12. And one Ananias, a godly man according to the law, approved by the testimony of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13. Coming unto me, and standing by me, said to me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And I receiving my sight, the same hour saw him.14. But he said to me, The God of our fathers hath prepared thee that thou mightest know his will, and see the Just, and hear a voice from his mouth.15. Because thou shalt be his witness before all men of those things which thou hast seen and heard.16. And now why stayest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, in calling upon the name of the Lord.
12. One Ananias. Paul proceedeth now unto the fourth point, to wit, that he did not only give his name to Christ, being astonished with miracles, but that he was also well and thoroughly instructed in the doctrine of the gospel. I have already said that Ananias met Paul, not by chance, but through the direction of Christ. And whereas he giveth him the title of godliness as concerning the law, and saith that he was well reported of by the whole nation, in these words he preventeth the wrong opinion which they might conceive. As they loathed the Gentiles, so they would never have allowed any teacher coming from them; and one that had revolted from the law should have been most detestable. Therefore, he witnesseth that he worshipped God according to the law, and that his godliness was known and commended among all the Jews, so that they ought not to suspect him. These words, according to the law, are ignorantly, by some, coupled with the text following, that he was approved according to the law. For Ananias' religion is rather distinguished by this mark from the superstitions of the Gentiles. Though we must note, that the law is not mentioned to establish the merits of works, that they may be set against the grace of God; but Ananias' godliness is clearly acquitted of all evil suspicion which might have risen among the Jews. And seeing that he restoreth sight to Paul with one word, it appeareth thereby that he was sent of God, as I have said before.
14. The God of our fathers. As nothing is more fit to provoke us joyfully to go forward toward God, than when we know that God doth prevent us with his free goodness, that he may call us back from destruction to life; so Ananias beginneth here. God, saith he, hath ordained thee to know his will. For by this means Paul is taught that God had respect unto him at such time as he went astray, and was altogether an enemy to his own salvation; and so God's predestination doth abolish all preparations which sophisters imagine, as if man did prevent God's grace by his own free will. In calling him the God of the fathers, he reneweth the remembrance of the promises, that the Jews may know that the new calling of Paul is joined with them, and that those fall not away from the law who pass over unto Christ. Therefore Paul confirmeth that by these words which he avouched before in his own person, that he had not made any departure from the God of Abraham, whom the Jews had in times past worshipped, but that he continueth in the ancient worship which the fathers did use, which he had learned out of the law.
Wherefore, when the question is about religion, let us learn by the example of Paul, not to imagine any new God, (as the Papists and Mahometans have done, and as all heretics use to do) but let us retain that God who hath revealed himself in times past to the fathers, both by the law, and also by diverse oracles. This is that antiquity wherein we must remain, and not in that whereof the Papists boast in vain, who have invented to themselves a strange God, seeing they have forsaken the lawful fathers.
The same is to be said at this day of the Jews, whose religion, seeing it disagreeth with the law and the prophets, their God must also be degenerate and feigned. For he who would in times past be called the God of Abraham and of the fathers, appeared at length in the person of his Son, that he may now be called by his own name, or title, the Father of Christ. Therefore, he which rejecteth the Son hath not the Father, who cannot be separated from him. And Ananias saith, that it cometh to pass, through the free election of God, that the truth of the gospel doth now appear to Paul; whereupon it followeth, that he did not attain unto this by his own industry, which the experience of the thing did also declare. For nothing was more stubborn than Paul until Christ did tame him. And if we desire to know the cause and beginning, Ananias calleth us back unto the counsel of God, whereby he was appointed and ordained; and assuredly it is a more precious thing to know the will of God, than that men can attain unto it by their own industry. That which Ananias affirmeth of Paul ought to be translated unto all, that the treasure of faith is not common to all; but it is offered peculiarly to the elect. Furthermore, it appeareth more plainly by the next member what this will of God is. For God spake at sundry times and many ways by his prophets, but last of all, he revealed and made known his will and himself wholly in his Son (Hebrews 1:1).
To see the Just. Seeing all the Greek books in a manner agree together in the masculine gender, I wonder why Erasmus would rather translate it in the neuter, Which is Just; which sense the readers see to be cold and far let [fetched]. Therefore, I do not doubt but that Just is taken in this place for Christ; and the text runneth very finely thus, because it followeth immediately after, and hear a voice from his mouth. And it is certain that all the godly and holy men did most of all desire that they might see Christ. Thence flowed that confession of Simeon,
|Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace; because mine eyes have seen thy salvation,| (Luke 2:29).
