June 3, 2013
Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #I: Introduction to the Beginning of the Church, Acts 1.1-1.26
 Subtopic B: The Lord Re-Establishes 12 Apostles (Acts 1:12-26)                   
         Secondary Topic 2: The Motion of Peter to Choose Another Apostle (Acts 1.15-26)                     


Lesson I.B.2.c: The Method of Choosing
 Scripture: Acts 1.23-26


Acts 1.23-26 (KJV)

23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

 

Commentary
23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

And they appointed two,
This passage concerns the nomination and election of the person who was to take Judas place among the twelve. Two men, who were known to have been faithful followers of Christ, and men of great integrity, were nominated as candidates for the position. Their names were probably put up by the hundred and twenty (Peter is addressing the hundred and twenty in this chapter), and not by the eleven or the seventy. However these two were probably chosen from among the seventy disciples; and, that means they were well prepared to hold the office of Apostle. It is likely that the disciples themselves were divided over which of these two was the best qualified and therefore they put the matter in God’s hands, or at least they thought they did when they prayed that He would decide the outcome when they cast lots. Only two candidates were presented; probably because they were outstanding Christians and had been personally acquainted with our Lord, or they were better qualified for the work of an apostle than any of the rest; but they were so nearly equal in qualifications, that they could not determine which man was the best person for the office.

 Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
“Joseph called Barsabas” is someone who has generated a great deal of conjecture concerning his identity. It is not known for certain what the name Barsabas means, if anything. The Syriac word bar means son, and the word sabas has been translated an oath, rest, quiet, or captivity. Why the name was given to Joseph is not known; but it was probably the family name-Joseph son, of Sabas.

Paul adds that this “Joseph called Barsabas” was a person “Who was surnamed Justus.” This is a Latin name, meaning just, and was probably given to him on account of his notable integrity. It was not uncommon among the Jews for a man to have several names—“Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus” (Matt 10:3; NKJV). This Joseph could be that Jesus who is called Justus, whom Paul speaks of in Colossians—“And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me” (Col 4:11; KJV).He is said to be of the circumcision, a native Jew, who was a fellow-worker with Paul in the kingdom of God and a comfort to him.


Some manuscripts read Joses Barnabas, making him the same Joses Barnabas mentioned in Acts 4:36—“And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus.” His name was Joses; but the apostles due to some feature of his character called him Barnabas, which means “the son of exhortation.” He is said to belong to the sacred tribe of Levi, and he lived on a famous Mediterranean island called Cyprus. Later on, he and Paul would carry the gospel there. This is the first mention of this celebrated companion of Paul's. He next appears on a mission to Antioch—“Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch” (Acts 11:22; NKJV).

One commentator (Lightfoot) supposes that this man was the son of Alpheus, and brother of James the Less, and that he was chosen on account of his relationship to the family of the Lord Jesus. Some think this Joseph is the man who is called Joses in Mark’s gospel—“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him” (Mark 6:3; KJV). This James, who was also called James the Less, was the brother or cousin of Jesus—“There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome” (Mark 15:40; KJV).

And Matthias. Nothing is known of the family of this man, or of his character. All we can say for sure is that he was the one who took Judas place among the apostles, and shared their lot in life—in the toils, and persecutions, and honors of preaching the gospel to mankind.

Joseph and Matthias were both admirable men, and well qualified for the office, so much so that they could not tell which of them was the best man for the position, but all agreed it must be one of these two. They did not submit their own names or promote their own qualifications, but instead, they humbly sat still, and were appointed to it.

It should be observed that, though he came short of being an apostle, Joseph did not leave the ministry, but was very useful in a lower position, which confirms the verse where it says, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets?”

