Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 27 2019 - 2 Kings 2:1-18

Elijah, you will remember, had recruited Elisha to be his disciple – to be with him and to learn from him.

Today's reading describes a very special day in the life of both of these prophets. Elijah seems to know that the time has come for him to leave the world and he seeks to do so quietly and on his own, but Elisha will not leave his side. First they travelled to Bethel and then to Jericho. At both towns, prophets came out to tell Elisha that the Lord would take his master from him that day. Elisha acknowledges that he too knows this.

Finally, Elijah travelled to the Jordan river with Elisha accompanying him. At the river, Elijah took off his cloak, rolled it up and struck the waters with it. The waters divided and the two prophets crossed on dry ground. Elijah is leaving the Promised Land just as the children of Israel had entered it.

Having crossed the river, Elijah asked Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?" (v. 9). Elisha asks for a double portion of the spirit that has filled Elijah; he wants to be like his master and to serve the living God as Elijah had done. Elisha is promised that if God enables him to see Elijah taken up from him his wish will be granted.

As they continued walking and talking together, "suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind" (v. 11). Elisha picked up Elijah's cloak that had fallen from him and, tearing off his own clothes, took up his master's cloak. When he got back to the Jordan he struck the water with the cloak, the waters parted and he walked through on dry ground. When he met the bands of the prophets, they recognised that, "The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha" (v. 15). The evidence for this will be seen in the things Elisha is able to do in the name of the Lord, things similar to those previously done by his master.

Jesus had chosen twelve special disciples to be with him always, to learn of him and help him in the work of the kingdom entrusted to him by his Father. They were devastated when he was crucified; their hopes of the kingdom were dashed. But when he rose from the dead and met with them again, their hopes were revived. Imagine then that day when Jesus met with the remaining eleven on a hillside in Galilee and he was taken from them, ascending into heaven. How would they now continue his work?

A few days later this question is answered as, gathered again in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon them from heaven. Now they are filled with the Spirit that animated the Lord Jesus and enabled him to be effective in the ministry the Father had given him. Now they were able to do similar works to him, and greater also for he had been taken from them. Three thousand were brought to own Jesus Christ as Lord on that first Day of Pentecost and billions more have come to know God through the Lord Jesus Christ since that day.

And today we also own Jesus as our Saviour and our Lord. He has called us to be his disciples – to follow him and to learn from him. He has given us his Spirit that we might be fully equipped to serve him in the work of the kingdom. What is keeping us from doing great things for our great God and our great Saviour, Jesus Christ?

Father God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus who has called us, in all our weakness and fear, to be his disciples. We thank you for your Spirit who makes the risen person and power of the Lord Jesus present to us. Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.

Jun 27 2013 - Acts 18:1-23 – Whose mission is it anyway?

When Paul arrived at Corinth his preaching and the reaction to it followed a familiar pattern. There was controversy and division in the synagogue and Paul declared that he would henceforth speak to the Gentiles. Many of the Jews seemed determined to stir up trouble against him.

In the night, the Lord spoke to Paul in a dream, telling him not to be afraid but to continue preaching. As he had promised the original eleven before his ascension, so now the Lord Jesus promises Paul that he will be with him. The Lord’s presence will ensure that his ministry will result in many converts for, the Lord says, “Many people in this city are mine” (Acts 18:10).

Here we are reminded that the mission conducted by Paul is not his own, it is the mission of the risen Lord Jesus, into which Paul has been recruited as a helper. Christ has gone before him and Christ will now go with him in his mission.

Nevertheless, the Jews who opposed Paul’s message dragged him before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaiah, and charged him with “persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law” (18:13). Gallio will have none of it. If Paul has been guilty of some crime he is quite prepared to listen to the charges of Paul’s opponents but if it is merely a matter of their religious customs, Gallio considers this to be none of his business. Indeed, he seems to have viewed the Jews and their religious disputes as rather troublesome for he is quite prepared for them to beat up their synagogue leader in front of him and take no action.

In the Book of Acts, Luke is concerned to show that the Christian message, while proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, is no threat to good government; it is no threat to human flourishing. But equally, the Christian message does not need the active support and promotion of civil government. Christ is at work building his church and he is the one who will ensure its success.

In past centuries, the church sought to have a privileged position within the state even to the point of arguing that part of the role of civil government is to uphold God’s law. The Christendom project has now collapsed. In many parts of the world we now see Christians suffering at the hand of those who argue that the state’s role is to preserve a very different religious order and to oppose those who will not conform to the privileged religion. We live in world in many ways similar to that of the first century Roman Empire. Christianity has no privileged position and must demonstrate that it is no threat to good order but promises blessing to those who follow the crucified Messiah. There are welcome signs that this message is being heard in China where suspicion is slowly giving way to respect.

We need to take courage from the words of the risen Saviour to Paul and to remember that he has said, “I will build my church.” He is the one who is still at work in the world by the power of his word and his Spirit to bring many to know him and to follow him. He neither needs state support nor can be stopped by state opposition.

Thank you, Lord, that you have a part for each of us to play in your mission of transforming the world. Help us to be faithful and diligent in the work you have given us to do, but help us to remember that without you we can do nothing. Strengthen and encourage your people who face persecution that they may have wisdom to know how to remain faithful to you and to their calling in the midst of trials. Lord, build your church. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Peter Misselbrook