Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Acts 4: 5-12
5. And it came to pass, that the next day their rulers, and elders, and scribes, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 6. And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and so many as were of the kindred of the priests, 7. And when they had set them before them, they asked them, In what power, or in what name, have ye done that? 8. Then Peter, being filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9. If we be judged this day for healing the man which was lame, by what means he is made whole: 10. Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of. Nazareth, whom ye have crucified, whom God hath raised up from the dead, this man standeth before you whole. 11. This is the stone which was refused of you the builders; it is placed in the head of the corner. 12. Neither is there salvation in any other. Neither is there any other name given under heaven unto men, wherein we must be saved.
5. It is a thing worthy to be noted in this place, that the wicked do omit no subtilty that they may blot out the gospel and the name of Christ, and yet do they not obtain that which they hoped for; because God doth make their counsels frustrate. For they make an assembly, wherein they do all things so tyrannously, that yet, notwithstanding, lust beareth a show of right, and liberty is driven far away, and at length the truth may seem to be condemned by good right. But the Lord bringeth upon them a sudden fear, so that they dare not do that which they can, and which they do most of all desire. Whatsoever the apostles shall bring in defense of their cause, that shall remain buried and shut up with the walls, where there is none which doth bear them any favor. And therefore there is no place left for the truth. Yet we see how the Lord bringeth their counsel to nought, whilst that being kept back with fear of the people, they stay themselves and bridle their fury, to the end they may avoid envy. But I marvel much why Luke doth make Annas the highest priest in this place, seeing that it appeareth by Josephus, that this honor was not taken from Caiaphas until Vitellius had entered Jerusalem to bear rule, after that Pilate was commanded to depart unto Rome. All men grant that the Lord was crucified in the eighteenth year of Tiberius. And that empire [the reign of Tiberius] did continue four years longer. And it must needs be, that there were three years complete, after the death of Christ, before Pilate was put from the office of the pro-consul. For when Tiberius was dead he came to Rome; so that Caiaphas was high priest yet three years after the death of Christ. Wherefore it is to be thought, that that whereof Luke speaketh in this place did not happen immediately after the resurrection of Christ; although the doubt cannot thus be answered. 204 For Josephus reporteth, that Jonathas was chosen into the place of Caiaphas; but because this Jonathas was the son of Annas, it is a thing not unlike to be true, that the son was called by the name of the father; as Caiaphas also had two names; for they did also call him Joseph.
7. In what power They do yet seem to have some zeal of God. For they feign that they are careful that the honor due unto God may not be given to any other. Name is taken in this place for authority. In sum, they deal as if they were most earnest defenders and maintainers of God’s glory. In the mean season, their importunateness is wonderful, in that they go about to drive the apostles to make denial, by asking many questions concerning a manifest matter, and to wring out by fear some other thing than they had confessed. But God doth bring their crafty wiliness to nought, and maketh them hear that which they would not.
8. Peter, being filled with the Holy Ghost It is not without great cause that Luke addeth this, to the end we may know that Peter spake not with such a majesty of himself. And surely, seeing he had denied his Master, Christ, being afraid at the voice of a silly woman, (Mt 26:70,) he should have utterly fainted in such an assembly, when he did only behold their pomp, unless he had been upholden by the power of the Spirit. He had great need of wisdom and strength. 205 He excelleth in both these so much, that his answer is indeed divine. He is another manner of man here than he was before. Furthermore, this profiteth us two manner of ways. For this title, or commendation, is of no small force to set forth the doctrine which shall follow immediately, when it is said that it came from the Holy God, [Spirit.] And we are taught to crave at the hands of the Lord the Spirit of wisdom and strength, when we make profession of our faith, to direct our hearts and minds. The fullness of the Spirit is taken for a large and no common measure.
9. If we be judged. Undoubtedly Peter layeth tyranny to the charge of the priests and the scribes, because they examine them unjustly concerning a benefit which deserveth praise, as if he and his fellow had committed some heinous offense. If, saith he, we be accused for this cause, because we have made a sick man whole. Peter hath in this place more respect unto the wicked affection of the mind than unto the very order of the question. For if, under color of a miracle, the apostles would have drawn away the people from the true and sincere worship of God, they should have been worthily called to answer for themselves; because religion doth far excel all the good things of this present life. But seeing they (having no cause at all) did wickedly make an offense of that which they ought to have honored, Peter, being supported with this confidence, doth at the first gird them wittily with a taunting preface, because they sit as judges to condemn good deeds. Yet he toucheth this point but lightly, that he may pass over unto the matter.
