John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

28 (Matthew 10:28)

Verse 28

28.And fear not those who kill the body To excite his disciples to despise death, Christ employs the very powerful argument, that this frail and perishing lift ought to be little regarded by men who have been created for a heavenly immortality. The statement amounts to this, that if believers will consider for what purpose they were born, and what is their condition, they will have no reason to be so earnest in desiring an earthly life. But the words have still a richer and fuller meaning: for we are here taught by Christ that the fear of God is dead in those men who, through dread of tyrants, fall from a confession of their faith, and that a brutish stupidity reigns in the hearts of those who, through dread of death, do not hesitate to abandon that confession.

We must attend to the distinction between the two opposite kinds of fear. If the fear of God is extinguished by the dread of men, is it not evident that we pay greater deference to them than to God himself? Hence it follows, that when we have abandoned the heavenly and eternal life, we reserve nothing more for ourselves than to be like the beasts that perish, (Psalms 49:12.) God alone has the power of bestowing eternal life, or of inflicting eternal death. We forget God, because we are hurried away by the dread of men. Is it not very evident that we set a higher value on the shadowy life of the body (595) than on the eternal condition of the soul; or rather, that the heavenly kingdom of God is of no estimation with us, in comparison of the fleeting and vanishing shadow of the present life?

These words of Christ ought therefore to be explained in this manner: “Acknowledge that you have received immortal souls, which are subject to the disposal of God alone, and do not come into the power of men. The consequence will be, that no terrors or alarms which men may employ will shake your faith. “For how comes it that the dread of men prevails in the struggle, but because the body is preferred to the soul, and immortality is less valued than a perishing life?”

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible