Those Excellent Gifts

From Commentary on Acts (1555)

In Baptism we are washed from our sins; but Paul teaches that our washing is the work of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5) … Our old man is crucified in Baptism, that we may be raised up to newness of life (Rom. 6:6); and whence comes all this save only from the sanctification of the Spirit? And, finally, what shall remain in baptism if it be separate from the Spirit (Gal. 3:27)?… Luke does not speak in this place of the common grace of the Spirit, whereby God regenerates us, that we may be his children, but of those singular gifts wherewith God would have certain ones endued at the beginning of the gospel to beautify Christ’s kingdom.

Thus must the words of John be understood, that the disciples had not yet received the Spirit, in view of the fact that Christ was yet conversant in the world; not that they were altogether destitute of the Spirit, seeing that they had from the same both faith, and a godly desire to follow Christ; but rather because they were not furnished with those excellent gifts, wherein appeared afterwards greater glory of Christ’s kingdom…

When we read “They were only baptized,” we must not understand this as spoken contemptuously of Baptism; but Luke’s meaning is, that they were only endued then with the grace of common adoption and regeneration…

As for this, it was an extraordinary thing that certain should have the gifts of the Spirit given them, which might serve to set forth the kingdom of Christ and the glory of the gospel; for this was their purpose, that everyone might profit the Church according to the measure of his ability.

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.


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