March 23, 1868.
Elder G. Beebe: - Was the command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," given exclusively to the apostles, or is it applicable to the ministers of God in these days?
Jesse S. Smith.
Reply: - This command was given to the eleven disciples, as they sat at meat, as stated in the preceeding verse; and the eleven to whom it was immediately addressed were all of them apostles, and the same unto whom our Lord had, on a former occasion, given power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of diseases, etc. But on that former occasion he commanded them to go not into the way of the Gentiles, nor into any city of the Samaritans; but he directed them to go rather unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:1-15). But now their commission is extended to Gentiles and Samaritans, or, without limitation to all the world; their holy vocation, as on the former occasion, was also to be attested by signs following, in healing the sick, casting out devils, etc.
But the question is suggested, If this commission, or command, was given exclusively to the apostles, on what divine authority do the ministers of the gospel now preach and baptize?
When our great Redeemer arose from the dead, and ascended up on high, he gave gifts unto men, or to his church, and he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man; unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:8-13). The apostles, being filled with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, were seated in judgment on thrones of unquestionable authority to judge the twelve tribes of Israel; or the gospel church which answers to that figure. They were by the supreme Head of the church invested with authority to instruct the church in all things, whatsoever Christ had commanded them. In this investment of authority was included all the instructions requisite for the recognition of the gifts, which the exalted Savior received for, and gave to his church, and the rule by which the church should discriminate between the gifts bestowed, and assign to each its appropriate place in the church. There is diversity of gifts, but they are all by but one spirit, and God has placed them in the body or church as it hath pleased him.
The apostles have decided that no man taketh this honor (of the gospel ministry) upon him, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron (to the priesthood). In the calling and qualification to the work, God by his Spirit makes such impressions on the mind of his chosen ones for that service, as are to them unmistakable, and at the same time, by the same spirit, it is made known also to the church, that such a gift is among them. As when it was said "Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto the Holy Ghost has called them." The instructions for both ministers and church are carefully recorded by the apostles. Their relative duties and privileges are clearly stated. The special instructions to the ministers are found in the charge given by Paul to Timothy, Titus and the elders of the church at Ephesus, and in the concurrent instructions of the other apostles. And although none of the Lord's ministers of our times can presume to occupy the places and infallible inspiration of the apostles, or to sit with them on thrones of judgment; yet they all have the apostles as examples, and are commanded to follow them, as they followed Christ. They are to continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayer, and feed the church of God, over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers.
Having frequently expressed our understanding of the apostolic commission, in its general bearings, in this article we have endeavored to restrict our remarks to the points on which our views were desired.
April 15, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7