Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
32. And we preach to you glad tidings, that the promise made to the fathers, 33. Hath God fulfilled to their children: having raised up Jesus, as it is written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34. And in that he hath raised him up from the dead, not to return hereafter to corruption, he hath said thus, I will give you the holy things of David. 35. Therefore he saith also in another place, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 36. David, indeed, when he had served his time, by the counsel of God he fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption. 37. But he whom God raised saw no corruption.
32. We preach to you glad tidings. He doth now challenge to himself the office and honor of an apostle, that he may be heard as a lawful minister of God. And he saith the sum of the embassage enjoined him is, that that is revealed and given in their time which was promised in times past. And in few words doth he comprehend many and great matters. First, he giveth them to understand that he bringeth in nothing which is new, or contrary to the law and prophets, but that he did reveal the fulfilling of that doctrine which they themselves did confess, and were persuaded to have been delivered by God. Whereupon it followeth that they cannot refuse that which he offereth them, but they shall break the covenant made with the fathers by God, so much as in them shall lie; secondly, he commandeth the faithfulness of God, because it doth now in very deed appear that there was nothing promised in times past unadvisedly or in vain; but he doth chiefly extol the greatness of the grace given at length in Christ. For we must note the comparison between them and the fathers, when he saith, that they had gotten that which was promised to the fathers. For the more liberally the grace of God is poured out upon them, the more filthy shall their unthankfulness be, if they shall despise or loathe that inestimable good thing. For what else were this, but to cast down at their feet a treasure even reached out to them, that they might take hold thereof, and so consequently laid in their lap, the hope whereof was reverently embraced by the fathers, when it was showed them afar off, and which they did foster 811 during their whole life.
But some man may ask this question concerning those who lived under the law, whether even they were not made partakers of the promises? I answer, that there is such a society of the same grace among us which doth not hinder the long distance. But this was Paul’s meaning, that their faith stood, as it were, in doubt until Christ appeared, in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen; as he teacheth, (2 Cor. 1:19, 20.) Therefore we be the heirs of the same kingdom of heaven, and partakers of the same spiritual good things, which God bestoweth upon his children; also, God gave to them some taste of his love in this life, as we taste him now. But Christ, who is the substance of all good things and of eternal life, was only promised to them, but he is given to us; and they desired him, as being far off; we enjoy him, being present.
33. To their children, namely, to us. It is certain that Paul speaketh of natural children, who had their beginning of the holy fathers, which we must therefore note, because certain brain-sick men, drawing all things unto allegories, dream that there is no respect to be had in this place of kindred, but only of faith. And with such an invention they make the holy covenant of God of none effect, where it is said,
“I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed,”
It is faith (say they) alone which maketh us the children of Abraham. But I say, on the other side, that even those who are born the children of Abraham according to the flesh, are also counted the spiritual children of God, unless they grow out of kind through unbelief 812 For the boughs be naturally holy, because they spring from a holy root, until they become profane through their own fault, (Ro 11:16.) And assuredly it is Paul’s drift to allure the Jews unto Christ; and that he may do this, they must be distinguished from the common sort by some privilege. And yet it followeth not thereupon (which these knaves do odiously object) that the grace of God is tied to the carnal seed; because, though the promise of life came by inheritance to the posterity of Abraham, yet many were deprived by their unbelief. Therefore faith is the cause, that of a great multitude only a few are counted children. And that is the double election whereof I spake before. The one common to the whole nation alike; because the first adoption of God containeth the whole family of Abraham. The other, which is restrained unto the secret counsel of God, and is at length established by faith, that it may be confirmed to men.
Therefore Paul doth well and truly affirm that that was performed to the Jews which God had promised to the fathers. For it was promised to them also, as Zacharias saith in his song, “The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would give himself for us,” etc. And yet the worthiness of that nation doth not hinder but that the grace of Christ may also spread itself throughout the whole world; because the first-begotten hath the first degree of honor, so that he doth, notwithstanding, leave the second place to his brethren. For in that after the old people were cast off, the possession of the church was left empty for strangers, it began to be a new occasion of gathering the Church of the Gentiles; but and if that people had stood in the faith, the Gentiles had been joined into the common society of honor.
After that he had raised Christ. The word raised, in my judgment reacheth farther than it doth where it is shortly after repeated. For he doth not only say that Christ rose from the dead, but that he was appointed of God, and, as it were, brought to light by the hand of God, that he might fulfill the office of the Messiah, as the Scripture teacheth everywhere that kings and prophets are raised up. 813 For the word αναστησαι is sometimes taken in this sense: And this reason moveth me thus to think, because God, by sending his Son into the world, did fulfill his promise made to his servants in times past, by the effect itself.
