Study 5 MATTHIAS CHOSEN IN THE PLACE OF JUDAS
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 1 – 3)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 1:15-26
The decision to choose Matthias to take the place of Judas Iscariot was evidently an important one, as twelve verses are given to a description of all that took place. In this section of scripture we have an account of the first business meeting held by the Lord’s followers. Look up Matthew 19:27-28. Twelve in scripture is a number of perfect administration. Jesus chose twelve disciples to be with Him and He commissioned them to take the gospel to the whole world (Mark 3:13-14). But now there were only eleven because Judas who betrayed Him was missing. So Peter prompted the action described in Acts 1:15-22. In verses 23-26 we are told of the method adopted and of the actual appointment of Matthias. What are the lessons we can learn?
1. Throughout the history of the Church there has been lively discussion as to whether Peter was right or wrong in acting as he did
There are those who say that he acted carnally, that he was impetuous and was not directed by the Lord. Anyway, they say, the principle of selection was wrong. Surely it was wrong to choose two and then to cast lots, even though they did pray before they cast lots? We lean to the view, however, that Peter was right in what he did. We cannot be dogmatic about this. We must remember, however, that it was to Peter that the Lord said – Matthew 19:27-28; and although it has been stated that Paul was selected in order to make up the number of the twelve apostles, in actual fact his name is never associated with the other eleven; and to those who say that ‘after this we never hear of Matthias again’, this does not prove anything, for neither do we hear of some of the other disciples. Incidentally, we do hear about Matthias, though not actually by name (Acts 2:14; Acts 6:2). Peter stood up “with the Eleven”, and “the Twelve gathered all the disciples together”. But surely it was wrong to cast lots? Not necessarily, for these disciples were still acting under the old dispensation – look up Leviticus 16:8 and Proverbs 16:33.
2. Is it not possible that the Holy Spirit has recorded this because of the valuable lesson it contains regarding Church administration?
Notice three lessons in particular, and all who are engaged in the Lord’s work would do well to take note of them:
- 1. Church business must always be conducted in the atmosphere of prayer (verses 12-14). Those who took part had been present at the prayer meeting. It is only in this way that we can know the mind of the Lord and enjoy the unity of the Spirit. Church business is not our business; it is God’s business (Luke 2:49). He is the Director of His work, and it is essential to know His mind so that we can do His will, and the place for this is in ‘the upper room’ (verse 13).
- 2. We must guard against making our plans and then asking God’s blessing on them. We learn from verse 24 that they did not choose Matthias and then say, ‘Now, Lord, bless him!’ They prayed first, committed it to the Lord, then trusted Him to lead them and to give the answer that would glorify Him.
- 3. God has the plan for His Church and for His work. See verse 24. There was an admission by the people who were praying that they did not know what God’s will was (Jeremiah 10:23); but they did believe that God had a plan and a purpose which He was willing to reveal, so they prayed for His will to be made known – look up James 1:5.
This emphasises the supreme importance of the prayer-life of the Church – no prayer, no blessing; little prayer, little blessing; more prayer, more blessing; much prayer, much blessing.
3. Notice the kind of man who was needed to fill this office
What is the supreme qualification for a servant of God – a minister, missionary, pastor, deacon or Sunday school teacher? First and foremost he must be “a witness of the resurrection” (verse 22), meaning he must have had a vision of the risen Lord Jesus. There must be a recognition of who Jesus is and a surrender to Him as Lord and Master (Romans 10:9-10). Or, to put it concisely, the kind of men and women needed for Christian service are:-
- 1. Those who are thoroughly converted – men and women who have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ personally and who have entered into a saving experience of His grace, like Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-6).
- 2. Those who live out the risen Lord in their lives. One in whose life the risen Lord was seen and His presence and power evident was Stephen (Acts 6:8-15; Acts 7:54-60).
- 3. Those who are living as a risen man should live. To get the force of this look up and study Colossians 3:1-4, and then the verses which follow – verses 5-25.
When a man has really seen the risen Lord and has yielded fully to Him, everything becomes changed. He then knows what it is to be a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and to live for the Lord each day (Colossians 3:17).
4. Notice the confidence that these believers had in the scriptures
We must always be impressed that these disciples were very well versed in the Old Testament. Peter in his speech immediately referred back to Psalm 41:9; Psalm 69:25; Psalm 109:8, and said, “The Scripture had to be fulfilled.” He also attributed the scriptures to the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Again in Acts 1:20 he was quick to say, “It is written in the book of Psalms”. Is the Bible the Word of God? Indeed it is – look up 2 Timothy 3:16.
5. Finally, notice the title of our Saviour in verse 21
Who was it that Peter and the other disciples had come to follow and love? It was “the Lord Jesus”. This is the Christian testimony (1 Corinthians 12:3). Not just ‘Jesus’ (though that is His saving name); not just ‘Christ’ (though that is His official name); but the Lord Jesus. Always think and speak of Him as that.