The Vacant Office Filled: Acts 1:21-26
“21) Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— 22) beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” 23) So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. 24) And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen 25) to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26) And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭21‬-‭26‬
This is one of those texts which at first glance seems trivial, but is actually monumental. The actions of Peter and the other Apostles in this text are often criticized as being presumptuous. The critics say they acted too quickly and Paul should have been the twelfth Apostle. I personally disagree with that opinion and believe Peter and the early leaders got it right for the following reasons.
First, Peter and the 120 had just devoted themselves to prayer for many days. If they did not discern the leading of God rightly on this action, no subsequent decision should be trusted either.
Second, there are two groups of Apostles in the New Testament. There were the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb who were all selected by Jesus prior to the Day of Pentecost (Revelation 21:14), and there was the spiritual gift of “apostle” or those “sent out” by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:11) I look at this as the missionary gift. Biblically distinguishing between the two groups is important. They are radically different.
This again begs the question; “When did the church age or the age of the indwelling Holy Spirit begin?” Most scholars agree that it was on the Day of Pentecost when the promise of the Father was poured out. The offices of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb had to be filled prior to that significant transition. Putting Matthias in office was the last major action taken prior to the Day of Pentecost. The timing was both right and very significant.
Third, the qualifications to fill the position that Judas forfeited were twofold: 1) having accompanied Jesus during His entire public ministry, 2) being a personal witness of the resurrected Christ and His ascension. (See Acts 1:21) Paul did not come close to meeting these qualifications. His name doesn’t show up in a search of disciples of Jesus Christ in the four gospels. Technically, Matthias doesn’t either, but he was well known by the Apostles. He was part of the 120 faithful followers of Jesus Christ were with him to the very end.
Forth, this position had to be filled prior to the Day of Pentecost to occupy the ministry and apostleship from which Judas had gone aside. (Acts 1:25) Their ministry was to validate the public teachings of Jesus and provide eye witness testimony of His resurrection and Ascension. Again, Paul did not meet this qualification.
Fifth, the selection by lot meant that Jesus did the selecting and appointing for this office. It was not done in haste. It followed prophetic guidance. (See Acts 1:20) Matthias was put into office prior to the Day of Pentecost. Let me emphasize again, the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb were chosen by Jesus Christ Himself. They were not sent out by the Holy Spirit as a spiritual gift after Pentecost.
Sixth, Saul was not even a believer in Jesus Christ at this time. In fact, he was about to lead an intense persecution against Jesus and the early church. He had many Christians put in prison and some put to death. (Acts 8:1-3) The conversion of Saul may have taken place two or three years after the start of the church. Then he spent time in solitude in Arabia before going up to Damascus. (Galatians 1:18) His spiritual gift as an apostle to the Gentiles was not confirmed by Peter, James and John until 14 years later. (See Galatians 2:1-10)
Seventh, Paul and Barnabas were both commissioned and sent out by the Holy Spirit from the Gentile church at Antioch. (See Acts 13:1-4) Keep in mind, the word “apostle” means “sent out.” In these verses it was clearly the Holy Spirit sending them out to carry the gospel to new regions. They immediately left for their first “missionary journey.”
Eight, both Paul and Barnabas as well as several others were referred to as “apostles” in the New Testament. (Acts 14:4, 14) These were a separate group of apostles and clearly distinguished from “The Twelve.” They were missionaries entrusted with the gospel.
The biblical evidence seems overwhelming that Peter and the 120 who prayed in the day of Pentecost got it right. The Twelve Apostles of the Lamb were in office prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the dawn of a new age.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global