Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 37: Acts, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And it came to pass at Iconium, that they went together [or at the same time] into the synagogue of the Jews, and spake so, that a great multitude both of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2. And the Jews which believed not stirred and with envy infected the minds of the Gentiles against the brethren. 3. Therefore, they were long time conversant there, behaving themselves boldly in the Lord, who bare witness of the word of his grace, granting that signs and wonders might be done by their hands. 4. And the multitude of the city was divided: and some stood with the Jews, and some with the apostles.
1. In the chapter last going before, Luke declared how Paul and Barnabas took in hand their embassage unto the Gentiles. Furthermore, it might seem to be an unprosperous and unlucky beginning, in that they were not only expelled out of Antioch, but also enforced by the obstinate wickedness of certain to shake off the dust from their feet. But though they had but short entertainment 1 in one place, yet do they not yield; because they consider that the Lord had called them upon that condition, that they should do their duty though the whole world and Satan did say nay. Therefore, we see that they came not only ready to teach, but also armed to enter conflicts, that they might courageously proceed in publishing the gospel, even through the midst of combats.
And assuredly, that which was once spoken to Jeremiah is common to all the prophets and ministers of God,
“They shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail,”
Now, whithersoever they fly, they carry with them the same courage 2 still; whereby it appeareth that they were not only furnished for one combat, but even for continual warfare; which Luke doth now prosecute. 3 He saith first, that they came to Iconium, and therewithal he showeth that they sought not there some haven where they might rest quietly; but they entered the synagogue as if they had suffered no hurt at all.
I refer the word Κατα το αυτο, forasmuch as it signifieth among the Grecians, together, or at the same time, rather unto the Jews than unto Paul and Barnabas. Therefore, I interpret it thus, not that they went in both together, but that they followed the multitude at the solemn and appointed time of the meeting, whence we gather that they spake not secretly with a few men, but in a great assembly of people; whereby they declare their boldness and ready desire; they are so far from fearing envy, or avoiding danger. 4
That a great multitude believed. As Luke did before show the power of the Spirit in Paul and Barnabas, so now he commandeth another grace of God in that prosperous success which they had. For one only sermon which they made was not without fruit, but it brought forth many children of God, as well of the Jews as of the Gentiles. If one, or two, or a few, had believed, they might have thought that they sped well; but the Lord confirmeth them far better, when as they gather such plentiful fruit of their doctrine even in a short time. For they knew that so many hearts of men were converted to believe, not so much by their voice, as by the power of the Spirit; whereby they might also assure themselves that they themselves were defended by the outstretched hand of God, which did not a little encourage them.
2. And those Jews which believed not Lo, they are persecuted now afresh, and that by the Jews, for they were like firebrands to inflame the minds of the Gentiles; for it is to be thought that the Gentiles could abide to hear the gospel preached, unless they had been incensed to resist by these fans. 5 I interpret κακωσαι in this place for to resist 6 with a malicious affection, or to enforce to do hurt. Under the name brethren, Luke comprehendeth, in my judgment, all the godly; to wit, that they were vexed and troubled whosoever embraced the gospel, as if some pernicious sect had risen to spread discord, to trouble the peace of the city, to shake the public state; yet if any had rather restrain it unto Paul and Barnabas I am not greatly against him.
3. A long time. Luke declareth here, that Paul and Barnabas did not depart the city so soon as they saw some set against them, for when he saith that they behaved themselves boldly, he giveth us an inkling 7 that there was cause of fear offered them. Whence we gather that they stood stoutly, and that through rare constancy and courage they counted all dangers as nothing, until they were compelled by violence to depart to another place. This clause, επι κυριω, may be expounded diversely, either that they behaved themselves stoutly in the Lord’s cause, or that they trusted to his grace, and were thereby encouraged. I have followed that which was more common, that they behaved themselves freely and boldly in the Lord, that is, being holpen not by their own strength, but by his grace. He showeth immediately after, after what sort they were encouraged in the Lord; to wit, because [that] he approveth the doctrine by signs and miracles. For seeing that they knew thereby that the Lord was present with them, and that his hand was nigh to help them, they were worthily pricked forward to behave themselves stoutly. But in noting one kind, he doth not exclude other kinds, for the Lord did lift them up unto boldness, and establish them in constancy by other means. But it seemeth that Luke did speak of miracles expressly, because the Lord showed in them his power openly before all the people. Therefore, Paul and Barnabas were not a little emboldened when the Lord did so deliver their doctrine from contempt.
Furthermore, we must note this phrase, that the Lord gave witness to the gospel in miracles, for it showeth the true use of miracles. This is, indeed, the first end, that they may show to us the power and grace of God; but because we be wrong and perverse interpreters of them, lest they be drawn unto abuse and corruption, God doth never suffer them to be separated from his word. For if miracles were wrought at any time without his word; first, that was very seldom; secondly, there came but small fruit thereof; and God hath wrought miracles, for the most part, whereby the world might know him not simply, or in his bare majesty, but in his word. So Luke saith, in this place, that the gospel was established by miracles, not that some confused religion might possess the minds of men, but that Paul’s doctrine going before they might be brought unto the pure worship of God.
Whence we may easily gather how foolishly the Papists deal, when as they endeavor to lead away the world from the reverence of God and the gospel by bare miracles. For we must hold that principle, that those miracles which came from God at any time did never tend to any other end but that the gospel might have his perfect and full authority.
Now must we see whether the gospel command us to call upon the dead, to burn incense to idols, to translate unto reigned saints the grace of Christ to take in hand vowed pilgrimages, to invent profane worshippings, whereof there is no mention made in the Word of God; but there is nothing more contrary to the gospel than that these superstitions should take place. Whereupon it followeth that the Papists do wickedly make engines of the shoars 8 of the gospel to oppugn it. To the same end tendeth that which Luke saith, that the Lord granted that by the hands of his servants miracles might be done; in which words he teacheth that those were only ministers who obeyed God, and that he was the author, who used their hand and industry. Wherefore, in speaking properly, we cannot say that they were Paul and Barnabas’s miracles, but the miracles of God alone, who doth so work by men, that he will not have his glory darkened by their ministry.
