22. And, behold, I go now bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing what things shall befall me there: 23. Save only that the Holy Ghost doth witness throughout every city, saying that bonds and afflictions are prepared for me. 24. But I care not, neither is my life dear to me, that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25. And now, behold, I know that after this ye shall not see my face, all you through whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God. 26. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am clean from the blood of all men. 27. For I have kept nothing back, but have showed you all the counsel of God.
22. And, behold. He declareth now more fully to what end he intreated of his upright dealing; to wit, because they should never see him any more. And it was very expedient that the pattern which was set before them by God of them to be followed should be always before their eyes, and that they should remember him when he was dead. For we know how readily men degenerate from pure institution. But though he deny that he doth know what shall befall him at Jerusalem, yet because he was taught by many prophecies that bonds were prepared for him there, as if he were now ready to die, he cutteth off shortly after the hope of his return. And yet for all this he is not contrary to himself. He speaketh doubtfully at the first of set purpose, that he may soften that which was about to be more (hard and) bitter; and yet he doth truly affirm, that he knew not as yet the ends and events of things, because he had no certain and special revelation touching the whole process.
Bound in the spirit. Some expound this that he was bound to the churches, who had committed to him this function to carry alms. Notwithstanding, I do rather think that hereby is meant the inward force and motion of the Spirit, not as though he were so inspired, 1 that he was out of his wit, but because being certified of the will of God, he did meekly 2 follow the direction and instinct of the Spirit, even of his own accord. Therefore, this speech importeth as much as if he should have said, I cannot otherwise do, unless I would be stubborn and rebellious against God, who doth as it were draw me thither, being bound by his Spirit. For to the end he may excuse himself of rashness, he saith that the Spirit is the author and guide of his journey. But would to God those brain-sick men, who boast that the Spirit doth incite to them those things which proceed from their own fantasy, did know the Spirit as familiarly as did Paul, who doth, notwithstanding, not say that all his motions and instigations 3 are of the Spirit, but declareth that that fell out in one thing as a singular thing. For men do oftentimes foolishly and unadvisedly take in hand those things which they put in practice afterward stoutly, because they be ashamed of lightness and instability. And he doth not only mean that he took in hand his journey for a good cause, which the Spirit of God showeth him, but that it is altogether necessary for him, because it is wickedness to resist. Furthermore, let us learn, by the example of the holy man, not to kick against the Spirit of the Lord, but obediently to give over ourselves by him to be governed, that he may rule us at his pleasure after we be as it were bound to him. 4 For if the reprobate, who are the bond-slaves of Satan, be carried not only willingly, but also greedily, through his motion, 5 how much more ought this voluntary bondage or service to be in the children of God?
23. But that the Holy Ghost. I do not understand this of secret oracles, but of those foretellings which he heard everywhere of the prophets. And this speech hath greater dignity to set forth the prophecies, than if the men themselves which spake were called and cited to be witnesses. For by this means the word of God hath his [its] authority, when we confess that the Spirit of God is the author thereof, though the ministers be men. Now, forasmuch as the same Spirit, which foretelleth Paul of bonds and tribulations, doth also hold him fast bound that he cannot refuse to submit himself unto him, by this we learn, that what dangers soever hang over our heads, we are not thereby acquitted, but that we must obey the commandments of God, and follow his calling. In vain, therefore, do those men flatter themselves, who will do good so long as they be free from molestation, and may make discommodities, damages, and dangers of death, sufficient excuses.
24. I care not. All the godly must be so framed in their minds, and chiefly the ministers of the Word, that, setting all things apart, they make haste to obey God. The life is, indeed, a more excellent gift than that it ought to be neglected; to wit, seeing we be therein created after the image of God, to the end we may think upon that blessed immortality which is laid up for us in heaven, in which the Lord doth now by diverse testimonies and tokens show himself to be our Father.
But because it is ordained to be unto us as a race, we must always hasten unto the mark, and overcome all hindrances, lest any thing hinder or stay us in our course, For it is a filthy thing for us to be so holden with a blind desire to live, that we lose the causes of life for life itself; and this do the words of Paul express. For he doth not simply set light by his life; but he doth forget the respect thereof, that he may finish his course; that he may fulfill the ministry which he hath received of Christ, as if he should say that he is not desirous to live, save only that he may satisfy the calling of God; and that, therefore, it shall be no grief to him to lose his life, so that he may come by death unto the goal of the function prescribed to him by God.
