Being Disciples and Making Disciples

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations! Matthew 28:19

Elijah is a familiar name to us as Christians. One reason why Elijah holds a special place in my heart is because of his mentoring role and how he trained up Elisha to replace him and become a mentor of others. This is similar to the mandate Christ gave us to be His disciples and to make disciples of all nations.

It was God on Mount Horeb who told Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet in his place, and Elijah obeyed. Elijah found Elisha and placed his mantle on him, which was a symbol of prophetic office, and it was a symbol that Elisha would have understood (1 Kings 19:19). Elisha had officially been anointed by Elijah as God’s future chief prophet. Scholars differ in their estimates as to how long these two prophets worked together. Some believe less than a year; others believe up to 8 years.  

No matter the length of their mentoring relationship, the time eventually came when both the mentor and student recognized that Elijah’s departure was nearing. Scripture outlines in 2 Kings 2:1-6 that Elijah visited three locations before his departure: he left Gilgal for Bethel, then Jericho, and, lastly, he went to the Jordan. Prior to leaving for each new location, Elijah tells his student to stay back and not follow him. Elisha responds, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” Before Elijah would pass on his baton as prophet, he desired to see the loyalty and love of his disciple. Three times, Elisha affirmed his love and loyalty to his master. Now consider our discipleship in Christ. Before Christ can use us in the work that He’s called us to, He wants us to affirm our love and loyalty to Him through our obedience to His Word and His leading in our life.

We then read in 2 Kings 2:8-9, “Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?’ Elisha said, ‘Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’” Elisha knew that the only way he could continue his master’s work was if the Spirit who worked through Elijah would work through him as well. Clearly, Elisha was aware of his dependence on God’s power to accomplish God’s work. 

Before Jesus ascended, He commanded His disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4b-5). Jesus had given His followers the Great Commission, a task impossible to do without God’s power working through them. That’s why He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Before God can use us as He desires, we first need to offer ourselves to Him as living sacrifices so that He can fill us with His Spirit. We know that Elisha received God’s power, because after Elijah ascended, he did the same miracle that his master had done moments earlier, dividing the Jordan with his mantle (v. 14). Likewise, Jesus promises to work through those who are filled with the Holy Spirit (John 14:12-18).

Elisha also replaced his master in disciple-making. A disciple is a student. One of the most influential achievements of Elijah is the establishment of various schools for prophets. Scholars agree that the reason why Elijah went to Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho before ascending by the Jordan was so that he could visit the schools he started in each of these cities and say goodbye. Elijah had a great concern for the future. He saw the need to pass on the knowledge and skills he had learned from God to the next generation. In like manner, Christ, before ascending to Heaven, commanded His followers to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things that He had commanded them (Matthew 28:19-20a). After Elijah’s ascent, we read numerous times how Elisha continued to work with and disciple the prophets from the schools that Elijah had started. Likewise, God calls us not just to be Christ’s disciple but also to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). To make disciples means that we not only help people find the Lord, but also teach them how they can grow in their walk with the Lord. Our time, talents, and resources are required to disciple others. Let’s remember that this isn’t just a suggestion of Christ; it’s part of His Great Commission for all His followers.

I think it is easy for young people to see themselves as students, but it’s harder for them to see their calling as being disciple-makers for Christ. Our Lord Jesus wants to use all His disciples to make more disciples, but before He can use us, He want us to display our love and loyalty to Him. He also wants us to ask Him for His Spirit, just as Elisha asked his master for his spirit. Only then can we carry out the work that we’ve been called to and make disciples of all nations.

David Knelsen

Hamilton, Ontario

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