From Commentary on Isaiah (1551)

The people walking in darkness hath seen a great light…The Prophet Isaiah, when he speaks of bringing back the people from Babylon, does not look to a single age, but includes all others until Christ came and brought the most complete deliverance to his people. The deliverance from Babylon was but a prelude to the restoration of the Church, and was intended to last, not for a few years only, but till Christ should come and bring true salvation… Though Isaiah’s message was to the Jews in Babylon, he shows that it was fulfilled when the Lord brought the Gentiles into the Church. Thus, when the people might be said to be buried in that captivity, they differed in no respect from the Gentiles; and since both were in the same condition, it is reasonable to believe that this passage relates, not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles also. Nor must it be viewed as referring to outward misery only, but to the darkness of eternal death, in which souls are plunged, till they come forth to spiritual light; for unquestionably we lie buried in darkness, till Christ shine on us… Hence also Paul exhorts, “Awake you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light” (Eph. 5:14). If therefore we extend the commencement of the deliverance from the return from Babylon down to the coming of Christ, on whom all liberty and all blessings depend, we shall understand the true meaning of this passage….

For unto us a child is born. Isaiah now argues from the design, to show why this deliverance ought to be preferred to the rest of God’s benefits, namely, because not only will God bring back the people from captivity, but he will place Christ on his royal throne, that under him supreme and everlasting happiness may be enjoyed. Thus he affirms that the kindness of God will not be temporary, for it includes the whole of that intermediate period during which the Church was preserved till the coming of Christ. Nor is it wonderful if the prophet makes a sudden transition from the return of the ancient people to the full restoration of the Church, which took place many centuries afterwards… To this must be added, that the return from the captivity in Babylon was the commencement of the renovation of the Church, which was completed when Christ appeared….

A Son hath been given to us. There is weight in what he now adds, that this Son was given to the people, in order to inform the Jews that their salvation and that of the whole Church is contained in the person of Christ. And this giving is one of the chief articles of our faith; for it would have been of little avail to us, that Christ was born, if he had not likewise been our own. What this child will be, and what is his rank, he declares in the following statements…

He is, therefore, called the mighty God, for the same reason that he was formerly called Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14). For if we find in Christ nothing but the flesh and nature of man, our glorying will be foolish and vain, and our hope will rest on an uncertain and insecure foundation; but if he shows himself to be to us God and the mighty God, we may now rely on him with safety. With good reason does he call him strong or mighty, because our contest is with the devil, death, and sin, (Eph. 6:12), enemies too powerful and strong, by whom we would be immediately vanquished, if the strength of Christ had not rendered us invincible. Thus we learn from this title that there is in Christ abundance of protection for defending our salvation, so that we desire nothing beyond him; for he is God, who is pleased to show himself strong on our behalf.

John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the most influential theologians of the Protestant Reformation, who served for many decades as the chief pastor of Geneva. He wrote commentaries on most books of the Bible, which were reworked from lectures he gave to theological students. He is commemorated on May 26 or May 28 on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches.