Sacred Texts  Christianity  Calvin  Index  Previous  Next 

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

Acts 3:12-16

12. And when Peter saw that, he made answer unto the people, Men of Israel, why marvel ye at this, or why look ye so steadfastly on us, as if by our own power or godliness we have made this man walk? 13. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus, whom ye have delivered, and whom ye have denied before the face of Pilate, when he had judged him to be loosed. 14. But ye have denied the holy, the just, and have desired to have a murderer given you. 15. But ye have murdered the Prince of life: whom God hath raised up from the dead; whereof we are witnesses: and in the faith of his name, his name hath strengthened this man, whom ye have seen and known. 16. And the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in presence of you all.


12. Men of Israel He beginneth his sermon with a reproving of the people. And yet doth he not simply reprove them because they wonder; for that was altogether profitable and worthy praise; but because they do wickedly ascribe unto men that praise which is due to the work of God. As if he should say, Ye do amiss, in that you stay in us, and stand gazing upon us, whereas you ought rather to look upon God and Christ. Therefore, this is to be amazed evilly, when as our minds do stay in men. And we must note that he condemneth the respect of men; as if, saith he, we by our own power and virtue had done this. Therefore there is an error and corruption in this, if we attribute that unto the godliness and power of men which is proper to God and Christ. And, as concerning power, no man will deny that it cometh of God; yet when they have confessed this in one word, they do not cease to take from God his right, to the end they may adorn the creatures with that which they take from him; as we see the Papists place the power of God in the saints; yea, they include his power in a stone or stock of wood, so soon as the image is consecrated to Barbara or Chrysogonus. But, notwithstanding, let us suppose that they do not offend in that former member; yet do they foolishly think that they have done their duty toward God, when as they leave him the power, and assign the miracles unto the godliness of saints. For why do they run unto them, when they will obtain either rain or fair weather, or be delivered from diseases, unless they do imagine that they have by their godliness deserved that God should grant them this right and privilege? This is, therefore, but a childish starting-hole,  180 when they confess that God is the author of the power; but they thank the godliness of saints for those benefits which they have received. Howsoever they color the matter, we must always know this, that Peter doth generally condemn those which do so look unto men in miracles, that they think that their holiness is the cause thereof. This is the first part of the sermon, wherein he reproveth superstition. And we must note his manner and order of teaching. For because men are inclined to nothing more than to fall from God unto the creatures, it is very expedient to prevent this vice in time. And if the people were forbidden to look unto the apostles, much more doth the Spirit draw us away from calling upon every petty saint.

13, 14. The God of Abraham. He addeth a remedy now in calling them back unto Christ. And the sum is this, That this is God’s purpose in those miracles which he worketh by the apostles to set forth the glory of his Christ; whereupon it followeth that all those do deal disorderly who set up Peter, or any other, whatsoever he be, forasmuch as all men must decrease, and Christ alone must be excellent, (Joh 3:30.) Here appeareth a manifest difference between Christ and the apostles. First of all, he is the author, they are only the ministers; secondly, this is the lawful end, that he alone may have the glory; and as for them there is no respect to be had of them as concerning glory; for certainly they which do glorify any in miracles besides Christ, they set themselves flatly against the counsel of God.

He maketh mention of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the end he may declare unto the people that he meaneth nothing less than to lead them away from the old and ancient worship of the true God, which they had received of the fathers. Furthermore, God hath given himself this title, that he might (dissever and) distinguish himself by some mark from idols; for we do not comprehend God in his essence, which cannot be seen, and which is infinite; therefore, he useth such means as agree best with us, to bring us to the knowledge of him. The Turks do boast that they do worship God, which is the creator of heaven and earth; but before they come at heaven they vanish away. Therefore, to the end God might keep his people from vain and erroneous inventions, he kept them in his covenant; therefore, when he calleth himself the God of Abraham, he did briefly teach that which Moses declareth more at large, (De 30:12,)

“Say not, Who shall ascend into heaven? Who shall go down into the depth? Or who shall sail over the seas? The word is nigh,” etc.

