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Matthew 22:1.And Jesus answering. Though Matthew relates this parable among other discourses which were delivered by Christ about the time of the last Passover, yet as he does not specify any particular time, and as Luke expressly affirms that Christ delivered this discourse while he sat at table in the house of a Pharisee, I have thought it better to follow this order. The design which Matthew had in view was, to point out the reasons why the scribes were excited to the highest pitch of fury; and therefore he properly placed it in the midst of those discourses which were hateful to them, and interwove it with those discourses, without attending to the order of time. But we must attend to Luke’s narrative, who says that, when one of those who sat at table with him said, Blessed is he that eateth bread in the kingdom of God, Christ took occasion from it to upbraid the Jews with ingratitude. It is by no means probable, that the guest and friend of a Pharisee broke out into this exclamation from any sincere feeling of piety. Still, I do not look upon it as having been spoken in derision; but, as persons who have a moderate knowledge of the faith, and are not openly wicked, are in the habit of indulging, amidst their cups, in idle talk about eternal life, I think that this man threw out a remark about future blessedness, in order to draw out some observation in return from Christ. And his words make it manifest, that he had nothing in view beyond what was gross and earthly; for he did not employ the phrase, eat bread, as a metaphor for enjoy eternal life, but appears to have dreamed of I know not what state, filled with prosperity and abundance of all things. The meaning is, Blessed shall they be who shall eat the bread of God, (291) after that he has collected his children into his kingdom.
2.The kingdom of heaven is like a human king As it was long ago said by a Spartan, that the Athenians knew what was right, but did not choose to practice it; so Christ now brings it as a reproach against the Jews, that they gave utterance to beautiful expressions about the kingdom of God, but, when God kindly and gently invited them, they rejected his grace with disdain. There is no room to doubt that the discourse is expressly levelled against the Jews, as will more plainly appear a little afterwards.
Matthew and Luke differ in this respect, that Matthew details many circumstances, while Luke states the matter summarily, and in a general manner. Thus, Matthew says that a king made a marriage for his son: Luke only mentions a great supper The former speaks of many servants, while the latter refers to no more than one servant; the former describes many messages, the latter mentions one only; the former says that some of the servants were abused or slain, the latter speaks only of their being treated with contempt. Lastly, the former relates that a man was cast out, who had gone in to the marriage without a wedding garment, of which Luke makes no mention. But we have formerly pointed out a similar distinction, that Matthew, in explaining the same thing, is more copious, and enters into fuller details. There is a remarkable agreement between them on the main points of the parable.
God bestowed on the Jews distinguished honor, by providing for them, as it were, a hospitable table; but they despised the honor which had been conferred upon them. The marriage of the king’s son is explained by many commentators to mean, that Christ is the end of the Law, (Romans 10:4.) and that God had no other design in his covenant, than to make him the Governor of his people, and to unite the Church to him by the sacred bond of a spiritual marriage. I have no objection to that view. But when he says, that the servants were sent to call those who were invited, these words are intended to point out a double favor which the Jews had received from God; first, in being preferred to other nations; and, secondly, in having their adoption made known to them by the prophets. The allusion is to a practice customary among men, that those who intended to make a marriage drew up a list of the persons whom they intended to have as guests, and afterwards sent invitations to them by their servants. In like manner, God elected the Jews in preference to others, as if they had been his familiar friends, and afterwards called them by the prophets to partake of the promised redemption, which was, as it were, to feast at a marriage It is true that those who were first invited did not live till the coming of Christ; but we know that all received an offer of the same salvation, of which they were deprived by their ingratitude and malice; for from the commencement, God’s invitation was impiously despised by that people. (292)
4.Again he sent other servants. He speaks as if it had been the same persons who were invited, for it was one body of the people. The meaning is, that when the happy and joyful day of redemption drew near, they were warned to be ready; for they had been long ago informed as to the time. But now Christ told them that, at the very hour, fresh messengers were sent to entreat them to come with haste; for the first invitation which he mentions includes all the former prophecies, down to the publication of the Gospel. For a long period, they exercised cruelty on the prophets; but their fury grew as the time advanced, and at length spent all its force on Christ and the apostles. For this reason, he charges the ancient people with nothing more than contempt and pride, but says, that the servants who had been last sent, and who arrived at the hour of supper, were abused or slain. That people arrived at the highest pitch of their crimes, when their haughty rejection of his grace was followed by the madness of cruelty. And yet he does not charge all of them equally with crime; for even at the latest call, which was given by the Gospel, the grace of God was in part ridiculed by careless despisers, and in part was furiously rejected by hypocrites. And thus it usually happens, that ungodly men break out into fiercer rage against God, in proportion to the earnestness with which he invites them to salvation.
We must now consider that part of doctrine which is conveyed both by Matthew and by Luke. One went to his field, and another to his merchandise; or, as Luke expresses it, one pleaded that he had married a wife; another that he had purchased a field; and another that he had bought five yoke of oxen. By these words Christ pronounces the Jews to have been so entirely devoted to the world and to earthly things, that no man found leisure to approach to God; for the cares of this world, when we become entangled by them, are so many impediments in our way to keep us back from the kingdom of God. It is truly base and shameful, that men who were created for a heavenly life, should be under the influence of such brutish stupidity, as to be entirely carried away after transitory things. But this disease is universally prevalent; so that hardly one person in a hundred can be found, who prefers the kingdom of God to fading riches, or to any other kind of advantages. Though all are not infected with the same disease, every man is led away by his desires; in consequence of which, all are wandering in various directions.
