Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 37: Acts, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. After this Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinthus. 2. And having gotten a certain Jew called Aquila, born in Pontus, who came [had come] lately from Italy, and Priscilla, his wife, (because Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome,) he came unto them. 3. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought; and they were tent-makers. 4. And he disputed in the synagogue every Sabbath day, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks,: 5. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was forced in the spirit, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.
1. This history is worthy to be remembered even for this one cause, because it containeth the first beginning of the Church of Corinthus, which, as it was famous for good causes, both because of the multitude of men, and also because of the excellent gifts bestowed upon them, so there were in it gross and shameful vices. Furthermore, Luke showeth in this place with what great labor, and how hardly, Paul did win the same to Christ. It is well known what a rich city Corinthus was by reason of the noble mart, how populous, how greatly given to pleasure. And the old proverb doth testify that it was sumptuous and full of riot: All men cannot go to Corinthus. When Paul entereth the same, what hope, I pray you, can he conceive? He is a simple man, unknown, having no eloquence or pomp, showing no wealth or power. In that that huge gulf doth not swallow up his and desire which he had to spread abroad the gospel, by this we gather that he was furnished with wonderful power of the Spirit of God; and also that God wrought by his hand after a heavenly manner, and not after any human manner. Wherefore he boasteth not without cause, that the Corinthians are the seal of his apostleship, (1Co 9:2.) For they be twice blind, who do not acknowledge that the glory of God did more plainly appear in such a simple and base kind of dealing; and he himself showed no small token of invincible constancy, when, being vexed with the mocks of all men, (as the proud did contemn him,) he did notwithstanding stay himself upon God’s help alone. But it is worth the labor to note all the circum-stances, as Luke setteth down the same in order.
2. A Jew called Aquila. This was no small trial, in that Paul findeth none at Corinthus to lodge him save Aquila, who had been twice exiled. For being born in Pontus, he forsook his country, and sailed over the sea, that he might dwell at Rome. He was compelled to depart thence again by the commandment of Claudius Caesar. Though the commodiousness of the city was such, the plenty so great, the situation so pleasant, and there were also so many Jews there, yet Paul found no more fit host than a man that had been banished out of his own country, and also out of another soil. 310 If we compare the great fruit which ensued immediately upon his preaching with such a base entrance, the power of the Spirit of God shall [more] plainly appear. Also we may see how the Lord, by his singular counsel, turneth those things to his glory, and the salvation of the godly, which seem contrary to the flesh, and unhappy. 311 Nothing is more miserable than exile, according to the sense of the flesh. But it was far better for Aquila to be Paul’s companion, than to be in the highest office either at Rome or in his country. Therefore, this happy calamity of Aquila doth teach us, that the Lord doth often better provide for when he doth sharply punish 312 us, than if he should most gently entreat us, and when he tosseth us to and fro in most extreme exile, 313 that he may bring us unto the heavenly rest.
All Jews to depart from Rome. The estate of that nation was then very miserable, so that it is a wonder that they did not almost all depart from the worship of God. But this is a greater wonder, that the religion wherein they had been brought up prevailed against Caesar’s tyranny, and that so soon as Christ, the Sun of righteousness, did arise, few were turned unto him. Notwithstanding, I do not doubt but that the Lord suffered them 314 to pass through many troubles, that they might the more willingly, yea, the more greedily receive the grace of redemption offered them; but the more part 315 became dull in their misery, 316 few did submit themselves to be taught when the Lord did punish them, as did Aquila and Priscilla. Yet, if Suetonius say the truth, they were expelled through hatred of the name of Christ, and so calamity might have more provoked and angered a great part, because they were wrongfully accused for that religion which they did detest.
3. They were of the same trade. This place teacheth that Paul, before he came to Corinth, was wont to work with his hands; and that not upon pleasure, but that he might get his living with his handiwork. It is not known where he first learned his occupation; notwithstanding it appeareth by his own testimony that he wrought principally at Corinth. And he showeth a reason, because the false apostles taught freely without taking any thing, that they might craftily creep in, therefore the holy man would not give place to them in that point, lest he should cause the gospel of Christ to be evil spoken of, (1 Cor. 9:12, 15.) But we may easily gather out of this place, that whithersoever he came, (until he was occupied in the continual labor of teachings) he wrought of his occupation, that he might get his living. When Chrysostom saith that Paul was a cordiner he doth no whit dissent from Luke, because they were wont at that time to make tents of skins.
4. He disputed in the synagogue It is a wonder how that crept in which is in the Latin books, 317 that Paul put in the name of Christ: unless it were because some reader would supply the want of the general sentence. For Luke setteth down two things in this place: to wit, that Paul disputed among the Jews; secondly, that he began more plainly to profess Christ after that Silas and Timotheus were come. And though it be likely that he began to speak of Christ even at the first entrance, because he could not omit the principal point of the heavenly doctrine, yet that doth not hinder but that he might use some other manner of disputation. Therefore I take [πειθειν] that is, to persuade, for to induce by little and little. For, in my judgment, Luke doth signify, that forasmuch as the Jews did handle the law coldly and foolishly, Paul spake of the corrupt and wicked nature of man, of the necessity of grace of the Redeemer which was promised, of the means to obtain salvation, that he might awake them; for this is a fit and brief 318 preparation unto Christ. Again, when he saith that he was forced in spirit to teach that Jesus was Christ, his meaning is, that he was enforced with greater vehemency to intreat and speak of Christ freely and openly. So that we see that Paul did not utter all things at one time, but he tempered his doctrine as occasion did serve.