24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

And they prayed,
A momentous decision was about to be made. They could not decide who should replace Judas. Immediately the disciples began praying, seeking the will of the Lord. Specifically, they asked the Father to show them which of the two candidates He had already chosen. They decided to cast lots with the understanding that the one upon whom the lot fell was the Lord's choice. The reason that they did not make the selection themselves was evidently because they thought it was only right for the Lord to do it, since He had chosen Judas, and so He should choose his successor. If someone should ask why they confined the Lord’s choice to Joseph and Matthias, the most plausible answer is that, after careful examination of those present, they were the only two who possessed the qualifications named by Peter. Whether the selection of these two was made by the body of disciples, the hundred and twenty, the seventy, or by the eleven apostles alone, is unimportant. Furthermore, this event does not, as many have supposed, set a precedent for the popular election of church officers; because the selection of the two persons between whom an election was to be made, was not the election itself; and when the election took place, it was made by the Lord, and not by the disciples or the apostles. One of them cast or drew the lots, but the Lord determined on whom the lot would fall. 

The prayer offered by the apostles on this occasion is a model for this type of prayer. They had a single object for which they bowed before the Lord, and they confined their words to this specific object. They do not repeat a single thought; neither do they vary from their original objective. It is a good idea to pray before undertaking any task, but especially if it involves the selection of an individual to exercise the duties of the sacred office of the ministry. It is likely that one of the apostles offered the prayer, and all those present joined in the petition.

and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men,
This is the first part of their prayer, and what gets our immediate attention is its brevity. I have often wished that I could pray like other men, who use flowery words (some of which I do not know the meaning of), and phrase after phrase to express God’s attributes and accomplishments that lasts for several minutes. Now, I ask you, should I pray like that or is it better to follow this example. My answer is that what you say is not nearly as important as the condition of your heart. Observe, that here they appeal to God as the searcher of hearts: "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men,” and better than they know their own, which we do not. When an apostle was to be chosen, he must be chosen by his heart; by its character and disposition. Nevertheless Jesus, who knew all men’s hearts, chose Judas to be one of the twelve, for His wise and holy purposes. It is comforting for us to know that when we pray for the welfare of the church and its ministers, that the God to whom we pray knows the hearts of all men, and has them not only under his eye, but in his hand, and turns them whichever way He wants to, can prepare them meet the requirements of the position He has for them. And because he is the knower of hearts, he knew which of these men was the best to do the important work to which one of them was now to be appointed.

“Which knowest the hearts of all men” is often declared to be the particular prerogative of God—“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:10; KJV). However, this attribute is also specifically ascribed to Jesus Christ—“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass… And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works” (Rev 2:18, 23; KJV).

There are strong reasons for supposing that the apostles addressed this prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ, on this occasion.
(1) The name Lord is the common title which they gave to Him—“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36; KJV). (Also see Acts 7:59, 60, 10:36; 1 Corinthians 2:8; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 11:8.)
(2) We are told that they worshipped him, or afforded him divine honors after his ascension—“And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52; KJV).
(3) The disciples were accustomed to address him after his crucifixion by the names Lord or God—“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6; KJV). (Also see John 20:28; Acts 7:59.)

This was a matter pertaining especially to the church which the Lord Jesus had redeemed, and to the instructions He had given them about it was to be administered. He had chosen the apostles; he had given them their commission; he had fixed their number at twelve; and what is worthy of special mention here, he had been the companion of both men, and knew their qualifications for the work they must do. If the apostles ever called on the Lord Jesus after his ascension, this was the case in which they would be likely to do it. One evidence that they called on the Lord Jesus is the account of the death of Stephen—“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59-60; KJV).And in this important matter of ordaining a new apostle to be a witness for Jesus Christ, nothing was more natural than that they would address him, though bodily absent, as they would have done if he were present. And if on this occasion they did in fact address Christ, then two things clearly follow. First, that it is appropriate to pay him Divine homage, in accordance to the uniform declarations of the Scriptures. “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father…” (John 5:23; KJV). “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb 1:6; KJV). (Also see Philippians 2:10, 11; Revelation 5:8-14; 1 Thessalonians 3:11, 12.). Secondly, he must be Divine. Religious homage can only be given to God; and no one or nothing else can be described as knowing the hearts of all men. The reason why they appealed to him on this occasion as the Searcher of the heart was without question the great importance of the work to which the successor of Judas was to be called. One apostle of decent external character had proved to be a traitor; and in view of this fact, they appealed to the Savior himself, to select one who would be true to Him, and not bring dishonor on His cause.

shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
They wanted to know which of these two men God had chosen, and then they will be satisfied. It is fitting for God to choose His own servants; and regardless of how He goes about showing us whom he has chosen, or what he has chosen, for us, we ought to abide by His decision.