Besides, it deserves our attention, that ungodly men hold out fair pretences for rejecting the grace of God; as if their indolence might be excused, because they are entirely occupied with the affairs of the present life, and care little about a heavenly inheritance. But we see how Christ takes from us all such excuses, that no man may imagine it to be of any advantage for him to plead that he is detained by engagements of an earthly nature. On the contrary, men commit a double fault, when they allow themselves to be retarded by those things which are in themselves lawful, and which ought rather to have aided their progress. For why does God allow us the conveniences of the present life, but in order to draw us to himself? And yet so far is it from being true, that all have earnest desires towards heaven, in proportion as they are assisted by acts of the Divine kindness, that even holy marriage, and fields, and other riches, are so many snares to bind every man more closely to the earth.
7.But when the king heard it. This punishment is mentioned by Matthew alone; for Luke makes no mention of any outrage committed on the servants. Both concur in stating, that those who did not come at the appointed time were shut out, and deprived of the honor of being present at the banquet. But this doctrine applies equally to us; for the same destruction which Christ denounces against the Jews awaits all the ungodly, who violently oppose the ministers of the Gospel. Those who are so entirely occupied with earthly cares, as to set no value on the divine invitation, will at length perish miserably in famine and want; and therefore, whenever God calls us, let us be prepared and ready to follow.
9.Go therefore to the highways. Having shown that they are unworthy of the grace of God who disdainfully reject it when offered to them, he now says that their place is supplied by others, by the mean and despised common people. And here is described the calling of the Gentiles, which is to excite the Jews to jealousy, as we have it in the Song of Moses;
They have provoked me by those who are not gods, and I will provoke them by that which is not a people, and by a foolish nation will I enrage them,
Having been first elected, they imagined that the grace of God was bound to them, as if God could not want them; and how haughtily they despised all others is well known. Thus by way of admission, he compares the Gentiles to the poor, the blind, and the lame. He says that they are called from the cross-roads, and from the streets, as strangers and unknown persons; but yet declares that they will occupy that place which friends and domestics had treated with indifference. What the prophets had obscurely foretold about creating a new church is now plainly expressed. This dishonor was the completion of the divine vengeance on the Jews, when God
cut them off, and ingrafted wild branches into
the stock of the olive-tree, (Romans 11:17;)
when he threw them off, and received the polluted and filthy Gentiles into his house. But if at that time he spared not the natural branches, (Romans 11:21,) the same punishment will this day be inflicted on us, if we do not answer to his call. The supper which had been prepared for us will not be lost, but God will invite other guests.
Matthew 22:11.And the king, having come in to see the guests. Here Christ does not reproach the Jews with having wickedly despised the grace and calling of God; but gives early warning to those who would be placed in their room, not to pollute with their filth the holy marriage, when God shall bestow upon them admission to his table. Hitherto he has taught that the Jews, on account of their ungodly and disdainful conduct, would be deprived of the peculiar honor and privilege which they had enjoyed; and that from among the irreligious and abhorred Gentiles would men be called to occupy their place. But now he threatens that, out of this very number, those who bring reproach upon the Church will be expelled; for God invites all indiscriminately by the Gospel, and thus many unholy and abominable persons creep in, who, though for a time they are admitted along with others, yet, when God reviews the guests, will be thrown out and dragged to punishment. The general truth conveyed is, that not all who have once entered the Church will become partakers of everlasting life, but only those who are found to wear the dress which befits the heavenly palace.
As to the wedding garment, is it faith, or is it a holy life? This is a useless controversy; for faith cannot be separated from good works, nor do good works proceed from any other source than from faith. But Christ intended only to state, that the Lord calls us on the express condition of our being renewed by the Spirit after his image; and that, in order to our remaining permanently in his house, we must put off the old man with his pollutions, (Colossians 3:9; Ephesians 4:22,) and lead a new life, that the garment may correspond to so honorable a calling. But a question arises, how comes it that a beggar is punished so severely for not bringing a wedding garment; as if it were unusual to see the wretched people, who beg their bread on the public roads, wearing tattered and ugly clothes? I reply, the question is not as to the manner in which the garment is to be procured; for whomsoever the Lord invites he at the same time supplies with clothing, and in all of us is fulfilled what Ezekiel says, (Ezekiel 16:6,) that God finds nothing in us but wretchedness, and nakedness, and abominable filth, but adorns us with magnificent attire. We know also, that there is no other way in which we are formed anew after the image of God, but by putting on Christ, (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27.) It is not, therefore, the declaration of Christ, that the sentence of casting them into outer darkness will be executed on wretched men who did not bring a costly garment taken from their own wardrobe, but on those who shall be found in their pollution, when God shall come to make a scrutiny of his guests.