And because like moderation is profitable at this day, it is convenient for faithful teachers wisely to consider where to begin, lest a preposterous and confused order do hinder the proceeding of doctrine. Furthermore, though there were ferventness enough in Paul, yet it is no inconvenient thing that he was made more courageous by some new help, not that he was encouraged by shame, or the hope which he reposed in his fellows, but because he considered that this help was sent him, as it were, from heaven. But this forcing in the spirit is not taken for a violent or external impulsion, (as they say, 319 ) as those which were called Phoebades and frantic men were wont to be carried away with devilish madness; but there was more ferventness added unto the wonted inspiration of the Spirit which was in Paul, so that he was moved with new power of God, and yet did he of his own accord follow the Spirit as his guide. Whereas Paul did testify that Jesus is Christ, I expound it thus: when he had thoroughly taught the Jews concerning the office of the Redeemer, he declared by testimonies of Scripture that this is he which was to be hoped for, because all those things agree to him which the law and the prophets attribute to Christ. Therefore, he did not simply affirm, but using a solemn testification, he proved Jesus, the Son of Mary, to be that Christ who should be the Mediator between God and men, that he might restore the world from destruction to life.
6. And when they gainsayed him, and railed upon him, shaking his garments, he said unto them, Your blood be upon your own head; I will go henceforth clean unto the Gentiles. 7. And going thence, he entered into the house of a certain man named Justus, a worshipper of God, whose house joined to the synagogue. 8. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household: and many of the Corinthians which heard believed, and were baptized. 9. And the Lord said by night, by a vision, to Paul, Fear not, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10. Because I am with thee, and no man shall lay hand on thee to hurt thee: because I have much people in this city. 11. And he remained there a year and six months, teaching them the word of the Lord.
6. When they gainsayed. The Jews suffered Paul after a sort until he came unto the manifest preaching of Christ. And here brake out their rage. And we must note the speech, that they go from gainsaying unto blaspheming and railing. For it falleth out thus for the most part, when men take to themselves such liberty, that the devil doth inflame them by little and little unto greater madness. For which cause, we must take good heed that no wicked lust or desire provoke us to resist the truth; and, above all, let that horrible judgment terrify us which the Spirit of God thundereth out by the mouth of Paul against all rebels. For undoubtedly, in that Paul by shaking his garments gave some token of detestation, it was no human or private indignation, but zeal kindled by God in his heart; yea, God raised him up to be a preacher and setter forth of his vengeance, to the end the enemies of the word might know that they should not escape scot free for their stubbornness. We spake somewhat touching this sign of execration or cursing in the thirteenth chapter, (Ac 13:51.) Let the readers repair thither. The sum is, that God is sorer displeased with contempt of his word than with any wickedness. And surely, men be quite past hope when they tread under foot, or drive from them, the only remedy of all evils and maladies. Now, as the Lord cannot abide rebellion against his word, so it ought to sting and nettle us full sore. My meaning is this, that when the wicked enter combat with God, and, as it were, arm themselves to resist, we are called, as it were, by the heavenly trumpet unto the conflict, because there is nothing more filthy than that the wicked should mock God to his face, whilst we say nothing, and that they should even break out into reproaches and blasphemies.
Your blood. He denounceth to them vengeance, because they be without excuse. For they can shift no part of their fault from themselves, after that despising the calling of God they have endeavored to put out the light of life. Therefore, seeing they bear the blame of their own destruction, he doth also affirm that they shall be punished. And in saying that he is clean, he testifieth that he hath done his duty, it is well known what the Lord giveth all his ministers in charge in Ezekiel, (Eze 3:18.) If thou show not unto the wicked that he may convert, 320 I will require his blood at thy hand. Therefore Paul (because he did what he could to bring the Jews to repentance) doth acquit himself of all guiltiness. And by these words, teachers are warned that unless they will be guilty of blood before the Lord, they must do what in them lieth to bring those which go astray into the way, and that they suffer nothing to perish through ignorance.
I will go undo the Gentiles. Though the Jews had showed themselves to be most ready to be taught, yet ought Paul to have employed himself to teach the Gentiles, whose apostle and minister he was made; but here he expresseth the passage whereby he withdrew himself from the stubborn Jews for all. For he observed this course in teaching, that beginning with the Jews he might couple the Gentiles with them in the society of faith, and so might make of both together one body of the Church. When there remained no hope to do any good among the Jews, then the Gentiles only remained. Therefore, the sense is this, that they must be deprived of their own inheritance, that it may be given to the Gentiles, and so be wounded, partly that being stricken with fear, yea, being cast down, 321 they might come to soundness of mind; partly that the emulation or striving of the Gentiles might prick them forward unto repentance. But because they were incurable, reproach and shame served for this purpose only to bring them into despair.
7. Departing thence. Paul did not change his lodging which he had with Priscilla and Aquila, because he was weary of their company; but that he might more familiarly insinuate himself and come in favor with the Gentiles. For I suspect that this Justus, of whom Luke maketh mention, was rather a Gentile than a Jew. Neither doth the highness of the synagogue any whit hinder; for the Jews were scattered abroad, so that they had no certain place of the city to dwell in. Yea, it seemeth that Paul did make choice of the house which did join to the synagogue, that he might the more nettle the Jews. The title and commendation ascribed to Justus confirmeth this opinion; for it is said that he was a worshipper of God. For though the Jews had not sincere religion, yet because they did all profess the worship of God, it might have seemed that godliness took place commonly in all the whole nation. But because it was a rare matter among the Gentiles to worship God if any drew near unto true godliness, he hath this singular testimony given him which is set against idolatry. Also, I think that the Corinthians, of whom Luke speaketh shortly after, were Gentiles. Nevertheless, lest we should think that Paul’s labor was altogether fruitless which he bestowed among the Jews, Luke reckoneth up two of them which believed, Crispus and Sosthenes, of whom Paul himself speaketh in the first chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (1 Cor. 1:1, 14.) For in his salutation he maketh Sosthenes his fellow in office, after that he saith that he baptized Crispus. I take it that he is called the ruler of the synagogue, not as if he alone did bear rule and had the government, because Sosthenes hath the same title given him shortly after, but because he was one of the chief men.
9. And the Lord said. Though the fruit of Paul’s doctrine (in that he gained some daily to Christ) might have encouraged him to go forward, yet is the heavenly oracle added for his farther confirmation. Whence we gather that there were great combats set before him, and that he was sore tossed divers ways. For the Lord did never, without cause, 322 pour out his oracles; neither was it an ordinary thing with Paul to have visions, but the Lord used this kind of remedy when necessity did so require; and the thing itself doth show that there laid upon the holy man a great weight of business, under which he might not only sweat but almost faint, unless he had been set on foot again, and refreshed with some new help. And it is not without cause that he saith that his coming was base and contemptible, and that he was conversant there in fear and trembling, (1Co 2:3.) For mine own part, I think thus, that the wonderful power of the Spirit, wherewith Paul was endued before, was holpen with the oracle. Furthermore, forasmuch as the Scripture distinguisheth visions from dreams, as it appeareth by the twelfth chapter of the book of Numbers, (Nu 12:6,) Luke meaneth by this word vision, that when Paul was in a trance he saw a certain shape or form whereby he knew that God was present with him. Assuredly, it is not to be doubted but that God appeared by some sign.
Fear not. This exhortation showeth that Paul had cause of fear ministered unto him; for it had been a superfluous thing to correct fear, or to will him not to fear when all was well and quiet, and especially in a man so willing and ready.
Furthermore, when the Lord (to the end he may have his servant to do his duty faithfully and stoutly) beginneth with restraining fear, by this we gather that nothing is more contrary to the pure and free preaching of the gospel than the straits of a faint heart. And surely experience doth show that none are faithful and courageous ministers of the word whom this fault doth hinder; and that those only are rightly prepared and addressed to teach to whom it is granted with boldness and courage of heart to overcome all manner [of] danger. In which respect, he writeth to Timothy that the spirit of fear is not given to the preachers of the gospel, but of power, and love, and sobriety, (2Ti 1:7.) Therefore, we must note the connection of words, Fear not, but speak, which is all one as if he should have said, Let not fear let thee to speak. And because fear doth not only make us altogether without tongue, but doth so bind us that we cannot purely and freely speak that which is needful. Christ touched both briefly. Speak, (saith he,) and hold not thy peace; that is, speak not with half thy mouth, as it is in the common proverb. But in these words there is prescribed to the ministers of the word of God a common rule, that they expound and lay open plainly, and without color or dissimulation, whatsoever the Lord will have made known to his Church; yea, let them keep back nothing which may make for the edifying or increase of God’s Church.
10. Because I am. This is the former reason why Paul, having subdued fear, must manfully and stoutly do his duty, because he hath God on his side. Whereto answereth the rejoicing of David,
“If I shall walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall fear none ill: because thou art with me,” (Ps 23:4.)
“If tents be pitched about me,” etc., (Ps 27:3.)
The question is, whether he did not perceive that God was present with him elsewhere, as he had had experience of his help in divers places. For the promise is general,
“I am with you until the end of the world,”
Neither is it lawful for us to mistrust so often as we obey his calling, but that he will be present with us. But it is an usual thing with the Lord to apply that unto certain kinds when the matter so requireth, which he hath promised to do in all affairs; and we know that when we come to the push, then are we most desirous of help. Moreover, these two members are joined together, “I am with thee, and no man shall hurt thee.” For it falleth out sometimes that God doth help us, and yet doth he, to look to, suffer us to be oppressed, as he forsook not Paul even in the midst of death; and here he promiseth the peculiar defense of his hand, whereby he shall be preserved from the violence of his enemies.
