19. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision: 20. But I preached first to those which are at Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and through every region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and be turned unto God, doing works which become those which repent.21. For this cause the Jews, having caught me in the temple, went about to kill me.22. Therefore, seeing I have obtained help of God, I stand until this present day, testifying both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses said should come to pass: 23. Whether Christ should suffer, whether he should be the first that should rise from the dead, to show light to the people, and to the Gentiles.
19. He declareth now briefly to what end he rehearsed the history of his conversion; to wit, that Agrippa and the rest might understand that he had God for his author of all those things which the Jews condemned of sacrilege and apostacy. He speaketh to Agrippa by name, because he knew that Festus and the Romans knew not what an heavenly vision meant. Now, it appeareth that there is nothing in the very sum of his doctrine which dissenteth from the law and the prophets; whereby the oracle doth win greater credit, whereby Paul was commanded to teach nothing but that which was agreeable to the Scripture. Conversion, or turning unto God, is joined with repentance, not as some peculiar thing, but that we may know what it is to repent. Like as, also, on the contrary, the corruption of men and their frowardness is nothing else but an estranging from God. And because repentance is an inward thing, and placed in the affection of the heart, Paul requireth, in the second place, such works as may make the same known, according to that exhortation of John the Baptist: |Bring forth fruits meet for repentance,| (Matthew 3:8). Now, forasmuch as the gospel calleth all those which are Christ's unto repentance, it followeth that all men are naturally corrupt, and that they have need to be changed. In like sort, this place teacheth that these men do unskillfully pervert the gospel which separate the grace of Christ from repentance.
21. They went about to kill me. He complaineth in this place of the iniquity of his adversaries, that it may thereby appear that their cause and conscience were both evil. For if Paul had offended they might have gone to law with him; and even there should they have stand [stood] in better state, seeing they did far pass him both in favor and authority. Therefore, their madness doth testify that they are destitute of reason. Whereas Paul saith that he was saved by the help of God, it maketh for the confirmation of his doctrine. For how is it that he reacheth out his hand to help him, save only because he acknowledged his minister, and because he will defend the cause which he alloweth [approveth?]. Moreover, this ought to have encouraged him to go forward so much the more boldly in his office, in that he was thus holpen by God. For it had been a point of an unthankful man to withdraw himself from him which had holpen him. By which example we be taught, that so often as we be delivered from danger, the Lord doth not therefore prolong our days that we may afterward live idly, but that we may do our duty cheerfully, and be ready to die every hour to his glory, who hath reserved us to himself. And yet Paul did not forget how much he was indebted to the chief captain; but in this place he commendeth the help of God, that he may show that it became him to spend all the rest of his course in his service by whom he was delivered, though that came to pass, and were done through the industry and by the hand of man.
Testifying both to small and great. We have said elsewhere that it is more to testify than to teach, as if there were some solemn contestation made between God and men, that the gospel may have his [its] majesty. And he saith that he is a witness both to great and small, that king Agrippa may perceive that this doth appertain even to him; and that when the gospel is offered even to every simple man, that doth no whit hinder but that it may ascend even unto the throne of princes. For Christ doth gather all men into his bosom with one and the same embracing, that those who lay before in the dunghill, and are now extolled unto so great honor, may rejoice in his free goodness; and that those who are placed in high degree of honor may willingly humble themselves, and not grudge to have some of the base and contemptible multitude for their brethren, that they may be made the children of God. So in the first chapter to the Romans, he saith that he is indebted both to the fools and to the wise, lest the Romans should be kept back with the confidence which they might repose in their wisdom from submitting themselves to his doctrine. By this let us learn that it is not in the teacher's will to make choice of his hearers, and that they do no less injury to God than defraud men of their right, whosoever they be which restrain their labor unto great men, whom God doth join with those which are small. It were too cold to restrain this unto ages. Wherefore, I do not doubt but that Paul taketh away the exception which used to be between the noble and ignoble, because he was neither afraid of the dignity of the one, neither did he loathe the baseness of the other, but did show himself a faithful teacher to both alike.
Saying no other thing. First, this is worth the noting, that Paul, to the end he may bring in fit and substantial witnesses of his doctrine, doth not take the same from among men, but he citeth Moses and the prophets, to whom the Lord had granted undoubted authority. And surely this is one principle to be observed, when we will teach soundly, to utter nothing but that which did proceed out of the mouth of God. Secondly, this is worth the noting, that these were the principal points of the disputation which Luke doth now touch; that this was the proper office of Christ, by his death to make satisfaction for the sins of the world, by his resurrection to purchase righteousness and life for men; and that the fruit of his death and resurrection is common both to Jews and Gentiles. But forasmuch as there is no manifest and (as they say) literal testimony extant in the law concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, undoubtedly they had some doctrine delivered by hand from the fathers, out of which they did learn to refer all figures unto Christ. And as the prophets, which did prophesy more plainly of Christ, had their doctrine from that fountain, so they made the men of their time believe that they delivered unto them no new thing, or which did dissent from Moses. And now Paul did either not finish his apology, or else he gathered more evident testimonies of all those things wherein he professed Moses and the prophets to be his authors.
The first of those which. There were some other whose resurrection went before Christ's in time; namely, if we admit that the saints of whom the Evangelists speak (Matthew 27:52) did come out of their graves before Christ, which may likewise be said of the taking up of Enoch and Elias (Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11). But he calleth him in this place the first; as in another place the first fruits of those which rise again (1 Corinthians 15:23). Therefore, this word doth rather note out the cause than the order of time, because, when Christ did rise again, he became the conqueror of death and Lord of life, that he might reign forever, and make those who are his partakers of [his own] blessed immortality. Under this word light, he comprehendeth whatsoever doth pertain unto perfect felicity, as by darkness is meant death and all manner of misery. And I do not doubt but that Paul alluded unto the sayings of the prophets,
|The people which walked in darkness saw great light,| (Isaiah 9:2).
|Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall be seen upon thee,| (Isaiah 60:2).
|Behold, those which are in darkness shall see light,| (Isaiah 42:16).
|I have made thee a light of the Gentiles,| (Isaiah 49:6).
And it appeareth by many oracles that the light of life should come out of Judea, and should be spread abroad among the Gentiles.