14.For many are called, but few are chosen. The object of the parable is pointed out by the conclusion, that few are chosen, though many are called; from which we infer, that we ought not to attempt an ingenious explanation of every minute clause. But lately, Christ did not threaten that the greater part would be thrown out, but mentioned one man only; and now we learn from him, that out of a large number few will be retained. And certainly, though in the present day a more numerous body of men is collected into the Church by the Gospel than was formerly collected by the Law, it is but a small portion of them whose faith is evinced by newness of life. Let us not flatter ourselves with the empty title of faith, but let every man seriously examine himself, that at the final review he may be pronounced to be one of the lawful guests; for, as Paul reminds us, that the vessels in the Lord’s house are not all of the same kind, so
let every one that calleth on the name of the Lord
depart from iniquity, (2 Timothy 2:19.)
I enter no farther, at present, into the question about the eternal election of God; for the words of Christ mean nothing more than this, that the external profession of faith is not a sufficient proof that God will acknowledge as his people all who appear to have accepted of his invitation. (293)
Matthew 22:15.That they might entrap him in his words. The Pharisees, perceiving that all their other attempts against Christ had been fruitless, at length concluded that the best and most expeditious method of destroying him was, to deliver him to the governor, as a seditious person and a disturber of the peace. There was at that time, as we have seen under another passage, (59) a great disputing among the Jews about the tribute-money; for, since the Romans had claimed for themselves the tribute-money, which God commanded to be paid to Himself under the Law of Moses, (Exodus 30:13,) the Jews everywhere complained that it was a shameful and intolerable crime for profane men to lay claim, in this manner, to a divine prerogative; besides that, as this payment of tribute, which was enjoined on them by the Law, was a testimony of their adoption, they looked upon themselves as deprived of an honor to which they had a just claim. Now the deeper any man’s poverty was, (60) the bolder did it render him to raise sedition.
This trick of taking Christ by surprise is therefore continued by the Pharisees, that, in whatever way he reply as to the tribute money, they may lay snares for him. If he affirm that they ought not to pay, he will be convicted of sedition. If, on the contrary, he acknowledge it to be justly due, he will be held to be an enemy of his nation, and a betrayer of the liberty of his country. Their principal object is, to lead the people to dislike him. This is the entrapping to which the Evangelists refer; for they suppose that Christ is surrounded on all sides by nets, so that he can no longer escape. Having avowed themselves to be his enemies, and knowing that they would, on that account, be suspected, they put forward — as Matthew states — some of their disciples. Luke, again, calls them spies, who pretended to be righteous men; that is, persons who deceitfully professed an honest and proper desire to learn: for the pretense of righteousness is not here used in a general sense, but is limited to the present occasion, because they would not have been received, had they not made a pretense of docility and of genuine zeal.
With the Herodians. They take along with them the Herodians, because they were more favorable to the Roman government, and therefore would be more disposed to raise an accusation. It is worthy of attention that, though those sects had fierce contentions with each other, so bitter was their hatred against Christ, that they conspired to destroy him. What the sect of the Herodions was, we have formerly explained (61) for, Herod being only half a Jew, or a spurious and corrupt professor of the Law, those who desired that the Law should be kept with exactness and in every part, condemned him and his impure worship; but he had his flatterers, who gave plausible excuses for his false doctrine. In addition to the other sects, therefore, there sprung up at that time a religion of the Court.
(59) Harmony, vol. 2, p. 368
(61) Harmony, vol 2, p. 282.
16.Master, we know that thou art true. This is the righteousness which they counterfeit, when they offer humble subjection to Christ, as if they were desirous to learn, and as if they not only had some relish for piety, but also were fully convinced of his doctrine; for if what they said had been from the heart, this would have been true uprightness. And therefore from their words we may obtain a definition of a good and faithful teacher, such as they pretended to believe Christ to be. They say that he is true, and teaches the way of God; that is, he is a faithful interpreter of God, and that he teaches it in truth; that is, without any corruption. The way of God is contrasted with the inventions of men, and with all foreign doctrines; and truth is contrasted with ambition, covetousness, and other wicked dispositions, which usually corrupt the purity of instruction. So then he ought to be reckoned a true teacher, who does not introduce the contrivances of men, or depart from the pure word of God, but gives out, as it were, with his hands what he has learned from the mouth of God, and who, from a sincere desire of edification, accommodates his doctrine to the advantage and salvation of the people, and does not debase it by any disguise. As to this latter clause, when Paul asserts that he
does not make merchandise of the word of God,
(2 Corinthians 2:17,)
he means that there are some persons who use dexterity, and do not openly overturn sound doctrine, or incur the disgrace of holding wicked opinions, but who disguise and corrupt the purity of doctrine, because they are ambitious, or covetous, or easily turned in various directions according to their earnest desire. He therefore compares them to jockeys, (
For thou regardest not the person of men. It is also worthy of attention, that those hypocrites likewise add, that Christ teaches rightly, because he has no regard for the person of men. Nothing has a more powerful tendency to withdraw teachers from a faithful and upright dispensation of the word than to pay respect to men; for it is impossible that any one who
desires to please men (Galatians 1:10)
should truly devote himself to God. Some attention, no doubt, is due to men, but not so as to obtain their favor by flattery. In short, in order to walk uprightly, we must necessarily put away respect of persons, which obscures the light and perverts right judgment, as God frequently inculcates in the Law, (Deuteronomy 1:16,) and as experience also points out. Thus Christ (John 7:24) contrasts acceptance of persons (
18.Knowing their malice. They had opened the conversation in such a manner that they did not appear to differ at all from excellent scholars. Whence then had Christ this knowledge, but because his Spirit was a discerner of hearts? It was not by human conjecture that he perceived their cunning, but because he was God he penetrated into their hearts, and therefore they gained nothing by attempting the concealment of flattery and of pretended righteousness Accordingly, before giving a reply, he exhibited a proof of his Divinity by laying open their concealed malice. Now since wicked men every day employ snares of the same kind, while their inward malice is concealed from us, we ought to pray to Christ to bestow upon us the spirit of discernment, and that what he had by nature and by his own right he may grant to us by a free gift. How much we need this prudence, is evident from the consideration that, if we do not guard against the snares of the wicked, we shall constantly expose the doctrine of God to their calumnies.
