6. And when they gainsayed him, and railed upon him, shaking his garments, he said unto them, Your blood be upon your own head; I will go henceforth clean unto the Gentiles.7. And going thence, he entered into the house of a certain man named Justus, a worshipper of God, whose house joined to the synagogue.8. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household: and many of the Corinthians which heard believed, and were baptized.9. And the Lord said by night, by a vision, to Paul, Fear not, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10. Because I am with thee, and no man shall lay hand on thee to hurt thee: because I have much people in this city.11. And he remained there a year and six months, teaching them the word of the Lord.
6. When they gainsayed. The Jews suffered Paul after a sort until he came unto the manifest preaching of Christ. And here brake out their rage. And we must note the speech, that they go from gainsaying unto blaspheming and railing. For it falleth out thus for the most part, when men take to themselves such liberty, that the devil doth inflame them by little and little unto greater madness. For which cause, we must take good heed that no wicked lust or desire provoke us to resist the truth; and, above all, let that horrible judgment terrify us which the Spirit of God thundereth out by the mouth of Paul against all rebels. For undoubtedly, in that Paul by shaking his garments gave some token of detestation, it was no human or private indignation, but zeal kindled by God in his heart; yea, God raised him up to be a preacher and setter forth of his vengeance, to the end the enemies of the word might know that they should not escape scot free for their stubbornness. We spake somewhat touching this sign of execration or cursing in the thirteenth chapter, (Acts 13:51.) Let the readers repair thither. The sum is, that God is sorer displeased with contempt of his word than with any wickedness. And surely, men be quite past hope when they tread under foot, or drive from them, the only remedy of all evils and maladies. Now, as the Lord cannot abide rebellion against his word, so it ought to sting and nettle us full sore. My meaning is this, that when the wicked enter combat with God, and, as it were, arm themselves to resist, we are called, as it were, by the heavenly trumpet unto the conflict, because there is nothing more filthy than that the wicked should mock God to his face, whilst we say nothing, and that they should even break out into reproaches and blasphemies.
Your blood. He denounceth to them vengeance, because they be without excuse. For they can shift no part of their fault from themselves, after that despising the calling of God they have endeavored to put out the light of life. Therefore, seeing they bear the blame of their own destruction, he doth also affirm that they shall be punished. And in saying that he is clean, he testifieth that he hath done his duty, it is well known what the Lord giveth all his ministers in charge in Ezekiel, (Ezekiel 3:18.) If thou show not unto the wicked that he may convert, I will require his blood at thy hand. Therefore Paul (because he did what he could to bring the Jews to repentance) doth acquit himself of all guiltiness. And by these words, teachers are warned that unless they will be guilty of blood before the Lord, they must do what in them lieth to bring those which go astray into the way, and that they suffer nothing to perish through ignorance.
I will go undo the Gentiles. Though the Jews had showed themselves to be most ready to be taught, yet ought Paul to have employed himself to teach the Gentiles, whose apostle and minister he was made; but here he expresseth the passage whereby he withdrew himself from the stubborn Jews for all. For he observed this course in teaching, that beginning with the Jews he might couple the Gentiles with them in the society of faith, and so might make of both together one body of the Church. When there remained no hope to do any good among the Jews, then the Gentiles only remained. Therefore, the sense is this, that they must be deprived of their own inheritance, that it may be given to the Gentiles, and so be wounded, partly that being stricken with fear, yea, being cast down, they might come to soundness of mind; partly that the emulation or striving of the Gentiles might prick them forward unto repentance. But because they were incurable, reproach and shame served for this purpose only to bring them into despair.