But the question is, whether Paul needed any such confirmation, who ought to have been willing to enter [undergo] all manner [of] dangers. For what if he had been to suffer death, should he therefore have fainted through fear? I answer, that if at any time God pronounce that his servants shall be safe for a time, that doth no whit hinder, but that they may prepare themselves to suffer death valiantly; but as we distinguish between profitable and necessary, so we must note that there be some promises, which, if the faithful want, they must needs faint and sink down; 323 and that other some are added when it is expedient so to be, which, though they be taken away, (because the grace of God doth nevertheless remain firm and sure,) the faith of the godly doth not fail. After this sort, Paul is commanded not to fear, because his enemies shall not touch him; and if so be he should have been oppressed even then with their violence, yet would he not have been afraid, but God would have his boldness and courage to increase even by this, because he should be without danger. If at any time the Lord bear with us so far forth, we are not to despise such a comfort of our infirmity. In the mean season, let this be sufficient for us to tread under foot all corrupt fear of the flesh, that so long as we fight under his banner we cannot be forsaken of him. And when it is said, “No man shall gainstand thee to do thee hurt,” the Lord doth not mean that he shall be free from violence and tumult whom the Jews did afterward deadly invade; but his meaning is, that their attempts shall be frustrate, because the Lord had determined to deliver him out of their hands. Therefore, we must fight stoutly that we may win the field. 324
Because I have much people. The second reason why he should take a good heart is, because the Lord will raise up a great and populous church there, though it be to be doubted whether this member depend upon that which goeth next before; for the text will run fitly thus, Because the Lord determined by the hand of Paul to gather together a great church, he would not suffer the enemies to interrupt the course of his labors, as if he should have said, I will help thee, that thou mayest not fail my people whose minister I have appointed thee to be. I do willingly embrace this exposition, that divers reasons are not inferred which are to be read apart, but that they be so distinguished that they agree together. Furthermore, the Lord calleth those his people, who, though they might then for good causes be counted strangers, yet because they were written in the book of life, and were forthwith to be admitted into his family, they have this title given them not improperly. For we know that many sheep wander without the flock for a time, as the sheep have many wolves among them. Therefore whom the Lord determined shortly after to gather to himself, those doth he take for his people in respect of their future faith. But let us remember, that those are engrafted into the body of Christ who appertain unto the same by the eternal adoption of God; as it is written,
“Thine they were and thou gavest them me” (Joh 17:6.)
11. He continued there a year. We do not read that Paul stayed so long anywhere else save there; and yet it appeareth by his two epistles that he was not only likely to suffer much troubles, but that he had suffered many unjust and unmeet things by reason of the pride and unthankfulness of the people, so that we see that there was no part of warfare wherein the Lord did not wonderfully exercise him. Also, we gather what a hard and laborious matter the edifying of the Church is, seeing that the most excellent workmaster spent so much time about the laying of the foundation of one church only. Neither doth he boast that he had finished the work, but that the Lord had put others in his place, that they might build upon his foundation; as he saith afterwards that he had planted, and that Apollos had watered, (1Co 3:6.)
12. Now when Gallio was deputy of Achaia, the Jews rose with one accord against Paul, and brought him before the judgment-seat, 13. Saying, This man persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. 14. And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto them, If it were any injury or wicked fact, O Jews, I would according to reason maintain you: 15. But if it be a question of words and names, and your law, look ye to it yourselves; for I will be no judge in these matters. 16. And he drove them from the judgment-seat. 17. And when all the Greeks had caught Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, they smote him before the judgment-seat. Neither did Gallio care for any of these things.
12. When Gallio. Either the change of the deputy did encourage the Jews to wax more proud and insolent, as froward men use to abuse new things that they may procure some tumult, or else hoping that the judge would favor them, they brake the peace and silence at a sudden, which had continued one whole year. And the sum of the accusation is, that Paul went about to bring in a false kind of worship contrary to the law. Now, the question is, whether they spake of the law of Moses or of the rites used in the empire of Rome. Because this latter thing seemeth to me to be cold, 325 I do rather receive that, that they burdened Paul with this crime that he brake and altered the worship prescribed in the law of God, and that to the end they might hit him in the teeth with novelty or innovation. And surely Paul had been worthy to have been condemned if he had gone about any such thing; but forasmuch as it is most certain that they did treacherously and wickedly slander the holy man, they endeavored to cover an evil cause with an honest excuse. We know how straitly the Lord commandeth in the law, how he will have his servants to worship him. Therefore, to depart from that rule is sacrilege. But forasmuch as Paul never meant to add to or take away anything from the law, he is unjustly accused of this fault. Whence we gather, that though the faithful themselves never so uprightly and blamelessly, yet can they not escape false and slanderous reports until they be admitted to purge themselves. But Paul was not only unworthily and falsely slandered by the adversaries, but when he would have refuted their impudency and false reports, his mouth was stopped by the deputy. Therefore he was enforced to depart from the judgment-seat without defending himself. And Gallio refuseth to hear the cause, not for any evil will he bare to Paul, but because it was not agreeable to the office of the deputy to give judgment concerning the religion of every province. For though the Romans could not enforce the nations which were subject to them to observe their rites, yet lest they should seem to allow that which they did tolerate, they forbade their magistrates to meddle with this part of jurisdiction.
Here we see what the ignorance of true godliness doth in setting in order the state of every commonwealth and dominion. All men confess that this is the principal thing that true religion be in force and flourish. Now, when the true God is known, and the certain and sure rule of worshipping him is understood, there is nothing more equal 326 than that which God commandeth in his law, to wit, that those who bear rule with power (having abolished contrary superstitions) defend the pure worship of the true God. But seeing that the Romans did observe their rites only through pride and stubbornness, and seeing they had no certainty where there was no truth, they thought that this was the best way 327 they could take if they should grant liberty to those who dwelt in the provinces to live as they listed. But nothing is more absurd than to leave the worship of God to men’s choice. Wherefore, it was not without cause that God commanded by Moses that the king should cause a book of the law to be written out for himself, (De 17:18;) to wit, that being well instructed, and certain of his faith, he might with more courage take in hand to maintain that which he knew certainly was right.
