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

Acts 9:13-16

13. And Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard of many of this man, what hurt he hath done to thy servants at Jerusalem: 14. And here he hath power from the priests to bind all which call upon thy name. 15. And the Lord said unto him, Go; because he is a chosen instrument to me to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. 16. For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name.


13. Lord, I have heard. In that Ananias objecteth the danger to the Lord, he betrayeth his weakness of faith therein. Therefore we see that the saints and servants of God are afraid of death, which thing keepeth them back from doing their duty; yea, it causeth them sometimes to stagger. Ananias would gladly go to some other place; but this is a point of a good man, that he yieldeth not so much to fear that he withdraweth himself from Christ’s obedience. And, therefore, this is a sign of rare obedience,  588 that although through fear of death he were somewhat slack at the first, yet having forgotten himself by and by, he maketh great haste to go whither Christ called him. And yet, notwithstanding, he refuseth not flatly in these words to do that which he is commanded to do, but useth an excuse  589 very modestly, Lord, what meaneth this, that thou sendest me to the hangman? Therefore we may see a desire to obey mixed with fear.

14. He hath power to bind. We gather by these words, that the fame of the persecution which Saul went about  590 was spread far and wide; for which cause his conversion was  591 more famous. Nevertheless, the Lord suffered the faithful to be evil entreated,  592 that the benefit of such sudden deliverance might afterwards be the more excellent. We must mark that speech, when he saith that the godly call upon the name of Christ. For whether you understand it, that inasmuch as they professed that they were Christ’s, they rejoiced therefore in him, or that they used to fly to him for succor, invocation cannot be without sure confidence. By both which the divinity of Christ is not only proved, but also if the second be received, which seemeth to be more natural,  593 we are taught by the example of the faithful, to call upon the name of Christ when he is preached to us.

15. Go; because he is an elect instrument. The commandment repeated the second time, and also the promise of success added, taketh away all doubtfulness. Therefore sloth shall want an excuse, if it be never redressed after that many pricks be used; like as we see that very many, who howsoever the Lord cry unto them continually, do not only loiter during their whole life, but do also cherish their slothfulness by all means possible.  594 If any man object that the Lord speaketh not at this day in a vision, I answer, that forasmuch as the Scripture is abundantly confirmed to us, we must hear God thence.  595

A vessel of election, or, as Erasmus translateth it, an elect instrument, is taken for an excellent minister. The word instrument doth show that men can do nothing, save inasmuch as God useth their industry at his pleasure. For if we be instruments, he alone is the author; the force and power to do is in his power alone. And that which Christ speaketh in this place of Paul appertaineth to all men, both one and other. Therefore how stoutly soever every man labor, and how carefully soever he behave himself in his duty, yet there is no cause why he should challenge to himself any part of praise. Those which dispute subtilely about the word vessel, dote through ignorance of the Hebrew tongue. Luke putteth the genitive ease for the dative and that according to the common custom of the Hebrew tongue. And he meant to express a certain excellency, as if he should have said, that this man shall be no common minister of Christ, but shall be indued with singular excellency above others. Nevertheless, we must note that if any thing be excellent, it dependeth upon the favor of God, as Paul himself teacheth elsewhere. Who is he that separateth thee? to wit, that thou shouldst excel others, (1Co 4:7.) To conclude, Christ pronounceth that Paul was chosen unto great and excellent things.

To bear my name amongst the Gentiles. To him who went about before to suppress the name of Christ is the same now committed to be borne. If we please to take שנם (schenos) for a vessel, this should be a continual metaphor, because a minister of the gospel serveth instead of a vessel to publish the name of Christ; but because it signifieth rather amongst the Hebrews any instrument generally, I take these words to carry my name, for to extol the same unto due honor. For Christ is placed after a sort in his princely throne when as the world is brought under his power by the preaching of the gospel.

16. And because. Paul could not do this, and have Satan quiet, and the world to yield to him willingly; therefore Luke addeth, that he shall be also taught to bear the cross. For the meaning of the words is, I will accustom him to suffer troubles: to endure reproaches, and to abide all manner [of] conflicts, that nothing may terrify him, and keep him back from doing his duty. And when Christ maketh himself Paul’s teacher in this matter, he teacheth that the more every man hath profited in his school, the more able is he to bear the cross. For we strive against it, and refuse it as a thing most contrary, until he make our minds more gentle. Also this place teacheth, that no man is fit to preach the gospel, seeing the world is set against it, save only he which is armed to suffer. Therefore if we will show ourselves faithful ministers of Christ, we must not only crave at his hands the spirit of knowledge and wisdom, but also of constancy and strength, that we may never be discouraged by laboring and toiling; which is the estate of the godly.



Pietatis,” piety.


Obliqua excusatione,” indirect excuse.


Parabat,” was preparing.


Debuit,” must have been.


Misere cruciari,” miserably tortured.


Genuinum,” genuine.


Quibus possunt blanditiis,” by all sorts of blandishment.


Quo magis notandum est Anniae exemplum, qui ad secundum mandatum moras omnes abrumpit.” Wherefore it is the more necessary to give heed to the example of Ananias, who, on the second command, breaks off all delay, omitted.

Next: Acts 9:17-19