Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. Now, [or almost at that time,] Peter and John went up together into the temple, about the ninth hour of prayer. 2. Furthermore, a certain man, which was lame from his mother’s womb, was carried; whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, that he might ask alms of those which entered into the temple. 3. When he saw Peter and John draw near to the temple, he asked an alms. 4. And Peter, beholding him earnestly with John, said, Look on us. 5. And he gave heed unto them, thinking that he should receive somewhat of them. 6. And Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have, give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk. 7. And when he had taken him by the right hand, he lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle-bones received strength. 8. And leaping up he stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. 9. And all the people saw him walking, and praising God. 10. And they knew him, that it was he which was wont to sit for the alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple. And they were filled with wondering, and were astonied at that thing which was come unto him. 11. Moreover, when the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran amazed unto them, into the Porch which is called Solomon’s.
1. We saw before that many signs were showed by the hands of the apostles; now Luke reciteth one of many for example’s sake, after his common custom; namely, that a lame man, which was lame of his feet from his mother’s womb, was perfectly restored to his limbs. And he doth diligently gather all the circumstances which serve to set forth the miracle. If it had been that his legs had been out of joint, or if it had been some disease coming by some casualty, it might have been the more easily cured. But the default of nature 164 could not have been so easily redressed. When as he saith that he was carried, we gather thereby that it was no light halting, but that this man did lie as if his legs had been dead. Forasmuch as he was wont daily to ask alms, hereby all the people might the better know him. In that being healed, he walked in the temple at the time of prayer, this served to spread abroad the fame of the miracle. Furthermore, this doth not a little set forth the same, that being lifted up and set upon his feet, he leapeth up therewithal, and walketh joyfully.
Went up together Because these words, επι το αυτο, doth no more signify place than time, this latter sense seemeth better to agree with the text of Peter, yet, because it is of no great importance, I leave it indifferent. That it is called the ninth hour of prayer, when as the day began to draw towards night. 165 For seeing the day from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof had twelve hours, as I have said elsewhere, all that time was divided into four parts. So that by the ninth is meant the last portion of the day; as the first hour did continue unto the third, the third unto the sixth, the sixth unto the ninth. Hence may we gather, by a probable conjecture, that that hour was appointed for the evening sacrifice. Furthermore, if any man ask, whether the apostles went up into the temple that they might pray according to the rite of the law, I do not think that that is a thing so likely to be true, as that they might have better opportunity to spread abroad the gospel. And if any man will abuse this place, as if it were lawful for us to use and take up superstitious worshippings, whilst that we are conversant amongst the ignorant and weak, his reason shall be frivolous. The Lord appointed that the Jews should offer sacrifice morning and evening, (Ex 29:41.) By this exercise were they taught to begin and end the day with calling upon the name of God, and with worshipping him, 166 (Nu 28:2.) Therefore Peter and John might freely come into the temple, which was consecrated to God; neither did they pollute themselves, seeing they called upon the God of Israel, that they might thereby declare their godliness. First, in that the Lord would have the older people to observe the appointed hours, 167 we gather thereby that the Church cannot be without certain discipline. And even at this day, were it profitable for us to have such meetings daily, unless our too [too] much sluggishness did let us. And whereas the apostles go up at that hour, hereby we gather that we must foreslow [neglect] no opportunity that is offered us for the furtherance of the gospel.
3. He asketh an alms. We see how God restored this lame man to his limbs contrary to his expectation. Because he thought that his disease was incurable, he was only careful for maintenance. That is given him which he durst never have asked. In like sort God doth oftentimes prevent us, neither doth he stay until he be provoked. 168 And hence can we not gather any occasion of slothfulness, as if the Lord did therefore meet us of his own accord, that being idle and slothful we may suffer the Lord to do good unto us. For we are commanded to pray, and therefore let us not foreslow [neglect] our duty. 169 But, first of all, under the person of the lame man, we have set before us an example of a man that is not yet illuminated by faith, that he may know how to pray aright. Such doth God prevent, as it is needful, even of his own accord. Therefore, when as he restoreth our souls not only to health, but also to life, he himself is to himself the cause hereof. For this is the beginning of our calling, that he may make those things to be which are not; that he may show himself unto those who seek not after him, (Ro 4:17.) Furthermore, howsoever we be already taught by faith to pray unto God, yet, because we do not always feel our miseries, it cometh not into our mind to seek for remedy; therefore the Lord bringeth the same freely and unlooked for. Finally, howsoever we be bent to pray, yet doth he exceed our hope and petitions with his goodness.