15. Of words and names. These words are not well packed together. Yet Gallio speaketh thus of the law of God by way of contempt, as if the Jewish religion did consist only in words and superfluous questions. And surely (as the nation was much given to contention) it is not to be doubted but that many did trouble themselves and others with superfluous trifles. Yea, we hear with what Paul hitteth them in the teeth 328 in many places, especially in the Epistle to Titus, (Titus 1:14, and Titus 3:9.) Yet Gallio is not worthy to be excused who doth mock the holy law of God together with their curiosity. For as it behooved him to cut off all occasion of vain contentions in words, so we must, on the other side, know that when the worship of God is in hand, the strife is not about words, but a matter of all other most serious is handled.
17. All the Grecians having taken Sosthenes. This is that Sosthenes whom Paul doth honorably couple with himself as his companion in the beginning of the former Epistle to the Corinthians. And though there be no mention made of him before among the faithful, yet it is to be thought that he was then one of Paul’s companions and advocates. And what fury did enforce the Grecians to run headlong upon him, save only because it is allotted to all the children of God to have the world set against them, and offended with them and their cause, though unknown? Wherefore, there is no cause why such unjust dealing should trouble us at this day when we see the miserable Church oppugned on every side. Moreover, the frowardness of man’s nature is depainted out unto us as in a table, [picture.] Admit we grant that the Jews were hated everywhere for good causes, yet why are the Grecians rather displeased with Sosthenes, a modest man, than with the authors of the tumult, who troubled Paul without any cause? Namely, this is the reason, because, when men are not governed with the Spirit of God, they are carried headlong unto evil, as it were, by the secret inspiration of nature, notwithstanding it may be that they bare Sosthenes such hatred, thinking he had lodged wicked men to raise sedition.
Neither did Gallio care for any of these things. This looseness 329 must be imputed not so much to the sluggishness of the deputy as to the hatred of the Jewish religion. The Romans could have wished that the remembrance of the true God had been buried. And, therefore, when as it was lawful for them to vow their vows, and to pay them to all the idols of Asia and Greece, it was a deadly fact 330 to do sacrifice to the God of Israel. Finally, in the common liberty 331 of all manner [of] superstition, only true religion was accepted. This is the cause that Gallio winketh at the injury done to Sosthenes. He professed of late that he would punish injuries if any were done; now he suffereth a guiltless man to be beaten before the judgment-seat. Whence cometh this sufferance, save only because he did in heart desire that the Jews might one slay another, that their religion might be put out 332 with them? But forasmuch as, by the mouth of Luke, the Spirit condemneth Gallio’s carelessness, because he did not aid a man who was unjustly punished, 333 let our magistrates know that they be far more inexcusable if they wink at injuries and wicked facts, if they bridle not the wantonness of the wicked, if they reach not forth their hand to the oppressed. But and if the sluggish are to look for just damnation, what terrible judgment hangeth over the heads of those who are unfaithful and wicked, 334 who, by favoring evil causes, and bearing with wicked facts, set up, as it were, a banner of want of punishment, 335 and are fans to kindle boldness to do hurt?
18. And when Paul had tarried there many days, having taken his leave of the brethren, he sailed into Syria, Priscilla and Aquila accompanying him, when he had shaven his head at Cenchrea: for he had a vow. 19. And he came to Ephesus, when he left them. And when he had entered into the synagogue, he disputed with the Jews. 20. And when they desired him that he would stay longer time with them, he did not consent; 21. But took his leave, saying, I must needs keep the feast which is at hand in Jerusalem: but I will return to you again, God willing. And he loosed from Ephesus. 22. And when he was come down to Caesarea, and was gone up, and had saluted the Church, he came down to Antioch. 23. And when he had tarried there some time, he departed, walking through the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.
18. And when he had tarried there many days. Paul’s constancy appeareth in this, in that he is not driven away with fear, lest he should trouble the disciples, who were as yet ignorant and weak, with his sudden and untimely departure. We read in many other places, that when persecution was raised against him elsewhere he fled forthwith. What is the cause then, that he stayeth at Corinthus? to wit, when he saw that the enemies were provoked with his presence to rage against the whole Church, he did not doubt but that the faithful 336 should have peace and rest by his departure; but now, when he seeth their malice bridled, so that they cannot hurt the flock of God, he had rather sting and nettle them, than by departing minister unto them any new occasion of rage. Furthermore, this was the third journey which Paul took to Jerusalem. For going from Damascus, he went once up that he might be made known to the apostles. And he was sent the second time with Barnabas, that he might handle and end the controversy about ceremonies. But Luke doth not set down for what cause he now took such a long and laborious journey, determining with all speed to return.
When he had shorn his head. It is uncertain whether that be spoken of Aquila or of Paul: neither skilleth it much. Though I interpret it willingly of Paul, because it seemeth to me a likely thing that he did this for because of the Jews, unto whom he was about to come. Assuredly, I think this to be a thing which all men grant, that he made not any ceremonial vow for his own cause, only that he might do some worship to God. He knew that that was to continue only for a time which God commanded under the law to the old people; and we know how diligently he teacheth that the kingdom of God consisteth not in these external elements, and how straitly he urgeth the abrogating thereof. It had been an absurd thing for him to bind his own conscience with that religion from which he had loosed all other men.
