“Let us therefore show gravity, yet not more than is reasonable.”

John Calvin, commenting on Peter’s rebuke of the religious leaders in Acts 4:5-12 says:

“From his severe rebuke of their crimes we are to learn a rule of speech for the occasions when we have to deal with the open enemies of the truth. For we must beware of two faults in this connexion. The first is that we do not appear to flatter by keeping silence or turning a blind eye, for silence by which the truth should be betrayed would be disloyal. The second is that we are not puffed up with impudence or undue indignation, as men’s tempers are liable to break out in the heat of contention. Let us therefore show gravity, yet not more than is reasonable. Let us rebuke freely, and yet stop short of the passion of abuse. We see how Peter stayed within these limits. For at the beginning he addresses them in honourable terms, yet when he comes to the point at issue, he attacks them sharply, for such shameful wickedness as theirs could not be passed over in silence. Those who follow this example will have not Peter only, but also the Spirit of God as their guide,” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries. The Acts of the Apostles vl.1, 117).

The church is the community of the Spirit and, as such, the Body of Christ. This means that the risen, living, and ruling Christ has aligned himself with this community in a particular way or, rather, that he has aligned this community with himself in a particular way by virtue of his promise. However, it is important to remember that for all of the continuity and unity between Christ and his church there is at least as much discontinuity and freedom. The risen Christ and the Spirit are not bound to the Christian community. Oft it has been said, it is truer that the ministry of Christ has a church than the church has the ministry of Christ. Put another way, we are more perfect in Christ than he is in us. In light of this, one of the things which must mark the church is continual repentance and reform. We have not arrived, we are simply bearers of the first-fruit of the Spirit for the good of the world. The church, like the world, is sinful and in need of rescue.

So then, to the untruth in the world, let us show gravity, yet not more than is reasonable. And, to the untruth in ourselves, may we do the same.


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