4. Look upon us. Peter doth not thus speak before he be certain of the purpose and intent of God. And surely in these words he commandeth him to hope for some singular and unwonted benefit; yet here may a question be moved, whether they had power to work miracles so often as they would? I answer, that they were ministers of God’s power in such sort, that they did attempt nothing of their own will or proper motion, but the Lord wrought by them, when he knew that it was expedient it should be so. Hereby it came to pass that they healed one and not all. Therefore, as in other things, they had the Spirit of God to be their guide and director, so also in this point. Therefore, before such time as Peter commandeth the lame man to arise, he did east and fasten his eyes upon him; this steadfast looking upon him was not without some peculiar motion of the Spirit. Hereby it cometh to pass that he speaketh so surely (and safely, without all fear) of the miracle. Furthermore, he meant by this word to provoke the lame man to receive the grace of God; yet doth he look for nothing but for an alms.
6. Silver and gold. Peter doth truly excuse himself, that he doth want that help which the lame man did require. And therefore doth he declare, that if he were able to relieve his poverty he would willingly do it; like as every man ought to consider with himself what the Lord hath given him, that he may therewith help his neighbors. For what store soever God giveth to every man, he will have the same to be an instrument and help to exercise love. Therefore he saith, that he giveth that which he hath. This was at the first a trick of mockage, 170 in that Peter beginneth to speak of his poverty, after that he had brought the lame man into a rare hope, as if he meant to mock a gaping crow; but he comforteth him immediately, to the end the miracle might be had in greater estimation by the comparison. That is horrible wickedness, in that the Pope, when as he is created, doth most unshamefastly [shamelessly] abuse this place, making thereof a comical, or rather a scoffing play. There be two cells, or places made of stone, in the one whereof when he sitteth, and the people ask an alms, using these words of Peter, he casteth abroad crosses in the air with his fingers. When he is brought into the next tell, or place, he hath bags full of money. Then his angels cry unto him,
“He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor,”
I have made mention hereof, to the end all men may see that Satan doth questionless reign there, where they do so manifestly mock the sacred Word of God. And to the end I may return unto the former sentence, it is evident enough that Peter was instructed by a certain and sure revelation, when as he saith that he hath the gift of healing.
In the name of Jesus. He saith that this is the work and benefit of Christ, that he restoreth to the cripple the use of his feet, for name is taken for power and empire, or government. Neither must we dream that there is any magical force in the sounding or pronouncing of the word, as the Jews do dote about the word Jehovah. To be short, Peter meant to declare that he was nothing but a minister, and that Christ was the author of the miracle. For this ought to have been, and was his care, that Christ might be made known unto the world, and that his name might be sanctified. But why doth he give Christ this epithet, or title, of Nazareth? I leave to other men their own judgment; but I think thus: Forasmuch as Christ was thus called in contempt, Peter meant of set purpose to express that that Jesus of Nazareth whom they had crucified, and whose name was despised and without glory amongst the Jews, and was to the most of them detestable, was nevertheless the Messias promised of God, and that all power was given unto him of the rather; as Paul saith, that he preacheth Christ and him crucified, (1Co 2:2.)
Arise and walk. This might seem to be a very ridiculous thing. For the cripple might have readily objected, Why hast thou not first given me legs and feet? For this is a plain mock, when as thou biddest a man without feet to go. But he believed Peter’s words; and he, which was at the first so slow, doth now with a ready and joyful mind embrace God’s benefit. Whereby appeareth both the force of the word, and also the fruit of faith. The force of the word is double, both in that the cripple is so touched that he doth forthwith obey without delay; and in that it giveth strength to his dead members, and doth, after a sort, renew the man. And faith also hath her reward, in that the cripple obeyeth him which commandeth him to rise not in vain. Therefore we see how God worketh by his Word, to wit, when he giveth success to the preaching thereof, that it may pierce into the minds of men; secondly, when he giveth those things with his hand which are promised there. Moreover, he suffereth not faith to be void, but she doth indeed truly enjoy all those good things which she looketh for, and which are offered unto her in the same Word. And we must remember that which I have already said, that we have in this history a type 171 or figure of our spiritual restoring; namely, that as the Word, laid hold on by faith, did restore the cripple to his limbs, so the Lord pierceth into our souls by the Word, that he may restore the same. And, first of all, he speaketh by man’s mouth, and pricketh us forward by the obedience of faith; that done, he moveth our hearts inwardly by his Spirit, that the Word may take lively root in us; finally, he reacheth out his hand, and by all means he finisheth his work in us. We gather out of Matthew that miracles must be thus handled.