Furthermore, we must note the title of the gospel, which Luke putteth in here, that it may be made to us more amiable; for in calling it the word of grace, it hath a most pleasant taste, because salvation is offered to the world in it through Christ. And we must understand the contrariety with the law, wherein only the curse is set before us. Therefore, let us remember that God speaketh to us in the gospel to this end, that he may reconcile himself to us, and may testify that he is merciful to us.: Neither doth this hinder that it is the savor of death unto death to the reprobate, (2Co 2:16) because they change not the nature thereof by their fault. Read those things which we have spoken in the second chapter touching signs and wonders.
4. The multitude was divided. The most troublesome part of the tragedy 9 followeth now, for the city is divided into two parts; and at length Paul and Barnabas (being enforced by the uproar of the people) depart unto another place. If it be demanded what was the original of the discord, assuredly it flowed from the gospel, to which, notwithstanding, there is nothing more contrary than to cause discord; but the forwardness of men causeth that the gospel, which ought to be the bond of unity, is (so soon as it cometh abroad) the occasion of tumults. Wherefore, so soon as any schism ariseth, before we condemn those who seem to be the authors, it behoveth us wisely to consider who ought to bear the blame. We hear here that one city was divided, 10 whereby some were brought unto Christ. The Spirit of God pronounceth this to the praise, and not the shame, of Paul and Barnabas. The same rule must we observe at this day, lest the gospel be burdened with false envy, if it bring not men together 11 unto God, but the wicked rage against it. It is assuredly a miserable matter to see division among men. But as the unity is accursed which doth separate us all from God, so it were better that a few should depart an hundred times from all the whole world, and, in the mean season, come in favor again with God, than that disagreeing with him continually, they should have peace with the world. 12
5. And when there was an assault made of the Gentiles and Jews, together with their rulers, to do them violence, and to stone them, 6. When they knew the matter, they fled into cities of Lycaonia, to Lystra and Derbe, and to the country lying nigh there about on every side: 7. And there they preached the gospel. 8. And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, who had been lame from his mother’s womb, neither had he ever walked. 9. This man heard Paul speak: who, beholding him, and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10. Said with a loud voice, Arise upright upon thy feet. And he leapt up and walked.
5. Mark how far forth the holy champions of Christ did suffer. They give not back when their enemies do only set themselves against them; but when the sedition waxeth hot, and they be in danger of stoning, though they have many favorers of their doctrine, they go no further, but remembering the saying of Christ, wherein he warneth the faithful in patience to possess their souls, they avoid the fury of the enemy. And though they fly, lest they 13 throw themselves headlong into death, yet their constancy in preaching the gospel doth sufficiently declare that they feared not danger. For Luke saith that they preached the gospel in other places also. This is the right kind of fear, when the servants of Christ do not run willfully into the hands of their enemies, of them to be murdered, and yet they do not foreslow [abandon] their duty; neither doth fear hinder them from obeying God when he calleth; and so, consequently, they can afford, if need be, to go even through death itself to do their duty.
8. A certain man at Lystra. Luke reciteth one miracle which we may think 14 was one of many; but there was mention made of it alone by reason of the famous event. For we shall see by and by what happened. Luke reckoneth up the circumstances, which do more plainly set forth the power of God, when he saith that the man did never walk, and that he was a cripple even from his mother’s womb, and that he was suddenly healed by the voice of Paul alone before the eyes of all men, and that his legs, which were dead, were made nimble, so that he leapt up without making any stop. 15
9. He heard Paul speak. Hearing is set down first, that we may know that the faith which Luke will commend by and by was conceived of Paul’s doctrine. Therefore, when he heard Paul, he hoped to be healed. But the question is, whether this was promised to him specially; for God doth not command us to hope for everything by and by, 16 when he offereth unto us eternal salvation in the gospel. I answer, that this was a singular and extraordinary motion of the Spirit of God in the cripple, as it was on the other side in Paul, when he knew his faith by beholding him only. It may be that many may receive the gospel, and yet they shall not be cured of those diseases wherewith they are vexed. But forasmuch as God was determined to show a token of his grace in the cripple, he prepared his mind before, and made him capable of this that should come upon him. 17 Wherefore we must not make this a common rule, because the cripple believed that he should be healed, but it was a peculiar preparation to receive the gift of healing. And this kind of faith is likewise particular which giveth place to 18 miracles, which many of God’s children do want, who are, notwithstanding, indued with the Spirit of adoption.
Whom when Paul beheld steadfastly. We know how doubtful and how deceitful a thing the countenance of man is, therefore there could no sure judgment be given thereby of faith, which hath God alone to be witness thereof; but, as I have already said, the cripple’s faith was revealed to Paul by the secret inspiration of the Spirit, as he was to the apostles their only guide and master to work miracles.
10. He said with a loud voice. Many old books, 19 and those of great credit, add, “I say to thee in the name of Jesus Christ,” and surely we see how careful the apostles were to magnify the name of Christ in all miracles; therefore I think that that was expressed by Luke, and yet we cannot find it commonly now in the printed books, [copies.] Whereas Luke saith afterward, that the lame man leapt up, it serveth not only for the commendation of God’s power, but also such readiness and willingness to obey did testify that he was rightly prepared by the Lord; so that he did already walk in mind when as his feet were as yet dead. Although his speed in rising made the power of God more manifest, to which end also Paul exalted his voice, that the sudden change might the more move the multitude.
11. Furthermore, when the multitude had seen what Paul had done, they lifted up their voice, saying, in the speech of Lycaonia, Gods being made like to men are come down to us. 12. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter, and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the captain of the speech. 20 13. And Jupiter’s priest, which was before their city, bringing bulls and crowns [chaplets] unto the gates, would have done sacrifice with the multitude.
