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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 23:25-35

25. And he wrote a letter after this sort: 26. Claudius Lysias to the most mighty ruler, [prefect] Felix, sendeth greeting.27. This man being taken of the Jews, and almost killed of them, did I rescue, coming upon them with soldiers, after that I knew that he was a Roman.28. And being desirous to know the cause for which they did accuse him, I brought him into their council: 29. Whom I perceived they accused of questions of their law, having in him no crime worthy of death or of bonds.30. And when I was certified of the laying await of the Jews, I sent him straightway unto thee, and gave commandment to his accusers, that they should tell those things before thee what they have against him. Farewell.31. And the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul, and brought him by night unto Antipatris.32. And on the morrow when they had sent away the horsemen that they might go with him, they returned to the camp.33. When they were come to Cesarea, and had delivered the epistle to the governor, they presented Paul also before him.34. And when the governor had read it, and had asked of what province he was, and had known that he was of Cilicia; 35. I will hear thee, saith he, when thine accusers are come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment-hall.

25. And he wrote a letter. First, we must briefly admonish the readers who have not been conversant in histories, that this Felix was brother to Pallas, who being Caesar's freeman, became equal with the chief of the city in wealth and power. Yea, moreover, the senate gave him the ornaments of the praetor, not without titles of filthy and shameful flattery. Therefore, seeing the servants of Claudius abusing his folly, did rule the Roman empire at their pleasure, and chiefly Narcissus and Pallas, no marvel if this latter did appoint his brother to be governor of Judea. The sum of the epistle tendeth to this end, that the chief captain may help Paul with his prejudice; and may admonish Felix of the injuries of his adversaries, and may so discredit them, that they may not be able to do him any hurt.

27. This man being taken. This was spoken odiously concerning the Jews, that he might purchase more favor for Paul, that a man, being a Roman, was by them sore beaten, and almost slain; also, he commendeth him for the right and privilege of his freedom, that he may be the more courteously handled. Furthermore, this commendation was not purchased by prayer or flattery, neither was it bought with money. How came it to pass, then, that the chief captain did show himself so courteous freely to an obscure man, and whom all men did hate, save only because the Lord had appointed him to be his servant's patron? Therefore, we see how he governeth the tongues and hands of the infidels to the profit of those that be his.

29. Whom I perceived In this place he acquitteth Paul, so far as his judgment could reach. But let us note that a profane man speaketh. For among the people of God it is an offense worthy of no less punishment, to corrupt the doctrine of godliness with wicked, and false opinions, than to do injury to, or commit wickedness among men. The Romans would not have suffered their superstitions, or reigned worshippings of their gods, to be freedom; but forasmuch as they made no account of the law of God, yea, seeing they were desirous to have the same quite put out, it was among them no fault to believe Moses and the prophets no more, or to trouble the Church with false opinions. Therefore, there was a law, that the governors should not meddle with such matters; but that those who were abiding in the provinces should so retain their religion, that if anything were done contrary to the same, the Roman magistrates should not meddle with the punishing thereof. This is the reason why the chief captain thinketh it no offense to have moved questions concerning the law. And under color hereof, unlearned men will have leave granted to themselves and others amiss to cause trouble. The Lord saith far otherwise, who doth more sharply punish the violating of his worship, than any injuries done to men. And surely nothing is more absurd than to let those who rob God of his honor escape scot free, seeing theft is punished. But as the chief captain careth not for the Jewish religion, so the false accusations and slanders of the Jews are refuted, wherewith they would gladly have burdened Paul.

30. When it was showed to me. The second part of the epistle where the chief captain doth bring the adversaries into contempt, because they went about to kill Paul treacherously. Whence it is also gathered, that they trouble Paul unjustly, and that they sought so sore against his life without any cause. For if they had persecuted him lawfully, they would have trusted to the goodness of their cause, and not have suffered him to be judged according to law. Now, when as they seek to kill him, it appeareth that they have no reason.

32. And the next day. Though Luke did not express before that the soldiers were commanded to return before they came at their way's end, yet it is certain, that they were appointed to accompany him only unto that place where the chief captain thought Paul would be safe; for he went out privily in the night. And the chief captain knew that so soon as they had finished some part of their journey, there was no farther danger, because the adversaries could have no hope to overtake him; and that it was no point of wisdom to send part of the garrison far away.

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