Observe, that they do not pray, “Show us which one you will chose,” as if they must reflect upon it with the Lord before the choice is final; but, “show which one of these two thou hast chosen.” They describe the office they desire the Lord to fill, as the “ministry and apostleship from which Judas, by transgression, fell, that he might go to his own place” (see verse 25). He had been in a place of which he proved himself unworthy, and now they have no hesitation in referring to the fact that he had now gone to his own place. That place is, of course, the place to which hypocrites go after death. This is a simple prayer to the Lord, and it is appropriate for the petition they are about to present; then the petition itself briefly expressed (see verse 25), and the prayer is concluded. So brief a prayer, on any occasion in this age of “long-winded” talkers, would hardly be recognized as a prayer at all, so liable are men to believe the delusion that they will be heard for their much speaking.

25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.

They are ready to receive him as a brother whom God hath chosen. They are not scheming to become more important, by preventing another from joining them in apostleship, but rather, they want someone to “take part of this ministry and apostleship,” to join with them in the work and share with them in the honour, “from which Judas by transgression fell,” because he deserted and betrayed his Master. He fell “from the place” of an apostle, of which he was unworthy, and then he went “to his own place,” the place of a traitor, the place where he belonged; we might send him to the gallows, but God consigned him to hell—this was his own place. Note that those who betray Christ fall from the dignity of having a relationship with Him into disgrace and misery. It is said of Balaam (Num. 24:25) that he went to his own place, that is, says one of the rabbis, he went to hell. To quote Ignatius, “There is appointed to every man a proper place, which corresponds with God’s rendering to every man according to his works. And our Savior had said with regard to Judas that “it had been better for him that he had never been born” (Mt. 26:24)—his misery would be worse than not existing. Judas had been a hypocrite, and hell is the proper place for them; other sinners are fellow-inmates, and have their portion with them, “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 24:51; KJV).

