Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
12. Then they returned unto Jerusalem from the mountain which is called Olivet, which is nigh unto Jerusalem, being distant about a Sabbath-day’s journey. 13. And, coming in, they went up into an upper chamber, where abode Peter and James, John and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. 14. These all abode together with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the wives, (or women,) and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
12. That he may pass over unto another history, he showeth that the disciples being returned unto Jerusalem, dwelt together in one parlor. For it was the upper part of the house, which used to be let out unto those which did hire houses; 46 for the most commodious places were reserved unto them that were masters of the house, (for their own use.) Wherefore, by this word Luke doth signify that they were driven into a strait room; 47 and yet, notwithstanding, though this commodity were great, yet they did not part asunder. They might have been more commodiously asunder, yet might they not part company before they had received the Spirit. In that he noteth here the distance of place, it bringeth credit unto the history. Unless, peradventure, he meant hereby to declare that they were not terrified with any fear of danger, but that they did all return and kept company together in one house, which was not so large, but that the company being greater than the place could well contain, it might breed some rumor (or noise.) A Sabbath-day’s journey was two miles, and that account doth well agree with the place of Joh 11:18, where he saith, “that Jerusalem was distant from Bethany almost fifteen furlongs;” which containeth about a thousand and nine hundred paces. And the mount Olivet was at the side of Bethany. There was no Sabbath-day’s journey prescribed in the law; for the Lord doth command them simply to rest upon the Sabbath-day in the law. 48 But because the Jews could not easily be ruled, but that they would run abroad about their business upon the Sabbath-day, (as the Lord himself doth complain, “that they did bear burdens out at the gates,”) (Jer 17:24,) therefore, it is to be thought that it was determined by the priests, 49 (to the end they might restrain such enormities,) that no man should travel upon the Sabbath-day above two miles. Although Jerome, in his Answers unto Algasia, doth say that this tradition did come from two Rabbins, namely, from Atriba, and from Simon Heli.
13. Where they abode Some translate it, where they did abide; as though they did use to dwell there. But I am of that opinion, that they did then first of all use that hired room to dwell together in, until such time as the Holy Spirit was come upon them. Too, too ridiculous are the Papists, which go about to prove Peter his supremacy 50 hereby, because he is reckoned up first of all the apostles. Although we do grant that he was the chiefest of the apostles, yet it doth not follow hereupon that he was the chiefest ruler of all the world. But if he be, therefore, the chief of all the apostles, because his name is first in the catalogue of the apostles’ names, I will again conclude, that the mother of Christ was inferior unto all the rest of the women, because she is [here] reckoned the last; which they will in no case admit, as indeed it were a thing too absurd. Wherefore, unless they will set their Papacy to be laughed at of all men, as hitherto they have done, they must leave off to adorn it with such foolish toys. But what is their intent? Forsooth, they will prove out of the Scriptures that there was a secondary head of the Church, inferior to Christ; whereas there is no syllable in the Scripture which is consenting unto this their foolish invention. No marvel is it, therefore, if they do snatch here and there certain places, which, although no man smite them out of their hands, they will let fall of their own accord. But omitting them, let us mark what is Luke’s purpose in this place. Because the disciples had fallen away, and filthily fled from their Master Christ, every man whither fear did drive him, (Mt 26:56,) they did deserve, like forsakers of their masters, or run-agates, to be deprived of honor. Therefore, that we may know that by the appointment of the Lord they were gathered together again, and restored to their former degree, Luke reckoneth up all their names.
14. With their wives Some translate it women; and they think that he speaketh of those which accompanied Christ. As I will not contend with any man concerning this matter, so have I not doubted to prefer that which I thought was more probable. I grant that the word which Luke useth may be interpreted both ways. But this is my reason, why I do think that he speaketh rather of wives, because, seeing that they used afterward to carry their wives about with them, as Paul doth testify, (1Co 9:5,) it is not likely that they were then asunder. For they might more easily rest together in one place, than by wandering to and fro oftentimes to change their abiding; and, secondly, seeing that they did look for the coming of the Holy Ghost, which was even then at hand, what reason was there why they should deprive their wives of so great goodness? Peter’s wife was about to be a helper unto him shortly after, which we must also think of the rest of the wives. These women had need of heroical fortitude and constancy, lest they should faint. Who would, therefore, think that they were excluded from their husbands whilst they look for the coming of the Spirit? But if they will stick to the general word, it standeth with reason that there were married women in the company. Howsoever it be, it is Luke’s mind to tell us by the way how greatly they had changed their minds. 51 For whereas before the men, being afraid, had fled away, the women are gathered together with them now, neither do they fear any danger. He doth reckon up the mother of Jesus with the other women, whom, notwithstanding, John is said to have kept at his own house. But, as I have said before, they met altogether now only for a short season; for it is not to be doubted but that they departed one from another afterwards. It is well known that amongst the Hebrews all kinsfolk are comprehended under this word brethren.
All these did continue. Here he showeth that they did diligently look for the coming of the Holy Spirit.; For this was the cause of their prayer, that Christ would send his Spirit, as he had promised. Whereupon we may gather that this is the true faith which stirreth us up to call upon God. For the security of faith doth much differ from sluggishness. Neither doth God, therefore, assure us of this grace, that our minds may straightway become careless, but that he may rather sharpen our desire to pray. Neither is prayer any sign of doubting, but rather a testimony of our (sure hope and) confidence, because we ask those things at the Lord’s hands which we know he hath promised. So it becometh us also (after their example) to be instant in prayer, 52 and to beg at God’s hands that he will increase in us his Holy Spirit: 53 increase, (I say,) because before we can conceive any prayer we must needs have the first-fruits of the Spirit. For as much as he is the only Master which teacheth us to pray aright, who doth not only give us utterance, (Ro 2:25,) but also governs our inward affections.
Furthermore, Luke doth express two things which are proper to true prayer, namely, that they did persist, and that they were all of one mind. This was art exercise of their patience, in that Christ did make them stay a while, 54 when as he could straightway have sent the Holy Spirit; so God doth oftentimes drive off, 55 and, as it were, suffer us to languish, that he may accustom us to persevere. The hastiness of our petitions is a corrupt, yea a hurtful plague; wherefore it is no marvel if God do sometimes correct the same. In the mean season (as I have said) he doth exercise us to be constant in prayer. Therefore, if we will not pray in vain, let us not be wearied with the delay of time. As touching the unity of their minds, it is set against that scattering abroad, which fear had caused before. Yet, notwithstanding, we may easily gather, even by this, how needful a thing it is to pray generally, in that Christ commandeth every one to pray for the whole body, and generally for all men, as it were, in the person of all men: Our Father, Give us this day, etc., (Mt 6:9.) Whence cometh this unity of their tongues but from one Spirit? Wherefore, when Paul would prescribe unto the Jews and Gentiles a right form of prayer, he removeth far away all division and dissension. That we may, (saith he,) being all of one mind, with one mouth glorify God, (Ro 15:6.) And truly it is needful that we be brethren, and agree together like brethren, that we rightly call God Father.
“Inquilinis,” tenants or lodgers.
“In angustum locum fuisse constrictos,” were confined to a narrow space.
More properly, For the Lord doth in the law command, etc.
“Communi sacerdotum concilio,” by the common council of the priests, the Sanhedrim.
“In melius,” for the better.
“Ut precibus nostris concedat,” that he would grant our prayers.
“Ut quotidiana Spiritus augmenta impetremus,” that we may obtain daily increase of the Spirit.
“Suspensos tenuit,” kept them in suspense.
“Differt,” defer or delay.