The Apostles, in obedience to the Lord’s directive had just returned to Jerusalem. Luke records that they were full of joy and went into an upper room where they continued in prayer and making intercession. It also says that they were united in this activity. All of these characteristics are those that God wants to see replicated in all of His churches, which in turn are one united holy and apostolic church. The unity with the Lord as the head of the body works at several levels. The individual believer is united with the Lord. Where two or three are gathered in His name, He is united with them in their midst. Individual congregations are to be united in the Lord. Finally, all His churches are one in Him as a body.
It is also apparent that these believers which numbered at this point about one hundred and twenty persons also spent time in the study of the Scripture. Jesus stressed over and over its importance and that Scripture everywhere testifies of Him, His Incarnation, suffering, death resurrection, and return as judge of all. The DNA of a living church is one of a church which believes and studies the Scripture. We know that they were studying the Scripture in that when the report came about Judas’ suicide, they knew that they needed to find a replacement for him. The study of Scripture and the understanding of them which Jesus had given them and which the Holy Spirit would continue to open to them made them realize that the church as the new Israel had to have twelve apostles, a parallel to the twelve sons and tribes of Israel.
Peter calls a business meeting to discuss the replacement of Judas. In it, he first quotes Psalm 69 which he understands as a curse upon Judas. The Scripture does not hold out any hope for Judas. Elsewhere, Judas is called the “son of destruction” which is a Hebrew way of saying that Judas was eternally lost. Peter here says he went to his own place, which the psalm says is a desolate place. In addition to this, even though Peter does not allude to it, a person who is hanged from a tree is cursed according to Scripture. It is ironic that both Jesus and Judas both suffered this accursed death. Jesus was a son of the tribe of Judah, and Judas also was probably also, as his name indicates as well as where he came from, if Kerioth is a reference to a village in the land of Judah. Jesus suffered this curse by hanging on the cross in our behalf as an offering and atonement for our sins, being crucified by the Romans at the behest of the Jewish authorities. He accomplished salvation to all who believe. He took the curse from us.
Judas, on the other part suffered the curse at his own hand. His accursed death could not even atone for his own sins, especially the sin of betraying Jesus. The suffering of Judas was for naught. So then, Jesus is the curse that leads to salvation, whereas Judas is the curse that leads to hell.
Only Luke mentions the death of Judas. And as Luke does not indiscriminately include detail, he felt it important to include parenthetical information on Judas, rather than simply saying that Judas was dead and needed to be replaced. So this material is important to us as well. Luke then records that Peter quotes another psalm, the 109th, as saying that another had to take the role of apostle which Judas held, but not the fate of Judas.
There is an interesting comparison which can be made to a passage in the Old Testament book of Judges which records a distressing war between the eleven tribes and Benjamin in which the tribe of Benjamin was nearly destroyed, and the few men that survived were not allowed to marry other Israelites because of a vow and curse that the eleven tribes had made than they would not give their daughters to Benjamin. But they realized how foolish their vow was because it would destroy on of the twelve tribes. So they allowed some of their daughters to be kidnapped in order that the Benjaminites would not be obliterated from Israel. In this the importance of having twelve tribes was in the minds of Israel.
What can be seen is the importance of having twelve apostles. One of the twelve was decimated from the ranks and had to be replaced. This shows that the Christian church is the true Israel. At this point, they were all Jews, the remnant which had been called out of earthly Israel. Soon the vision of who Israel is in the mind of God would appear when the Word of God would go out to the Gentiles who were considered by the Jews to be most accursed. The promise to Abraham was that he would be the father of many nations, not just Israel. This promise was made before Jacob was born and therefore took precedence.
A meeting to discuss the replacement of Judas was undertaken in this same spirit of unity, prayer, joy, and the study of Scripture that the apostles and the others in the assembly were undertaking. They discussed the qualifications for Judas’ replacement. In this united spirit, they concluded that it was the Lord’s will that this person be an eyewitness of what Jesus began to do and teach from the beginning of His earthly ministry until the end at the ascension of Jesus. The two candidates who were there, Justus and Matthias, who were presented as meeting this qualification are otherwise unknown to us. But they must have meet these qualifications.
As this was a most important decision, the eleven felt unqualified to decide between the two. They could not of themselves call one to ministry, especially one which would involve so much danger. Only the Lord can make the call. The most that the prayerful assembly of the church can do is to affirm this calling by making sure these persons called to ministry are indeed called. So lots were cast in which it would be left to the Lord by these means to decide the matter.
We might at first think that it is questionable to decided matters by what today is a roll of the dice or the flipping of a coin. This is because we who arrogantly call ourselves “modern” see this as leaving the matter to chance. But this was not the case in the ancient world. The Old Testament shows that lots were indeed cast to decide matters. The difference between now and then is that the ancient Israelite believed that God was Sovereign and in control of how the casting of the lot would be resolved. In other words, they were cast in faith. Us moderns think it a matter of fate or physics. We think the outcome could be determined by understanding how the lot was held, how it was cast, and having knowledge of the terrain upon which it landed. So it would seem to us to be left to fate or to chance.
Matthias was chosen by the united assembly which had joyfully met in prayer, intercession, and study of the Scripture. In other words, this business meeting was conducted in the spirit of worship. This should serve as a model of how we conduct church business meetings today. But is joy a way of describing church business meetings today. Of course we always pray before the meeting, but this prayer is often perfunctory, a mere formality. We formally want to invoke and include God in our decision making. But the reality of this matter is that we make the decisions for the church all too often in the same way a business makes decisions. In other words, the meeting and agenda a pretty much cut and dried.
The problem with such meetings is that there is often a division of opinion on such manners. Many a church split has occurred over a business meeting. This is because we tend to determine what God wants and what the church needs without consulting the proper, authority, the Lord of the Church. Instead of joy, meetings are either dull, stressful, or both. Where there is division in such a meeting, a call to prayer is in order. I have heard of deacon meetings in which in calling a new pastor, the vote was 10 to 9 in favor, which indicates a serious division which will cause much despair in the new pastor when this division becomes apparent. The ministry of the church suffers as a result. What makes it worse is if there is a ten to nine vote afterward to make the vote to call a pastor unanimous. This is not the unity God is looking for in His church.
We don’t know if there was a division in the assembly between those who favored Justus as compared to those who favored Matthias. I am not one who tries to speculate on such matters. The proper procedure is to trust the Lord from the very beginning rather than to call upon the Lord after impasse is reached. As primitive as casting of lots might appear, at least it leaves the decision outside of factions in the church. So long as the casting of these lots or perhaps an equivalent measure is employed in faith rather than the blind chance of a lottery, it is worth considering.
Most of all, we need to conduct our business in the same Spirit as we conduct our worship services.