This verse has been explained in various ways:
1. Some presume that the words, “that he might go to his own place,” are directed to Judas, and his punishments in hell, which they say must be the place where persons like Judas, are confined.
2. Others believe they refer to the purchase of the field for the thirty pieces of silver, the price for which he had sold our Lord. Consequently, he abandoned the ministry and apostleship, so that he might go to his own place, namely, that which he had purchased.
3. Others, with better manners, state that his own place means his own house, or former occupation; he left this ministry and apostleship in order to resume his former employment and spend more time with his family, etc. This is primarily the meaning of it in Numbers 24:25: “And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place,” i.e. to his own country, friends, and employment.
4. Others think it simply means the state of the dead in general, independent of either rewards or punishments; which is probably what is meant by Ecclesiastes 3:20: “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”
5. Others say these words apply to Matthias, meaning that he might go to his own place, that is, to a place for which he was fitted or well qualified—the place formally held by Judas. The objections to this interpretation are several:
a. The apostolic office could not be properly applied to Matthias, until it was actually conferred on him.
b. There is no instance in which the expression, to go to his own place, is applied to a successor in office.
c. It is not true that the reason why Judas fell was to make way for another. He fell because of his crimes and enormous wickedness.
d. The obvious and natural meaning of the phrase demands the reference to Judas. But those who suppose it refers to Judas differ greatly about its meaning. Some suppose it refers to his house; that he left the apostolic office to return to his own house; and they appeal to Numbers 24:25. But Judas did not do this; nor is there any proof that it was his plan. Others refer it to the grave, as the place of man, where all must eventually lie; and particularly as a dishonorable place where Judas should lie. But there is no example of the word place being used in this sense; nor is there an instance where a man by being buried is said to return to his own, or proper place. Others have supposed that the manner of his death, by hanging, is referred to, as his own or his proper place. But this interpretation is evidently an unnatural and forced one. The word place cannot be applied to an act of self-murder. It denotes habitation, abode, a situation in which to remain; not an act. These are the only interpretations which can be suggested for the passage, except the common and obvious one of referring it to the future abode of Judas in the world of the damned. This might be said to be his own, since it was adapted to him; and it was proper that the one who had betrayed his Lord should remain there. This interpretation may be defended by the following considerations:
i. It is the obvious and natural meaning of the words. It commends itself by its simplicity, and evident connection with the context. It has always been the common interpretation; no other interpretation has been adopted unless there was a theory to be defended about future punishment. Unless men had previously made up their minds not to believe in future punishment, no one would ever have thought of any other interpretation. This fact alone throws strong light on the meaning of the passage.
ii. It concords with the crimes of Judas, and with all that we know about him. The future doom of Judas was not unknown to the apostles. Jesus Christ had expressly declared this: "it had been good for that man if he had not been born;" a declaration which could not be true if, after any limited period of suffering, he were at last admitted to eternal happiness (See Matthew 26:24). This declaration was made in the presence of the eleven apostles, at the institution of the Lord's Supper, at a time when their attention was absorbed in deep interest in what Christ said; and it was therefore a declaration which they would not be likely to forget. Since they knew the fate of Judas, nothing was more natural for them than to speak of it familiarly as a thing which had actually occurred when he betrayed his Lord, hung himself, and went to his own place.
iii. The expression, to "go to his own place," is one which is used by the ancient writers to denote going to the eternal destiny. Thus Numbers 24:25, says, "Balaam went to his own place, i.e., to Gehenna," to hell. And a Paraphrase on Ecclesiastes 6:6, says, "Although the days of a man's life were two thousand years, and he did not study the law, and do justice, in the day of his death his soul shall descend to hell, to the one place where all sinners go." The phrase his own place, means the place or abode which is fitted for him, which is his appropriate home. Judas was not in a place which befitted his character when he was an apostle; he was not in such a place in the church; he would not be in heaven. Hell was the only place which was fitted to the man of greed and of treason. And if this is the true interpretation of this passage, then it follows,
1. That there will be such a thing as future, eternal punishment. One man will certainly be in hell, and will be there forever. If there is one there, for the same reason there may be others. All objections to the doctrine are removed by this single fact; and it cannot be true that all men will be saved.
2. Each individual in eternity will find his own proper place. Hell is not an arbitrary appointment. Every man will go to the place for which his character is fitted. The hypocrite is not fitted for heaven. The man of pride, and greediness, and pollution, and falsehood, is not fitted for heaven. The place adapted to such men is hell; and the aim of the judgment will be to assign to each individual his proper abode in the eternal world.
3. The intention of the judgment of the great day will be to assign to all the inhabitants of this world their proper place. It would not be fit that the holy and pure should dwell forever in the same place with the unholy and impure; and the Lord Jesus will come to assign to each his appropriate eternal habitation.
4. The sinner will have no cause to complaint. If he is assigned to his proper place, he cannot complain. If he is unfit for heaven, he cannot complain that he has been excluded. And if his character and feelings make it proper that he should find his eternal abode among the enemies of God, then he must expect that a God of justice and equity will assign him such a doom.
6. Some of the best critics make the claim that the words belong to Matthias—his own place being the office to which he was about to be elected. If this is objected to because it could not be called his own place, since he was not yet appointed to it, they should note that it might be proper to call hell Judas's own place, because, he was fully prepared for that place of torment, by the treason and covetousness of which he was guilty. It may be said, that the own or proper place of a man is that for which he is eligible by virtue of him having qualified for it, though he may not yet possess such a place: so Paul says, Every man shall receive HIS OWN reward, which is called that, not from having it already in his possession, since that will not take place until the resurrection of the dead in Christ; but from his being qualified in this life for the state of glory in the other.

26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

And they gave forth their lots;
The disciples proposed two men to replace Judas Iscariot, who had committed suicide after he betrayed Jesus. These two men had a close association with Jesus when he began his ministry, and they had witnessed Jesus’ Ascension. Joseph Barsabas was also known as Justus (Lat.). He might have been the brother of Judas Barsabas. Matthias is not mentioned anyplace else in Scripture. The disciples prayed over selecting the 12th disciple, then cast lots to determine God’s choice for the position. This method of determining God’s will was common enough at the time, but no record exists of its use after Pentecost.