10. Be it known unto you. Peter might (as I have already said) have turned aside unto many starting-holes, 206 if he would not have entered the cause; 207 but because the miracle was wrought, to this end, that the name of Christ might be glorified, he descendeth by and by unto this. For he knew that he was the minister of such excellent power of God, that he might have a seal to confirm his doctrine. In the meanwhile, the wicked, will they, nil they, are enforced to hear that which they would have had buried full deep. When they have done what they can, this is all; they cause Peter to avouch and object to their faces, that wherewith they were so grieved, when it was spoken to others. And, first he maketh Christ the author of the miracle. Secondly, because it seemed to be an absurd and incredible thing, that a dead man should be endued with divine power, he testifieth that Christ is alive, because God hath raised him up from the dead, howsoever they had crucified him. So that the miracle giveth him occasion to preach the resurrection of Christ. And by this testimony Peter meant to prove that he was the true Messias. He saith that they had crucified him, not only to the end he may upbraid this unto them, that they may acknowledge their fault; but also that they may understand that they have in vain striven against God; and so, consequently, cease to rage so unluckily and with such deadly success.
11. This is the stone. He confirmeth by testimony of Scripture that it is no new thing that the ringleaders 208 of the Church, which have glorious titles given them, and have the chief room in the temple of God, have, notwithstanding, wickedly rejected Christ. Therefore he citeth a place out of the 118th Psalm, (Ps 118:22,) where David complaineth that he is rejected of the captains [leaders] of the people, and yet, notwithstanding, he boasteth that he was chosen of God to have the chief room. Moreover, he compareth the Church, or the state of the kingdom, by an usual metaphor to a building, he calleth those which have the government the masters of the work, 209 and he maketh himself the principal stone, whereon the whole building is stayed and grounded. For that is meant by the head of the corner. Therefore, this is David’s comfort, that howsoever the captains have rejected him, so that they would not grant him even the basest place, yet did not their wicked and ungodly endeavors hinder him from being extolled by God unto the highest degree of honor. But that was shadowed in David which God would have perfectly expressed in the Messias. Therefore Peter dealeth very aptly when as he citeth this testimony, as being spoken before of Christ, as they knew full well that it did agree properly to him. Now we know to what end Peter did cite the Psalm; to wit, lest the elders and priests being unadvisedly puffed up with their honor, should take to themselves authority and liberty to allow or disallow whatsoever they would. For it is evident that the stone refused by the chief builders is placed by God’s own hand in the chief place, that it may support the whole house.
Furthermore, this happeneth not once only, but it must be fulfilled daily; at least it must seem no new thing if the chief builders do even now reject Christ. Whereby the vain boasting of the Pope is plainly refuted, who maketh his boast of the bare title, that he may usurp whatsoever is Christ’s. Admit we grant to the Pope and his horned beasts that which they desire, to wit, that they are appointed to be ordinary pastors of the Church, they can go no farther at length than to be called chief builders with Annas and Caiaphas. And it is evident what account ought to be made of this title, which they think is sufficient to mix heaven and earth together. Now let us gather out of this place some things which are worth the noting. Forasmuch as they are called master-builders who have government of the Church, the name itself putteth them in mind of their duty. Therefore, let them give themselves wholly to the building of the temple of God. And because all men do not their duty faithfully as they ought, let them see what is the best manner of building aright, to wit, let them retain Christ for the foundation; that done, let them not mix straw and stubble in this building, but let them make the whole building of pure doctrine; as Paul teacheth in 1Co 3:12. Whereas God is said to have extolled Christ, who was rejected of the builders, this ought to comfort us, when as we see even the pastors of the Church, or, at least, those which are in great honor, wickedly rebel against Christ, that they may banish him. For we may safely set light by those visors which they object against us; so that we need not fear to give Christ that humor which God doth give to him. But if he wink for a time, yet doth he laugh at the boldness of his enemies from on high, whilst they rage and fret upon earth. Furthermore, though their conspiracies be strong and well guarded with all aids, yet must we always assure ourselves of this, that Christ’s honor shall remain safe and sound. And let the fruit of this confidence ensue also, that we be valiant and without fear in maintaining the kingdom of Christ, whereof God will be an invincible defender, as he himself affirmeth.
