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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Acts 9:6-9

6. And he trembling and fearing said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, where it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7. And the men which accompanied him in his journey stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, and seeing no man. 8. And when Saul was risen from the ground, when his eyes were opened he saw no man; but they led him by the hand, and brought him to Damascus. 9. And he was three days without sight, neither eating nor drinking.


6. The fruit of that reprehension followeth, wherewith we have said it was requisite that Paul should have been sore shaken, that his hardness might be broken. For now he offereth himself as ready to do whatsoever he should command him, whom of late he despised. For when he asketh what Christ would have him do, he granteth him authority and power. Even the very reprobate are also terrified with the threatening of God, so that they are compelled to reverence him, and to submit themselves unto his will and pleasure; yet, nevertheless, they cease not to fret and to foster stubbornness within. But as God humbled Paul, so he wrought effectually in his heart. For it came not to pass by any goodness of nature, that Paul did more willingly submit himself to God than Pharaoh, (Ex 7:13;) but because, being like to an anvil, [Pharaoh] did, with his hardness, beat back the whips of God wherewith he was to be brought under, (even as it had been the strokes of a hammer;) but the heart of Paul was suddenly made a fleshy heart of a stony heart, after that it received softness from the Spirit of God; which softness it had not naturally. The same thing do we also try [experience] daily in ourselves. He reproveth us by his word; he threateneth and terrifieth us; he addeth also light correction, and prepareth us divers ways unto subjection. But all these helps shall never cause any man to bring forth good fruit, unless the Spirit of God do mollify his heart within.

And the Lord said unto him. After that Paul had put his stiff neck under the yoke of Christ, he is now governed by his hand. For doubtless the Lord doth not so bring us into the way, that he leaveth us either before we begin our course, or in the midst thereof; but he bringeth us unto the very mark by little and little. Luke depainteth out unto us in this place this continual course of God’s governance. For He taketh him afterward unto himself to be taught whom He hath made apt to be taught. Neither doth that any whit hinder that he useth man’s ministry ill this point. Because the authority and power remaineth nevertheless in him, howsoever he accomplish his work by man; though it may seem an absurd thing that Christ, who is the Eternal Wisdom of God, doth send a scholar (who was ready to hear, and did gape after instruction) unto another  576 man, that he might learn. But I answer, that that was done not without cause. For the Lord meant by this means to prove Paul’s modesty, when he sendeth him to one of his scholars to be taught; as if he himself would not vouchsafe as yet to speak unto him familiarly, but sendeth him to his servants whom he did of late both so proudly contemn and so cruelly persecute.

And we are also taught humility under his person. For if Christ made Paul subject to the teaching of a common disciple, which of us can grudge to hear any teacher, so that he be appointed by Christ, that is, he declare himself to be his minister in deed? Therefore, whereas Paul is sent to Ananias, let us know that that is done to adorn the ministry of the Church. This is assuredly no small honor whereunto it pleaseth God to exalt mankind, when as he chooseth our brethren from amongst us to be interpreters of his will; when as he causeth his holy oracles to sound in the mouth of man, which is naturally given to lying and vanity. But the unthankfulness of the world betrayeth itself again herein, that no man can abide to hear when God speaketh by the mouth of man. All men could desire to have angels come flying unto them, or that heaven should be now and then cut asunder, and that the visible glory of God should come thence. Forasmuch as this preposterous curiosity springeth from pride and wicked contempt of the Word, it setteth open a gate to many dotings, and breaketh the bond of mutual consent among the faithful. Therefore the Lord doth testify, that it pleaseth him that we should be taught by men, and confirmeth the order set down by himself. And to this purpose serve these titles, “He which heareth you heareth me,” (Lu 10:16;) that he may cause his word to be reverenced as it ought.

It shall be told thee. Christ putteth Ananias in his place by these words, as touching the office of teaching; not because he resigneth his authority to him, but because he shall be a faithful minister, and a sincere preacher of the gospel. Therefore we must always use this moderation, that we hear God alone in Christ, and Christ himself alone, yet as he speaketh by his ministers. And these two vices must be avoided, that the ministers be not proud, under color of such a precious function, or that their base condition impair no whit of the dignity of heavenly wisdom.

7. And the men. He speaketh now briefly of the companions of Paul, that they were witnesses of the vision. Yet it seemeth that this narration doth not in all points agree with that of Paul, which we shall see in the 22nd chapter, (Ac 22:9.) For he will say there, that his companions were terrified with the light, but they heard no voice. Some there be who think that it was a fault,  577 and that through ignorance of the writer  578 the negation is placed out of its right place. I think that it is no hard matter to answer it; because it may be that they heard the sound of the voice, yet did they not discern either who it was that spake, or what was spoken. “They heard not,” saith he, “the voice of him that spake with me.” Surely this is the meaning of these words, that he alone knew the speech of Christ. It followeth not thereupon, but that the rest might have heard a dark and doubtful voice. Whereas Luke saith in this place that there was a voice heard, and no man seen, his meaning is, that the voice proceeded from no man, but that it was uttered by God. Therefore, to the end the miracle may carry the greater credit, Paul’s companions see a light like to lightning; they see Paul lie prostrate; a voice they hear (though not distinctly  579 ) sounding from heaven; and yet, nevertheless, Paul alone is taught what he must do.

8. He was raised up from the earth. Luke addeth now, that he was taken with so great fear that he could not rise of himself; and not that only, but he was also blind for a time, that he might forget his former wit and wiliness.  580 When as he saith, that after that his eyes were opened, he saw not, it seemeth that it doth not agree with the other words which shall follow by and by, that his eyes were covered, as it were, with scales; but the meaning of this place is, that he was blind indeed, and deprived of his sight for that three days; because when he opened his eyes he saw nothing.

9. Whereas he saith, that he neither ate nor drank for the space of three days, that is to be counted a part of the miracle. For although the men of the east country endure hunger better than we, yet we do not read that any did fast three days, save only those who had want of victual, or who were constrained by some greater necessity. Therefore we gather that Paul was wonderfully afraid,  581 seeing that being, as it were, dead, he tasted no meat for three days.



Suspensum allo,” in suspense, elsewhere.


Esse mendum,” that there is a mistake.


Librarii,” the copyist.


Articulate,” articulately.


Acumen,” acumen.


Expavefactum,” terrified.

Next: Acts 9:10-12