7. Departing thence. Paul did not change his lodging which he had with Priscilla and Aquila, because he was weary of their company; but that he might more familiarly insinuate himself and come in favor with the Gentiles. For I suspect that this Justus, of whom Luke maketh mention, was rather a Gentile than a Jew. Neither doth the highness of the synagogue any whit hinder; for the Jews were scattered abroad, so that they had no certain place of the city to dwell in. Yea, it seemeth that Paul did make choice of the house which did join to the synagogue, that he might the more nettle the Jews. The title and commendation ascribed to Justus confirmeth this opinion; for it is said that he was a worshipper of God. For though the Jews had not sincere religion, yet because they did all profess the worship of God, it might have seemed that godliness took place commonly in all the whole nation. But because it was a rare matter among the Gentiles to worship God if any drew near unto true godliness, he hath this singular testimony given him which is set against idolatry. Also, I think that the Corinthians, of whom Luke speaketh shortly after, were Gentiles. Nevertheless, lest we should think that Paul's labor was altogether fruitless which he bestowed among the Jews, Luke reckoneth up two of them which believed, Crispus and Sosthenes, of whom Paul himself speaketh in the first chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 1:1,14.) For in his salutation he maketh Sosthenes his fellow in office, after that he saith that he baptized Crispus. I take it that he is called the ruler of the synagogue, not as if he alone did bear rule and had the government, because Sosthenes hath the same title given him shortly after, but because he was one of the chief men.
9. And the Lord said. Though the fruit of Paul's doctrine (in that he gained some daily to Christ) might have encouraged him to go forward, yet is the heavenly oracle added for his farther confirmation. Whence we gather that there were great combats set before him, and that he was sore tossed divers ways. For the Lord did never, without cause, pour out his oracles; neither was it an ordinary thing with Paul to have visions, but the Lord used this kind of remedy when necessity did so require; and the thing itself doth show that there laid upon the holy man a great weight of business, under which he might not only sweat but almost faint, unless he had been set on foot again, and refreshed with some new help. And it is not without cause that he saith that his coming was base and contemptible, and that he was conversant there in fear and trembling, (1 Corinthians 2:3.) For mine own part, I think thus, that the wonderful power of the Spirit, wherewith Paul was endued before, was holpen with the oracle. Furthermore, forasmuch as the Scripture distinguisheth visions from dreams, as it appeareth by the twelfth chapter of the book of Numbers, (Numbers 12:6,) Luke meaneth by this word vision, that when Paul was in a trance he saw a certain shape or form whereby he knew that God was present with him. Assuredly, it is not to be doubted but that God appeared by some sign.
Fear not. This exhortation showeth that Paul had cause of fear ministered unto him; for it had been a superfluous thing to correct fear, or to will him not to fear when all was well and quiet, and especially in a man so willing and ready.
Furthermore, when the Lord (to the end he may have his servant to do his duty faithfully and stoutly) beginneth with restraining fear, by this we gather that nothing is more contrary to the pure and free preaching of the gospel than the straits of a faint heart. And surely experience doth show that none are faithful and courageous ministers of the word whom this fault doth hinder; and that those only are rightly prepared and addressed to teach to whom it is granted with boldness and courage of heart to overcome all manner [of] danger. In which respect, he writeth to Timothy that the spirit of fear is not given to the preachers of the gospel, but of power, and love, and sobriety, (2 Timothy 1:7.) Therefore, we must note the connection of words, Fear not, but speak, which is all one as if he should have said, Let not fear let thee to speak. And because fear doth not only make us altogether without tongue, but doth so bind us that we cannot purely and freely speak that which is needful. Christ touched both briefly. Speak, (saith he,) and hold not thy peace; that is, speak not with half thy mouth, as it is in the common proverb. But in these words there is prescribed to the ministers of the word of God a common rule, that they expound and lay open plainly, and without color or dissimulation, whatsoever the Lord will have made known to his Church; yea, let them keep back nothing which may make for the edifying or increase of God's Church.
10. Because I am. This is the former reason why Paul, having subdued fear, must manfully and stoutly do his duty, because he hath God on his side. Whereto answereth the rejoicing of David,
|If I shall walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall fear none ill: because thou art with me,| (Psalm 23:4.)
|If tents be pitched about me,| etc., (Psalm 27:3.)