11. Furthermore, the multitude. This history doth abundantly testify how ready and bent men are unto vanity. Paul uttered not that word abruptly, Arise; but he added it as it were a conclusion to the sermon made concerning Christ. Yet the people ascribe the praise of the miracle unto their idols, as if they had heard no word of Christ. Indeed, it is no such wonder, that the barbarous men fell unto superstition which they had learned 21 from their childhood, so soon as they saw the miracle. But this vice is too common every where, and it is so bred in us, to be perverse and wrong interpreters of the works of God. Hence come such gross dotings of superstitions in Popery, because catching rashly at miracles, they take no heed to doctrine. For which cause we must take the better heed, and be the more sober, lest we happen with the sense of the flesh to corrupt (whereunto we are so bent) the power of God, which shineth and appeareth to us for our salvation. And no marvel if the Lord would have only a few miracles wrought, and that for a short time, lest through the lust of men they should be drawn unto a far contrary end; because it is unmeet that he should set his name to be mocked of the world, which must needs be, when that which is proper to him is translated unto idols, or the unbelievers corrupt his works, to invent corrupt worshipping, while that setting the word aside, they catch at every divine power which they feign. 22
Gods like to men. This was an opinion drawn from old fables, which, notwithstanding, took the beginning of truth. 23 The books of the poets are full of these toys, that the gods were often seen upon earth in the likeness of men; and yet we may well think that this carne not of nothing, 24 but rather that profane men did turn that into fables, which the holy fathers taught in times past concerning angels. And it may be that Satan, when he had men besotted, did with diverse jugglings delude them. This is of a truth, whatsoever was God’s, whensoever it went with the infidels, 25 it was corrupt by their wicked inventions. The same must we likewise think of sacrifices, wherein God did exercise his 26 even from the beginning, that they might have the external signs of godliness and of the worship of God. And after that the unbelievers invented to themselves strange gods, they abused the sacrifices unto their sacrilegious worship. When the men of Lycaonia see unwonted power in the cripple that was healed, they persuade themselves that it is a work of God; this is all well. 27 But it was evil done, in that they forge to themselves false gods in Paul and Barnabas, according to the old [wonted] error, for what is the cause that they prefer Barnabas before Paul, save only because they follow the childish surmise [fiction] concerning Mercury, the interpreter of the gods, in which they had been nourished? By which example we are taught what a mischief it is to be accustomed and acquainted with errors in youth, which can so hardly be rooted out of the mind, that even through the works of God, whereby they ought to have been redressed, they wax more hard.
13. Also Jupiter’s priest. Though Luke doth not express with what affection he [this priest] was moved to be so diligent, yet it is to be thought, that, forasmuch as there was great hope of most plentiful gain offered, he was moved with covetousness. For he had great hope of gain in time to come, if it should be noised abroad that Jupiter appeared there. For this opinion would by and by have followed, that Jupiter was more delighted in the temple of Lystra than in any other. And so soon as such superstition hath once filled the minds of men, they spare no cost to offer sacrifice. 28 The world is indeed of itself inclined to this, but then came the sacrificing priests, who are like fans and bellows. And it is not to be doubted, but that the whole multitude was moved with ambition, to be so desirous to offer sacrifice to Paul under the name of Jupiter, that their city might be the more famous and noble. Hence hath Satan so great liberty [license] to deceive, whilst that the sacrificing priests set nets to get gain, and the people are delighted to have errors confirmed.
14. Furthermore, when the apostles, Barnabas and Saul, had heard, rending their garments, they ran in into the, press, crying, 15. And saying, Men, why do ye these things? We be also men subject to like miseries as you are, preaching to you that you turn from those vain things unto the living God, who hath made heaven and earth, and the sea, and whatsoever are in them: 16. Who in times, past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, 17. Though he left not himself without witness, doing good, giving to us from heaven rain and fruitful times, replenishing with food and gladness our hearts. 18. And when they had thus said, they scarce appeased the multitude, that they should do [from doing] sacrifice to them.
14. When the apostles had heard. In that Paul and Barnabas rent their garments, and leapt into the midst of the multitude, it appeareth thereby how zealous they were for the glory of God; [no;] being content only to speak to the people, 29 they troubled the preparation of the sacrifice so much as they are able. It cometh to pass sometimes that even hypocrites refuse excessive honor; but they rather provoke the simple to give it them with their reigned modesty. There was no such thing in Paul and Barnabas; for they declared, both by words and also by all gesture of body, that they were so far from taking pleasure in that worship which the men of Lystra gave unto them, that they did utterly detest it. This is holy anger, wherewith the servants of God must be inflamed so often as they see his glory profaned and overthrown by the sacrileges of men. And, assuredly, no man shall be able otherwise to serve God sincerely and faithfully, unless he put on that affection of jealousy, whereof Paul speaketh in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (2Co 11:27) that those men to whom the Lord hath committed the charge of his Church be no less courageous and stout to defend the glory of their Lord, than a husband is vigilant to defend his wife’s chastity.
Therefore, we must take good heed that we suffer not that honor to be given us which may darken the glory of God; but rather so soon as there appeareth any profaning of God’s glory, let this heat break out, whereof we have an example in Paul and Barnabas. And though the teachers of the Church ought especially to be imbued with zeal, yet there is no one of the godly which ought not to be sore displeased, when he seeth the worship of God polluted or given to some other; because it is written of all,
“The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and the rebukes of them that rebuked thee fell on me”
And if so be it holy men being yet compassed about with the flesh did so greatly detest idolatry, how shall we think them to be affected now, when they are stripped out of all the affections of the flesh? When as the world abuseth their names and persons unto superstition, it thinketh it doth them a great pleasure; but it is greatly deceived. For they will stand up first against their worshippers, and will indeed declare that they never make more account of anything, than that the worship of God might remain whole and sound to him. Moreover, there can be no greater injury done to them, than when the honor which is taken from God is given to them; which must needs be when any divine thing is ascribed and given them.
Whereas Luke saith that Paul and Barnabas did rent their garments, it appeareth by other places of Scripture that this rite and custom was used among the men of the east country, so often as they would by external gesture express either great sorrow or detesting of any thing. When Luke calleth Barnabas an apostle together with Paul, he extendeth the signification of the word farther than unto the chief [primary] order which Christ appointed in his Church; like as Paul maketh Andronicus and Junias excellent among the apostles. But if we should speak properly, they were evangelists and not apostles; unless peradventure because Barnabas was made Paul’s fellow in office, we place them both in like degree of office, so may he be truly called an apostle.
