None of us is absolutely original. To a significant degree we are at best imitators of others. A substantial proportion of our thoughts and actions are impacted by the contributions of others. Ultimately, however, we are called to imitate God. Paul’s supreme instruction to the Ephesian church is for them to “..be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Eph 5:1. We are to do so because he is absolutely perfect in every way, Mt 5:48. Specifically, we are called to imitate his mercy, Lk 6:36; his kindness and forgiving spirit, Eph 4:32; his holiness, Lev 11:45; 1 Pe 1:15-16; etc. It is into his knowledge that his covenant people are being renewed, Col 3:10. Since Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, our spiritual transformation takes the form of a comprehensive resemblance unto Christ. It is into his image that we are being progressively conformed, Rom 8:29, and transformed, 2 Cor 3:18. These controlling principles should guide us as we search today’s sermon text, 2 Ki 2:1-15, for some biblical principles of true discipleship. There, we find at least 2 principles.
Principle # 1: True Disciples Follow Godly Leaders.
The Lord God had already informed Elijah that he would be replaced by Elisha, 1 Ki 19:16. As the undisclosed time of his departure draws near, Elijah is seen carrying out the functions of his ministry with unbroken and undiminished commitment. The younger Elisha persistently rejects Elijah’s requirement to stay in Bethel, 2 Ki 2:2, and in Jericho, v. 4, while Elijah pursues his ministry in other places. Why? Because he is determined to follow him to the end and to be with him when the Lord takes him away. Accordingly, after the Lord draws Elijah unto himself in a sensational whirlwind attended by chariots and horses of fire, v. 11, Elisha, divinely invested with the authority of his master, performs his first miraculous act by striking the Jordan River and parting it after the manner of Elijah’s last action on earth. Here we witness not only the proof of Elisha’s authenticity as Elijah’s replacement but also the unbroken continuity between their two ministries- Elisha’s first ministerial action was the same as Elijah’s last. In so doing he is committed to carrying on God’s work to God’s glory. What do we learn from these events? We learn that true disciples follow godly leaders and are assured that the power and Presence of God accompanying their predecessors, will also be present in their lives and work. It is no wonder then that the apostolic injunction is not simply to imitate godly leaders, 1 Cor 4:16; Phi 3:17, but to “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Cor 11:1.
Principle #2: True Disciples Have an Insatiable Desire
for the Success of God’s Word and Work
Immediately prior to his departure from the world, Elijah invited Elijah to ask what he wanted from him before he would be taken away. The younger prophet’s response is astounding: a double portion of his master’s spirit. Note the spiritual maturity and heavenly- mindedness in his response: “a double portion of your spirit on me.” v. 9b. This is very encouraging and impressive because he did not seek any material blessings or comfort; nor did he ask that his ministry be less stressful and more successful than Elijah’s. Further, he did not request such plausible qualities as boldness and power in ministry. No, he sought “the one thing necessary” for ministry, the Holy Spirit himself.
In assuming Elijah’s mantle of ministry, Elisha’s major concern was for a special anointing of the power behind all ministry, the Holy Spirit, to ensure that he would faithfully proclaim God’s word and staunchly perform God’s works. In doing so, he proved himself to be a true prophet of God that was willing to do God’s work in God’s way to God’s glory. Such also is the character of true disciple – he totally depends on the Holy Spirit as he commits himself to sharing God’s word and doing his work until Christ comes again. O that they would be many Elisha’s among us!