And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16: 15-16)
We take a break today from our readings in Job to come to Christ’s command to preach the gospel. What do we learn from today’s reading? Simple.
This was a charge to the apostles and their office was intended to be a laborious one. They were called to travel distances in the spread of the gospel, to suffer persecutions and martyrdom, for the cause of grafting in all nations unto Christ (see Ephesians 2). This is no different for us. For while the office of apostle has ceased, the office of elder continues and men who have been set apart to preach the gospel must do so at great cost. Christ has commanded it.
This is not only the call of ministers. It is also the call of every Christian. Every disciple of Jesus Christ is called to proclaim the gospel to every nation. With our lives, with our words, in the church, in our workplaces, in our families. We must preach the gospel.
Failure to do this is disobedience to the command of Christ. Note also, that the parallel passage in Matthew enjoins preaching with teaching what God has commanded. It is not only the gospel that is taught to all nations but the whole counsel of Scripture, obedience to law of God which flows out of a heart of repentance, changed by the determined will of God.
Not also, that this charge given to the apostles was not peculiar to their office and that these men were not given an authority that was intended to be succeeded by others. The authority of the office of apostles does indeed lie in the institution of Christ but it is a teaching authority. Those who are in succession of the apostles are those who teach and preach the gospel that the apostles taught.
Calvin, never missing an opportunity to lay his ax at the root of the errors of Rome, comments on this passage thusly:
Let us learn from this passage, that the apostleship is not an empty title, but a laborious office; and that, consequently, nothing is more absurd or intolerable than that this honor should be claimed by hypocrites, who live like kings at their ease, and disdainfully throw away from themselves the office of teaching. The Pope of Rome and his band proudly boast of their succession, as if they held this rank in common with Peter and his companions; and yet they pay no more regard to doctrine than was paid by the Luperci, or the priests of Bacchus and Venus.  And with what face, pray, do they claim to be the successors of those who, they are told, were appointed to be preachers of the gospel? But though they are not ashamed to display their impudence, still with every reader of sound judgment this single word is sufficient to lay prostrate their silly hierarchy–that no man can be a successor of the apostles who does not devote his services to Christ in the preaching of the gospel. In short, whoever does not fulfill the duties of a teacher acts wickedly and falsely by assuming the name of an apostle; and what is more–the priesthood of the New Testament consists in slaying men, as a sacrifice to God, by the spiritual sword of the word. Hence it follows, that all are but pretended and spurious priests who are not devoted to the office of teaching.