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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 18:24-28

24. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born in Alexandria, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus, being mighty in the Scriptures.25. He was instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently those things which are the Lord's, knowing only the baptism of John.26. And he began to speak freely in the synagogue: whom when Priscilla and Aguila had heard, they took him to their company, and showed him the way of the Lord more perfectly.27. And when he was determined to go into Achaia, the brethren exhorting him, wrote to the disciples that they should receive him: who, when he was come, he helped them much who had believed through grace.28. For he overcame the Jews mightily, and that openly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

24. A certain Jew. This ought for good causes to be ascribed to the providence of God, in that whilst Paul is enforced to depart from Ephesus, Apollos cometh in his place to supply his absence. And it is very expedient to know the beginning of this man of what sort it was, forasmuch as he was Paul's successor among the Corinthians, and did behave himself so excellently, and did his faithful endeavor, and took great pains, so that Paul commendeth him honorably as a singular fellow in office.

|I have planted, (saith he,) Apollos hath watered,| (1 Corinthians 3:6.)

Also, these things have I figuratively appointed unto myself and Apollos, (1 Corinthians 4:6.) Luke giveth him first two titles of commendation, that he was eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures; afterward he will add his zeal, faith, and constancy. And though Paul do truly deny that the kingdom of God consisteth in words, and he himself was not commended for eloquence yet dexterity in speaking and reasoning (such as Luke doth here commend) is not to be despised, especially when no pomp or vain boasting is sought after, by using fine words and great eloquence; but he which is to teach counteth it sufficient for him, without fraud or ambition, without lofty words and curious cunning, plainly to lay open the matter he hath in hand. Paul was without eloquence; the Lord would have the chief apostle to want this virtue, to the end the power of the Spirit might appear more excellent in his rude and homely speech. And yet was he furnished with such eloquence as was sufficient to set forth the name of Christ, and to maintain the doctrine of salvation. But as the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit is divers and manifold, Paul's infancy, that I may so call it, did no whit let but that the Lord might choose to himself eloquent ministers. Furthermore, lest any man should think that Apollos' eloquence was profane or vain, Luke saith that it was joined with great power, namely, that he was mighty in the Scriptures. Which I expound thus, that he was not only well and soundly exercised in the Scriptures, but that he had the force and efficacy thereof, that, being armed with them, he did in all conflicts get the upper hand. And this (in my judgment) is rather the praise of the Scripture than of man, that it hath sufficient force both to defend the truth, and also to refute the subtilty of Satan.

25. He was instructed. That which Luke addeth shortly after seemeth not to agree with this commendation, to wit, that he knew only the baptism of John. But this latter member is added by way of correction. Nevertheless, these two agree very well together; that he understood the doctrine of the gospel, because he both knew that the Redeemer was given to the world, and also was well and sincerely instructed concerning the grace of reconciliation; and yet had he been trained up only in the principles of the gospel, so much as could be had out of John's institution. For we know that John was in the midst between Christ and the prophets; and of his office doth both his father Zacharias intreat in his tongue, (Luke 1:76; Luke 1:16 and 17;) and also the angel out of the prophecy of Malachi, (Malachi 3:1.) Surely, seeing that he carried the light before Christ, and did highly extol his power, his disciples are for good causes said to have had knowledge of Christ. Moreover, the speech is worth the noting, that he knew the baptism of John. For thence we gather the true use of the sacraments; to wit, that they enter us in some certain kind of doctrine, or that they establish that faith which we have embraced. Surely, it is wickedness and impious profanation to pull them away from doctrine. Wherefore, that the sacraments may be rightly administered, the voice of the heavenly doctrine must sound there. For what is the baptism of John? Luke comprehendeth all his ministry under this word, not only because doctrine is annexed unto baptism, but also because it is the foundation and head thereof, without which it should be a vain and dead ceremony.

Being fervent in spirit he spake. Apollos hath another commendation given him in these words, that he was inflamed with an holy zeal to teach. Doctrine without zeal is either like a sword in the hand of a madman, or else it lieth still as cold and without use, or else it serveth for vain and wicked boasting. For we see that some learned men become slothful; other some (which is worse) become ambitious; other some (which is of all the worst) trouble the Church with contention and brawling. Therefore, that doctrine shall be unsavory which is not joined with zeal. But let us remember that Luke putteth the knowledge of the Scripture in the first place, which must be the moderation of zeal, for we know that many are fervent without consideration, as the Jews did rage against the gospel, by reason of a perverse affection which they did bear toward the law; and even at this day we see what the Papists be, who carried headlong with furious violence, being pricked forward with an opinion unadvisedly conceived. Therefore, let knowledge be present that it may govern zeal. And now it is said that zeal was the cause of diligence, because Apollos gave himself to teach diligently. But and if that man, being not yet thoroughly and perfectly taught in the gospel, did preach Christ so diligently and freely, what excuse do those men hope to have, who know that more perfectly and fully, which he knew not as yet, if they do not endeavor so much as in them lieth to further and advance the kingdom of Christ? Luke doth attribute zeal to the Spirit, therefore, because it is a rare and peculiar gift; neither do I so expound it that Apollos was moved and pricked forward with the instinct of his mind, but by motion of the Holy Spirit.

