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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 23:17-24

17. And when Paul had called unto him one of the centurions, he saith, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to show him.18. And he took him, and led him unto the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and desired me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath somewhat to say to thee.19. And the chief captain took him by the hand, and went aside with him, and asked him, What is it that thou hast to say to me? 20. And he said, The Jews have conspired together to desire thee that thou bring forth Paul into the council tomorrow, as if they would know somewhat more certainly of him.21. But do not thou obey them: for more than forty of them lie in wait for him, who have bound themselves with a curse, that they will neither eat nor drink until they have slain him: and now they be ready waiting that thou shouldst promise.22. Therefore the chief captain let the young man go, and commanded him, Tell no man that thou hast told me these things.23. And when he had called unto him two under captains, he said, Make ready two hundred soldiers that they may go to Cesarea, and horsemen seventy, and two hundred with darts, [or javelins] at the third hour of the night.24. And make ready beasts, that they may set Paul thereon, and bring him safe to Felix the governor.

17. Calling unto him. Paul was not so desirous of life, but he would have made haste to die, if the Lord had thought it good so to be; but because he knoweth that he serveth Christ upon that condition, that he may no less live than die to him, he doth not neglect to avoid the danger which was revealed to him. And though he be fully persuaded that God is the keeper of his life, yet he doth not wait until God put forth his hand out of heaven to work a miracle, but doth rather use the remedy which is offered him; nothing doubting but that it is appointed by God.

Thus must all the ministers of Christ deal, that being furnished with invincible constancy, so far as their calling requireth, they fear not danger, and yet that they cast not away themselves through rashness. Let them call upon the name of the Lord cheerfully, even amidst the pikes; and yet let them not contemn those helps which are offered; otherwise they shall be injurious to God, in that they are not only not moved with his promises, but also despise the means which he hath appointed for their deliverance.

19. Taking him by the hand. In that the chief captain did show himself so courteous to the young man, in that he led him by the hand into a secret place, in that he vouchsafeth to hear him so gently, all this must be attributed to the grace of God, who promised to give his people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, (Exodus 3:21) who useth to mollify hard hearts, to tame fierce spirits, and to fashion those unto all humanity, whom he hath determined to use as means to help those that be his. A man trained up in the wars might no less have given this young man the repulse, whom he knew not, than have despised Paul's suit. Therefore, the Lord, who hath in his hand the hearts of men, did frame the profane man to give ear unto him. Also, it was well that he knew before how furiously they raged against Paul, that he might the more willingly succor a miserable and forsaken man. Those who are in authority are taught by this example what a great virtue courtesy is. If it had been a hard matter to come to him, he might, through ignorance, have delivered Paul to the Jews to be put to death. So oftentimes magistrates do fall into many and great offenses through their own pride, because they will not admit those who would give them good counsel.

CalIing unto him. And here we see the providence of God yet more manifestly; for though this be the drift of the chief captain: to prevent a public uproar, whereof he should have given an account before the governor, yet he executeth the counsel of God in delivering Paul. For he was to gather soldiers together; also, the city must needs be stripped of the garrison, and the voyage required some cost. Therefore: we must so consider the wisdom of the chief captain, that our faith lift up her eyes into heaven: and understand that God doth guide the heart of a profane man by a secret instinct, and that he is at length a guide to Paul and the soldiers, that he may come safe to Cesarea. The third hour of the night was the end of the first watch. Therefore, it is all one as if the chief captain did command that the soldiers be in readiness at the second watch. Luke calleth those who carried darts lancearios, who being more lightly weaponed, were placed in the wings, when as the soldiers which pertained unto the legions were more fit for set war.

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