15. Men, why do ye those things? They begin with a reprehension, as the matter did require; that done, they show to what end they were sent. Afterward they preach concerning the only God, and show that he was unknown to the world. Lastly, that they may more strongly pluck out of their hearts the deceits and sleights of the devil, they teach that this ignorance was without excuse. Therefore the first part of the sermon is a reprehension, wherein the men of Lystra are condemned for worshipping mortal men preposterously instead of God. Though the reason which they allege seemeth to be cold. For it were an easy matter to gather thence, that it is not unlawful to worship those who are delivered from human miseries by death. By this means all the superstitions of the Gentiles should stand untouched, which were wont to count none gods but those who were dead. With the same color also have the Papists colored their idolatry, who worship rather the dead men’s bones, stones and wood, than living men in whose nostrils is breath. 30 I answer, that Paul and Barnabas drew this argument from the matter which was now in hand, We be miserable men; therefore you do falsely and filthily imagine us to be gods, and worship us as gods. If idolatry be handled generally, this shall be a perpetual reason to condemn it, and shall alone be sufficient enough, that the perfect and whole worship of godliness is due to God alone, and that therefore it is profaned, so soon as it is in any point given to creatures, whether they be angels, or men, or stars. But occasion shall oftentimes be offered, that many things may be spoken against one kind of idolatry, which do not appertain unto another, (neither are agreeable to the same;) and yet shall they be of no small force for the matter which is in hand, as Paul and Barnabas, by confessing that they be mortal men, subject to diverse calamities, had a fit reason to reprove the fury and madness of the people.
We preach to you. An argument drawn from contraries. For here they show that the end of their coming was quite contrary; to wit, that they might remove superstitions, which had hitherto reigned. For it is all one as if they had said, Doth the miracle move you? Then give credence to our words. And the sum of our embassage is, that all reigned godheads wherewith the world hath hitherto been deceived may be done away and perish. And this is a general doctrine, whereby they do not only appease the present madness, but also reprehend all manner [of] superstitions, and whatsoever was contrary to, or disagreeing with, the rule of godliness. For without doubt they call all that vain which men have invented to themselves of their own brain. And we must mark this definition, that all religion is vain which departeth and degenerateth from the pure and simple Word of God. There is no express mention made indeed of the Word, because they spake to the Gentiles. But because God is no otherwise rightly worshipped than according to his appointment, it followeth out of Paul’s words, that so soon as men depart from that worship which God hath commanded and doth allow, [approve,] they are wearied foolishly and vainly with a vain and unprofitable labor. For that religion wherein God hath not the preeminence is nothing worth, neither hath it any truth or soundness.
And this was the cause that sincere and perfect godliness was never found, neither did it ever flourish in the more part of the world. For they stood only about the removing of the old idolatry; and the other thing was in the mean season foreslowed, [neglected,] to bring men unto the true God alone, after that they had forsaken idols. They turned, indeed, the name of an idol sometimes into the name of God, but under that color they did nevertheless cherish the old errors, which they should have endeavored to redress. So the priests of France begat the single life of great Cybele. 31 Nuns came in place of the vestal virgins. The church of All Saints succeeded Pantheon, (or the church of All Gods; 32 ) against ceremonies were set ceremonies not much unlike. At length came in the multitude of gods, who they thought would be lawful and tolerable if they had once decked [masked] them with the titles of saints. Corruptions are not by this means purged, neither are the stables, both profane and full of filth, turned into the temple of God; but the name of God is mixed with profane pollutions, and God himself is brought into a filthy stall. Wherefore, let us remember that the apostles did not only employ themselves to overthrow idolatry which had long time reigned in former ages, but did also take great heed that pure religion might reign afterward, having put all corruptions to flight.
Who hath made heaven and earth We know that the order of teaching doth require that we begin with things which are better known. Seeing that Paul and Barnabas spake to the Gentiles, they should have in vain essayed to bring them 33 unto Christ. Therefore, it was expedient for them to begin with some other point, which was not so far separate from common sense, [perception,] that after that was confessed they might afterward pass over unto Christ. The minds of the men of Lystra were possessed with that error, that there be more gods than one. Paul and Barnabas show, on the contrary, that there is but one Creator of the world. After that that reigned number and multitude of the gods was taken away, there was passage now made unto the second member, that they might teach what that God was who was the Creator of heaven and earth. The case standeth otherwise at this day between us and the Papists; they confess that there is but one God, and they admit the Scripture. Therefore, it remaineth that we prove to them out of the Scripture what God is, and after what sort he will be worshipped of men.
16. In times past. Because the men of Lystra might object that that God was unknown hitherto, Paul and Barnabas prevent them and say, that all men wandered indeed in darkness, and that all mankind was stricken with blindness, but that they deny that any prejudice must be made 34 according to the perverse ignorance of the world. These were two no small lets for the unbelievers, long antiquity of time, and the consent almost of all nations. Paul and Barnabas remove both in this place, If, say they, men have erred many years, [ages,] and if the world have wandered without reason and judgment, let not, therefore, the truth of God, when it appeareth, be less precious to you. For seeing that it is eternal, and is not changed, it is an unmeet thing that the long prescription of years should be set against it. They prove that there is no more aid or patronage to be found in the number of men. There is no cause (say they) why the conspiracy of all the whole world should keep you from coming to the right way. Blindness hath got the upper hand among all people; but God doth now (appear and) give light to you. Therefore, your eyes must be open, and you must not slumber and sleep in darkness, though all people have been drowned therein hitherto.
Their ways. If he had only said that men were deceived until that time through God’s sufferance, we might easily gather thereby that all men can do nothing else but err, so long as they be not governed of God. Yet he speaketh far more plainly when he calleth errors the ways of men. For we are plainly taught by this what the wisdom and understanding of man’s mind can do in beholding and keeping the way of salvation. All people [nations] (saith he) have walked in their own ways; that is, they have wandered in darkness and death. It is all one as if he should say, that there is no sparkle of true reason in all the whole world.