26. Whom, when Priscilla. By this it appeareth how far Priscilla and Aquila were from the love of themselves, and from envying another man's virtue, in that they deliver those things familiarly and privately to an eloquent man, which he may afterward utter publicly. They excelled not in the same grace wherein he did excel, and, peradventure, they might have been despised in the congregation. Moreover, they most diligently help him, whom they see better furnished as well with eloquence as the use of the Scripture; so that they keep silence, and he alone is heard.

Again, this was no small modesty which was in Apollos, in that he doth suffer himself to be taught and instructed not only in [by] an handy-craftsman, but also by a woman. He was mighty in the Scripture, and did surpass them; but as touching the accomplishment of the kingdom of Christ, those do polish and trim him who might seem to be scarce fit ministers. Also, we see that at that time women were not so ignorant of the word of God as the Papists will have them; forasmuch as we see that one of. the chief teachers of the Church was instructed by a woman. Notwithstanding, we must remember that Priscilla did execute this function of teaching at home in her own house, that she might not overthrow the order prescribed by God and nature.

27. When he was determined. Luke doth not express for what cause Apollos would go to Achaia. Notwithstanding, we gather out of the text [context] that he was not allured with any private commodity, but because more plentiful fruit in spreading abroad the gospel did show itself there; because the brethren did more encourage him with their exhortation, and did spur him when he did already run. Which they would not have done, unless it had been for the common profit of the Church. For it had been an absurd thing to entreat a man to depart to another place, whose faithful industry they already used, and did know that they should have need of him afterward, unless there had been some better recompense offered. And I take it that the brethren of Ephesus wrote to those of Achaia, not only that they should provide lodging for the man, but also that they should suffer him to teach. This is holy commendation indeed, when we study to extol every good man with our testimony and consent, [suffrage,] lest the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which he hath given to every man for the edifying of the Church, lie buried.

When he came. The brethren foresaw this, who had already had experience thereof, when they exhorted him to address himself to that journey which he had already in mind conceived. And whereas it is said that he helped the faithful much, we may take it two ways; either that he helped those who were not so well furnished, and that he did support them to beat down the pride of their enemies; for every man was not able to have weapon in readiness, to undertake a hard combat against old enemies, who would never have yielded, unless they had been enforced; or that he aided them, lest their faith should fail, being shaken with the gainsaying of the enemies, which thing doth oftentimes befall the weak. I take it that they were helped both ways; that having a skillful and practiced captain, they got the victory in the conflict. Secondly, that their faith was fortified with a new prop, that it might be without danger of wavering. Furthermore, Luke seemeth to note that the brethren were helped with this stoutness and constancy, when as he saith that he disputed publicly with the Jews. For this was a sign of zeal and boldness not to fly the light. Whereas, in the end of the sentence, these words are used, through grace; it doth either agree with the word going before, they believed; or else it must be referred unto the help wherewith he helped the brethren. The former interpretation is nothing hard. For the meaning thereof shall be this, that the faithful were illuminate by the grace of God, that they might believe; as if he had said, The brethren, who were already called by the benefit of God unto faith, were furthered. Yet the other text seemeth to agree better, that Apollos, in imparting that grace which he had received with the brethren, did help them. So that, through grace, shall import as much as according to the measure of the grace received.

28. He overcame the Jews. By this it appeareth to what use that ability which Apollos had (in that he was mighty in the Holy Scriptures) did serve; to wit, because he had a strong and forcible proof to reprove and overcome the enemies withal. Also, the state of the disputation is briefly set down, that Jesus is Christ. For this was out of question among the Jews, that Christ was promised to be the deliverer; but it was a hard matter to persuade them that Jesus, the Son of Mary, was this Christ, through whom salvation was offered. Therefore, it was expedient for Apollos so to dispute concerning the office of Christ, that he might prove that the testimonies of the Scripture were fulfilled in the Son of Mary; and that he might thereby gather that he was Christ.

Also, this place doth testify, that the Scripture is profitable not only to teach, but also to break the obstinacy of those which do not obey and follow willingly. For our faith should not otherwise be firm enough, unless there were an evident demonstration extant there of those things which are necessary to be known for salvation. Surely, if the law and the prophets had so great light, that Apollos did thereby prove manifestly that Jesus is Christ, as if he did point out the matter with his finger, the adding of the gospel must bring this to pass at least, that the perfect knowledge of Christ may be let [sought] from the whole Scripture.

Wherefore it is detestable blasphemy against God in that the Papists say, that the Scripture is dark and doubtful. For to what end should God have spoken, unless the plain and invincible truth should show itself in his words? And whereas they infer, that we must stand to the authority of the Church, and they are not to dispute with heretics out of the Scriptures; their cavil is sufficiently refuted by Luke. For, seeing there was nothing more stubborn than the Jews, we need not to fear but that those weapons whereto Apollos trusted, and overcame them, shall suffice us against all heretics, seeing that by them we get the victory of the devil, the prince of all errors.

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