Therefore, he did shear his head for no other cause, save only that he might apply himself 337 to the Jews, who were as yet ignorant, and not thoroughly taught; as he doth testify that he took upon him the voluntary observing of the law, from which he was freed, that he might gain those who were under the law, (1Co 9:20.) If any man object that it was not lawful for him to make semblance of a vow which he had not made from his heart, we may easily answer, that as touching the substance of purifying he did not dissemble, and that he used the ceremony which was as yet free, not as if God did require such worship, but that he might somewhat bear with the ignorant.
Therefore, the Papists are ridiculous when they fet 338 from hence an example of making vows. Paul was moved with no religion to make his vow; but these men place a reigned worship of God in vows. Respect of time enforced Paul to keep the rites of the law. These men do nothing else but entangle in superstition the Church of Christ, which was set free long ago. For it is one thing to bring in use again old ceremonies used long ago, and another to tolerate the same being as yet used, until such time as they may by little and little grow out of use. I omit that the Papists in vain and foolishly compare the shaving of their priests with the sign of purifying which God had allowed in the law. But because we need not stand any longer to refute them, let this one thing suffice us, that Paul bound himself with a vow that he might bring those which were weak to Christ, at least that he might not offend them, which vow he knew was of no importance before God.
19. Entering into the synagogue. In that he shook his garment at Corinthus, 339 it was [not] done for that cause, (as this place teacheth,) that he might cast off the whole nation, but only such as he had already tried [experienced] to be of desperate obstinacy. Now, he cometh afresh unto the Ephesians, that he might try whether he could find any more obedience among them. Furthermore, it is a wonder, that seeing it appeareth by Luke’s report that he was heard more patiently in this synagogue than in any other place, and also that he was requested to tarry, he did not grant their request. Hence we may easily gather that which I said before, that he had some great cause to go up to Jerusalem in haste. Also, he himself showeth that he must make haste, saying, I must keep the feast which is at hand at Jerusalem. Neither is it to be doubted but that after he had set things in good order there, he departed with their good leave; and we may gather out of Luke’s words that they did admit his excuse lest the repulse should offend them. And this is worth the noting, that when better hope to do good is offered us than we were wont to have, we are drawn unto divers affairs, as it were, by the hand of God, that we may learn to give over ourselves to be governed at his pleasure.
The feast. That which I said of late touching the vow doth also appertain unto the feast day. For Paul meant not to do thereby any duty of godliness 340 to God, but to be at the assembly, wherein he might do more good than at any other time of the year. For the Epistle to the Galatians doth sufficiently testify what account he made of difference of days, (Ga 4:10.) And we must note that he maketh no promise touching his return without using this exception, if it please the Lord. We do all confess that we be not able to stir one finger without his direction; but because there reigneth in men so great arrogancy everywhere, that they dare determine anything (passing over God) not only for the time to come, but also for many years, we must oftentimes think upon this reverence and sobriety, that we may learn to make our counsels subject to the will and providence of God; lest, if we be deliberate and take counsel as those use to do who think that they have fortune at their commandment, we be justly punished for our rashness. And though there be not so great religion in words but that we may at our pleasure say that we will do this or that, yet is it good to accustom ourselves to use certain forms in our speeches, that they may put us in mind that God doth direct all our doings.
22. When he came down to Caesarea. Though Luke saith in a word that Paul saluted the Church at Jerusalem, yet is it certain that he was drawn thither with some great necessity. And yet we may gather by this text that he stayed not long at Jerusalem, peradventure because things fell not out as he would. Moreover, he declareth that his journey in his return was not idle or barren, in that he saith that he strengthened all the disciples, undoubtedly not without great pains-taking, because he was enforced to go hither and thither, and oft to turn out of his way; for this word [καθεξης] doth signify a continual course. Now, we have already declared (Ac 9:36) in what respect those be called disciples who had given their names to Christ, and professed the name of Christ; to wit, because there is no godliness without true instruction. They had, indeed, their pastors under whom they might profit. Yet the greater Paul’s authority was, and the more excellent spirit he had given him, so they were not a little strengthened by his by them, especially seeing he was the chief work-master in the founding of all these churches.
24. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born in Alexandria, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus, being mighty in the Scriptures. 25. He was instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently those things which are the Lord’s, knowing only the baptism of John. 26. And he began to speak freely in the synagogue: whom when Priscilla and Aguila had heard, they took him to their company, and showed him the way of the Lord more perfectly. 27. And when he was determined to go into Achaia, the brethren exhorting him, wrote to the disciples that they should receive him: who, when he was come, he helped them much who had believed through grace. 28. For he overcame the Jews mightily, and that openly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
24. A certain Jew. This ought for good causes to be ascribed to the providence of God, in that whilst Paul is enforced to depart from Ephesus, Apollos cometh in his place to supply his absence. And it is very expedient to know the beginning of this man of what sort it was, forasmuch as he was Paul’s successor among the Corinthians, and did behave himself so excellently, and did his faithful endeavor, and took great pains, so that Paul commendeth him honorably as a singular fellow in office.
