25. And when they could not agree, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias to our fathers, 26. Saying, Go to this people, and say, Ye shall hear with your ears, and not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive; 27. For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull with hearing, and with their eyes they have winked, lest at any time they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and they be converted, and I heal them.28. Be it known therefore unto you, that this salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and they shall hear it.29. And when he had said these things, the Jews went out from him, and had great reasoning among themselves.30. And Paul remained two years full in a thing he had hired for himself, and he received all those which came in unto him, 31. Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus, with all boldness, and no man did let [hinder] him.
25. And when they could not The malice and frowardness of the unfaithful is the cause of this, that Christ, who is our peace, and the only bond of holy unity, is an occasion of dissension, and doth cause those to go together by the ears who were friends before. For, behold, when the Jews come together to hear Paul, they think all one thing; and speak all one thing; they do all profess that they embrace the law of Moses. So soon as they hear the doctrine of reconciliation, there ariseth dissension among them, so that they are divided. And yet for all this we must not think that the preaching of the gospel is the cause of discord; but that privy displeasure, which lurked before in their malicious minds, doth then break out; and as the brightness of the sun doth not color things otherwise than they were, but doth plainly show the difference, which was none so long as it was dark. Therefore, seeing God doth illuminate his elect peculiarly, and faith is not common to all men, let us remember that it cannot be but that, so soon as Christ cometh abroad, there will be a division among men. But then let us call to mind that which Simon foretold of him, that he shall be a sign which shall be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts may be disclosed (Luke 2:34, 35) and that unbelief which striveth against God is the mother of dissension.
After that Paul. At the first he went about to allure them meekly and gently; now, so soon as he espieth their obstinacy, he inveigheth sharply, and doth severely denounce the judgment of God. For the rebellious must be handled thus, whose pride cannot be tamed with plain doctrine. The same order must we keep; we must gently govern those who are apt to be taught and gentle, but we must cite the stubborn unto God's judgment-seat. Whereas he bringeth in rather the Holy Ghost speaking than the prophet, it maketh to the credit of the oracle. For seeing God requireth that he alone be heard, doctrine cannot otherwise be of authority, than if we know that it did proceed from him, and that it did not issue out of man's brain. Again, he declareth therewithal that the stubbornness of one age only is not there noted, but that the oracle of the Spirit is extended unto the time to come.
26. Go to this people. This is a notable place, because it is cited six times in the New Testament, (Matthew 13:14; John 12:40; Romans 11:8; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10) but because it is brought in elsewhere to another end, we must mark for what purpose Paul applieth it unto the present cause; namely, he meant with this, as with a mallet, to beat in pieces the hardness and frowardness of the wicked, and to encourage the faithful, who were as yet weak and tender, lest the unbelief of others should trouble them.
Therefore, the sum is, that that was fulfilled which was foretold by the prophet, and that, therefore, there is no cause why the reprobate should flatter themselves, or that the faithful should be terrified, as it were, with some new unwonted thing. And though it be certain that this blindness whereof the prophet spake began in his time, yet John showeth that it did properly appertain unto the kingdom of Christ. Therefore, Paul doth fitly apply it unto that contempt of the gospel which he saw; as if he should have said, This is the very same thing which the Holy Ghost foretold in times past by the mouth of Isaiah. And though this place be diversely applied not only by the Evangelists, but also by Paul himself, the show of contrariety is easily put away and answered. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, say that this prophecy was fulfilled when Christ spake by parables unto the people, and did not reveal to them the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. For then the unfaithful heard the voice of God with their outward ears, but they did not profit thereby. John saith in a sense not much unlike to this, that the, Jews were not brought to believe, no, not with many miracles, (John 12:37) so that this same prophecy of the prophet was fulfilled.
Therefore, these four agree in this, that it came to pass by the just judgment of God, that the reprobate in hearing should not hear, and in seeing should not see. Now, Paul calleth to mind that which the prophet did testify concerning the Jews, lest any man wonder at their blindness. Furthermore, in the Epistle to the Romans, (Romans 11:5, 7) he mounteth higher, showing that this is the cause of blindness, because God doth give the light of faith only to the remnant whom he hath chosen freely. And surely it is certain that because the reprobate reject the doctrine of salvation, this cometh to pass through their own malice, and that therefore they themselves are to be blamed. But this next cause doth not let but that the secret election of God may distinguish between men; that those may believe who are ordained to life, and that the other may remain blockish. I will not stand long about the words of the prophet, because I have expounded the same elsewhere. Neither did Paul curiously recite the words which are in the prophet; but did rather apply his words unto his purpose. Therefore, he imputeth that making blind, which the prophet attributeth to the secret judgment of God, to their malice. For the prophet is commanded to stop the eyes of his hearers; and Paul in this place accuseth the unbelieving of his time, because they shut their own eyes. Though he setteth down both things distinctly, that God is the author of their blindness, and that yet, notwithstanding, they shut their own eyes, and become blind of their own accord; as these two things do very well agree together, as we said elsewhere.
