Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
25. You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shalt all families of the earth be blessed. 26. God raised up unto you first his Son Jesus, and he sent him, blessing you, whilst that he doth turn away every one from his sins.
25. You are the children. He signifieth that the grace of the covenant was appointed principally for them, which covenant God made with their fathers. And so as he pricked them forward to obey the gospel, by terrifying them with the terror of punishment, so he allureth them now again to receive the grace which is offered them in Christ; so that we see how that God omitteth nothing whereby he may bring us unto himself. And it is the duty of a wise minister so to prick forward the sluggish and slow bellies, that he do lead those gently which are apt to be taught; we must also note diligently this course of teaching, where Peter showeth that the gospel is assigned and appointed unto the Jews. For it is not sufficient to have the mercy of God preached unto us generally, unless we also know that the same is offered unto us by the certain ordinance of God. For this cause is it that Paul standeth so much upon the avouching of the calling of the Gentiles, (Ro 15:18; Eph. 3:3, 4;) because, if any man should think that the gospel came unto him by chance, when as it was scattered here and there, faith should quail; 197 yea, there should be a doubtful opinion instead of faith. Therefore, to the end we may steadfastly believe the promise of salvation, this application (that I may so term it) is necessary, that God doth not cast forth uncertain voices, that they may hang in the air, but that he doth direct the same unto us by his certain and determinate counsel. Peter telleth the Jews, that Christ is promised unto them after this sort, to the end they may more willingly embrace him. And how proveth he this? because they are the children of the prophets and of the covenant. He calleth them the children of the prophets, which were of the same nation, and therefore were heirs of the covenant, which did belong unto the whole body of the people. For he argueth thus: God made his covenant with our fathers; therefore we, which are their posterity, are comprehended in the covenant.
Whereby the doubting [doting] subtlety of the Anabaptists is refuted, who do expound the children of Abraham only allegorically; as if God had had no respect to his stock, when he said, “I will be the God of thy seed,” (Ge 17:7.) Certainly Peter doth not speak in this place of the shadows of the law; but he affirmeth that this is of force under the kingdom of Christ, that God doth adopt the children together with the fathers; and so, consequently, the grace of salvation may be extended unto those which are as yet unborn, (Ro 9:7.) I grant, indeed, that many which are the children of the faithful, according to the flesh, are counted bastards, and not legitimate, because they thrust themselves out of the holy progeny through their unbelief. But this doth no whit hinder the Lord from calling and admitting the seed of the godly into fellowship of grace. And so, although the common election be not effectual in all, yet may it set open a gate for the special elect. As Paul intreateth in the 11th to the Romans, (Ro 11:23,) whence we must set [seek] an answer for this question.
And in thy seed He proveth that the covenant was made with the fathers, because God said unto Abraham,
“In thy seed shall all nations be blessed,” (Ge 22:18.)
But if we admit Paul’s interpretation, this testimony shall make nothing for the present cause. Paul teacheth that Christ is this seed, (Ga 3:16.) If the blessing be promised to all mankind by Christ, what is this to the especial or particular privilege of one nation? Secondly, Peter himself seemeth shortly after to subscribe to this exposition of Paul, when as he saith that Christ was sent, that in him the Jews may be blessed. For this could not be, unless Christ were that blessed seed. I answer, When Paul referreth it unto Christ, he standeth not upon the word seed, but he hath respect to an higher tiling; to wit, that it cannot be one seed, unless it be united and knit together in Christ, as in the Head. For Ismael and Isaac, although both of them be the sons of Abraham, yet do they not make one seed, because they be divided into two people. Therefore, though many be estranged from the family of Abraham, which came of hint according to the flesh, yet Moses noteth one certain body, when he promiseth the blessing unto the seed of Abraham. And whence cometh the unity, save only from the Head, which is Christ? In this sense doth Paul understand this word seed of Christ, although it be a noun collective; because, if you depart from hint, the posterity of Abraham shall be as torn members, neither shall there be any thing else in them, save only mere wasteless and scattering abroad. Peter agreeth with that doctrine, because he doth so extend the blessing unto all the people, that he doth, nevertheless, seek the fountain in Christ.
