The Expository Files


"Let Another Take His Office"
Matthias Becomes a Chosen Eyewitness

Acts 1:15-26


Jesus commanded his disciples to "stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). After the Lord's ascension they returned to Jerusalem, and waited for the promise. These apostles spent most of their time in prayer as they awaited the events to come, and were joined by other disciples including the women, Jesus' mother and his brothers (including James and Jude who would write two of the books of the New Testament). The number of them was about 120. (Acts 1:13-15).

It was decided that one would be selected to take Judas' place. We simply are not told why they decided to do this, or how they decided the means of doing this. Perhaps it was according to Jesus' instructions, since it was Jesus who personally selected all His apostles. This is a very unusual case when it comes to appointing an apostle, but the Bible is very plain about Jesus being the One who selected them, and this is even true with Paul later, so it is probably the case that Jesus selects this apostle through these means.

A New Apostle Chosen
Peter spoke to the others concerning Judas (Acts 1:15-26). Judas had betrayed the Lord by becoming a guide to those who arrested Jesus for the sum of thirty pieces of silver. Following the arrest of Jesus, Judas very, very quickly grew to regret what he had done and committed suicide a short time later. This betrayal had been prophesied by the mouth of David. (Acts 1:16). Concerning the betrayer if was said, "Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it" (Acts 1:20; Ps. 69:25). This prophecy, while speaking of Judas, is not about "Judas alone, but of the enemies of the Messiah in general, of which Judas was one" (Barnes).

Shortly after Judas had left Jesus and the apostles to go and get the armed men of the high priest in order to lead them back to Jesus, Jesus prayed, "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled." (John 17:12).

Additionally, it was prophesied, "Let another take his office" (Acts 1:20; Psalm 109:8). In this Psalm, David was saying that his enemy is unworthy of his office and that it should be given to another, applying it to one of his own enemies about nine centuries before Christ. However, the application of David's words by Peter was that Judas was unworthy of his office, and that it should be given to another, just like David has said centuries before.

So, one was selected to replace Judas. He first had to meet some very certain and definite qualifications. It was to be a man (vs. 20,21).

Also, it had to be a man who accompanied the other apostles "all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us" (Acts 1:21, 22).

Finally, he had to be a witness of the resurrection of Jesus.

There were two "candidates" to take the place of the twelfth apostle. They were Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus and Matthias.

The selection: process began with a prayer to Jesus the Lord: "And they prayed and said, 'You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place'" (Acts 1:24, 25).

Then, they cast lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. This was whom the Lord selected.

The Scripture Must Be Fulfilled
I do not know if you have noticed this, but there is a great appeal to the Old Testament prophecies in this section of Scripture, for both the utter ruin of Judas as well as the rising of one to take his place. The Scripture must be fulfilled. "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus." (Acts 1:16).

Much of the time Jesus had spent with His apostles following the resurrection was explaining how He had and was fulfilling them. Later, Peter would explain, "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;" (Acts 3:18-19).

Jesus Himself spent the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension preparing His apostles, a part of which included showing them how He had fulfilled the Scriptures. "Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'" Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:44-47).

Witnesses to the resurrection were essential. Jesus Himself hand picked all the apostolic witnesses, including Matthias and later Paul. Our faith rests upon both the fulfillment of Scripture as well as the eyewitnesses' testimony given in their words, deeds and sacrifices.

Both the testimony of the Old testament Scriptures as well as the eyewitness accounts of the disciples to these things work together to confirm that Jesus is the living Son of God. "And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses." (Acts 2:29-32).

In the later half of the first century, Peter makes the same point. "For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased" -- and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:17-19).

Yes, Amen! We would do well to "pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place" the things of God. Matthias' message was the same as the others: I was there. I saw Him. He was dead and is now alive. He is the Son of God!

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 15.7; July 2008