In the last remember where it is said, Lest they see with their eyes, or hear with their ears, or understand with their heart; God showeth how clear his doctrine is, to wit, that it is sufficient to lighten all the senses, unless men do maliciously darken themselves; as Paul also teacheth in another place, that his gospel is plain, so that none can be blind in the light thereof, save those who are ordained to destruction, whose eyes Satan hath blinded, (2 Corinthians 4:3).
Lest they be converted, and I heal them. By this we gather that the Word of God is not set before all men that they may return to soundness of mind; but that the external voice soundeth in the ears of many, without the effectual working of the Spirit, only that they may be made inexcusable. And here the pride of flesh doth rashly murmur against God; as we see many object, that men are called in vain, yea, absurdly, unless it be in their power to obey; though we see no reason why God appeareth to the blind, and speaketh to the deaf; yet his will alone, which is the rule of all righteousness, ought to be to us instead of a thousand reasons.
In the conclusion, we must note the wholesome effect of the Word of God; namely, the conversion of men, which is not only the beginning of health, but also a certain resurrection from death to life.
28. Therefore be it. Lest the Jews may afterward accuse him of revolting, because he forsaketh the holy stock of Abraham, and goeth to the profane Gentiles; he denounceth that which the prophets did so often testify, that the salvation whereof they were the proper, at least the principal heirs, should be translated unto strangers. Notwithstanding, whereas he saith that salvation was sent to the Gentiles, he meaneth, in the second place, to wit, after that the Jews had rejected it, as we have said before more at large (Acts 13:46) Therefore, the sense is, that there is no cause why the Jews should complain if the Gentiles be admitted into the void possession after that they have forsaken it. Neither doth he make faith common to all the Gentiles in general, when he saith that they shall hear. For he had full well tried, that even many of the Gentiles did wickedly resist God, but he setteth so many of the Gentiles as believed against the unbelieving Jews, that he may provoke them unto jealousy; as it is in the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:21). In the mean season, he signifieth that the doctrine which they refuse shall profit others.
29. Having much reasoning. No doubt, the wicked were more nettled because he cited the prophecy against them; for they are so far from waxing meek when they are reproved, that they are more inflamed with fury. This is the reason why they reasoned when they were gone out from Paul, because the more part would not be quiet. But seeing there was such disputing, it appeareth that some did so embrace those things which Paul had spoken, that they doubted not to defend and stoutly to avouch that which they believed. But it is in vain for any man to object thereupon, that the gospel of Christ is the seed of contention, which cometh undoubtedly from man's pride and waywardness; and assuredly, if we will have peace with God, we must strive against those which contemn him.
30. He received all. The apostle showed an excellent example of constancy, in that he offered himself so willingly to all those which were desirous to hear him. Surely he was not ignorant what great hatred he did purchase; and that this was his best way, if by holding his peace he might appease the hatred of his adversaries. For a man being desirous to provide for himself alone would not have done thus; but because he remembered that he was no less the servant of Christ, and a preacher of the gospel, when he was in prison, than if he had been at liberty, he thought it was not lawful for him to withdraw himself from any which was ready to learn, lest he should foreslow [neglect] the occasion which was offered him by God, and therefore he did more regard the holy calling of God than his own life. And that we may know that he did incur danger willingly, Luke doth shortly after expressly commend his boldness, as if he should say, that setting all fear aside, he did faithfully obey the commandment of God, neither was he terrified with any danger, but did proceed to take pains with whomsoever he met.
Preaching the kingdom of God. He doth not separate the kingdom of God, and those things which belong to Christ, as diverse things, but doth rather add the second thing by way of exposition, that we may know that the kingdom of God is grounded and contained in the knowledge of the redemption purchased by Christ. Therefore, Paul taught that men are strangers and foreigners from the kingdom of God, until having their sins done away they be reconciled to God, and be renewed into holiness of life by the Spirit; and that the kingdom of God is then erected, and doth then flourish among them, when Christ the Mediator doth join them to the Father, having both their sins freely forgiven them, and being also regenerate unto righteousness, that beginning the heavenly life upon earth, they may always have a longing desire to come to heaven, where they shall fully and perfectly enjoy glory. Also, Luke setteth forth a singular benefit of God, in that Paul had so great liberty granted him. For that came not to pass through the winking and dissimulation of those who could hinder it, seeing they did detest religion, but because the Lord did shut their eyes. Wherefore, it is not without cause that Paul himself doth boast that the Word of God was not bound with his bonds (2 Timothy 2:9).