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God’s Word for You

Acts 1:23-26 the lot fell to Matthias

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 19, 2019

23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also called Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this ministry and mission,  which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias. So he was included along with the eleven apostles.

Judas left his position among the apostles. Who would fill his place? Peter’s requirements were met by just two men. I think that the reason we are given so much information about Joseph is that Matthias became fairly well-known after this, and therefore he didn’t need any other introduction. Perhaps Joseph was described in greater detail to be certain that an imposter could not claim to have been this same Joseph, for whatever advantage such a claim might bring (2 Corinthians 11:13; Revelation 2:2).

The apostles left the choice to the Lord, operating in a manner similar to that of using the Urim and Thummim in the Old Testament. The two names were put forward, the group prayed, and they allowed the Lord to select the candidate he wanted. Lots were cast. Lots (think of throwing dice or cutting a deck of cards) was an ancient and respectable way of making a decision among the Jews. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). The first sentence of verse 26 has exactly the same wording as Jonah 1:7, “Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Jonah.”

The ministry and mission (diakonia and aposteles) are the things that Judas would have been expected to do. He should have been a witness to the things Jesus said and did throughout his ministry, and he was to have preached the gospel. Certainly both of these men would have been included among the seventy-two disciples Jesus sent out preaching and teaching in Luke 10:1,17. Joseph would continue to be a witness of Jesus’ ministry as a man who saw it take place, but the apostles wanted to fill their number in this case, and so Matthias was chosen to do that. His inclusion with the number of the apostles also allowed the group to be named and listed in such a way that Judas Iscariot would not have to be constantly mentioned. We should remember that the vacancy filled here happened when Judas defected to the Jews and betrayed Jesus, not when Judas died.

One final point should be made about Matthias. Sometimes it’s suggested that the apostles made a mistake in choosing Matthias, and that the Holy Spirit made his choice to fill Judas’ place later on when Paul became an apostle (note his usual greeting: “Paul, an apostle of Christ,” in most of his letters). But this is impossible. Following their prayer, the apostles left the choice of Judas’ replacement up to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit chose Matthias. He did not later reject his own choice in favor of someone else. Paul did not meet the requirements laid down by Peter in any way, and Paul would have been the first to reject the idea that he should be awarded the same status as the Twelve Apostles. (Paul’s words about the “super-apostles” in 2 Corinthians 11:5 and 12:11 are not about the Twelve, but about troublemakers in Corinth). Matthias was chosen by the Holy Spirit to take over Judas’ ministry and mission, and although he is not mentioned again in the Bible, we trust that he filled this role as a faithful witness. We pray that the same thing could be said about each of us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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