Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 10:32-35; MARK 8:38;
LUKE 9:26; 12:8-9, 51-53
32. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father, who is in heaven. 33. And whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father, who is in heaven. 34. Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35. For I have come to set a man at variance against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And the persons of a man’s household shall be his enemies.
38. For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
26. For whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, 601 and [in the glory] of the Father, and of the holy angels.
Luke 12:8-9, 51-53
8. And I say to you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. 9. And he who shall deny me before men, will be denied before the angels of God.—(Same chapter.) 51. Do you suppose that I came to send peace on earth? I tell you no; but division. 52. For henceforth there will be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53. The father will be divided against the son, and the son against the father: the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother: the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
Matthew 10:32. Whosoever therefore shall confess me He now applies to his present subject what he formerly said in a general manner about contempt of death: for we must struggle against the dread of death, that it may not keep us back from an open confession of faith, which God strictly demands, and which the world cannot endure. For this purpose the disciples of Christ must be bold and courageous, that they may be always ready for martyrdom. Now confession of Christ, though it is regarded by the greater part of men as a trifling matter, is here represented to be a main part of divine worship, and a distinguished exercise of godliness. And justly is it so represented: for if earthly princes, in order to enlarge and protect their glory, and to increase their wealth, call their subjects to arms, why should not believers maintain, at least in language, the glory of their heavenly King?
It is therefore certain that those persons extinguish faith, (as far as lies in their powers) who inwardly suppress it, as if the outward profession of it were unnecessary. With good reason does Christ here call us his witnesses, by whose mouth his name shall be celebrated in the world. In other words, he intends that the profession of his name shall be set in opposition to false religions: and as it is a revolting matter, he enjoins the testimony which we must bear, that the faith of each person may not remain concealed in the heart, but may be openly professed before men. And does not he who refuses or is silent deny the Son of God, and thus banish himself from the heavenly family?
A more public confession of faith, no doubt, is demanded from teachers than from persons in a private station. Besides, all are not endued with an equal measure of faith, and in proportion as any one excels in the gifts of the Spirit, he ought to go before others by his example. But there is no believer whom the Son of God does not require to be his witness. In what place, at what time, with what degree of frequency, in what manner, and to what extent, we ought to profess our faith, cannot easily be determined by a fixed rule: but we must consider the occasion, that not one of us may fail to discharge his duty at the proper time. We must also ask from the Lord the spirit of wisdom and courage, that under his direction we may know what is proper, and may boldly follow whatever we shall have ascertained that he commands us.
Him will I also confess. A promise is added to inflame our zeal in this matter. But we must attend to the points of contrast. If we draw a comparison between ourselves and the Son of God, how base is it to refuse our testimony to him, when on his part he offers his testimony to us by way of reward? If mortals, and men who are of no worth, are brought into comparison with God and the angels and all the heavenly glory, how much more valuable is that which Christ promises than that which he requires? Although men are unbelieving and rebellious, yet the testimony which we deliver to them is estimated by Christ as if it had been made in the presence of God and of the angels.
Thus also by way of amplification, Mark and Luke 602 add, in this adulterous and sinful generation; the meaning of which is, that we must not imagine our labor to be lost, because there is a want of proper disposition in our hearers. Now if any one is not sufficiently moved by the promise, it is followed by an awful threatening. When Christ shall make his appearance to judge the world, he will deny all who have basely denied him before men Let the enemies of the cross now go away, and flatter themselves in their hypocrisy, when Christ blots their names out of the book of life: for whom will God acknowledge as his children at the last day, but those who are presented to him by Christ? But he declares that he will bear witness against them, that they may not insinuate themselves on false grounds. When it is said that Christ will come in the glory of the Father and of the angels, the meaning is, that his divine glory will then be fully manifested; and that the angels, as they now surround the throne of God, will render their services to him by honoring his majesty. The passage from the twelfth chapter of Luke’s Gospel corresponds to the text of Matthew. What we have inserted out of the ninth chapter, and out of Mark, appears to have been spoken at another time: but as the doctrine is quite the same, I have chosen to introduce them together.
Luke 12:51. Do you suppose that I came to send peace on the earth? What Christ has now demanded from his disciples any one of them would reckon it an easy matter to give, if the whole world, with one consent, embraced the doctrine of the Gospel. But as a considerable part of the world not only opposes but fights keenly against it, we cannot confess Christ without encountering the resistance and hatred of many. Christ therefore warns his followers to prepare for battle, for they must necessarily fight for the testimony of truth. And here he meets two stumbling-blocks, which otherwise would greatly have distressed weak minds. The prophets everywhere promise that there will be peace and tranquillity under the reign of Christ. What then were his disciples entitled to expect but that, wherever they went, all would instantly be at peace? Now as Christ is called our peace, (Eph 2:14,) and as the Gospel reconciles us to God, it follows, that he also establishes a brotherly harmony amongst us. The kindling of wars and contentions in the world where the Gospel is preached, does not seem to agree with the predictions of the prophets, and still less with the office of Christ, and with the nature of the Gospel.
But that peace which the prophets describe in lofty terms, is associated with faith, and has no existence but among the sincere worshippers of God, and in the consciences of the godly. To unbelievers it does not come, though it is offered to them; nay, they cannot endure to be reconciled to God: and the consequence is, that the message of peace excites in them a greater tumult than before. As Satan, who holds a kingly power over the reprobate, is furious against the name of Christ, as soon as the doctrine of the Gospel is proclaimed to them, their impiety, which formerly lay asleep, acquires fresh vigor. Thus Christ, who properly speaking, is the author of peace, becomes the occasion of disturbances in consequence of the wickedness of men.
Let us hence learn how great is the depravity of corrupt nature, which not only soils a gift so inestimable, but changes it into a most destructive evil. Meanwhile, if tumults arise at the commencement of the reign of Christ, let us not be alarmed at it, as if it were strange or unusual: for he compares his Gospel to a sword, and says that it is διαμερισμὸς, separation Some think that this is intended to describe the punishment which was inflicted on the despisers of the Gospel, by their rising in hostility against each other. But the context shows, that Christ is here exhorting his disciples to perseverance, though a good part of the world should be at variance with them, and though their voice should be like a war-trumpet to call innumerable enemies to arms.
Matthew 10:35 To set a man at variance Hence we see more clearly what was stated a little before, that wars and tumults arise, contrary to the nature of the Gospel, through the fault of wicked men. What Malachi says about John the Baptist, [Mal. 4:5, 6] applies to all the ministers of Christ. They are sent for this purpose to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers. But in consequence of the malice of wicked men, those who were formerly combined no sooner hear the voice of Christ than they separate into opposite parties, and proceed so far as to break up the ties of relationship. In a word, Christ foretells that the world will come to such a state of confusion, that all the bonds of kindred will be treated with indifference, and humanity will be no longer regarded. When Micah complains [Mic 7:6] that a man’s enemies are the men of his own house, he deplores it as a state of extreme and ruinous corruption. Christ declares that the same thing will happen when his doctrine shall be published, which otherwise could not have been believed. At the same time, he does not mean that this will uniformly take place, as certain fretful persons foolishly imagine that it will be impossible for them to be good disciples without forsaking parents, children, and wives. On the contrary, every lawful bond of union is confirmed by unity of faith: only Christ warns his followers, that when it does happen, they must not be alarmed.
“En sa majesté;” — -”in his majesty.”
This is a blunder: for the clause in question is not found in Luke, but in Mark only. The french version sets the matter right. — Ed.