so this having of things common, whereof Luke speaketh, and which he commendeth, doth not take away household government; which thing shall better appear by the fourth chapter, whereas he nameth two alone which sold their possessions of so many thousands. Whence we gather that which I said even now, that they brought forth and made common their goods in no other respect, save only that they might relieve the present necessity. And the impudency of the monks was ridiculous, who did profess that they did observe the apostles’ rule, because they call nothing their own; and yet, nevertheless, they neither sell any thing, neither yet do they pass for any man’s poverty; 152 but they stuff their idle bellies with the blood of the poor, neither do they regard any other thing in their having of things common, save only that they may be well filled and daintily, although all the whole world be hungry. Wherein, then, are they like to the first disciples, with whom they will be thought to be able to compare? 153
“Sed qui suspensos tenet adeoque constrictos,” but which keeps them in suspense and restrained.
“Alios nullo metu fuisse deterritos quin furiose adversus Ecclesiam saevirent,” that others were not deterred by any fear from raging against the Church.
“Obmuteceret,” stood dumb.
“In obsequium Dei,” into obedience to God.
“Emergeret,” might emerge, or raise her head.
“Subinde sumus experti,” have ever and anon experienced.
“Nec solliciti sunt si quisquam egeat,” nor are solicitous if any man want.
“Quorum aemuli haberi volunt,” whose rivals they would be thought.