The Method of Choosing Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
“Which knowest the hearts of all men”
“Which knowest the hearts of all men” is often declared to be the particular prerogative of God—“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:10; KJV). However, this attribute is also specifically ascribed to Jesus Christ—“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass… And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works” (Rev 2:18, 23; KJV).
There are strong reasons for supposing that the apostles addressed this prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ, on this occasion.
(1) The name Lord is the common title which they gave to Him—“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36; KJV). (Also see Acts 7:59, 60, 10:36; 1 Corinthians 2:8; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 11:8.)
(2) We are told that they worshipped him, or afforded him divine honors after his ascension—“And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52; KJV).
(3) The disciples were accustomed to address him after his crucifixion by the names Lord or God—“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6; KJV). (Also see John 20:28; Acts 7:59.)
This was a matter pertaining especially to the church which the Lord Jesus had redeemed, and to the instructions He had given them about how it was to be administered. He had chosen the apostles; he had given them their commission; he had fixed their number at twelve; and what is worthy of special mention here, he had been the companion of both men, and knew their qualifications for the work they must do. If the apostles ever called on the Lord Jesus after his ascension, this was the case in which they would be likely to do it. One evidence that they called on the Lord Jesus is the account of the death of Stephen—“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59-60; KJV).And in this important matter of ordaining a new apostle to be a witness for Jesus Christ, nothing was more natural than that they would address him, though bodily absent, as they would have done if he were present. And if on this occasion they did in fact address Christ, then two things clearly follow. First, that it is appropriate to pay him Divine homage, in accordance to the uniform declarations of the Scriptures. “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father…” (John 5:23; KJV). “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb 1:6; KJV). (Also see Philippians 2:10, 11; Revelation 5:8-14; 1 Thessalonians 3:11, 12.). Secondly, he must be Divine. Religious homage can only be given to God, and no one or nothing else can be described as knowing the hearts of all men. The reason why they appealed to him on this occasion as the Searcher of the heart was without question the great importance of the work to which the successor of Judas was to be called. One apostle of decent external character had proved to be a traitor; and in view of this fact, they appealed to the Savior himself, to select one who would be true to Him, and not bring dishonor to His cause.
shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
They wanted to know which of these two men God had chosen, and then they will be satisfied. It is fitting for God to choose His own servants; and regardless of how He goes about showing us whom he has chosen, or what he has chosen, for us, we ought to abide by His decision.
Observe, that they do not pray, “Show us which one you will choose,” as if they must reflect upon it with the Lord before the choice is final; but, “show which one of these two thou hast chosen.” They describe the office they desire the Lord to fill, as the “ministry and apostleship from which Judas, by transgression, fell, that he might go to his own place” (see verse 25). He had been in a place of which he proved himself unworthy, and now they have no hesitation in referring to the fact that he had now gone to his own place. That place is, of course, the place to which hypocrites go after death. This is a simple prayer to the Lord, and it is appropriate for the petition they are about to present; then the petition itself briefly expressed (see verse 25), and the prayer is concluded. So brief a prayer, on any occasion in this age of “long-winded” talkers, would hardly be recognized as a prayer at all, so liable are men to believe the delusion that they will be heard for their much speaking.
25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
They are ready to receive him as a brother whom God hath chosen. They are not scheming to become more important, by preventing another from joining them in apostleship, but rather, they want someone to “take part of this ministry and apostleship,” to join with them in the work and share with them in the honour, “from which Judas by transgression fell,” because he deserted and betrayed his Master. He fell “from the place” of an apostle, of which he was unworthy, and then he went “to his own place,” the place of a traitor, the place where he belonged; we might send him to the gallows, but God consigned him to hell—this was his own place. Note that those who betray Christ fall from the dignity of having a relationship with Him into disgrace and misery. It is said of Balaam (Num. 24:25) that he went to his own place, that is, says one of the rabbis, he went to hell. To quote Ignatius, “There is appointed to every man a proper place, which corresponds with God’s rendering to every man according to his works. And our Savior had said with regard to Judas that “it had been better for him that he had never been born” (Mt. 26:24)—his misery would be worse than not existing. Judas had been a hypocrite, and hell is the proper place for them; other sinners are fellow-inmates, and have their portion with them, “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 24:51; KJV).
This verse has been explained in various ways:
1. Some presume that the words, “that he might go to his own place,” are directed to Judas, and his punishments in hell, which they say must be the place where persons like Judas, are confined.
2. Others believe they refer to the purchase of the field for the thirty pieces of silver, the price for which he had sold our Lord. Consequently, he abandoned the ministry and apostleship, so that he might go to his own place, namely, that which he had purchased.
3. Others, with better manners, state that his own place means his own house or former occupation; he left this ministry and apostleship in order to resume his former employment and spend more time with his family, etc. This is primarily the meaning of it in Numbers 24:25: “And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place,” i.e. to his own country, friends, and employment.
4. Others think it simply means the state of the dead in general, independent of either rewards or punishments; which is probably what is meant by Ecclesiastes 3:20: “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”
5. Others say these words apply to Matthias, meaning that he might go to his own place, that is, to a place for which he was fitted or well qualified—the place formally held by Judas. The objections to this interpretation are several:
a. The apostolic office could not be properly applied to Matthias until it was actually conferred on him.
b. There is no instance in which the expression, to go to his own place, is applied to a successor in office.
c. It is not true that the reason why Judas fell was to make way for another. He fell because of his crimes and enormous wickedness.