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

Acts 5:7-11

7. And there was passed about the space of three hours, when his wife came in, ignorant of that which was done. 8. And Peter said unto her, Tell me, sold ye the field for so much? She answered, Surely, for so much. 9. And Peter said unto her, What is this that ye are agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those which have buried thy husband are at the door, which shall carry thee out. 10. And immediately she fell down at his feet, and gave up the ghost. Furthermore, when the young men came in, they found her dead, and when they had carried her out, they buried her beside her husband. 11. And there came great fear upon all the church, and upon all which heard these things.


7. That punishment wherewith the Lord punished Sapphira containeth no new thing, save only that the example was the more confirmed thereby. And it came to pass by the certain providence of God, that the Church should see apart the obstinate wickedness and treacherous mind of them both. Seeing their faults were alike, they might have been known together; but this was more fit and profitable for the Church, that they might severally bewray their own wickedness. Neither was Sapphira provoked by the sight of her husband to dissemble, (as it falleth out oftentimes,) that the fault could be ascribed to shamefacedness, but of her own accord, and being pricked forward by no other means, she seemeth to be no better than her husband. Moreover, their wickedness in lying was like, forasmuch as she may see by Peter’s interrogation that their guile was found out.

8. Tell me. We see that God doth not by and by  243 punish her, but first he trieth the matter thoroughly, lest he should send vengeance upon any save the obstinate, and those which will not be pardoned.  244 For although Sapphira did know that the matter was hidden, she ought to have been stricken with this question of Peter, no otherwise than if she had been cited to appear before the judgment-seat of God. She hath a time granted her to repent; yea, this is, as it were, a pleasant  245 inviting unto repentance. But she, in holding on so carelessly,  246 doth declare that she was incurable, because she is touched with no fear of God.

And hereby are we taught to labor diligently to bring sinners into the way. For the Spirit of God keepeth this moderation; but when as stubbornness and the stubborn contempt of God is added unto the offense, it is now high time to punish. Therefore, those men are too arrogant who are displeased with the immoderate rigor of God. It is rather our duty to consider how we shall in time to come  247 stand before the judgment-seat of God; although this is too much to despise his holy power and majesty, if we will have him mocked freely without any punishment. Moreover, so many circumstances, which before I have gathered, do sufficiently prove that Ananias and Sapphira were not worthy of one death only. For, first of all, hypocrisy is of itself very abominable to God. Secondly, whereas they are determined to lie unto God, this ariseth of great contempt, in that they do not reverence and fear Christ, being the Chief Governor of those amongst whom they were. It is ungodliness joined with impudency; because, so they can escape shame and reproach amongst men, before whom they were determined to vaunt and brag, they pass not to deny their manifest wickedness unto God. Whereas they do stubbornly deny their offense, this doth, as it were, make up the heap and measure. And whereas innumerable hypocrites do no less mock God and the Church daily, who, notwithstanding, are not punished with death, I have already showed why this ought to seem to be no inconvenient thing.  248 Forasmuch as God is the only Judge of the world, it belongeth to him to punish every man at his pleasure, when and how it seemeth good to him. Wherefore we must not prescribe unto him a certain mean and manner of punishment. But the greatness of the spiritual judgment, which is as yet hid, hath been set before us in the bodily punishment of two, as in a mirror. For if we consider what it is to be cast into eternal fire, we shall not judge that this is the greatest evil and punishment of all, to fall down dead before men. Look the 10th chapter of the First to the Corinthians, verse 5.

9. To tempt the Spirit. He uttereth the same thing in other words which he had said before; to wit, that they did mock God unreverently and contemptibly. But he said that they tempted the Spirit, because they had cunningly packed their fraud, as if the Spirit of God were not the knower of the hearts. For it was a point of too great carelessness, seeing the one made the other privy to their wickedness, to make their match between themselves, having, as it were, excluded God. For the Scripture saith, that God is tempted either when his power is taken from him, or the knowledge of all things is denied him. Furthermore, he meaneth that Spirit which governed the Church by the apostles. For when Christ saith, When the Spirit cometh, he shall judge the world, he noteth no other kind of authority than that which he exerciseth by the ministry of the Church.

11. And there came fear. He saith, again, that the punishment of one was a lesson to all. But he plainly expresseth in this place a double fear. He saith that the Church feared, because the faithful do never so perfectly fear God, but that they profit yet more, being admonished by his judgments. Therefore, by all those punishments which we read have been laid upon men in times past, and do daily see to be laid upon them, doth God call us back from the enticements and liberty of sinning. For our flesh must be bridled every now and then after this sort, because one bridle will scarce serve the turn. There was another manner [of] fear in the strangers, yet no such fear as brought them unto the sincere worship of God; yet, notwithstanding, it was such as caused them to give the glory to God.



Subito impetu,” by sudden impulse.


Qui sibi veniam praecidunt,” who cut themselves off from pardon.


Placida,” calm.


Pergendo secure,” in proceeding securely.


Olim,” one day.


Absurdum,” absurd or strange.

Next: Acts 5:12-16