Therefore, there is but one rule of true godliness, that is, that the faithful, casting from them all confidence in their own wit, do submit themselves to God. For the ways of men are now as they were in times past; and the examples of all times teach how miserably blind those men be who have not the word of God to give them light, though they think they can pass other men in quickness of sight. Immediately after the beginning of the world, the more part fell away unto diverse superstitions and wicked worshippings. Whence came that, save only because it pleased them to follow their own imaginations? When it might have seemed that the world was purged with the flood, it fell again [relapsed] straightway to the same vices. Therefore, there is nothing more deadly than to lean to our own wisdom.
But Paul and Barnabas show no cause here why the Lord suffered the world to err so long; and assuredly we must count the will of God alone the chiefest law of equity. God hath always a good reason for his worlds; but because it is oftentimes hid from us, it is our duty reverently to wonder at his secret counsel. We must, indeed, confess that the world was worthy of [deserved] such destruction; but there can no other reason be brought why the Lord had mercy rather on one age than on another, save only because it seemed good to him that it should be so. Therefore, Paul calleth that time which was appointed of God for preaching the gospel, the time of fullness, (Ga 4:4,) lest any other opportunity be sought. And we must remember that which we had in the first chapter, that it is not for us to know the times and seasons which the Father hath placed in his own power. So that the cavil of the Papists is refuted, who say that it cannot be that God suffered his Church to err so long. For whence, I pray you, came the Gentiles but from the ark of Noah, when there was a certain singular purity of the Church? (Ge 9:9.) Also, the posterity of holy Shem, together with others, did degenerate. Yea, Israel, the peculiar people of the Lord, was also left for a long time. Wherefore, it is no marvel if God did punish the contempt of his word with the same blindness under the reign of his Son as he did in times past.
17. Notwithstanding, he did not suffer himself to be without witness. Paul and Barnabas take from the Gentiles in this place the cloak [pretext] of ignorance. For how greatly soever men please themselves in their own inventions, being at length convicted of error, they fly unto this fortress, [asylums] that they ought to bear no blame; 35 but that God was rather cruel, who did not vouchsafe so much as. with one hiss to call those back whom he saw perish, [perishing.] Paul and Barnabas cut off 36 this frivolous objection, when they show that God lay hid in such sort, that he [still] bare witness of himself and his divinity. Notwithstanding, we must see how these two things can hang together; for if God bare witness of himself, he did not suffer (so much as in him lay) the world to err. I answer, that this kind of testimony, whereof mention is made, was such as that it made men without excuse, and yet was it not sufficient to salvation. For that of the apostle is true, that by faith it is understood that the worlds were ordained by the word of God, (Heb 11:3.) But faith is not conceived by the bare beholding of the heaven and earth, but by the hearing of the word. Whereupon it followeth, that men are brought by the direction of the word alone unto that knowledge of Almighty God which bringeth salvation. And yet this letteth not but that they may be made without excuse, even without the word, who, though they be naturally deprived of light, are blind notwithstanding, through their own malice, as Paul teacheth in the first chapter to the Romans.
Giving rain and fruitful seasons. God hath, indeed, revealed himself to all mankind by his word since [from] the beginning. But Paul and Barnabas show that there was no age on which God did not bestow benefits, which might testify that the world is governed by his government (and commandment;) and because the light of doctrine had been buried long thee, therefore they say only, that God was showed by natural arguments, [evidences.] And it is to be thought that they did, in such sort, set forth the magnificence and greatness of the works of God as became them; but it was sufficient for Luke to touch the (sums and) chief points of matters. Neither do I so understand it, that they intreated subtlety, and after the manner of the philosophers, of the secrets of nature, for they spake unto an unlearned multitude; therefore it behooved them to set that before them plainly which the most ignorant did know. Notwithstanding they take this principle, that in the order of nature there is a certain and evident manifestation of God, in that the earth is watered with rain; in that the heat of the sun doth comfort it; 37 in that there cometh such abundance of fruit out of the same yearly, it is thereby gathered for a surety, that there is some God who governeth all things. For even the heaven and earth are not moved or governed by their own motion, and much less by fortune. Therefore it remaineth, that this wonderful workmanship of nature doth manifestly show the providence of God; and those who said that the world was eternal spake not as they thought, but they went about by malicious and barbarous unthankfulness [ingratitude] to suppress the glory of God, wherein they betrayed their impudence.
Filling with meat and gladness. The ungodliness of men is more convict in that, if they knew not God, because he cloth not only set before their eyes testimonies of his glory in his works, but doth also appoint all things for their use. For why doth the sun and stars shine in the heavens, save only that they may serve men? Why doth the rain fall from heaven? Why doth the earth bring forth her increase, save only that they may minister food to men? Therefore, God hath not set man upon earth that he may be an idle beholder of his work, as being set upon a theater, but to exercise himself in praising the liberality of God, whilst that he enjoyeth the riches of heaven and earth. And now, is it not more than filthy forwardness [depravity] not to be moved with so great goodness of God in the manifold abundance of things? To fill the hearts with meat, doth signify nothing else but to give food which may satisfy the desires of men. By this word gladness, Paul and Barnabas do mean that God doth give more to men, according to his infinite goodness, than their necessity doth require; as if it had been said, that men have meat given them not only to refresh their strength, but also to make their hearts merry.
If any man do object that it falleth out so oftentimes that men do rather mourn, being hungry, then rejoice, being full; I answer, that that cometh to pass contrary to the order of nature; namely, when the Lord shutteth his hand because of the sins of men. For the liberality of God should flow unto us abundantly of his [its] own accord, as it is here described by Paul and Barnabas, unless it were kept back by the lets of our vices. And yet there was never so great barrenness wherein the blessing of God in feeding men did quite wither away. It was, indeed, well said of the prophet, Open thy mouth, and I will fill it, (Ps 81:10,) that we may know that we be hungry through our own fault, whilst that we do not admit the goodness of God. But how unworthy soever we be and straight, 38 yet the fatherly love of God breaketh through even unto the unworthy. Especially the generality of mankind doth testify that the benefits of God do never cease, wherein he appeareth to be our Father.
18. When they had said thus. Luke said before that they did not only use words, but they ran also with violence into the multitude. 39 Now he addeth, that the fury of the people was scarce appeased 40 with that vehemency, whereby appeareth how mad and untamed the heat of the world is toward idolatry. For if they believe the [them] gods, why do they not believe their word, whereby they put from them false honor? But all idolaters are sick of this disease, that they are oftentimes ready to shake off the yoke, unless religion be subject to their will and pleasure. Wherefore, no marvel if the prophets say oftentimes that men are carried into the blind affection of superstitions, even as brute beasts are carried into their lust.