Therefore this seeing, which godly kings and prophets did most earnestly desire, as Christ himself doth witness, (Luke 10:24) is not without cause extolled as a singular benefit of God. But because the sight of the eyes should profit little or nothing, which we know was to many deadly, he adjoineth the hearing of the voice. Ananias setteth down the cause why God did vouchsafe Paul of so great honor, to wit, that he might be to his Son a public witness; and he doth so prepare him, that he may learn not only for himself alone, but that he may have so much the more care to profit, because he shall be the teacher of all the whole Church.
16. And now, why tarriest thou? It is not to be doubted but that Ananias did faithfully instruct Paul in the principles of godliness; for he would not have baptized him if he had been void of true faith. But Luke passeth over many things, and doth briefly gather the sum. Therefore, seeing Paul doth understand that the promised redemption is now given in Christ, Ananias saith, for good causes, that nothing ought to stay him from being baptized. But when he saith, Why tarriest thou? he doth not chide Paul, neither doth he accuse him of slackness, but he doth rather amplify the grace of God by adding baptism. The like sentence had we in the tenth chapter, (Acts 10:47)
|Can any man let [hinder] those from being baptized with water who have the Holy Ghost given them even as we?|
But when he saith, Wash away thy sins, by this speech he expresseth the force and fruit of baptism, as if he had said, Wash away thy sins by baptism. But because it may seem that by this means more is attributed to the outward and corruptible element than is meet, the question is, whether baptism be the cause of our purging. Surely, forasmuch as the blood of Christ is the only means whereby our sins are washed away, and as it was once shed to this end, so the Holy Ghost, by the sprinkling thereof through faith, doth make us clean continually. This honor cannot be translated unto the sign of water, without doing open injury to Christ and the Holy Ghost; and experience doth teach how earnestly men be bent upon this superstition. Therefore, many godly men, lest they put confidence in the outward sign, do overmuch extenuate the force of baptism. But they must keep a measure, that the sacraments may be kept within their bounds, lest they darken the glory of Christ; and yet they may not want their force and use.
Wherefore, we must hold this, first, that it is God alone who washeth us from our sins by the blood of his Son; and to the end this washing may be effectual in us, he worketh by the hidden power of his Spirit. Therefore, when the question is concerning remission of sins, we must seek no other author thereof but the heavenly Father, we must imagine no other material cause but the blood of Christ; and when we be come to the formal cause, the Holy Ghost is the chief. But there is an inferior instrument, and that is the preaching of the word and baptism itself. But though God alone doth work by the inward power of his Spirit, yet that doth not hinder but that he may use, at his pleasure, such instruments and means as he knoweth to be convenient; not that he includeth in the element anything which he taketh either from his Spirit or from the blood of Christ, but because he will have the sign itself to be an help for our infirmity.
Therefore, forasmuch as baptism doth help our faith, that it may reap forgiveness of sins by the blood of Christ alone, it is called the washing of the soul. So that the washing, spoken of by Luke, doth not note out the cause; but is referred unto the understanding of Paul, who, having received the sign, knew better that his sins were done away. Though we must also note this, that there is no bare figure set before us in baptism, but that the giving of the thing is thereto annexed; because God promised nothing deceitfully, but doth, indeed, fulfill that which under the signs he doth signify. Notwithstanding, we must again beware that we tie not the grace of God to the sacraments; for the external administration of baptism profiteth nothing, save only where it pleaseth God it shall. By this there is also another question answered which may be moved. For seeing Paul had the testimony of the grace of God, his sins were already forgiven him. Therefore, he was not washed only by baptism, but he received a new confirmation of the grace which he had gotten.
In calling upon the name of the Lord. It is out of question that he meaneth Christ, not because the name of Christ alone is called upon in baptism, but because the Father commandeth us to ask of him whatsoever is figured in baptism; neither doth the operation of the Spirit tend to any other end, saving that it may make us partakers of his death and resurrection. Therefore, Christ is appointed to excel in baptism, yet inasmuch as he is given us of the Father, and inasmuch as he poureth out his graces upon us by the Holy Ghost. Whereby it cometh to pass that the calling upon the name of Christ containeth both the Father and the Son.
Wherefore, Ananias doth not mean, that the name of Christ must only be named, but he speaketh of prayer, whereby the faithful do testify, that the effect of the outward sign is in the power of Christ alone. For the sacraments have neither any power of salvation included in them, neither are they anything worth of themselves. Wherefore, this member is, as it were, a correction of the former saying, because Ananias doth, in plain words, send Paul from reposing confidence in the external sign unto Christ.
It is well known how much the Papists differ from this rule, who tie the cause of grace to their exorcisms and enchantments; and they are so far from studying to direct the miserable people unto Christ, that they rather drown Christ in baptism, and pollute his sacred name by their enchantments.