The disciples did not engage in gambling, like men that use dice to determine the winner of wagers they make. We must remember that before lots were cast they selected two men whom they judged the most worthy to fill Judas’ vacancy. Having passed that difficult screening test, they were now prepared to receive the will of God. Casting lots to discern God’s will was a very respectable Hebrew custom. The disciples believed in God’s providence and perhaps even remembered, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Prov 16:33).

Some have supposed that this means they voted. But, there are insurmountable objections to this interpretation.
1. The Greek word translated “lots” is not used to express votes.
2. The expression; "the lot fell upon," is not consistent with the notion of voting. It is a common expression for casting lots (gambling).
3. Casting lots was commonly used among the Jews to determine important and difficult issues, and it was natural that the apostles would resort to this. For that reason:
a. David divided the priests by lot (1 Chronicles 24:5)—“Thus they were divided by lot, one group as another, for there were officials of the sanctuary and officials of the house of God, from the sons of Eleazar and from the sons of Ithamar.”
b. The land of Canaan was divided by lot (Num 26:55)—“But the land shall be divided by lot; they shall inherit according to the names of the tribes of their fathers.”
c. Jonathan, the son of Saul was discovered by lot to have violated his father's command, and to have brought calamity upon the Israelites (1 Samuel 14:41, 42)—“Therefore Saul said to the LORD God of Israel, "Give a perfect lot." So Saul and Jonathan were taken, but the people escaped. And Saul said, "Cast lots between my son Jonathan and me." So Jonathan was taken.”
d. Achan was detected by lot (Joshua 7:16-18)—“So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel by their tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. He brought the clan of Judah, and he took the family of the Zarhites; and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. Then he brought his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.”

In these cases the use of the lot was regarded as a solemn appeal to God, for his direct involvement in cases which they could not decide themselves.  The writer of Proverbs said, “The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD” (Prov 16:33; NKJV). Notice that it is called “Their lots;” the lots which were to decide their case. They are called, theirs, because they were to determine which of them would be called to the apostolic office.

The choice of an apostle was an important event that was likely to involve lots, and would include a solemn appeal to God for his direction and guidance in a case which the apostles could not determine. The manner in which this was done is not known for certain. But the common method of casting lots was to write the names of the persons on pieces of stone, wood, etc., and to put them in an urn; and the name of the office on other pieces. These were then placed in the urn with the other pieces of stone, etc., along with pieces which were blank. The names were then drawn at random, and also the other pieces, and this determined who would be the one picked. The casting of a lot is determined by laws of nature, as consistently as anything else; it is not a matter of chance. We do not know how a die may turn up; but this does not imply that it will turn up without any regard to rule, or that the result is an accident. We cannot trace the influences which may determine either this or that side to come up; but still it is controlled by regular and proper laws, and according to the circumstances of position, gravity, momentum, and force in which it is cast. And, although it does not imply any special or miraculous intercession of Providence, and though it may not be absolutely wrong in some cases which cannot otherwise be determined, to use the lot, yet it does not follow that it is a good idea to make this appeal often. Almost all cases where there is doubt can be determined more satisfactorily in some other way than by the lot. The habit of appealing to lot encourages one to take chances and may lead to the love of gambling games, heart-break, jealousy, envy, strife, and dishonesty. This example of the apostles making use of lots does not authorize Christians today playing games of chance, or lotteries, which are positively evil, and often have ruinous consequences, even beyond being illegal, in some cases. They either originate in covetousness, or they promote covetousness and neglect of one’s occupation; as well as envy, jealousy, disappointment, dishonesty, bankruptcy, lies, and misery. What is won by one is lost by another, and both the winning and the losing promote some of the worst obsessions in man: boasting, triumph, self-confidence, laziness, corruption, on the one hand; and envy, disappointment, resentment, desire for revenge, remorse, and personal ruin, on the other. God intended that man should live by honest labor. All departures from this great law of our social existence lead to decline and eventually to disaster.

and the lot fell upon Matthias;
Divine will is now known; the lot fell to Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Matthias was not ordained by the laying on of hands, as preachers were, since he was chosen by lot, which was the act of God; and therefore, he must be baptized and ordained, by the Holy Ghost, as they all were not many days afterwards. Thus the number of the apostles was made complete at twelve which is how Jesus designed it, and afterwards, when James, another of the twelve, was martyred, Paul was made an apostle.