19. And there came from Antioch and Iconium Jews, by whom the multitudes were persuaded, and when they had stoned Paul, they cast him out without the city, thinking that he was dead. 20. And as the disciples stood about him, he arose and entered into the city: and on the morrow he went forth with Barnabas to Derbe. 21. And when they had preached the gospel to this city, and had framed malay disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22. Strengthening the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of heaven.
19. There came. Paul and Barnabas can hardly stay the people from doing sacrifice; but a company of knaves do, with small ado, persuade them to stone Paul, whom of late they made a god. Whereby appeareth how much more men be bent unto superstition than unto the true worship of God, and how arrogant superstition is, which will always bear the chief sway in appointing the worship of God. The servants of God seek no other thing but to bring men under obedience of him, which is salvation and felicity alone. They challenge to themselves no lordship, they hunt after no gain; and yet the world cannot abide them. For almost all men murmur; and now and then there rise tumults. Those who are thus stubborn against God, they be too ready to believe seducers, and willingly submit themselves to their tyranny. So the Pope had liberty to deceive at his pleasure, and not only to oppress miserable souls with slavery, but also cruelly to torment them. Whatsoever he commanded it was obediently received, and even at this day, though he make impossible laws, yet dare no man once mutter against them. Nevertheless, the yoke of Christ is sweet, (Mt 11:30,) and yet few there be who will suffer it.
Therefore, in this history is most lively painted out unto us the forwardness of the world. Paul might have reigned under the title of Mercury, with the commendation of all men; he will not be a god. Because he serveth Christ faithfully, he is stoned. His constancy is commended, to the end we may follow it. He was indeed wonderfully delivered by the Lord; but as touching himself he suffered a most cruel kind of death. Therefore, we must make like account of this testimony, which he doth also recite in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (2Co 11:25,) as if he had been slain. Furthermore, we need not doubt but that the common sort made insurrection against him outrageously. 41 So that, what violence soever the wicked do to the servants of Christ, it is never called in question; the laws are whist, [silent;] judgments cease; the magistrate is asleep; there is no patron to be found.
20. As the disciples. Though no man defended Paul, yet Luke showeth that the godly were desirous of his life; 42 yet they did so moderate themselves, lest they should attempt anything with great danger to no end, seeing they could not help him unless it were done privily. And surely we must always mark what the Lord hath brought to our hand. If I, standing upon the bank, shall see a man in the midst of the water, and cannot reach him my hand when he is like to be drowned, 43 what is remaining for me to do but to commend him to the Lord? And [but] if there be any hope to help him, then must I endanger myself. 44 Therefore, we will not say that Saint Paul was left alone by the disciples through sloth, seeing they could not help him; and they declare their love and care when they stand about him after he is cast out.
They went to Derbe It appeareth plainly by this that Paul was miraculously saved, seeing that, on the morrow, after he was cast out for dead, he taketh his journey, being fresh and sound; whence it is also gathered what an invincible heart he bare against all evils and afflictions. For he creepeth not into a corner, where, like an overworn soldier, he may live idly; but he goeth to the same places where he was uncourteously and cruelly handled but a little before. Notwithstanding Luke showeth that the church was first planted among the men of Derbe, he addeth afterward, that Paul and Barnabas returned unto the churches which they had ordained, that they might confirm the disciples; whereby by he giveth us to understand that the use of the Word consisteth not in instruction only, whereby the hearer is only taught, but that it is also available for confirmation of faith, in admonishing, exhorting, and reproving. And Christ doth not only command his ministers to teach, but also to exhort; and Paul saith that the Scripture is profitable not only to teach, but also to exhort, (2Ti 3:16.) Wherefore, let not pastors think that they have done their duty as they ought, when they have well trained up their people in true knowledge, unless they employ themselves to this part also. Again, let not the faithful neglect the Word of God, as if the reading and preaching thereof were unnecessary; because there is no man who hath not need of continual confirmation.
22. And exhorting them. This was the principal way to confirm, in that they provoke the disciples who had before embraced the Gospel and did profess it, to go forward by exhorting them; for we are far from being so ready and stout 45 as we ought. Therefore our laziness needeth pricks, and our coldness must be warmed. But because God will have his exercised with diverse combats, Paul and Barnabas admonish the disciples to be ready to suffer tribulation. A very necessary admonition, that we must go on warfare in this world, that we may live well and godly. If the flesh should not molest us, if Satan should attempt nothing, if the wicked should not trouble us with some stumbling-blocks, it were no such troublesome thing to persevere; because that were a sweet walk through a soft and pleasant way; but because there arise on every side, and every minute of an hour, [moment,] infinite assaults, which provoke us to fall away, there ariseth the hardness, 46 and therefore is it that the virtue of constancy is so rare. Therefore, to the end we may persist even unto the end, we must be prepared for war.
But Luke speaketh not in this place only of the persecutions which the adversaries raise against us with drawn swords and flaming fires; but he comprehendeth under the word tribulations, all sorrows and miseries whereunto the life of the godly is subject; not because the faithful alone are miserable; because this is the common state both of the good and bad. Whence also cometh that famous proverb, It is the best not to be born; and the next to die very quickly. 47 But when as God doth oftentimes spare the wicked, and doth fat them with prosperity, he is more sharp and hard, 48 toward his children. For besides common molestations, they are oppressed peculiarly with many discommodities, and the Lord doth humble them with such exercises, keeping their flesh under correction lest it wax wanton; he awaketh them, lest they lie sleeping upon earth. Unto these are added the reproaches and slanders of the wicked; for they must be, as it were, the offscourings of the world. Their simpleness is laughed at; but they use 49 wicked mocks and scoffs, principally against God. Last of all, the lust of the wicked breaketh out into open violence; so that they have need to strive 50 with many tribulations, and it cannot be but that all their life shall be envied and unquiet amidst so many enemies. But this is the best comfort, and which is sufficient enough to confirm their minds, that this way (though it be hard and sharp) leadeth unto the kingdom of heaven. For we gather by this that the miseries of the godly are more happy than be all the doting dainties and delights of the world.