Furthermore, as amongst the Jews the name of the holy fathers was in high estimation, so Peter doth closely  181 tell them, that they were no better than other men, without the only begotten Son of God. And at this day God will be known by a more evident mark yet, when as he calleth himself the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us now return unto Peter; he saith that he bringeth in no new religion, that. he may draw away the people from the law and the prophets; for if he should attempt this, God had forbidden them to hear him, (De 13:3.) Like as Paul teacheth, that we must retain one foundation in the spiritual building, (1Co 3:11,) because, so soon as we depart even but a little from Christ, there can nothing ensue but ruin. And hereby also we may easily discern in what sense he calleth God the God of the fathers; for neither doth he take this for a general maxim, that what manner of worship soever the fathers had, we must continue the same, as the Papists do foolishly vaunt that they do follow the manner of worshipping which was used amongst the fathers; for Peter doth expressly reckon up Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from whom true religion did proceed, and by whom it was divinely delivered; whereby he doth signify unto us, that we must not follow all fathers, whereof many did grow out of kind, and became altogether unlike to the first fathers; that this honor is due to the children of God alone, and that others are to be refused; which thing the prophets do also beat in  182 everywhere:

“Walk not in the ways of your fathers,” etc.,
(Eze 20:18.)

Whom ye have delivered He mingleth with doctrine a most sharp chiding, according as the matter did require; for it was impossible to bring them truly unto God, unless they were first brought to the knowledge of their sins; neither doth he only lightly touch them, but he doth very gravely show them the horribleness of that offense which they had committed. To this end tendeth that comparison, that they delivered him to be put to death, whom Pilate would have loosed; and again, that, pardoning a murderer, they put the Prince of life to death; that they did reject the just and holy. Men must be so stricken, that being brought to know their guiltiness, they may earnestly fly unto the remedy of pardon. Such vehemence and earnestness did Peter also use in his first sermon; he saith afterward that God raised him up, whereby they ought to know that, in putting Christ to death, they did strive against God; although Peter had respect unto an higher thing, to wit, that their cruelty did no whit impair the glory of Christ, because God had nevertheless restored him to life. When as he saith, that he and his fellows in office were witnesses of the resurrection, his meaning is, that they saw it with their eyes, (Lu 24:48.) Therefore, this is referred not only unto the apostolical function, but because they saw Christ with their eyes after that he was risen from the dead; although I do also grant that this second thing is comprehended under these words, because it is likely that Peter doth make mention of that function which was committed unto him, to the end he may purchase the greater authority.

16. And in the faith of his name. When as he saith in the faith of his name, and his name; and again, the faith which is by him; this repetition is a token of a fervent affection, for because he was wholly given to set forth the glory of Christ, he beateth in [inculcateth] the same thing oftentimes. Moreover, we see that when Paul is occupied about the showing and setting forth of the grace of Christ, he thinketh that he hath never spoken enough touching the same; and surely such is the wicked nature of men, that Christ cannot be so highly extolled, and so preached, that his honor can remain sound unto him. Let us, therefore, remember that Peter did use such variety and plenty of words, to the end he might stay us in Christ. As touching the phrase, when as he saith, his name in the faith of his name hath strengthened, he showeth both the cause and the manner; the power of Christ had healed the cripple but by faith. When as he saith, the faith which is by him, by this word he signifieth unto us that our faith cannot arise up unto God unless it be grounded in Christ, and se, consequently, that this our faith doth look unto Christ and stay itself upon him, and so he showeth that there cat be no right faith in God when we pass over this mean.

Furthermore, as he said before, that he and the other apostles were witnesses of Christ’s life, so he doth now declare that this life was manifestly proved unto the Jews by a sign or effect, because they see the cripple healed, in whom they had an excellent and evident token of the Divine power of Christ. And when as in this last member he maketh faith the cause of this soundness, he layeth unthankfulness to their charge by the way, unless they give faith her due praise; and although faith may be referred as well unto the man that was healed as unto the apostles, yet we need not to stand much about this manner, because the power of the gospel is set forth by synecdoche.



Effugium,” evasion or subterfuge.


Tacite admonet,” tacitly reminds them.


Inculcant,” inculcate.

Next: Acts 3:17-21