The question is, whether he did not perceive that God was present with him elsewhere, as he had had experience of his help in divers places. For the promise is general,
|I am with you until the end of the world,|
Neither is it lawful for us to mistrust so often as we obey his calling, but that he will be present with us. But it is an usual thing with the Lord to apply that unto certain kinds when the matter so requireth, which he hath promised to do in all affairs; and we know that when we come to the push, then are we most desirous of help. Moreover, these two members are joined together, |I am with thee, and no man shall hurt thee.| For it falleth out sometimes that God doth help us, and yet doth he, to look to, suffer us to be oppressed, as he forsook not Paul even in the midst of death; and here he promiseth the peculiar defense of his hand, whereby he shall be preserved from the violence of his enemies.
But the question is, whether Paul needed any such confirmation, who ought to have been willing to enter [undergo] all manner [of] dangers. For what if he had been to suffer death, should he therefore have fainted through fear? I answer, that if at any time God pronounce that his servants shall be safe for a time, that doth no whit hinder, but that they may prepare themselves to suffer death valiantly; but as we distinguish between profitable and necessary, so we must note that there be some promises, which, if the faithful want, they must needs faint and sink down; and that other some are added when it is expedient so to be, which, though they be taken away, (because the grace of God doth nevertheless remain firm and sure,) the faith of the godly doth not fail. After this sort, Paul is commanded not to fear, because his enemies shall not touch him; and if so be he should have been oppressed even then with their violence, yet would he not have been afraid, but God would have his boldness and courage to increase even by this, because he should be without danger. If at any time the Lord bear with us so far forth, we are not to despise such a comfort of our infirmity. In the mean season, let this be sufficient for us to tread under foot all corrupt fear of the flesh, that so long as we fight under his banner we cannot be forsaken of him. And when it is said, |No man shall gainstand thee to do thee hurt,| the Lord doth not mean that he shall be free from violence and tumult whom the Jews did afterward deadly invade; but his meaning is, that their attempts shall be frustrate, because the Lord had determined to deliver him out of their hands. Therefore, we must fight stoutly that we may win the field.
Because I have much people. The second reason why he should take a good heart is, because the Lord will raise up a great and populous church there, though it be to be doubted whether this member depend upon that which goeth next before; for the text will run fitly thus, Because the Lord determined by the hand of Paul to gather together a great church, he would not suffer the enemies to interrupt the course of his labors, as if he should have said, I will help thee, that thou mayest not fail my people whose minister I have appointed thee to be. I do willingly embrace this exposition, that divers reasons are not inferred which are to be read apart, but that they be so distinguished that they agree together. Furthermore, the Lord calleth those his people, who, though they might then for good causes be counted strangers, yet because they were written in the book of life, and were forthwith to be admitted into his family, they have this title given them not improperly. For we know that many sheep wander without the flock for a time, as the sheep have many wolves among them. Therefore whom the Lord determined shortly after to gather to himself, those doth he take for his people in respect of their future faith. But let us remember, that those are engrafted into the body of Christ who appertain unto the same by the eternal adoption of God; as it is written,
|Thine they were and thou gavest them me| (John 17:6.)
11. He continued there a year. We do not read that Paul stayed so long anywhere else save there; and yet it appeareth by his two epistles that he was not only likely to suffer much troubles, but that he had suffered many unjust and unmeet things by reason of the pride and unthankfulness of the people, so that we see that there was no part of warfare wherein the Lord did not wonderfully exercise him. Also, we gather what a hard and laborious matter the edifying of the Church is, seeing that the most excellent workmaster spent so much time about the laying of the foundation of one church only. Neither doth he boast that he had finished the work, but that the Lord had put others in his place, that they might build upon his foundation; as he saith afterwards that he had planted, and that Apollos had watered, (1 Corinthians 3:6.)