Secondly, forasmuch as the Jews do what they can to wring [wrest] from us this testimony, the godly readers must arm themselves against their cavils; and so much the rather, because Christian writers have been too slack in this point, as I have said in the Epistle to the Galatians. First, as touching the word seed, there is no cause wily they should prattle that Paul doth not rightly restrain it unto Christ; for he doth not this simply, but in that respect whereof I have spoken. In which point, I confess, both our Latin and Greek interpreters have erred. Now, we must see what this manner of speech doth import. The Gentiles shall be blessed in the seed of Abraham. Our men think that there is some cause noted; to wit, that through that seed the Gentiles shall be blessed. The Jews toss this to and fro, because this phrase signifieth every where in the Scriptures, an example or similitude; as, on the other side, 198 to be cursed in Sodom, in Israel, or in another people, is to take them for a notable example of a curse. I answer, that it is a doubtful speech, and taken diversely, according to the circumstance of the places, which the Jews do craftily dissemble. For they gather many places, out of which they prove that there is a comparison made; as if it should be said, The Gentiles shall desire to be blessed, like to the seed of Abraham. But when as the Scripture saith elsewhere, “They shall bless themselves in the living God,” as Jer 4:2; Isa 65:16; and again, “Do bless in the name of the Lord,” (De 10:8,) and in other such like places; who doth not see that there is a cause expressed? Therefore, I say that this form of speech ought to be understood according to the circumstances of the places.
And now, forasmuch as I have declared that the seed of Abraham can be found nowhere else save only in Christ, it remaineth that we consider of what sort the office of Christ is. So shall it appear, undoubtedly, that he is not made a bare example or pattern, but that the blessing is truly promised to him; because without him we be all accursed. Yet there remaineth one doubt; for certain both these are spoken in one sense, They shall be blessed in thee, and in thy seed; but Abraham was nothing else but a type or mirror of the blessing. I answer, that in the person of Abraham, that body is also noted out, which dependeth upon one head, and is knit together in the same.
All the families The Jews do grossly expound this, That all nations shall desire to be blessed, as the seed of Abraham. But we say otherwise, That they shall be engrafted into the society. For the name of Abraham tendeth to this end, because it should come to pass that God should gather all people 199 unto him. Also, when the prophets will declare the force hereof, they foretell everywhere that the inheritance of salvation shall be common to the Gentiles. And hereby it appeareth that the covenant of God, which was then proper to the Jews alone, is not only common to all men, but is made with us expressly; otherwise, we could not conceive that hope of salvation which is firm enough out of the gospel. Therefore, let us not suffer this promise to be wrung from us, which is, as it were, a solemn declaration, whereby the Lord maketh us his heirs together with the fathers. Whereunto Peter also had respect, when as he saith shortly after, that Christ was first sent unto the Jews; for he doth signify that the Gentiles also have their order, though it be secondary.
26. He hath raised up his Son. He gathereth out of the words of Moses that Christ is now revealed. But the words do seem to import no such thing; yet doth he reason fitly thus, because the blessing could no otherwise be, unless the beginning thereof did flow from the Messias. For we must always remember this, that all mankind is accursed, and, therefore, there is a singular remedy promised us, which is performed by Christ alone. Wherefore, he is the only fountain and beginning of the blessing. And if so be that Christ came to this end, that he may bless the Jews first, and, secondly, us, he hath undoubtedly done that which was his duty to do; and we shall feel the force and effect of this duty in ourselves, unless our unbelief do hinder us.
This was a part of the priest’s office under the law, to bless the people; and, lest this should be only a vain ceremony, there was a promise added; as it is, (Nu 6:27.) And that which was shadowed in the old priesthood was truly performed in Christ, (Heb. 7:1, 6.) Concerning which matter we have spoken more at large in the seventh chapter to the Hebrews. I like not Erasmus’s translation; for he saith, when he had raised him up, as if he spoke of a thing which was done long ago. But Peter meaneth rather, that Christ was raised up, when he was declared to be the author of the blessing; which thing, since it was done of late and suddenly, it ought to move their minds the more. For the Scripture useth to speak thus, as in the last place, of Moses, whereunto Peter alludeth. To raise up a prophet, is to furnish him with necessary gifts to fulfill his function, and, as it were, to prefer him to the degree of prophetical honor. And Christ was raised up then, when he fulfilled the function enjoined him by his Father, but the same thing is done daily when he is offered by the gospel, that he may excel amongst us. We have said that in the adverb of order, first, is noted the right of the first-be-gotten, because it was expedient that Christ should begin with the Jews, that he might afterward pass over unto the Gentiles.
Whilst that he turneth. He doth again commend the doctrine of repentance, to the end we may learn to conclude under the blessing of Christ newness of life, as when Esaias promiseth that a “Redeemer should come to Zion,” he addeth a restraint; 200 “Those which in Jacob shall be turned from their iniquities.” For Christ doth not do away the sins of the faithful, to the end they may grant liberty to themselves to sin under this color; but he maketh them therewith all new men. Although we must diligently distinguish these two benefits which are linked together, that this ground-work may continue, that we are reconciled to God by free pardon, I know that other men turn it otherwise; but this is the true meaning of Luke; for he speaketh thus word for word, “In turning every one from his wickedness.”
“Vacillaret,” vacillate or waver.
“Restrictionem,” a reservation.