God’s Word for You
Acts 1:15-17 Peter stood up among the brothers
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 14, 2019
15 In those days the group numbered about a hundred and twenty. Peter stood up among the brothers and said, 16 “Men! Fellow believers! The Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David about Judas, who was a guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 Judas was one of our number and shared in this ministry.
Luke records the initial expansion of the church with some numbers: 120 (1:15), 3,000 (2:41), 5,000 men (4:4), but finding it impossible to keep up, he falls to mentioning when significant growth took place. “More and more men and women believed” (5:14), “the number was increasing” (6:1), “the number increased rapidly” (6:7), “it grew in numbers” (9:31), “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw (a paralyzed man healed by Peter) and turned to the Lord” (9:35), “many people believed in the Lord” (9:42). After this, Luke begins to add words like “great” (πολύς) or “many” (ἱκανοὺς) to his references: “A great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (11:21,24), and there were “a large number of disciples” (14:1,21). After Paul’s missionary trips begin, the growth of the church begins to be completely uncountable: “The churches…grew daily in number” (16:5), “Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent women and many Greek men” (17:12).
Returning to our scene before the one hundred and twenty, Peter calls everyone to listen and addresses the question of whether or not they should attempt to replace Judas. It might not have mattered, but Peter and the other apostles held the word of God in the highest regard, just as we should, and Peter saw at least two Old Testament passages which applied to the Judas question. The first was Psalm 69:25 (“let his place be deserted,” etc.), acknowledging that Judas had left a gap in the number of the apostles, and 109:9 (“May another take his place of leadership”) which told them to fill the vacancy.
Later on, we will see that no such process was undertaken to fill other positions. For example, when the apostle James (the brother of John) was martyred, there was no meeting to replace him, nor when Stephen was martyred or when Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas. Therefore, there is no Scriptural support for a doctrine of apostolic succession.
In our church body (the WELS), when a vacancy needs to be filled, the district president provides a list of qualified ministers who could fill that position. This list, usually four to six candidates, is reviewed by the voters of the congregation, discussed, and then they choose one of those candidates and call him. This call is from the Holy Spirit through the congregation, and so there is never any talk about “feeling called” here. There simply is an actual, physical summons from the Holy Spirit. If the pastor accepts the call, the vacancy is filled and God is pleased. If he chooses to remain where he is and returns it, this, too, pleases God, and the church calls once again. You may never have considered the advantages or disadvantages of such a system, but our way is envied by many Christians from other denominations who agonize over obtaining a qualified minister, with little or no guidance from anyone.
Pray that God will give all Christians the same reverence and devotion to the Holy Scriptures that the apostles show here. Let us love the word of the Lord, which convicts us of our sins through the law, and heals us through the gospel. The word of God is flawless (Psalm 18:30); the word of God is right and true (Psalm 33:4), and the word of the Lord is eternal (Psalm 119:89). Treasure it. Learn it. Let it live on your lips.
Pastor Timothy Smith