A True Portrait

From Commentary on Acts (1554)

With regard to the apostles’ teaching and to prayer, the meaning is clear. Fellowship and the breaking of bread may be understood in different ways. Some think that “breaking of bread” means the Lord’s Supper, other that it refers to alms, others again that the faith had their meals together in common. Some think that “fellowship” is the celebration of the Holy Supper. I hold rather with those who believe that this the Supper is meant by the breaking of bread. For the Greek word “fellowship”, without addition, is never found in this sense. I therefore refer it to mutual association, alms and other duties of brotherly fellowship.

The reason why I would rather have breaking of bread to be understood here of the Lord’s Supper is because Luke is recording those things which constitute the form of the church visible to the public eye. Indeed he defines four marks by which the true and genuine church may be distinguished. Do we seek the true church of Christ? Here for us it is depicted as a living portrait. Luke begins with doctrine, which is the soul of the church. He does not name doctrine of any kind, but that of the apostles which the Son of God had delivered by their hands. Therefore, wherever the pure voice of the gospel sounds forth, where people continue in the profession of it, where they apply themselves to the regular hearing of it, so that they may profit from it, there beyond all doubt is the church.

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. This translation is from Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, D. W. Torrance and T. F. Torrance, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1966), vol 6.


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