19.Show me the tribute-money. When Christ orders them to bring forward a coin, though at first sight it appears to be of no great importance, yet it is sufficient for breaking their snares. In this way they had already made an acknowledgment of subjection, so that Christ did not find it necessary to enjoin upon them any thing new. The coin was stamped with Caesar’s likeness; and thus the authority of the Roman government had been approved and admitted by the general practice. Hence it was evident that the Jews themselves had voluntarily come under obligation to pay tribute for they had given up to the Romans the power of the sword; (62) and there was no propriety in making a separate dispute about the tribute-money, for that question depended on the general arrangements of the government.
21.Render therefore to Caesar those things which are Caesar’s. Christ reminds them that, as the subjection of their nation was attested by the coin, there ought to be no debate on that subject; as if he had said, “If you think it strange to pay tribute, be not subjects of the Roman Empire. But the money (which men employ as the pledge of mutual exchanges) attests that Caesar rules over you; so that, by your own silent consent, the liberty to which you lay claim is lost and gone.” Christ’s reply does not leave the matter open, but contains full instruction on the question which had been proposed. It lays down a clear distinction between spiritual and civil government, in order to inform us that outward subjection does not prevent us from having within us a conscience free in the sight of God. For Christ intended to refute the error of those who did not think that they would be the people of God, unless they were free from every yoke of human authority. In like manner, Paul earnestly insists on this point, that they ought not the less to look upon themselves as serving God alone, if they obey human laws, if they pay tribute, and bend the neck to bear other burdens, (Romans 13:7.) In short, Christ declares that it is no violation of the authority of God, or any injury done to his service, if, in respect of outward government, the Jews obey the Romans.
He appears also to glance at their hypocrisy, because, while they carelessly permitted the service of God to be corrupted in many respects, and even wickedly deprived God of his authority, they displayed such ardent zeal about a matter of no importance; as if he had said, “You are exceedingly afraid, lest, if tribute be paid to the Romans, the honor of God may be infringed; but you ought rather to take care to yield to God that service which he demands from you, and, at the same the to render to men what is their due.” We might be apt to think, no doubt, that the distinction does not apply; for, strictly speaking, when we perform our duty towards men, we thereby render obedience to God. But Christ, accommodating his discourse to the common people, reckoned it enough to draw a distinction between the spiritual kingdom of God, on the one hand, and political order and the condition of the present life, on the other. We must therefore attend to this distinction, that, while the Lord wishes to be the only Lawgiver for governing souls, the rule for worshipping Him must not be sought from any other source than from His own word, and that we ought to abide by the only and pure worship which is there enjoined; but that the power of the sword, the laws, and the decisions of tribunals, do not hinder the worship of God from remaining entire amongst us.
But this doctrine extends still farther, that every man, according to his calling, ought to perform the duty which he owes to men; that children ought willingly to submit to their parents, and servants to their masters; that they ought to be courteous and obliging towards each other, according to the law of charity, provided that God always retain the highest authority, to which every thing that can be due to men is, as we say, subordinate. (63) The amount of it therefore is, that those who destroy political order are rebellious against God, and therefore, that obedience to princes and magistrates is always joined to the worship and fear of God; but that, on the other hand, if princes claim any part of the authority of God, we ought not to obey them any farther than can be done without offending God.
22They wondered at him. Here, too, it appears how God turns to a different purpose the wicked attempts of His enemies, and not only disappoints their expectation, but even drives them back with disgrace. It will sometimes happen, no doubt, that wicked men, though vanquished, do not cease to growl; but, though their insolence be not subdued, however numerous may be their assaults on the Word of God, there is an equal number of victories which God has in his hand, to triumph over them and Satan their head. But in this reply, Christ intended to give a peculiar display of his glory, by compelling those men to depart crowned with shame.