“I have planted, (saith he,) Apollos hath watered,”
Also, these things have I figuratively appointed unto myself and Apollos, (1Co 4:6.) Luke giveth him first two titles of commendation, that he was eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures; afterward he will add his zeal, faith, and constancy. And though Paul do truly deny that the kingdom of God consisteth in words, and he himself was not commended for eloquence yet dexterity in speaking and reasoning 341 (such as Luke doth here commend) is not to be despised, especially when no pomp or vain boasting is sought after, by using fine words and great eloquence; but he which is to teach counteth it sufficient for him, without fraud or ambition, without lofty words and curious cunning, plainly to lay open the matter he hath in hand. Paul was without eloquence; the Lord would have the chief apostle to want this virtue, to the end the power of the Spirit might appear more excellent in his rude and homely speech. And yet was he furnished with such eloquence as was sufficient to set forth the name of Christ, and to maintain the doctrine of salvation. But as the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit is divers and manifold, Paul’s infancy, 342 that I may so call it, did no whit let but that the Lord might choose to himself eloquent ministers. Furthermore, lest any man should think that Apollos’ eloquence was profane or vain, 343 Luke saith that it was joined with great power, 344 namely, that he was mighty in the Scriptures. Which I expound thus, that he was not only well and soundly exercised in the Scriptures, but that he had the force and efficacy thereof, that, being armed with them, he did in all conflicts get the upper hand. And this (in my judgment) is rather the praise of the Scripture than of man, 345 that it hath sufficient force both to defend the truth, and also to refute the subtilty of Satan.
25. He was instructed. That which Luke addeth shortly after seemeth not to agree with this commendation, to wit, that he knew only the baptism of John. But this latter member is added by way of correction. Nevertheless, these two agree very well together; that he understood the doctrine of the gospel, because he both knew that the Redeemer was given to the world, and also was well and sincerely instructed concerning the grace of reconciliation; and yet had he been trained up only in the principles of the gospel, so much as could be had out of John’s institution. 346 For we know that John was in the midst between Christ and the prophets; and of his office doth both his father Zacharias intreat in his tongue, (Lu 1:76; Lu 1:16 and 17;) and also the angel out of the prophecy of Malachi, (Mal 3:1.) Surely, seeing that he carried the light before Christ, and did highly extol his power, his disciples are for good causes said to have had knowledge of Christ. Moreover, the speech is worth the noting, that he knew the baptism of John. For thence we gather the true use of the sacraments; to wit, that they enter 347 us in some certain kind of doctrine, or that they establish that faith which we have embraced. Surely, it is wickedness and impious profanation to pull them away 348 from doctrine. Wherefore, that the sacraments may be rightly administered, the voice of the heavenly doctrine must sound there. For what is the baptism of John? Luke comprehendeth all his ministry under this word, not only because doctrine is annexed unto baptism, but also because it is the foundation and head thereof, without which it should be a vain and dead ceremony.
Being fervent in spirit he spake. Apollos hath another commendation given him in these words, that he was inflamed with an holy zeal to teach. Doctrine without zeal is either like a sword in the hand of a madman, or else it lieth still as cold and without use, or else it serveth for vain and wicked boasting. For we see that some learned men become slothful; other some (which is worse) become ambitious; other some (which is of all the worst) trouble the Church with contention and brawling. Therefore, that doctrine shall be unsavory which is not joined with zeal. But let us remember that Luke putteth the knowledge of the Scripture in the first place, which must be the moderation of zeal, 349 for we know that many are fervent without consideration, as the Jews did rage against the gospel, by reason of a perverse affection which they did bear toward the law; and even at this day we see what the Papists be, who carried headlong with furious violence, being pricked forward with an opinion unadvisedly conceived. Therefore, let knowledge be present that it may govern zeal. And now it is said that zeal was the cause of diligence, because Apollos gave himself to teach diligently. But and if that man, being not yet thoroughly and perfectly taught in the gospel, did preach Christ so diligently and freely, what excuse do those men hope to have, who know that more perfectly and fully, which he knew not as yet, if they do not endeavor so much as in them lieth to further and advance the kingdom of Christ? Luke doth attribute zeal to the Spirit, therefore, because it is a rare and peculiar gift; neither do I so expound it that Apollos was moved and pricked forward with the instinct of his mind, but by motion of the Holy Spirit.
26. Whom, when Priscilla. By this it appeareth how far Priscilla and Aquila were from the love of themselves, and from envying another man’s virtue, in that they deliver those things familiarly and privately to an eloquent man, which he may afterward utter publicly. They excelled not in the same grace wherein he did excel, and, peradventure, they might have been despised in the congregation. Moreover, they most diligently help him, whom they see better furnished as well with eloquence as the use of the Scripture; so that they keep silence, and he alone is heard.
Again, this was no small modesty which was in Apollos, in that he doth suffer himself to be taught and instructed not only in [by] an handy-craftsman, but also by a woman. He was mighty in the Scripture, and did surpass 350 them; but as touching the accomplishment of the kingdom of Christ, those do polish and trim him who might seem to be scarce fit ministers. Also, we see that at that time women were not so ignorant of the word of God as the Papists will have them; forasmuch as we see that one of. the chief teachers of the Church was instructed by a woman. Notwithstanding, we must remember that Priscilla did execute this function of teaching at home in her own house, that she might not overthrow the order prescribed by God and nature.
