Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
24. And when they had heard it, they lifted up their voice unto God with one accord, and said, Lord,, thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things which are therein; 25. Which by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why have the heathen raged together, and why have the people imagined vain things? 26. The kings of the earth have stood up, and the rulers have met together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27. For of a truth, Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, have come together in this city against thy holy Son, Jesus, 28. That they might do whatsoever thine hand and thy counsel had decreed before to be done. 29. And now, O Lord, look upon the threatenings of these men; and grant unto thy servants that they may speak thy word with boldness; 30. Reaching out thine hand to this end, that healing, and signs, and wonders, may be done by the name of thy only Son, Jesus. 31. And when they had prayed, the place moved wherein they were assembled: and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and did speak the word of God with boldness.
We are taught by this example what is our duty to do when our adversaries do imperiously threaten us; for we must not carelessly laugh in time of danger, but the fear of danger ought to drive us to crave help at the hands of God, and this is a remedy to comfort and set us up on foot, lest, being terrified with threatenings, we cease off from doing our duty. Here is a double fruit of this history, that the disciples of Christ do not jest when they hear that their enemies do threaten them so sore and press so sore upon them, as careless and sluggish men use to do; but being touched with fear, they fly to seek help at the hands of God; and again, they are not terrified, neither yet do they conceive any immoderate fear; 225 but crave of God 226 invincible constancy with right godly petitions.
24. Thou art God, which hast created. Although this title and commendation of God’s power be general, yet it ought to be referred unto the present matter, for they do in such sort acknowledge the power of God in the creation of the whole world, that they apply the same therewithal unto the present use. In like sort, the prophets do oftentimes commend the same, to the end they may redress that fear which troubleth us when we behold the power of our enemies; secondly, they add thereunto the promise, and they make these two foundations of their boldness whereby they are emboldened to pray. And surely our prayers are such as they ought to be, and acceptable to God only then, when as staying ourselves upon his promises and power, we pray with certain hope to obtain that for which we pray, for we cannot otherwise have any true confidence unless God do will us to come unto him, and promise that he is ready to help us; and, secondly, unless we acknowledge that he is able enough to help us; wherefore let the faithful exercise themselves in this double meditation so often as they address themselves unto prayer. Furthermore, we gather hereby after what sort we ought to consider the creation of the world; to wit, that we may know that all things are subject to God, and ruled by his will, and when that the world hath done what it can, there shall no other thing come to pass but that which God hath decreed; yea, that the wantonness of the wicked is monstrous, as if the clay should resist the potter; for this is the meaning of the faithful generally, that whatsoever dangers hang over their heads, yet can God prevent the same infinite ways, forasmuch as all things are in his hand, and that he is able to make all the parts of heaven and earth (which he hath created) to obey him.
25. Who by the mouth of David. They descend now into the second member, that they ask nothing but that which God hath promised to perform, so that his will and power are joined together, to the end they may fully assure themselves that they shall obtain their requests; and because the kingdom of Christ is now in hand, they make rehearsal of the promise of God, wherein he promiseth to defend and maintain the same, so that when the whole world hath done what it can to overthrow it, yet all shall be in vain; and herein their godliness and sincere zeal, in that they are not so much careful for their own safety, as for the increasing and advancement of the kingdom of Christ.