Matthew 22:23.The same day came to him the Sadducees. We see here how Satan brings together all the ungodly, who in other respects differ widely from each other, to attack the truth of God. For, though deadly strife existed between these two sects, (66) yet they conspire together against Christ; so that the Pharisees are not displeased to have their own doctrine attacked in the person of Christ. Thus in the present day, we see all the forces of Satan, though in other respects they are opposed to each other, rising on every hand against Christ. And so fierce is the hatred with which the Papists burn against the Gospel, that they willingly support Epicureans, Libertines, and other monsters of that description, provided that they can avail themselves of their aid for accomplishing its destruction. In short, we see that they come out of various camps to make an attack on Christ; and that this was done, because all of them alike hated the light of sound doctrine. Now the Sadducees propose a question to Christ, that by the appearance of absurdity they may either lead him to take part in their error, or, if he disagree with them, that they may hold him up to disgrace and ridicule among an uneducated and ignorant multitude. It is no doubt possible, that they had been formerly accustomed to employ this sophistry for harassing the Pharisees, but now they attempt to take Christ in the same snare.
Who say that there is no resurrection. How the sect of the Sadducees originated we have explained under another passage. Luke assures us that they denied not only the final resurrection of the body, but also the immortality of the soul, (Acts 23:8.) And, indeed, if we consider properly the doctrine of Scripture, the life of the soul, apart from the hope of the resurrection, will be a mere dream; for God does not declare that, immediately after the death of the body, souls live, — as if their glory and happiness were already enjoyed by them in perfections — but delays the expectation of them till the last day. I readily acknowledge that the philosophers, who were ignorant of the resurrection of the body, have many discussions about the immortal essence of the soul; but they talk so foolishly about the state of the future life that their opinions have no weight. But since the Scriptures inform us that the spiritual life depends on the hope of the resurrection, and that souls, when separated from the bodies, look forward to it, whoever destroys the resurrection deprives souls also of their immortality.
Now this enables us to perceive the dreadful confusion of the Jewish Church, that their rulers (67) in religious matters took away the expectation of a future life, so that, after the death of the body, men differed in no respect from brute beasts. They did not indeed deny that our lives ought to be holy and righteous, and were not so profane as to consider the worship of God to be superfluous; on the contrary, they maintained that God is the Judge of the world, and that the affairs of men are directed by His providence. But as the reward of the godly, and likewise the punishment due to the wicked, were limited by them to the present life, even though there had been truth in their assertion, that every man is now treated impartially according to his merit, (68) yet it was excessively absurd to restrict the promises of God within such narrow limits. Now experience plainly shows that they were chargeable with the grossest stupidity, since it is manifest that the reward which is laid up for the good is left incomplete till another life, and likewise that the punishment of the wicked is not wholly inflicted in this world.
In short, it is impossible to conceive any thing more absurd than this dream, that men formed after the image of God are extinguished by death like the beasts. But how disgraceful and monstrous was it that while, among the profane and blind idolaters of all nations, some notion, at least, of a future life still lingered, among the Jews, the peculiar people of God, this seed of piety was destroyed. I do not mention that, when they saw that the holy fathers earnestly aspired to the heavenly life, and that the covenant which God had made with them was spiritual and eternal, they must have been worse than stupid who remained blind in the midst of such clear light. But, first, this was the just reward of those who had split the Church of God into sects; and, secondly, in this manner the Lord avenged the wicked contempt of His doctrine.
24.Master, Moses said. As it was enough to mention the bare fact, why do they make use of this preface? They cunningly employ the name of Moses, for the purpose of proving that they were lawful marriages, which had been contracted not by the will of men, but by the command and appointment of God himself. But that God should contradict Himself is impossible. Their sophistry therefore is this: “If God shall one day collect believers into His kingdom, He will restore whatever He had given to them in the world. What then shall become of the woman, whom God assigned to seven husbands?” Thus all ungodly persons and heretics forge their calumnies, that by means of them they may disfigure the true doctrine of godliness, and put to shame the servants of Christ. Nay, the Papists are restrained by no shame from openly ridiculing God and his word, when they attempt to take us by surprise. And not without reason, therefore, does Paul enjoin a teacher to be furnished with armor for repelling the adversaries of the truth, (Titus 1:9.) With respect to the law, (Deuteronomy 25:5,) by which God commanded the relatives, who were nearest of kin, to succeed the dead in marriage, if the first had died without children, the reason was, that the woman who had married into a particular family should leave offspring in it. But if there had been children by the first marriage, a marriage within the degrees forbidden by the law (Leviticus 18:16) would have been incestuous.
29.You err, not knowing the Scriptures. Though Christ addresses the Sadducees, yet this reproof applies generally to all inventors of false doctrines. For, since God makes known His will clearly in the Scriptures, the want of acquaintance with them is the source and cause of all errors. But this is no ordinary consolation to the godly, that they will be safe from the danger of erring, so long as they humbly, modestly, and submissively inquire from the Scriptures what is right and true. As to the power of God being connected by Christ with the word, it refers to the present occasion. For, since the resurrection far exceeds the capacity of the human senses, it will be incredible to us, till our minds rise to the contemplation of the boundless power of God, by which, as Paul tells us,
he is able to subdue all things to himself, (Philippians 3:21.)
Besides, the Sadducees must have been void of understanding, when they committed the error of estimating the glory of the heavenly life according to the present state. In the meantime, we learn that those men form and express just and wise sentiments respecting the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom, who join the power of God with the Scriptures.
30.But are like the angels of God in heaven. He does not mean that the children of God will be, in all respects, like the angels, but only so far as they shall be free from every infirmity of the present life; thus affirming that they will no longer be exposed to the wants of a frail and perishing life. Luke expresses more clearly the nature of the resemblance, that they can no longer die, and therefore there will be no propagation of their species, as on earth. Now he speaks of believers only, for no mention had been made of the wicked.
