Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
39. And Peter arose and came with them, whom, when he was come, they brought into the upper chamber, and all the widows stood about her weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made when she was with them. 40. And when they were all put out, Peter kneeled down and prayed; and, turning himself toward the corpse, he said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41. And he reached out his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, he restored [exhibited] her alive. 42. That was noised through all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43. And it happened that he stayed many days at Joppa with a certain man, named Simon, a tanner.
39. And Peter arose. It is doubtful whether the messengers declared to Peter the (matter and) cause why they fet [sent for] him; yet it is more like to be true, that they requested him absolutely that he would come to work a miracle. But there ariseth another question, whether he knew God’s purpose or not? First, if he should mistrust the success, he should go with them unadvisedly? I answer, although he did not yet know what the Lord would do, yet can he not be blamed for yielding to the request of the brethren. Also, there were other reasons why he should come; to wit, to mitigate their sorrow; to strengthen them with godly exhortations, lest they should faint, being discouraged with the death of one woman; to establish the Church, which was as yet tender, and but as it were an infant. Lastly, this one thing ought to have been sufficient for him, because in refusing he should have been thought proudly to despise his brethren, notwithstanding we must know this also, that so often as the Lord determined to work some miracle by his apostles, he did always direct them by the secret motion of the Spirit. I do not doubt but that although Peter were not yet certain of the life of Tabitha, yet did he undoubtedly perceive that God was his guide and conductor in that journey, so that he addressed himself to go not unadvisedly, though being uncertain of the event. 639
All the widows. Luke expresseth in this place the cause for which Tabitha was raised from death; to wit because God pitied the poor, and did at their desire restore the woman to life. There were also other ends. For seeing she liveth two lives, those virtues which Luke commended before are adorned in her person, but the chief end is, that the glory of Christ may be set forth. For God could have kept her alive longer; neither doth he change his purpose, as being moved with repentance when he doth restore her to life again, but because many of the disciples were weak and novices, who had need of confirmation, God declareth by the second life of Tabitha, that his Son is author of life. Therefore God did respect the poor and widows in such sort, that, by relieving their poverty, he established in their minds the faith of his gospel; for in this miracle he gave ample matter of profiting.
40. When they were all put forth. When as he taketh a time to pray, he seemeth as yet to doubt what will be the end. When he healed AEneas he brake out into these words, without making any stop, AEneas, Jesus Christ make thee whole. But as the operation of the Spirit is not always alike and the same, it may be that though he knew the power of God, yet he went forward unto the miracle by degrees. Yet it seemeth to be an absurd thing, that he putteth all the saints out of the chamber, for whom it had been better to have seen it with their eyes. But because the Lord had not as yet revealed the time when, and the manner how, he would show forth his power, he desired to be alone, that he might the more fitly pray. Also it might be, that he knew some other reason which moved him to do this, which we know not. It is recorded in the Sacred History, (1Ki 17:23,) that Elias did the same. For he being alone, and not so much as the mother of the child with him, doth stretch himself thrice upon the dead corpse. For the Spirit of God hath his vehement motions, which, if any man will square out according to the common use of men, or measure by the sense of the flesh, he shall do wickedly and unjustly. We must this think, when as Peter, as it were doubting, seeketh a by place, he preventeth superstition, lest any man should ascribe to his power the work of God, whereof he was only a minister, For he which withdrew himself from company, and did pray so instantly, did plainly confess that the matter was not in his own hand. Therefore, when Peter wisheth to know what pleaseth the Lord, he confesseth that he alone was the author of the work. Kneeling in time of prayer is a token of humility, which hath a double profit, that all our members may be applied unto the worship of God, and that the external exercise of the body may help the weakness of the mind; but we must take heed so often as we kneel down, that the inward submission of the heart be answerable to the ceremony, that it be not vain and false. 640
Turning towards the corpse. This seemeth also to be contrary to reason, that he speaketh unto a corpse without feeling; but this speaking unto the dead corpse was one point of the vehemency whereunto the Spirit of God enforced Peter. And if any man desire a reason, this form of speech doth more lively express the power of God in raising the dead, than if it should be said in the third person, let this body receive life again and live. Therefore, when as Ezekiel doth shadow the deliverance of the people under a figure of the resurrection:
“O dead bones,” (saith he,) “hear the word of the Lord,”
And Christ saith,
“The time shall come when the dead shall hear
the voice of the Son of God,”
For this was indeed the voice of Christ, which was uttered by the mouth of Peter, and gave [back] breath to the body of Tabitha. The circumstances following serve to confirm the certainty of the miracle.
41. Luke repeateth, again, in the end that she was showed openly to the disciples; whence we gather that she was raised again, rather for other men’s sake than for her own. Brain-sick fellows, 641 who dream that the soul of man is only a blast which vanisheth away until the day of the resurrection, snatch at this place to prove their doting withal. To what end was it (say they) to call back the soul of Tabitha into the prison of the body, where it should suffer such misery, if it were received into blessed rest? As if it were not lawful for God to have respect of his glory as well in death as in life; and as if this were not the true felicity of the godly to live and die to him, yea, as if Christ were not to us a vantage, as well by living as dying, (Php 1:21,) when we dedicate ourselves to him. Therefore, there shall no inconvenience follow, if the Lord had greater respect to his own glory than to Tabitha, although, as the commodity 642 of the faithful is always annexed to the glory of God, this turned to her greater good that she revived, that she might be a more excellent instrument of God’s goodness and power.
42. And many believed. Now appear manifold fruits of the miracle, for God comforted the poor, a godly matron was restored to the Church, in whose death it suffered great loss, and many are called unto the faith; for although Peter were [had been] a minister of so great power, yet he keepeth not the men in [on] himself; but doth rather direct them unto Christ.
43. When as he saith that Peter dwelt with a tanner, we may hereby gather of what manner of men the church of Joppa did consist, for if the chieftains of the city had been converted to Christ, some one of them would have lodged Peter; for it had been too cruel a thing to suffer an apostle of Christ to be so despised. Therefore, the Lord did gather together there, as every where, a church of the common sort of men, that he might throw down the pride of the flesh; and also thereby appeareth Peter’s courtesy, in that he vouchsafeth to lodge with a man of that calling; although it seemeth that he was rather a merchant of some good estimation, than one of the basest sort of workmen. For Luke will say afterwards that there were there some which ministered unto Peter, whereby it appeareth that he was well and honestly used.
“Suspensus licet atque... incertus,” though in suspense and uncertain.
“Ne fallax sit ac lusoria,” that it be not elusory and fallacious.
“Fanatici quidam,” certain fanatics.
“Utilitas,” advantage, interest.