Why have the Gentiles raged? We must need confess that David speaketh of himself, who after he was chosen king by the Lord, and anointed by Samuel the prophet, did enjoy the kingdom very hardly, 227 because his enemies withstood him on every side. We know how the rulers and people conspired together with Saul and his family; after that the Philistines, and other strange enemies, despising him when he came newly to the crown, made war against him, striving who should begin first, wherefore it is not without cause that he complaineth that the kings rage and take counsel together, and that the people do go about divers things; nevertheless, because he knew that God was the supporter of his kingdom, he derideth their foolish enterprises, and affirmeth that they are vain; but because his kingdom was established, that it might be a figure or image of the kingdom of Christ, David doth not stay still in the shadow itself; but he apprehendeth the body, yea, the Holy Ghost, as the apostles do truly repeat the same, doth sharply reprove the foolish and ridiculous madness of the world, in that they dare invade the kingdom of Christ which God had esta-blished, as well in the person of David as of Christ himself. And this is a singular comfort, in that we hear that God is on our side, so long as we go on warfare under the kingdom of Christ. Hereby we may persuade ourselves, that howsoever all men, both high and low do wickedly conspire together against this kingdom, yet shall they not prevail, for what is all the whole world compared with God? But we must first of all know and assure ourselves of this, that God will continually maintain the kingdom of his Son, whereof he himself is the author, so that we may set his decree (which shall not be broken) against the rashness of men, that trusting to the help of his hand, we may not doubt to despise all the preparation and furniture of men, though they be terrible; and he doth diligently express how great the bands of the adversaries are; he saith, that they attempt all things, he doth also reckon up their counsels, lest any of these do terrify us. Furthermore, when as the Psalm teacheth, that the kingdom of Christ shall endure, maugre the heads of the adversaries, it doth also show that there shall be many adversaries, which shall endeavor to overthrow the same. On the one side, he bringeth in the kings raging, on the other, the people all out of quiet, 228 whereby he signifieth that all estates shall be offended at it; 229 and no marvel, because nothing is more contrary to the flesh than the spiritual sword of the gospel wherewith Christ killeth us, that he may make us obey him, (Ro 15:16.) Therefore, we must know this for a surety, that the kingdom of Christ shall never be quiet in the world, lest when we are to fight, we be afraid as at some strange thing.
26. Against the Lord, and his Christ. The Spirit teacheth by this word, that all those do make war against God which refuse to submit themselves to Christ; they do full little think this oftentimes, notwithstanding it is so that because God will reign in the person of his Son alone, we refuse to obey him so often as we rebel against Christ, as the Lord himself saith in John, “He which honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father.” Wherefore let the hypocrites profess a thousand times that they mean nothing less than to make war against God, yet shall they find this true, that God is their open enemy, unless they embrace Christ with his gospel. The use of this doctrine is double, for it armeth us against all the terrors of the flesh, because we must not fear, lest they get the victory of God which withstand the gospel. Again, we must beware, lest, through the contempt of godly doctrine, we advance ourselves against God to our own destruction.
27 Have met together in this city. They declare that this prophecy was proved to be true by the event, to the end they may believe the same more assuredly, for the sense is, Lord, thou hast spoken it and we have in truth tried [experienced] the same to be true; and they call to mind that which was done four years before, or thereabout. In like sort, it is expedient for us to apply the events of things which are foretold to the confirmation of our faith; but because it might seem that the matter fell out far otherwise then than the Psalm pronounceth, forasmuch as they raged not in vain, neither were the assaults of the enemies frustrate when they had put Christ to death; and their violence went further afterwards after a fearful manner. The faithful remove this offense, and say that the enemies could do no more than God had appointed; therefore, howsoever the wicked did suppose that Christ was quite taken away by death, and did now vainly triumph, yet the faithful confess that their rage was all but vain. But here may a question be moved, why he calleth them the Gentiles and people of Israel, seeing there was but one body? I think that the diversity of countries is noted in this place, out of which the Jews came together to the feast, as if they should have said, that the Jews which were born in divers places, having made, as it were, a concourse, did assault the kingdom of Christ, yet was their fury frustrate and of none effect.
Thy holy Son Jesus. The Grecians use the very same word which I translated even now, servant, when mention was made of David, for they call [πᾶιδα] sometimes a servant sometimes a son; and David is so called, because he was the minister of God, as well in ruling the people as in the office of a prophet; but this word, son, agreeth better with the person of Christ, unless some man had liefer take it thus, that Luke meant to allude unto that likelihood [resemblance] which David had with Christ when he setteth down a word of a double signification. It is expressly said, that God hath anointed his Son, that that may truly agree to him which is in the Psalm, for in anointing him God made him a King, and yet we must note therewithal what anointing this was, for we know that he was not anointed with visible oil, but with the Holy Ghost.