But a question arises, Why does he say that they will then be the children of God, because they will be children of the resurrection; since God bestows this honor on those who believe on him, though shut up within the frail prison of the body? And how would we be heirs of eternal life after death, unless God already acknowledged us as children? I reply: As we are engrafted by faith into the body of Christ, we are adopted by God as his children, and of this adoption the Spirit is the witness, seal, earnest, and pledge, so that with this assurance
we may freely cry, Abba, Father, (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6.)
Now though we know that we are the children of God, yet as it doth not yet appear what we shall be, till, transformed into his glory, we shall see him as he is,
(1 John 3:2,)
we are not as yet actually reckoned to be his children. And though we are renewed by the Spirit of God, yet as
our life is still hidden, (Colossians 3:3,)
the manifestation of it will truly and perfectly distinguish us from strangers. In this sense our adoption is said by Paul to be delayed till the last day, (Romans 8:23.).
Although I think that this narrative has nothing more than a resemblance to what is related by Matthew in the 22nd, and by Mark in the 12th chapter, of his Gospel, and that they are not the same; I have chosen to collect them into one place, because, while Matthew and Mark affirm that this was the last question by which our Lord was tempted, Luke makes no mention of that circumstance, and seems intentionally to leave it out, because he had stated it in another passage. And yet I do not dispute that it may be the same narrative, though Luke has some things different from the other two. They all agree in this, that the scribe put a question for the sake of tempting Christ; but he who is described by Matthew and Mark goes away with no bad disposition; for he acquiesces in Christ’s reply, and shows a sign of a teachable and gentle mind: to which must be added, that Christ, on the other hand, declares that he is not far from the kingdom of God. Luke, on the other hand, introduces a man who was obstinate and swelled with pride, in whom no evidence of repentance is discovered. Now there would be no absurdity in saying that Christ was repeatedly tempted on the subject of true righteousness, and of keeping the Law, and of the rule of a good life. But whether Luke has related this out of its proper place, or whether he has now passed by the other question — because that former narrative relating to doctrine was sufficient — the similarity of the doctrine seemed to require me to compare the three Evangelists with each other.
Let us now see what was the occasion that led this scribe to put a question to Christ. It is because, being an expounder of the Law, he is offended at the doctrine of the gospel, by which he supposes the authority of Moses to be diminished. At the same time, he is not so much influenced by zeal for the Law, as by displeasure at losing some part of the honor of his teaching. He therefore inquires at Christ, if he wishes to profess any thing more perfect than the Law; for, though he does not say this in words, yet his question is ensnaring, for the purpose of exposing Christ to the hatred of the people. Matthew and Mark do not attribute this stratagem to one man only, but show that it was done by mutual arrangement, and that out of the whole sect one person was chosen who was thought to excel the rest in ability and learning. In the form of the question, too, Luke differs somewhat from Matthew and Mark; for, according to him, the scribe inquires what men must do to obtain eternal life, but according to the other two Evangelists, he inquires what is the chief commandment in the law. But the design is the same, for he makes a deceitful attack on Christ, that, if he can draw any thing from his lips that is at variance with the law, he may exclaim against him as an apostate and a promoter of ungodly revolt.
Matthew 22:37.Thou shalt love the Lord thou God. According to Mark, the preface is inserted, that Jehovah alone is the God of Israel; by which words God supports the authority of his law in two ways. For, first, it ought to be a powerful excitement to the worship of God, when we are fully convinced that we worship the actual Creator of heaven and earth, because indifference is naturally produced by doubt; and, secondly, because it is a pleasing inducement to love him, when he freely adopts us as his people. So then, that they may not hesitate, as usually happens in cases of uncertainty, the Jews are informed that the rule of life is prescribed to them by the true and only God; and, on the other hand, that they may not be kept back by distrust, God approaches to them in a familiar manner, and reminds them of his gracious covenant with them. And yet there is no reason to doubt that the Lord distinguishes himself from all idols, that the Jews may not be drawn aside from him, but may adhere to the pure worship of God himself. Now if uncertainty does not keep back the wretched worshippers of idols from being carried away to the love of them by impetuous zeal, what excuse is left for the hearers of the Law, if they remain indifferent, after that God has revealed himself to them?
What follows is an abridgment of the Law, (73) which is also found in the writings of Moses, (Deuteronomy 6:5.) For, though it is divided into two tables, the first of which relates to the worship of God, and the second to charity, Moses properly and wisely draws up this summary, (74) that the Jews may perceive what is the will of God in each of the commandments. And although we ought to love God far more than men, yet most properly does God, instead of worship or honor, require love from us, because in this way he declares that no other worship is pleasing to Him than what is voluntary; for no man will actually obey God but he who loves Him. But as the wicked and sinful inclinations of the flesh draw us aside from what is right, Moses shows that our life will not be regulated aright till the love of God fill all our senses. Let us therefore learn, that the commencement of godliness is the love of God, because God disdains the forced services of men, and chooses to be worshipped freely and willingly; and let us also learn, that under the love of God is included the reverence due to him.