It seems clear to me from this statement that Matthias was picked to fill the position vacated by the death of Judas, but some have held that the choice of Matthias was unauthorized and that he was never accepted as an apostle. The reasons for this view are that he is not mentioned again, and Paul was finally chosen as an apostle. To this it may be replied: (1) neither are more than half the other names in the apostolic band mentioned again; Thomas, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, for example. (2) Paul was not an apostle to the Jews, but to the Gentiles, and consequently, he was not one of the Twelve. (3) There is no hint anywhere in Acts, or elsewhere, that the selection of Matthias was not recognized. (4) In Acts 6:2, “the twelve” are spoken of, and he must have been one of “the twelve,” because Paul was not yet converted. These facts show that such speculations as those referred to above are without foundation.

and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
“Was numbered”—“voted in” by general agreement, after casting lots.
 
“With the eleven apostles”—completing the divinely ordained Twelve.

“He was numbered with the eleven apostles”—The brethren agreed that the matter should be determined by lot; the lots were cast into the urn; prayer was made for God to direct the choice; one drew out a lot; the person whose name was inscribed on it was thereby declared to be the object of God's choice, and accordingly became an associate of the disciples. These twelve men became the fountains under God of the whole Christian Church, in the same way that the twelve sons of Jacob had been the fountains of the Jewish Church. It has already been established that our Lord formed his Church on the model of the Jewish religion. The Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost, was to descend upon them and endue them with power from on high; therefore it was necessary that the number twelve would be filled up before then, so that the newly elected person might also be made partaker of the heavenly gift. There is no way to know how long it was found necessary to maintain the number twelve, but history reveals that the original number was soon shattered by persecution and death.

There were several reasons for maintaining twelve apostles:
1. Matthias was chosen to fill the place vacated by Judas, and, for a specific purpose, to be a witness of the resurrection of Christ. There is no mention of any other purpose. It was not to ordain men for the ministry of the gospel, or to rule over the churches, but to be a witness to an important fact.
2. There is no indication here that it was intended that there should be successors to the apostles. Their election was for a definite purpose, and was therefore temporary. The purpose was to fill up the number originally appointed by Christ. When the purpose for which he was appointed was achieved, the special function of the apostolic work ceased, of course.
3. There could be no succession in our times to the unique apostolic office. They were to be witnesses of the work of Christ. For this they were sent into the world. And when the desired effect resulting from such a witnessing was accomplished, the office itself would cease. Therefore, there is no record that after this the church even pretended to appoint successors to the apostles to discharge their particular work. And no minister of the gospel can now pretend to be their successors.
4. The only other apostle mentioned in the New Testament is the apostle Paul, who was not appointed as the successor of any of the others, and who did not have any distinctive assignment except to be an apostle to the Gentiles, as the others were to the Jews, and he was appointed for the same purpose, to testify that Jesus Christ was alive, and that he had seen him after he rose from the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:8; 9:1; Acts 22:8,9,14,15; Acts 9:15; Acts 26:17,18). The ministers of religion, therefore, are successors of the apostles, but not in their unique office as witnesses, but as preachers of the word; appointed to establish, to organize, and to edify and rule the churches. The special Work of the apostleship ceased with their death. The ordinary work of the ministry, which they held in common with all others who preach the gospel, will continue to the end of time.

It is remarkable, and I want to mention how the first chapter of Acts brings the four Gospels to a focal point. Matthew concludes with the Resurrection, Mark with the Ascension, Luke with the promise of the Holy Spirit, and John with the promise of the Second Coming. The first chapter of Acts brings all four gospels together and mentions each of them. The four Gospels funnel into Acts, and Acts is the bridge between the Gospels and the Epistles.

 


 

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