Likeas, in the second Psalm. Though the Greek books, 814 agree in the number, yet we must not pass over that which Erasmus saith, that many of the old writers read the first Psalm. And it may be that Luke wrote so; for that which at this day is counted the second Psalm, might have been called the first not without reason, seeing that it is likely that the first Psalm was added instead of a proem by the scribes and priests, by whose industry the Psalms were gathered into one body. For the name of the author is not set to it, and it doth only exhort to meditate upon the law of God. But there is no great weight in that matter. 815 For this is the chiefest thing, that we know how properly and how well Paul applieth the testimony taken out of the Psalm unto the matter which he hath in hand. We do not deny that David, when he saw that he was on every side assailed by his enemies, and that they were of greater power and might than that he was able to resist them, doth set against them God’s aid, who he knew was the author of his kingdom and reign. But forasmuch as he was a figure of the true Messiah, we know that those things were shadowed in his person, which do appertain, wholly and perfectly to the Messiah alone. And the text itself doth prove sufficiently that there is not only a simple and bare thanksgiving contained there, agreeable to David’s kingdom, but it is a higher prophecy. For it is well known that David did in his life scarce taste of the hundredth part of the glory which is spoken of in this place, concerning which we have spoken more at large, chapter 4.
Now let us look higher into the words: Kings are indeed called sons of God, (Ps 82:6.) But seeing that God doth intend to prefer David before all other kings, and to exempt him out of the number of them, this title of honor is given to him principally above all other; not because so great honor resteth in his person, because by this means he should pass 816 the angels, as it is in the Epistle to the Hebrews, 1st chapter. Therefore he is thus gorgeously set out in respect of Christ, whose image he was, that God doth not take him for one of the common sort, or for some one of a great multitude, but he doth, as it were, acknowledge him to be his only begotten Son. The proof followeth, because God did beget him when he established the kingdom in his hand. For that was not done by man’s industry, but God showed from heaven the invincible power of his hand, whereby it might plainly appear that he reigned according to God’s counsel. Therefore this begetting, by him mentioned, must be referred unto the understanding of knowledge of men; to wit, because it was then openly known that he was begotten of God, when as he was set upon the throne of the kingdom wonderfully, contrary to the hope of all men, and did, by the heavenly power of the Spirit, break infinite conspiracies; because he could not reign until he had brought all nations round about him in subjection, as if a certain world were subdued.
Now, let us come unto Christ. He came not into the world without testimony, whereby he did prove that he was the Son of God. For his glory did appear as became the only begotten Son of God, as it is written, Joh 1:14, and he saith everywhere that he hath God for the witness and maintainer of this honor. Therefore God begat Christ, when he gave him certain marks, whereby he might be known to be his true and lively image and Son. And yet this doth not let but that Christ is the Wisdom begotten of the Eternal Father before time. But that is the secret generation; and now David declareth that it was revealed to men; so that the relation is, as we have said, unto men and not unto God; because that which was hidden in the heart of God was make known to men. And it is a very fine figure, because Christ’s divinity was no less declared and established, than if he had been begotten of God before the eyes of men. I know that Augustine’s deep sight 817 doth please some, that by today is meant perpetuity. But when as the Spirit of God himself is his own interpreter, and whereas he doth expound that by the mouth of Paul which he had said by David, we must not invent any other sense. And forasmuch (as the same Paul doth witness) that Christ was declared to be the Son of God in power when he rose from the dead, (Ro 1:4,) we gather that this was the principal token of celestial excellency, and that the Father did then bring him truly to light, that the world might know that he was begotten of him. Therefore, though God began to raise Christ when he came into the world, yet his raising was then, as it were, perfect and full; because whereas he was humbled before, having taken, as it were, the form of a servant, (Php 2:7,) he did then appear to be the conqueror of death and the Lord of life; so that he wanted nothing of that majesty which was meet for the Son of God, and that for the only begotten Son.
34. That he should not return. He addeth now the other member, that Christ was once raised from death that he may live for ever, as Paul teacheth, Ro 6:10,
“He dieth no more, neither shall death have dominion over him any more; because he liveth to God.”
For the hope conceived of Christ’s resurrection should be slender and cold, if he were yet subject to destruction, or to any change. Therefore he is said to be entered into the kingdom of God, that he may also give to his [people] eternal felicity, living for ever. For because Christ rose rather for our sake than for himself, the perpetuity of life which the Father hath given him reacheth unto us all, and is ours. Notwithstanding the place of Isaiah which is here cited, seemeth to make but a little for proof of Christ’s immortality, I will give you the holy things of David, (Isa 55:3.) But it is not so. For seeing Isaiah speaketh of the redemption promised to David, and affirmeth that the same shall be firm and stable, we do well gather by this the immortal kingdom of Christ, wherein the eternity of salvation is grounded. And Paul followed the Greek interpreters when he put holy things for mercies. Chessed, which signifieth meek, merciful, and gentle, is wont by the Grecians to be translated holy. Therefore they translated הסדי of David, the holy things of David, whereas the prophet meaneth rather the grace promised to David. But Paul granted this to the ignorant and weak, who were better acquainted with the Greek reading, especially forasmuch as the force of the testimony consisteth in another point. For this is Paul’s meaning in sum, If the grace be eternal which God saith he will give in his Son, the life of his Son must be eternal, and not subject to corruption. 818 For we must hold this rule, that all the promises of God are in Christ yea and amen, (2Co 1:20;) and that therefore they cannot be of any force unless he do quicken them.