27. When he was determined. Luke doth not express for what cause Apollos would go to Achaia. Notwithstanding, we gather out of the text [context] that he was not allured with any private commodity, but because more plentiful fruit in spreading abroad the gospel did show itself there; because the brethren did more encourage him with their exhortation, and did spur him when he did already run. Which they would not have done, unless it had been for the common profit of the Church. For it had been an absurd thing to entreat a man to depart to another place, whose faithful industry they already used, and did know that they should have need of him afterward, unless there had been some better recompense offered. And I take it that the brethren of Ephesus wrote to those of Achaia, not only that they should provide lodging for the man, but also that they should suffer him to teach. This is holy commendation indeed, when we study to extol every good man with our testimony and consent, [suffrage,] lest the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which he hath given to every man for the edifying of the Church, lie buried.
When he came. The brethren foresaw this, who had already had experience thereof, when they exhorted him to address himself to that journey which he had already in mind conceived. And whereas it is said that he helped the faithful much, we may take it two ways; either that he helped those who were not so well furnished, and that he did support them to beat down the pride of their enemies; for every man was not able to have weapon in readiness, to undertake a hard combat against old 351 enemies, who would never have yielded, unless they had been enforced; or that he aided them, lest their faith should fail, being shaken with the gainsaying of the enemies, which thing doth oftentimes befall the weak. I take it that they were helped both ways; that having a skillful and practiced captain, they got 352 the victory in the conflict. Secondly, that their faith was fortified with a new prop, that it might be without danger of wavering. Furthermore, Luke seemeth to note that the brethren were helped with this stoutness and constancy, when as he saith that he disputed publicly with the Jews. For this was a sign of zeal and boldness not to fly the light. Whereas, in the end of the sentence, these words are used, through grace; it doth either agree with the word going before, they believed; or else it must be referred unto the help wherewith he helped the brethren. The former interpretation is nothing hard. For the meaning thereof shall be this, that the faithful were illuminate by the grace of God, that they might believe; as if he had said, The brethren, who were already called by the benefit of God unto faith, were furthered. Yet the other text seemeth to agree better, that Apollos, in imparting that grace which he had received with the brethren, did help them. So that, through grace, shall import as much as according to the measure of the grace received.
28. He overcame the Jews. By this it appeareth to what use that ability which Apollos had (in that he was mighty in the Holy Scriptures) did serve; to wit, because he had a strong and forcible proof to reprove and overcome the enemies withal. Also, the state of the disputation is briefly set down, that Jesus is Christ. For this was out of question among the Jews, that Christ was promised to be the deliverer; but it was a hard matter to persuade them that Jesus, the Son of Mary, was this Christ, through whom salvation was offered. Therefore, it was expedient for Apollos so to dispute concerning the office of Christ, that he might prove that the testimonies of the Scripture were fulfilled in the Son of Mary; and that he might thereby gather that he was Christ.
Also, this place doth testify, that the Scripture is profitable not only to teach, but also to break the obstinacy of those which do not obey and follow willingly. For our faith should not otherwise be firm enough, unless there were an evident demonstration extant there of those things which are necessary to be known for salvation. Surely, if the law and the prophets had so great light, that Apollos did thereby prove manifestly that Jesus is Christ, as if he did point out the matter with his finger, the adding of the gospel must bring this to pass at least, that the perfect knowledge of Christ may be let [sought] from the whole Scripture.
Wherefore it is detestable blasphemy against God in that the Papists say, that the Scripture is dark and doubtful. For to what end should God have spoken, unless the plain and invincible truth should show itself in his words? And whereas they infer, that we must stand to the authority of the Church, and they are not to dispute with heretics out of the Scriptures; their cavil is sufficiently refuted by Luke. For, seeing there was nothing more stubborn than the Jews, we need not to fear but that those weapons whereto Apollos trusted, and overcame them, shall suffice us against all heretics, seeing that by them we get the victory of the devil, the prince of all errors.
“Alieno solo,” a foreign soil.
“Infausta,” ill-omened, unpropitious.
“Per dura exilia,” through the hardships of exile.
“Consulto...passus fuerit,” purposely suffered.
“Ut fieri solet,” as is usual, omitted.
“In suis malis obstupuit,” were stupified by their calamities.
“Mirum est unde repserit quod legitur in Latinis codicibus,” it is strange how the reading crept into the Latin manuscripts.
“Pro violento impulsu et extrinseco ut loquuntur,” for a violent and extrinsic impulse, as it is called.
“Si non annunciaveris ut se convertat,” if you do not warn the wicked to be converted.
“Temere,” at random.
“Et coactum,” and forced.
“Aequum,” equitable or just.
“Optimum compendium,” the best and shortest way.
“Quid illis exprobet Paulis,” how Paul upbraideth them.
“Capitale erat,” it was a capital offence.
“In communi... licentia,” while there was a common license.
“Extingueretur,” might be extinguished.
“Afflictum,” afflicted, oppressed.
“Perfidis et malignis,” malignant and perfidious.
“Impunitatis,” of impudity.
“Pacem et quitem fidelibus redimere,” to purchase the peace and quiet of the faithful.
“Se accommodaret,” accommodate himself.
“In signum detestationis,” in token of detestation.
“Pietatis officio,” office of piety.
“Sermocinandi,” sermonising, haranguing.
“Pauli infantia,” Paul’s want of utterance.
“Vel inanem et fulinem,” or futile and vain.
“Cum majore...virtute,” with a greater virtue or excellence.
“Scripturae potius quam hominis laus est,” is greater prase to Scripture than to the man.
“Avelli,” to dissever.
“Quae esset zeli moderatio,” to moderate zeal.
“Illis longe superior,” and far superior to them.
“Superiores essent,” might be victorious.