The Replacement (Acts 1:20b-26)

And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:26, AV)

Theologians have debated the selection of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot as an Apostle. The debate revolves around two key points. First, since Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4), were they premature in this selection? Associated with this, as we see no specific instruction by the Lord to choose a replacement, should they even have sought a replacement at all? Secondly, was their method of selection correct in that they decided to use a method of chance by casting lots?  

Their rationale for seeking a replacement seems to be associated with their view of the Messianic kingdom. It is significant that there were twelve original Apostles. Jesus indicated that the twelve would judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:30). Remember that on the hearts of these men was the thought of the future Messianic kingdom and that they were taking their witness of the resurrection of Israel’s Messiah, primarily, to the Jewish people. As they prayed in the upper room, this thinking may have been at the core of Peter’s and their decision.

The casting of lots for making decisions is another perplexing concept. However, we see the casting of lots for making decisions in the Old Testament (See for example, Leviticus 16:9-10; Joshua 18:11; 1 Chronicles 24:7; 25:8-9; 26:14). Moreover, Proverbs seems to validate this method of deciding as it combines with the Lord’s sovereignty. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:33, AV)

However, the casting of lots was also a practice of the Gentile world. The Gentiles world often cast lots in the practice of divination (for example Jonah 1:7). From that standpoint it can hardly seem acceptable. Moreover, after the Holy Spirit comes to the church at Pentecost, we find no further mention of the church using the casting of lots to make their decisions. From that point forward, the examples of directing decisions come from the leadership of the Lord by His Spirit.

In this instance, the disciples demonstrated some key and positive steps in making decisions. First, we must seek to understand the Sovereign program of the Lord, as the disciples did, thinking about the Messianic kingdom. Second, we must pray together in seeking direction (v14). Third, we must seek the Scriptures in this process (v16, 20). Fourth, we should prayerfully think through the criteria for our decisions as they did in seeking men who had witnessed Christ and His resurrection (v21-23). Fifth, we should continue in prayer prior to making the final decision (v24-25). Sixth, we must trust God in His sovereignty over our decisions (v26).

However, we must question the use of chance in their decision-making process, at least at it relates to us in this church-age. in this age, the Holy Spirit seeks to lead believers and the church in life and life’s decisions. We must seek the leading of the Spirit of God and not adopt the practices of chance for making our decisions.

One final thought is this. In the realm of God’s sovereignty, He ultimately has all things under complete control. God is still on the throne and His sovereign plan is moving forward perfectly according to His will. Whether their methods were correct or not, Matthias’s selection fell within the sovereignty of God. There is no possible way for man to thwart the sovereign decrees of God.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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