9. And all the people saw. He beginneth now to declare the fruit of the miracle, to wit, that the cripple began to show his thankfulness by praising God, and that all the people were brought into great wondering. And here is a double fruit. For he which was healed doth acknowledge and set forth the benefit of God; on the other side, the people is moved, and the fame is spread abroad, many come to see it. And whereas Luke saith that they were filled with wondering, it doth only declare a preparation, which a more full proceeding 172 (and going forward) did at length follow. For it was necessary that they should go forward, because this their wondering had served to no end of itself, but did rather make them astonied and amazed, than bring them (from their own proceedings) unto God.
Therefore it was, as it were, the foundation of the building which was to come, in that the people was touched with amazedness. For if we pass over the works of God contemptibly or carelessly, we shall never be able to profit by them. Furthermore, this place cloth teach us what miracles do work of themselves in men; to wit, that they breed a confused amazedness. For although the Lord doth call us straightway unto himself, by showing plainly his goodness and power there, yet such is the weakness of our nature, that we stumble or faint in the midway, until such time as we be holpen by doctrine.
Let us, therefore, learn reverently to consider the works of God, that the wondering at them may make an entrance for doctrine. For when doctrine is cold and unprofitable with us, God doth justly punish our unthankfulness by this means, because we have despised the glory of his works. Again, because we are not so quick of sight, that we can see so much in the works of God alone, as is sufficient, let us learn to join therewithal the help of doctrine. 173 To be brief, the one ought not to be separated from the other. Which thing experience doth sufficiently teach us. For hereby it came to pass that the world did so wickedly abuse miracles.
The Papists do object unto us miracles again and again. Let us suppose that they be true, whereof they make such boast, yet do they greatly err in this, that they wrest them to a wrong end; to wit, that they may darken the name of God, and infect the pure truth of the gospel with their inventions. For whence come so many superstitious worshippings of saints, save only from the abuse of miracles? For when any miracle is wrought, men must needs be moved. And because they are deaf when they should hear the Word, and do not mark what God cloth mean, Satan doth craftily take an occasion of superstition by our amazedness. 174 As, for example, I will acknowledge the power of God in a miracle. If it were wrought by Peter, Satan will by and by put this in my head, and will say thus: 175 Dost thou not see that this is a man of God? 176 therefore thou dost owe unto him divine honor. The same thing had befallen the Jews when they were amazed, unless Peter’s sermon had called them back into the right way. But in Popery, where none did call them back or reprove them, 177 the preposterous wondering of men did easily get the upper hand. Wherefore, we must so much the more 178 seek for medicine out of the Word, that doctrine may direct us unto the right end, being lifted up 179 with the miracles.
11. In the porch. It is like that there was a porch built in that place where Solomon’s porch was sometimes, and that it took the name therefrom. For the old temple was pulled down, but Zerubbabel and Ezra, ill the re-edifying and new building of the same temple, had imitated the same, so nigh as they could possibly devise. Afterward Herod renewed the same, and made it far more gorgeous, but that vain cost which he had bestowed had not yet blotted out the remembrance of Solomon in the hearts of the people. And Luke nameth the same as a most famous place, whereunto the people ran together (by heaps, to celebrate their feasts unto God at the times appointed.)
“Naturae autem vitium,” but a natural defect.
“Ad vesperum,” towards evening.
“Ab invocatione et cultu Dei,” with invocation and worship of God.
“Statas horas,” stated hours.
“A nobis povocetur,” until he is urged by us.
“Partes nostras non omittamus,” let us not omit our part.
“Principio quidem erat hoc clusorium,” at first, indeed, this was illusory.
“Universalem typum,” universal type.
“Profectus,” progress, or profiting.
“Si volumus ad scopum pervenire,” if we would attain to the mark, omitted.
“Ex nostro stupore,” from our stupor, or stupidity.
“Suggeret mihi,” will suggest to me.
“Divinum hominem,” a divine man.
“Ubi nullus ecarguebat superstitionem,” where none condemned the superstition.
“Magis sollicite,” the more anxiously.
“Erectos,” when we are lifted up, or aroused by.