Therefore, let us remember, first, that this condition is set down for us, that we suffer many tribulations; yet let us also remember to add this, to mitigate the bitterness thereof, that by them we be brought unto the kingdom of God. Furthermore, their babbling is frivolous, 51 who gather hereby that patience is a work which deserveth eternal salvation, seeing that the cause of salvation is not in this place handled, but after what sort God useth to handle his in this world; and the comfort is added, not to extol the dignity and merit of works, but only to encourage the godly, that they faint not under the burden of the cross. All mankind, as we have said before, as well one as other, is subject to many miseries; but the afflictions of the reprobate are no thing else to them but the very entry of hell; but these turn to the saints to an happy and joyful end, and for them they fall out well; and so, consequently, they be helps for salvation, because they take part with Christ. 52 We must note that Paul and Barnabas being not content with the plural number, do plainly set down many tribulations, lest any man, after he hath suffered one or two, or 53 a few, do at length sink down. 54 Therefore, let the faithful think that they must pass through continual miseries; that done, let them prepare themselves not for one kind of persecution only, but for diverse kinds. For though God handle some men more courteously and gently, yet doth he pamper none of his so daintily that he is free from all tribulations.
23. And when by voices [suffrages] they had ordained them elders through all churches, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had believed. 24. And passing over through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25. And when they had spoken the word at Perga, they went down to Attalia: 26. And thence they sailed to Antioch, from whence they were commended to the grace of God unto the work which they had fulfilled. 27. And when they were come, when the Church was gathered together, they showed what great things God had done by them, and that he had opened to the Gentiles the door of faith. 28. And they were there no small time with the disciples.
23. When they had ordained elders. By this it appeareth sufficiently, that it is not enough if men have been once taught the doctrine of godliness, and to have [hold] the sum of faith, unless they go forward continually; therefore, Christ did not only send his apostles to preach the gospel, but he commanded also that there should be pastors appointed, that the preaching of the gospel might be perpetual and in daily use. Paul and Barnabas do mark that this order was set down by Christ, when they assigned pastors to every church, lest, after their departure, doctrine should cease and be whisht, (silent.) Furthermore, this place teacheth, that the Church cannot want an ordinary ministry, neither can any be counted Christians before God but those who, during their whole life, are willing to learn. I take it that those are called elders, in this place, who had the office of teaching enjoined them; for it appeareth by Paul that some were only censors of manners, and such as had authority to punish enormities, (1Ti 5:17.) Now, forasmuch as Luke saith, that they were set over every church, the difference between their office and the office of the apostles is gathered hence. For the apostles had no certain place of abode, but they went to and fro to found new churches; but pastors were set and appointed, every man to his own church, and were, as it were, placed to watch 55 over their congregations.
Had ordained by election. The Greek word χειροτονειν doth signify to decree, or ordain a thing, by lifting up the hands, as they used to do in the assemblies of the people. Notwithstanding, the ecclesiastical writers do often use the word χειροτονεια, in another sense; to wit, for their [the] solemn rite of ordaining, which is called in Scripture laying on of hands. Furthermore, by this manner of speech is very excellently expressed the right way to ordain pastors. Paul and Barnabas are said to choose 56 elders. Do they this alone by their private office? 57 Nay, rather they suffer the matter to be decided by the consent of them all. 58 Therefore, in ordaining pastors the people had their free election, but lest there should any tumult arise, Paul and Barnabas sit as chief moderators. Thus must the decree of the council of Laodicea be understood, which forbiddeth that the people have liberty granted them to elect. 59
They having prayed with fasting. They had a double end and reason of their prayer; the first, that God would direct them with the spirit of wisdom and discretion to choose the best and most meet men, for they knew that they were not furnished with so great wisdom but they might be deceived; neither did they so much trust to their diligence, but that they knew that the principal point did consist in the blessing of God, as we see men’s judgments err daily where the heavenly government is not, and that all their labor is nothing worth where the hand of God is not. These be the true signs and tokens 60 of the godly to call upon the Spirit of God, that he may govern their counsels. And if so be it this rule be to be observed in all businesses so often as the government of the Church is in hand, which dependeth wholly upon his will and pleasure, we must 61 beware that we attempt nothing unless we have him for our guide and governor. And the second end of their prayer was, that God would furnish with necessary gifts those pastors which were chosen. For it is a harder matter to fulfill such a function faithfully as a man ought, than that man’s strength is sufficient for it. Therefore, they crave God’s help even in this part also, having Paul and Barnabas for their authors.
They fast likewise, that even that may be a help 62 to stir up the ferventness of their prayers; for we know how great our coldness is otherwise. Not because it is always necessary that we should pray fasting, seeing that God doth invite even those who are full to give thanks; but when we are urged by any necessity to pray more fervently than we used commonly to do, this is a very profitable provokement. And now we have already declared what a weighty matter the choosing of pastors is, wherein the soundness of the Church is handled. Wherefore, no marvel if Luke write that they used extraordinary prayers. And it is profitable for us to mark this use, and other [uses] of fasting, lest we imagine with the Papists that it is a meritorious work, or lest we place the worship of God in it, seeing it is of itself nothing, neither is it of any importance with God, save only inasmuch as it is referred unto another end. 63
They committed themselves to the Lord. We gather hereby, first, what great care Paul and Barnabas had for the salvation of those who, by their industry, 64 were turned unto the Lord; for they testify, that in this infirmity of the flesh men be subject to more dangers, than that their faith can continue steadfast through his [its] own strength. Therefore, this is the only refuge and aid, if the Lord keep them continually whom he hath once received. And when Luke saith, that they were commended to God in whom they believed, there cometh no small confidence hence unto us; because he assigneth this office to God as proper to him, to save and defend all those who by true faith have embraced his word.
24. Passing through Pisidia. We have already said that Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch of Pisidia. Being now about to return to Antioch of Syria, whence they were sent away, they go through Pamphylia, which is the middle region toward the mount Taurus. And Perga and Attalia are cities lying near together. And whereas Luke saith, that they preach the Word in the one only, we may thereby guess that they had not opportunity offered them everywhere to teach, which they were wont to neglect or let pass nowhere.