35. Thou shalt not suffer thy Holy One. This place was likewise cited by Peter in the first sermon, set down by Luke in the second chapter, (Ac 2:27,) where I expounded the same; therefore, let the readers repair thither. Only I will touch this briefly, that David putteth two Hebrew words for the grave, as he useth repetitions commonly; the former whereof is derived of desiring or lusting, because the grave devoureth all things as an insatiable gulf; and the other of corruption. According to this etymology David’s meaning is faithfully expressed in Greek; for the quality of the grave is noted, when as it receiveth the corpse, and doth, as it were, swallow it up, that it may rot there, and may at length perish when it is consumed. Paul affirmeth that that belongeth to Christ alone, that he was free and saved from corruption; for though his body was laid in the grave, corruption had, notwithstanding, no title to it, seeing that it lay there whole, as in a bed, until the day of the resurrection.
36. When David had served his time. Lest any man should think that that place intreateth of David, Paul showeth briefly that this agreeth not to David in all points, whose corpse was rotten in the grave. Therefore it remaineth, that because this was a privilege belonging to Christ alone, that David prophesied of him in spirit. Nevertheless, we must note the proportion between the members and the head; for as the truth of this prophecy was found whole and perfect in Christ alone, as in the head, so it taketh place in all the members according to the measure and order of every man. And forasmuch as Christ rose to this end, that he may fashion and make our base body like to his glorious body, (Php 3:21;) upon this condition do the godly go down into the pit, that rottenness may not [finally] consume their bodies. Therefore, according to the hope of the resurrection to come, David saith by good right that he shall not see corruption; for that ought not altogether to be counted corruption for which there is a better restoring prepared; for the bodies of the faithful corrupt to this end, that they may put on blessed incorruption in their time. Yet this is no let but that the estate of the head and members may be far unlike, and that we may follow the Son of God afar off and lazily. 819
Now we see that both things are true and fitly said, that David and the rest of the faithful, inasmuch as they shall be like to their head, shall not see corruption, and yet the Son of God alone shall be free from corruption wholly. We must note the phrase, when he saith, that David served his age, or the men of his time.
The old interpreter distinguisheth it otherwise, and certain Greek copies agree thereto, to wit, that David served the will of God in his time; which reading, though it is to be allowed, 820 yet it doth not cause me to mislike the other. For it is neither superfluous nor cold, that he slept by the will of God, or the counsel of God; because the meaning thereof is, that God, in the death of David, did not forget that prophecy; as if he should say that the body of David lay in the grave not without the counsel or purpose of God, until it should rise again, that the effect of the prophecy might be extended unto Christ. If no man mislike that which I say, we are taught hereby to what end men live in the world, to wit, that one man may help another. For every man doth not live, neither is born, for himself, but mankind is knit together with a holy knot. Therefore, unless we be disposed to overthrow the laws of nature, let us remember that we must not live for ourselves, but for our neighbors.
But here may a question be asked, whether we ought not also to care for our posterity? I answer, that the ministry of the godly is also profitable for the posterity, as we see that David, being dead, doth profit us more at this day than a great part of those which live with us; but Paul meaneth simply, that the faithful during their whole life employ themselves and their offices to help their neighbors, and that death is unto them as a goal, because they have made an end then, when the Lord calleth them out of the world. The sum is, that we must have respect first to our time, that we may serve our brethren, with whom and among whom we lead our life; and, secondly, we must do our endeavor that the fruit of our ministry may redound unto our posterity. Seeing that God prescribeth his servants this law, their rashness cannot be excused who feign that the dead pray for us, and that they do no less serve the Church than whilst they lived.
By the counsel of God he fell on sleep. Paul might have said simply that David died; he addeth by the counsel of God, that we may know that that was not fulfilled in the person of the prophet which is read in the Psalm. Notwithstanding, we are taught that the bond of life and death is in like sort appointed for us by God, as it is Ps 90:3,
“Thou sendest out men, and makest them to pass over; again thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men.”
Yea, Plato setteth down this very eloquently, that it is meet that men pass out of the world not without the leave and pleasure of God, by whose hand they are placed there as a standing for a time. 821 And for this cause, when he speaketh of David’s death, he maketh mention of the counsel of God, that we may know that corruption did not happen to him by chance, as if God had forgotten his promise; but that it came to pass by God’s providence, that the faithful might know that the prophecy was to be referred unto another. To sleep, and to be laid unto the fathers, are forms of speech so well known and so common, that they need no exposition.
“Patienter foverint,” patiently foster.
“Nisi sua infidelitate degenerent.” unless they degenerate through their own infidelity.
“A Domino,” by the Lord, omitted.
“Sed in ea re non est multum momenti,” but the point is not of much importance.
“Praestantior esset,” be more excellent than.
“Augustini argutiam,” the subtlety of Augustine.
“Tametsi probabilis est,” though it is probable.
“Cujus manu in ea, tanquam in statione, ad tempus locati sunt,” by whose hand they are placed in it for a time, as at a station.