And we must note that which he saith, with joy, for his meaning is, that this is taken from the faithful by no sorrow or grief, but that they both. live and die to the Lord. For the joy of a good conscience is more deeply and surely laid up, than that it can be taken away by any external trouble, or any sorrow of the flesh; it triumpheth more joyfully than that it can be oppressed. Also, we must note the definition of his course; to wit, that it is the ministry received of the Lord. Paul doth indeed speak of himself; yet, by his own example, he teacheth that all those go astray who have not God to be the governor of their course. Whereupon it followeth that his calling is unto every one of us a rule of good life. Neither can we be otherwise persuaded that the Lord alloweth that which we do, unless our life be framed and ordered according to his will, which certainly is required, especially in the ministers of the word, that they take nothing in hand unless they have Christ for their author. Neither is it to be doubted but that Paul, in giving his apostleship this mark, (as he useth to do very often) doth confirm the credit thereof. He calleth it the gospel of the grace of God, of the effect or end, notwithstanding this is a title of rare commendation, that, by the gospel, salvation and the grace of God are brought unto us. For it is very expedient for us to know that God is found there to be merciful and favorable.
25. And, behold, now I know. He doth now utter that plainly which he had insinuated covertly. And we said that he did put them out of hope of his return, to the end he might more deeply imprint in their minds his exhortations. For we know what great force the words and speeches of men have which are uttered at their departure or death. Also, he would have them beware by this forewarning, that they do not depend upon his presence, and so their faith should faint through wearisomeness. The doctrine of the gospel is called the kingdom of God now again, which doth begin the kingdom of God in this world, by renewing men after the image of God, until it be made perfect at length in the last resurrection,
26. Wherefore I take you to record. It is all one as if he had said, I call you to witness, or I call you to bear witness before God and his angels. And this doth he not so much for his own cause, as that he may prescribe unto them their duty with greater authority. Furthermore, this place containeth a brief sum of teaching rightly and well, and it exhorteth the teachers themselves, vehemently and sharply, that they be diligent in their function. What order must pastors then keep in teaching? First, let them not esteem at their pleasure what is profitable to be uttered and what to be omitted; but let them leave that to God alone to be ordered at his pleasure. So shall it come to pass that the inventions of men shall have none entrance into the Church of God. Again, mortal man shall not be so bold as to mangle the Scripture and to pull it in pieces, that he may diminish 6 this or that at his pleasure, that he may obscure something and suppress many things; but shall deliver whatsoever is revealed in the Scripture, though wisely and seasonably for the edifying of the people, yet plainly and without guile, as becometh a faithful and true interpreter of God. I said that wisdom must be used, because we must always have respect unto profit, so there be no subtilty used, wherein many take too great delight, when as they turn and wrest the word of God unto their methods, and forge to us a certain kind of philosophy mixed of the gospel and their own inventions; namely, because this mixture is more delectable. Thence have we free will, thence the deserts of works, thence the denial of the providence and free election of God. And that which we said even now is to be noted, that the counsel of God, whereof Paul maketh mention, is included in his word, and that it is to he sought nowhere else.
For many things are kept from us in this life, the perfect and full manifestation whereof is deferred until that day, wherein we shall see God as he is, with new eyes, face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). Therefore, those do set forth the will of God who interpret the Scriptures faithfully, and out of them instruct the people in the faith, in the fear of God, and in all exercises of godliness. And, as we said of late, that those are condemned by this sentence, who, disputing philosophically, lest they should teach anything which is removed from the common sense of men, and therefore odious, do corrupt with their leaven the purity of the Scripture; so, both sharply and sore, doth Paul thunder against them, who, for fear of the cross and persecution, do speak only doubtfully and darkly. 7
I am clean from the blood. I do not doubt but that he had respect unto the place of Ezekiel, where God denounceth that his prophet shall be guilty of the blood of the wicked unless he exhort them unto repentance (Ezekiel 3:18, 20). For upon this condition doth he appoint pastors over his Church, that if anything perish through their negligence, an account may be required at their hands; yea, that unless they show the way of salvation without guile and crooks, the destruction of those who go astray may be imputed unto them. Those men must needs be wonderful dull whom such a sharp threatening cannot awake. Wherefore the epicurish impiety of the Popish clergy doth the more bewray itself, where, though they craik and brag 8 of their honorable titles, yet they think no more upon giving of an account for so many souls which perish, than if there sat no Judge in heaven, neither is their ungodliness any whit less filthy before the whole world, in that being given only to devour sheep, 9 they usurp the name of pastors. Furthermore, the Lord showeth how dear souls be to him, seeing that he doth so sharply punish the pastor's sluggishness for their destruction; but we see what small account many men make of their own salvation, for which even God himself doth vouchsafe to be careful.