Acts 1 begins with an introduction from the writer, Luke. Originally a two-volume piece called “Luke-Acts” (10 points for originality), these books are a biography; Luke is a biographical account of Jesus and his ministry while Acts is a biographical account of the early church.
Picking up where Luke ends, we see Jesus give final instructions to the remaining 11 apostles. They are to return to Jerusalem and await the “gift”- the Holy Spirit to baptize them after which they are to be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. Jumping ahead, Acts ends with Paul in a Roman prison, presenting the gospel there, thus fulfilling the promise of Christ about just how far the gospel would spread. This leaves us with 28 chapters of content to wrestle through and determine what, and how, this matters to us today. Is the text merely biography, telling us what happened? Or, is it instructive, telling us what, and how we are to live today?
The apostles return to Jerusalem and after time in prayer, they gathered the believers (there were about 120) together and in a brilliant re-contextualization of the Old Testament, Peter uses the words of David from Psalm 69 and 109 tells them that the place of Judas needed to be replaced. The replacement had to be someone who had been with them since the beginning, from Jesus’ baptism to when he was taken up (Acts 1:9) because ultimately, an apostle was a “witness…of his resurrection” (1:22b). There were two men named, Joseph aka Barsabbas aka Justus and Matthias. There was a prayer offered and lots cast.
In biblical times, a “lot” might have been rocks of various sizes, sticks of various lengths or something like that. We might think of it like a coin toss.
Some thoughts (and a question):
- both men were qualified to replace Judas (which may not have been all that high of a standard if you stop to think about it)
- there was prayer before
- the lots were cast and Matthias chosen
- this was the LAST mention of the casting of lots in the New Testament, so we can see that this practice did NOT continue for the choosing of leaders
- I think a valid question would be, “I wonder why they needed exactly 12 disciples?” and I love to hear thoughts on it especially in light of the fact that Paul later becomes one
I would say that the casting of lots for the choosing of leadership, specifically apostleship, was a descriptive practice, not to be repeated. A key to this is knowing that it’s not repeated.