Moses does not add the mind, but mentions only the heart, and the soul, and the strength; and though the present division into four clauses is more full, yet it does not alter the sense. For while Moses intends to teach generally that God ought to be perfectly loved, and that whatever powers belong to men ought to be devoted to this object, he reckoned it enough, after mentioning the soul and the heart, to add the strength, that he might not leave any part of us uninfluenced by the love of God; and we know also that under the word heart the Hebrews sometimes include the mind, (75) particularly when it is joined to the word soul What is the difference between the mind and the heart, both in this passage and in Matthew, I do not trouble myself to inquire, except that I consider the mind to denote the loftier abode of reason, from which all our thoughts and deliberations flow.
It now appears from this summary that, in the commandments of the Law, God does not look at what men can do, but at what they ought to do; since in this infirmity of the flesh it is impossible that perfect love can obtain dominion, for we know how strongly all the senses of our soul are disposed to vanity. Lastly, we learn from this, that God does not rest satisfied with the outward appearance of works, but chiefly demands the inward feelings, that from a good root good fruits may grow.
39.And the second is like it. He assigns the second place to mutual kindness among men, for the worship of God is first in order. The commandment to love our neighbors, he tells us, is like the first, because it depends upon it. For, since every man is devoted to himself, there will never be true charity towards neighbors, unless where the love of God reigns; for it is a mercenary love (76) which the children of the world entertain for each other, because every one of them has regard to his own advantage. On the other hand, it is impossible for the love of God to reign without producing brotherly kindness among men.
Again, when Moses commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, he did not intend to put the love of ourselves in the first place, so that a man may first love himself and then love his neighbors; as the sophists of the Sorbonne are wont to cavil, that a rule must always go before what it regulates. But as we are too much devoted to ourselves, Moses, in correcting this fault, places our neighbors in an equal rank with us; thus forbidding every man to pay so much attention to himself as to disregard others, because kindness unites all in one body. And by correcting the self-love (
the bond of perfection, (Colossians 3:14,)
and, in another passage, the
fulfilling of the law, (Romans 13:10;)
for all the commandments of the second table must be referred to it.
Matthew 22:40.On these two commandments. I now return to Matthew, where Christ says that all the Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments; not that he intends to limit to them (78) all the doctrine of Scripture, but because all that is anywhere taught as to the manner of living a holy and righteous life must be referred to these two leading points. For Christ does not treat generally of what the Law and the Prophets contain, but, in drawing up his reply, states that nothing else is required in the Law and the prophets than that every man should love God and his neighbors; as if he had said, that the sum of a holy and upright life consists in the worship of God and in charity to men, as Paul states that charity is
the fulfilling of the law, (Romans 13:10.)
And therefore some ill-informed persons are mistaken in interpreting this saying of Christ, as if we ought to seek nothing higher in the Law and the Prophets. For as a distinction ought to be made between the promises and the commandments, so in this passage Christ does not state generally what we ought to learn from the word of God, but explains, in a manner suited to the occasion, the end to which all the commandments are directed. Yet the free forgiveness of sins, by which we are reconciled to God, — confidence in calling on God, which is the earnest of the future inheritance, — and all the other parts of faith, though they hold the first rank in the Law, do not depend on these two commandments; for it is one thing to demand what we owe, and another thing to offer what we do not possess. The same thing is expressed in other words by Mark, that there is no other commandment greater than these.
Matthew 22:42.What think you of Christ? Mark and Luke express more clearly the reason why Christ put this question. It was because there prevailed among the scribes an erroneous opinion, that the promised Redeemer would be one of David’s sons and successors, who would bring along with him nothing more elevated than human nature. For from the very commencement Satan endeavored, by all the arts which he could devise, to put forward some pretended Christ, who was not the true Mediator between God and men. God having so frequently promised that Christ would proceed from the seed, or from the loins of David, this conviction was so deeply rooted in their minds, that they could not endure to have him stripped of human nature. Satan therefore permitted Christ to be acknowledged as a true man and a son of David, for he would in vain have attempted to overturn this article of faith; but—what was worse—he stripped him of his Divinity, as if he had been only one of the ordinary descendants of Adam. But in this manner the hope of future and eternal life, as well as spiritual righteousness, was abolished. And ever since Christ was manifested to the world, heretics have attempted by various contrivances—and as it were under ground—to overturn sometimes his human, and sometimes his Divine nature, that either he might not have full power to save us, or we might not have ready access to him. Now as the hour of his death was already approaching, the Lord himself intended to attest his divinity, that all the godly might boldly rely on him; for if he had been only man, we would have had no right either to glory in him, or to expect salvation from him.
We now perceive his design, which was, to assert that he was the Son of God, not so much on his own account, as to make our faith rest on his heavenly power. For as the weakness of the flesh, by which he approached to us, gives us confidence, that we may not hesitate to draw near to him, so if that weakness alone were before our eyes, it would rather fill us with fear and despair than excite proper confidence. Yet it must be observed, that the scribes are not reproved for teaching that Christ would be the Son of David, but for imagining that he was a mere man, who would come from heaven, to assume the nature and person of a man. Nor does our Lord make a direct assertion about himself, but simply shows that the scribes hold a wicked error in expecting that the Redeemer will proceed only from the earth and from human lineage. But though this doctrine was well known to be held by them, we learn from Matthew, that he interrogated them in presence of the people what their sentiments were.