28. That they might do. I have already declared to what end this is spoken; that the kingdom of Christ was so far from being overrun by that conspiracy, that in truth it did then flourish. Notwithstanding herein is contained a singular doctrine, that God doth so govern and guide all things by his secret counsel, that, he doth bring to pass those things which he hath determined, even by the wicked. Not that they are ready willingly to do him such service, but because he turneth their counsels and attempts backward; so that on the one side appeareth great equity and most great righteousness; on the other appeareth nought but wickedness and iniquity. Which matter we have handled more at large in the second chapter. Let us learn here, by the way, that we must so consider the providence of God, that we know that it is the chief and only guider of all things which are done in the world, that the devil and all the wicked are kept back with God’s bridle, lest they should do us any harm; that when they rage fastest, yet are they not at liberty to do what they list, but have the bridle given them, yet so far forth as is expedient to exercise us. Those men which do acknowledge the foreknowledge of God alone, and yet confess not that all things are done as it pleaseth him, are easily convict by these words, That God hath appointed before that thing to be done which was done. Yea, Luke being not contented with the word counsel, addeth also hand, improperly, yet to the end he might the more plainly declare that the events of things are not only governed by the counsel of God, but that they are also ordered by his power and hand.
29. And now O Lord. They do very well extend that unto themselves which they cited concerning Christ; because he will not, be separated from the gospel; yea, what trouble so ever befalleth his members, he applieth that to his own person. And they crave at God’s hands that he will beat down the cruelty of the adversaries; yet not so much for their own sake that they may live quietly and without vexation, as that they may have liberty to preach the gospel in all places. Neither was it for them to desire a life which they might spend idly, having forsaken their calling. For they add, “Grant unto thy servants, O Lord, that they may speak boldly.” And by the way we must note this speech, that the Lord would behold their threatenings. For seeing it belongeth properly to him to resist the proud, and to throw down their lofty looks; the more proudly they brag and boast, the more do they undoubtedly provoke God to be displeased with them, and it is not to be doubted but that God, being offended with such indignity and cruelty, will redress the same. So Ezechias, to the end he may obtain help in extremity, declareth before the Lord the arrogancy of Sennacherib and his cruel threatenings, (Isa 37:14 and 17.) Wherefore let the cruelty and reproaches of our enemies rather stir up in us a desire to pray, than any whit discourage us from going forward in the course of our office.
30. Grant unto thy servants. Seeing that one miracle had stinged the enemy so sore how is it that these holy men do desire to have new miracles done daily? Therefore we gather that hence which I have already touched, that they make so great account of the glory of God, that in comparison of this, they set light by all other things. They have respect unto this one thing only, that the power of God may be declared by miracles, which the godly ought always to desire, although the adversaries burst, and all the whole hell do rage. The same must we also think of boldness to speak. They knew that the wicked could abide nothing worse than the free course of the gospel; but because they know that that is the doctrine of life which God will have published whatsoever befall; they do undoubtedly prefer the preaching thereof before all other things, because it is acceptable to God. And we are taught that we do then rightly acknowledge the benefits of God as we ought, if by this occasion we be pricked forward to pray, that he will confirm that which he hath began. The apostles had showed a token of heroic fortitude; now again they pray that they may be furnished with boldness. So Paul desireth the faithful to pray unto the Lord that his mouth may be opened, whereas, notwithstanding, his voice did sound everywhere (Eph 6:19.) Therefore, the more we perceive ourselves to be holpen by the Lord, let us learn to crave at the hands of God that we may go forward hereafter; and especially seeing the free confession of the gospel is a singular gift of God, we must continually beseech him to keep us in the same.
31. And when they had prayed. Luke declareth now that God did not only hear this prayer, but did also testify the same by a visible sign from heaven. For the shaking of the place should, of itself, have done them small good; but it tendeth to another end, that the faithful may know that God is present with them. Finally, it is nothing else but a token of the presence of God. But the fruit followeth, for they are all filled with the Holy Ghost, and endowed with greater boldness. We ought rather to stand upon this second member. For whereas God did declare his power then by shaking the place it was a rare and extraordinary thing; and whereas it appeared by the effect, that the apostles did obtain that which they desired, this is a perpetual profit of prayer, which is also set before us for an example.
“Qui eos ab efficio abducat,” which might draw them off from their duty.
“Eniti,” struggle after.
“Per summas difficultates regno potitus est,” came to the kingdom through the greatest difficulties.
“Tumultuantes,” in tumult.
“Infensos illi,” hostile to it.