19.Go out, therefore, and teach all nations. Though Mark, after having related that Christ appeared to the eleven disciples, immediately subjoins the command to preach the gospel, he does not speak of these as an unbroken series of events, for we learn from the enumeration of them which is given by Matthew, that the latter event did not take place before they had gone into Galilee. The meaning amounts to this, that by proclaiming the gospel everywhere, they should bring all nations to the obedience of the faith, and next, that they should seal and ratify their doctrine by the sign of the gospel. In Matthew, they are first taught simply to teach; but Mark expresses the kind of doctrine, that they should preach the gospel; and shortly afterwards Matthew himself adds this limitation, to teach them to observe all things whatsoever the Lord hath commanded.
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. (324) 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.
Teach all nations. Here Christ, by removing the distinction, makes the Gentiles equal to the Jews, and admits both, indiscriminately to a participation in the covenant. Such is also the import of the term: go out; for the prophets under the law had limits assigned to them, but now,
the wall of partition having been broken down,
the Lord commands the ministers of the gospel to go to a distance, in order to spread the doctrine of salvation in every part of the world. For though, as we have lately suggested, the right of the first-born at the very commencement of the gospel, remained among the Jews, still the inheritance of life was common to the Gentiles. Thus was fulfilled that prediction of Isaiah, (Isaiah 49:6,) and others of a similar nature, that Christ was
given for a light of the Gentiles,
that he might be the salvation of God to the end of the earth.
Mark means the same thing by every creature; for when peace has been proclaimed to those that are within the Church, the same message reaches those who are at a distance, and were strangers, (Ephesians 2:17.) How necessary it was that the apostles should be distinctly informed of the calling of the Gentiles, is evident from this consideration, that even after having received the command, they felt the greatest horror at approaching them, as if by doing so they polluted themselves and their doctrine.
Baptizing them. Christ enjoins that those who have submitted to the gospel, and professed to be his disciples, shall be baptized; partly that their baptism may be a pledge of eternal life before God:, and partly that it may be an outward sign of faith before men. For we know that God testifies to us the grace of adoption by this sign, because he engrafts us into the body of his Son, so as to reckon us among his flock; and, therefore, not only our spiritual washing, by which he reconciles us to himself, but likewise our new righteousness, are represented by it. But as God, by this seal confirms to us his grace, so all who present themselves for baptism do, as it were, by their own signature, ratify their faith. Now since this charge is expressly given to the apostles along with the preaching of the word, it follows that none can lawfully administer baptism but those who are also the ministers of doctrine. When private persons, and even women, are permitted to baptize, nothing can be more at variance with the ordinance of Christ, nor is it any thing else than a mere profanation. Besides, as doctrine is placed first in order, this points out to us the true distinction between this mystery and the bastard rites of the Gentiles, by which they are initiated into their sacred mysteries; for the earthly element does not become a sacrament until God quickens it by his word. As superstition improperly counterfeits all the works of God, foolish men forge various sacraments at their pleasure; but as the word, which is the soul, is not in them, they are idle and unmeaning shadows. Let us therefore hold that the power of the doctrine causes the signs to assume a new nature; as the outward working of the flesh begins to be the spiritual pledge of regeneration, when it is preceded by the doctrine of the gospel; and this is the true consecration instead of which, Popery has introduced to us the enchantments of sorcery.
Accordingly, it is said in Mark, He that shall believe and be baptized shall be saved. By these words Christ not only excludes from the hope of salvation hypocrites who, though destitute of faith, are puffed up only by the outward sign; but by a sacred bond he connects baptism with doctrine, so that the latter is nothing more than an appendage of the former. But as Christ enjoins them to teach before baptizing, and desires that none but believers shah be admitted to baptism, it would appear that baptism is not properly administered unless when it is preceded by faith. On this pretense, the Anabaptists have stormed greatly against infant baptism. But the reply is not difficult, if we attend to the reason of the command. Christ orders them to convey to all nations the message of eternal salvation, and confirms it by adding the seal of baptism. Now it was proper that faith in the word should be placed before baptism, since the Gentiles were altogether alienated from God, and had nothing in common with the chosen people; for otherwise it would have been a false figure, which offered forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit to unbelievers, who were not yet members of Christ. But we know that by faith those who were formerly despised are united to the people of God.
It is now asked, on what condition does God adopt as children those who formerly were aliens? It cannot, indeed, be denied that, when he has once received them into his favor, he continues to bestow it on their children and their children’s children. By the coming of Christ God manifested himself as a Father equally to the Gentiles and to the Jews; and, therefore, that promise, which was formerly given to the Jews, must now be in force towards the Gentiles,
I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee,
Thus we see that they who entered by faith into the Church of God are reckoned, along with their posterity, among the members of Christ, and, at the same time, called to the inheritance of salvation. And yet this does not involve the separation of baptism from faith and doctrine; because, though infants are not yet of such an age as to be capable of receiving the grace of God by faith, still God, when addressing their parents, includes them also. I maintain, therefore, that it is not rash to administer baptism to infants, to which God invites them, when he promises that he will be their God.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This passage shows that the full and clear knowledge of God, which had been but darkly shadowed out under the Law and the Prophets, is at length fully discovered under the reign of Christ. True, indeed, the ancients would never have ventured to call God their Father, if they had not derived this assurance from Christ their Head; and the Eternal Wisdom of God, who is the fountain of light and life, was not wholly unknown to them. It was even one of their acknowledged principles, that God displays his power by the Holy Spirit. But at the commencement of the gospel God was far more clearly revealed in Three Persons; for then the Father manifested himself in the Son, his lively and distinct image, while Christ, irradiating the world by the full splendor of his Spirit, held out to the knowledge of men both himself and the Spirit.
There are good reasons why the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are expressly mentioned; for there is no other way in which the efficacy of baptism can be experienced than when we begin with the unmerited mercy of the Father, who reconciles us to himself by the only begotten Son; next, Christ comes forward with the sacrifice of his death; and at length, the Holy Spirit is likewise added, by whom he washes and regenerates us, (Titus 3:5,) and, in short, makes us partakers of his benefits. Thus we perceive that God cannot be truly known, unless our faith distinctly conceive of Three Persons in one essence; and that the fruit and efficacy of baptism proceed from God the Father adopting us through his Son, and, after having cleansed us from the pollutions of the flesh through the Spirit: creating us anew to righteousness.