26. When they had been commended. Luke might have said that they were ordained there to be the apostles of the Gentiles; but by a circuit of words 65 he doth more plainly express that they were neither sent away of men, neither did they attempt any thing trusting to their own strength, but that their whole journey, together with the success, was committed to God, the author thereof. Therefore, their preaching was no man’s work, but a work of the grace of God. And the word grace is referred as well unto the power and efficacy of the Spirit, as also unto all the rest of the signs of favor; because all those gifts be free which God bestoweth upon his servants. And the sentence may be thus resolved, that they prayed God that he would show forth his grace to further the labors of his servants.
27. After they had called the Church together. As those who return from an embassage used to give an account of their acts, so Paul and Barnabas declared to the Church all the sum of their voyage, that it may thereby appear what good success they had, and how faithfully they behaved themselves in their office; and also that they may exhort the faithful to give thanks to God, as the thing itself gave them large matter; 66 therefore Luke saith, Not that they did extol the things which they themselves had done, but whatsoever things the Lord had done by them. It is word for word with them; but according to the phrase of the Hebrew tongue, it is all one as if it had been said, in them, or by them, or towards them, or simply to them, in the dative case. Therefore Luke doth not say συν αυτοις, but μετα αυτων; which I say for this cause, lest any unskillful man ascribe some part of the praise to Paul and Barnabas, as if they had been partners with God in the work; whereas he doth rather make him the only author of all those famous facts which they had done.
Luke addeth immediately after, that the Lord had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles; for though they were sent unto the Gentiles, yet the strangeness [novelty] of the matter causeth them to wonder not a little; and not only the sudden change did make the Jews astonished, but also because it was to them as it were a monster, that unclean men, and such as were strangers 67 from the kingdom of God, should be mixed with the holy seed of Abraham, that they might both together make one and ‘the same Church of God. They are now taught by the event itself, that it was not for nothing that there were apostles sent to them. Moreover, it is said that the door of faith was set open to the Gentiles, not only because the gospel was preached to them with the external voice, but because, being illuminated by the Spirit of God, they were called effectually unto the faith. The kingdom of heaven is indeed set open to us by the external preaching of the gospel; but no man entereth in save he to whom God reacheth out his hand; no man draweth near unless he be drawn inwardly by the Spirit. Therefore, Paul and Barnabas show and prove by the effect that their calling was approved and ratified by God, because the faith of the Gentiles was, as it were, a seal engraven by the hand of God to establish the same, as Paul saith, (Ro 16:25; 2Co 3:7.)
“Verum quamvis duciter accepti,” but however harshly they were received.
“Animi praesentiam,” presence of mind.
“Quod Lucas nunc prosequitur,” as Luke now relates in detail.
“Ut invidiam fugitent, aut periculem formident,” from shunning envy, or dreading danger.
“Nisi liabellis illis accensae fuissent ad resistendum,” had not these like fans kindled their resistance.
“Inficere,” to infect.
“Innnib,” he intimates.
“Fulturis,” the props or stays.
“Catastrophe,” the catastrophe.
“Schismate,” by a schism.
“Omnes pariter,” all alike.
“Temere,” rashly, omitted.
“Probabile est,” it is probable.
“Sine difficultate,” without difficulty.
“Hujus accessionis,” of this accession.
“Locum,” room for.
“Codices,” manuscripts or copies.
“Dux esset sormonis,” took the lead in speaking.
“Imbiberant,” had imbibed.
“Numen quodlibet. a se confictum,” any kind of deity reigned by themselves.
“Originem a veritate duxerant,” had derived their origin from truth.
“Non fuisse de nihilo confictum,” was not reigned without some foundation.
“Ubi ad infideles transiit,” when it was transmitted to unbelievers, the heathen.
“Fideles suos,” his believing people.
“Recte hactenus,” so far right.
“Verbis non contenti,” not contented with words.
“Quam vivos et spitantes homines,” than living, breathing men.
“Sic Galli sacrifici magnae Cybeles caelibatum genuerunt,” so the priests of Gaul gave rise to the celibacy of great Cybele.
“Pantheo successit Pantagion,” Pantagion (All Saints) succeed Pantheon, (All Gods.)
“Statim,” forthwith, omitted.
“Debere praejudicium fieri,” that any thing should be prejudged, (any judgment should be founded on.)
“Nullum sibi debere culpam imputari,” that no blame ought to be imputed to them
“Vegetat,” causes it to vegetate.
“Sed quam libet simus restricti,” but however we may be restrained (in ourselves.)
“Sed etiam cure impetu irruisse in turbam,” but also rushed impetuously among the multitude.
“Quin tumultuose in eum insurrexeret vulgus,” that the mob rose tumultuously against him.
“De ejus vita sollicitos,” were anxious for his life.
“Naufrago,” when shipwrecked.
“Periculum subire,” run the risk.
“Prompti et strenui,” prompt and strenuous.
“Optimum est non nasci; proximum vero, quam citissime mori,” the best thing is not to be born; the next best to die as soon as possible.
“Austerior est ac durior,” he is more harsh and austere.
“Maxime uruntur,” they are most of all stung by. The translator appears to have read “utuntur.”
“Valde infesta,” exceedingly troubled.
“Futilis et stulta,” futile and foolish.
“Communicant cum Christo,” make them to be partakers with Christ.
“Aut saltem paucis,” or at least a few.
“Tandem succumbunt,” at length succumb.
“Ad praesidium,” as a guard.
“Eligere,” to elect.
“An soli hoc privato officio faciunt,” do they alone do this by their peculiar office?
“Omnium suffragiis,” by the suffrages of all.
“Plebi electionem permitti,” election to be given (left) to the people.
“Adduntur jejunia, tamquam adminicula,” fastings are added as helps.
“Nisi quatenus alio refertur,” except in so far as it has reference to something else.
“Cura et labore,” by their care and labour.
“Verborum circuitu,” by a circumlocution.
“Amplum materiam,” ample materials.
“Impuros et alienos,” impure men, aliens.