We have already spoken of Peter’s constancy, in that one simple man, having such envious judges, and yet having but one partner in the present danger, showeth no token at all of fear, but doth freely confess in that raging and furious company, that thing which he knew would be received with most contrary minds. And whereas he sharply upbraideth unto them that wickedness which they had committed, we must let [seek] from hence a rule of speech when we have to deal with the open enemies of the truth. For we must beware of two faults on this behalf, that we seem not to flatter by keeping silence or winking; for that were treacherous silence, whereby the truth should be betrayed. Again, that we be not puffed up with wantonness, or immoderate heat as men’s minds do oftentimes break out more than they ought in contention. Therefore, let us use gravity in this point, yet such as is moderate; let us chide freely, yet without all heat of railing. We see that Peter did observe this order. For at the first he giveth an honorable title; when he is once come to the matter he inveigheth sharply against them; neither could such ungodliness as theirs was be concealed. Those which shall follow this example shall not only have Peter to be their guide, but also the Spirit of God.
12. Neither is there salvation in any other. He passeth from the species [salvation] unto the genus, [or more particular,] and he goeth from the corporal benefit unto perfect health, [or general.] And assuredly Christ had showed this one token of his grace, to the end he might be known to be the only author of life. We must consider this in all the benefits of God, to wit, that he is the fountain of salvation. And he meant to prick and sting the priests with this sentence, when as he saith that there is salvation in none other save only in Christ, whom they went about to put quite out of remembrance. 210 As if he should say, that they are twice damned who did not only refuse the salvation offered them by God, but endeavor to bring the same to nought, and did take from all the people the fruit and use thereof. And although he seemeth to speak unto deaf men, yet doth he preach of the grace of Christ, if peradventure some can abide to hear; if not, that they may at least be deprived of all excuse by this testimony.
Neither is there any other name He expoundeth the sentence next going before. Salvation (saith he) is in Christ alone, because God hath decreed that it should be so. For by name he meaneth the cause or mean, as if he should have said, forasmuch as salvation is in God’s power only, he will not have the same to be common to us by any other means than if we ask it of Christ alone. Whereas he saith under heaven, they do commonly refer it unto creatures, as if he should say, that the force and power to save is given to Christ alone. Notwithstanding, I do rather think that this was added, because men cannot ascend into heaven, that they may come unto God. Therefore, seeing we are so far from the kingdom of God, it is needful that God do not only invite us unto himself, but that reaching out his hand he offer salvation unto us, that we may enjoy the same. Peter teacheth in this place, that he hath done that in Christ, because he came down into the earth for this cause, that he might bring salvation with him, Neither is that contrary to this doctrine, that Christ is ascended above all heavens, (Eph 4:10.) For he took upon him our flesh once for this cause, that he might be a continual pledge of our adoption. He hath reconciled the Father to us for ever by the sacrifice of his death: by his resurrection he hath purchased for us eternal life. And he is present with us now also, that he may make us partakers of the fruit of eternal redemption; but the revealing of salvation is handled in this place, and we know that the same was so revealed in Christ, that we need not any longer to say, “Who shall ascend into heaven?” (Ro 10:6.) And if so be this doctrine were deeply imprinted in the minds of all men, then should so many controversies concerning the causes of salvation be soon at an end, wherewith the Church is so much troubled. The Papists confess with us, that salvation is in God alone, but by and by they forge to themselves infinite ways to attain unto the same. But Peter calleth us back unto Christ alone. They dare not altogether deny that we have salvation given us by Christ; but whilst they feign so many helps, they leave him scarce the hundredth part of salvation. But they were to seek for salvation at the hands of Christ wholly; for when Peter excludeth plainly all other means, he placeth perfect salvation in Christ alone, and not some part thereof only. So that they are far from understanding this doctrine.
“Quanquam nec sic quidem soluta erit tota difficultas,” although not even in this way will the whole difficulty be solved.
“Fortitudine et prudentia,” prudence and fortitude.
“Si noluisset causam ingredi,” if he had been unwilling to enter upon the cause.
“Architectos,” the architects.
“Extinguere,” to extinguish or annihilate.