43.How then does David by the Spirit call him Lord. The assertion made by Christ, that David spoke by the Spirit, is emphatic; for he contrasts the prediction of a future event with the testimony of a present event. By this phrase he anticipates the sophistry by which the Jews of the present day attempt to escape. They allege that this prediction celebrates the reign of David, as if, representing God to be the Author of his reign, David would rise above the mad attempts of his enemies, and affirmed that they would gain nothing by opposing the will of God. That the scribes might not shelter themselves under such an objection, Christ began with stating that the psalm was not composed in reference to the person of David, but was dictated by the prophetic Spirit to describe the future reign of Christ; as it may easily be learned even from the passage itself, that what we read there does not apply either to David, or to any other earthly king; for there David introduces a king clothed with a new priesthood, by which the ancient shadows of the Law must be abolished, (Psalms 110:4)
We must now see how he proves that Christ will hold a higher rank than to be merely descended from the seed of David. It is because David, who was king and head of the people, calls him Lord; from which it follows, that there is something in him greater than man. But the argument appears to be feeble and inconclusive; for it may be objected that, when David gave the psalm to the people to sing, without having any view to his own person, he assigned to Christ dominion over others. But to this I reply that, as he was one of the members of the Church, nothing would have been more improper than to shut himself out from the common doctrine. Here he enjoins all the children of God to boast, as with one voice, that they are safe through the protection of a heavenly and invincible King. If he be separated from the body of the Church, he will not partake of the salvation promised through Christ. If this were the voice of a few persons, the dominion of Christ would not extend even to David. But now neither he, nor any other person, can be excluded from subjection to him, without cutting himself off from the hope of eternal salvation. Since then there was nothing better for David than to be included in the Church, it was not less for himself than for the rest of the people that David composed this psalm. In short, by this title Christ is pronounced to be supreme and sole King, who holds the preeminence among all believers; and no exception ought to be allowed to ranking all in one class, when he is appointed to be the Redeemer of the Church. There can be no doubt, therefore, that David represents himself also as a subject of his government, so as to be reckoned one of the number of the people of God.
But now another question arises: Might not God have raised up one whom he appointed from among mankind to be a Redeemer, so as to be David’s Lord, though he was his son? For here it is not the essential name of God, but only Adonai (83) that is employed, and this term is frequently applied to men. I reply: Christ takes for granted that he who is taken out of the number of men, and raised to such a rank of honor, as to be the supreme Head of the whole Church, is not a mere man, but possesses also the majesty of God. For the eternal God, who by an oath makes this claim for himself, that
before him every knee shall bow, (Isaiah 45:23,)
at the same time swears that
he will not give his glory to another, (Isaiah 42:8.)
But, according to the testimony of Paul, when Christ was raised to kingly power,
there was given to him a name which is above every name, that before him every knee should bow, (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9.)
And though Paul had never said this, yet such is the fact, that Christ is above David and other holy kings, because he also ranks higher than angels; which would not apply to a created man, unless he were also
God manifested in the flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16.)
I do acknowledge that his divine essence is not expressed directly and in so many words; but it may easily be inferred that He is God, who is placed above all creatures.
(83) Our authorized version of Psalms 110:1 runs thus: The Lord said unto my Lord. While the word Lord occurs twice in this clause, the Translators have followed their ordinary method of printing the first in small capitals, to present it to the eye of the reader as standing for the Hebrew word
44.The Lord said to my Lord. Here the Holy Spirit puts into the mouth of all the godly a song of triumph, that they may boldly defy Satan and all the ungodly, and mock at their rage, when they endeavor to drive Christ from his throne. That they may not hesitate or tremble, when they perceive great emotions produced in the earth, they are commanded to place the holy and inviolable decree of God in opposition to all the exertions of adversaries. The meaning therefore is: whatever may be the madness of men, all that they shall dare to contrive will be of no avail for destroying the kingdom of Christ, which has been set up, not by the will of men, but by the appointment of God, and therefore is supported by everlasting strength. Whenever this kingdom is violently attacked, let us call to remembrance this revelation from heaven; for undoubtedly this promise was put into the hand of Christ, that every believer may apply it to his own use. But God never changes or deceives, so as to retract what has once gone out of his mouth.
Sit at my right hand. This phrase is used metaphorically for the second or next rank, which is occupied by God’s deputy. And therefore it signifies, to hold the highest government and power in the name of God, as we know that God has committed his authority to his only-begotten Son, so as to govern his Church by his agency. This mode of expression, therefore, does not denote any particular place, but, on the contrary, embraces heaven and earth under the government of Christ. And God declares that Christ will sit till his enemies be subdued, in order to inform us that his kingdom will remain invincible against every attack; not that, when his enemies have been subdued, he will be deprived of the power which had been granted to him, but that, while the whole multitude of his enemies shall be laid low, his power will remain for ever unimpaired. In the meantime, it points out that condition of his kingdom which we perceive in the present day, that we may not be uneasy when we see it attacked on all sides.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 22". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent