The Method of Choosing Part 4
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The choice of an apostle was an important event that was likely to involve lots and would include a solemn appeal to God for his direction and guidance in a case which the apostles could not determine. The manner in which this was done is not known for certain. But the common method of casting lots was to write the names of the persons on pieces of stone, wood, etc., and to put them in an urn; and the name of the office on other pieces. These were then placed in the urn with the other pieces of stone, etc., along with pieces which were blank. The names were then drawn at random, and also the other pieces, and this determined who would be the one picked. The casting of a lot is determined by laws of nature, as consistently as anything else; it is not a matter of chance. We do not know how a die may turn up, but this does not imply that it will turn up without any regard to rule, or that the result is an accident. We cannot trace the influences which may determine either this or that side to come up; but still, it is controlled by regular and proper laws, and according to the circumstances of position, gravity, momentum, and force in which it is cast. And, although it does not imply any special or miraculous intercession of Providence, and though it may not be absolutely wrong in some cases which cannot otherwise be determined, to use the lot, yet it does not follow that it is a good idea to make this appeal often. Almost all cases where there is doubt can be determined more satisfactorily in some other way than by the lot. The habit of appealing to lot encourages one to take chances and may lead to the love of gambling games, heartbreak, jealousy, envy, strife, and dishonesty. This example of the apostles making use of lots does not authorize Christians today playing games of chance, or lotteries, which are positively evil, and often have ruinous consequences, even beyond being illegal, in some cases. They either originate in covetousness, or they promote covetousness and neglect of one’s occupation; as well as envy, jealousy, disappointment, dishonesty, bankruptcy, lies, and misery. What is won by one is lost by another, and both the winning and the losing promote some of the worst obsessions in man: boasting, triumph, self-confidence, laziness, corruption, on the one hand; and envy, disappointment, resentment, desire for revenge, remorse, and personal ruin, on the other. God intended that man should live by honest labor. All departures from this great law of our social existence lead to decline and eventually to disaster.
and the lot fell upon Matthias;
Divine will is now known; the lot fell to Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Matthias was not ordained by the laying on of hands, as preachers were since he was chosen by lot, which was the act of God; and therefore, he must be baptized and ordained, by the Holy Ghost, as they all were not many days afterward. Thus the number of the apostles was made complete at twelve which is how Jesus designed it, and afterward, when James, another of the twelve, was martyred, Paul was made an apostle.
It seems clear to me from this statement that Matthias was picked to fill the position vacated by the death of Judas, but some have held that the choice of Matthias was unauthorized and that he was never accepted as an apostle. The reasons for this view are that he is not mentioned again, and Paul was finally chosen as an apostle. To this it may be replied: (1) neither are more than half the other names in the apostolic band mentioned again; Thomas, Thaddeus, and Bartholomew, for example. (2) Paul was not an apostle to the Jews, but to the Gentiles, and consequently, he was not one of the Twelve. (3) There is no hint anywhere in Acts, or elsewhere, that the selection of Matthias was not recognized. (4) In Acts 6:2, “the twelve” are spoken of, and he must have been one of “the twelve,” because Paul was not yet converted. These facts show that such speculations as those referred to above are without foundation.
and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
“Was numbered”—“voted in” by general agreement, after casting lots.
“With the eleven apostles”—completing the divinely ordained Twelve.
“He was numbered with the eleven apostles”—The brethren agreed that the matter should be determined by lot; the lots were cast into the urn; prayer was made for God to direct the choice; one drew out a lot; the person whose name was inscribed on it was thereby declared to be the object of God's choice, and accordingly became an associate of the disciples. These twelve men became the fountains under God of the whole Christian Church, in the same way, that the twelve sons of Jacob had been the fountains of the Jewish Church. It has already been established that our Lord formed his Church on the model of the Jewish religion. The Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost, was to descend upon them and endue them with power from on high; therefore it was necessary that the number twelve would be filled up before then so that the newly elected person might also be made partaker of the heavenly gift. There is no way to know how long it was found necessary to maintain the number twelve, but history reveals that the original number was soon shattered by persecution and death.
There were several reasons for maintaining twelve apostles:
1. Matthias was chosen to fill the place vacated by Judas, and, for a specific purpose, to be a witness of the resurrection of Christ. There is no mention of any other purpose. It was not to ordain men for the ministry of the gospel, or to rule over the churches, but to be a witness to an important fact.
2. There is no indication here that it was intended that there should be successors to the apostles. Their election was for a definite purpose and was therefore temporary. The purpose was to fill up the number originally appointed by Christ. When the purpose for which he was appointed was achieved, the special function of the apostolic work ceased, of course.
3. There could be no succession in our times to the unique apostolic office. They were to be witnesses of the work of Christ. For this, they were sent into the world. And when the desired effect resulting from such a witnessing was accomplished, the office itself would cease. Therefore, there is no record that after this the church even pretended to appoint successors to the apostles to discharge their particular work. And no minister of the gospel can now pretend to be their successors.
4. The only other apostle mentioned in the New Testament is the apostle Paul, who was not appointed as the successor of any of the others, and who did not have any distinctive assignment except to be an apostle to the Gentiles, as the others were to the Jews, and he was appointed for the same purpose, to testify that Jesus Christ was alive and that he had seen him after he rose from the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:8; 9:1; Acts 22:8,9,14,15; Acts 9:15; Acts 26:17,18). The ministers of religion, therefore, are successors of the apostles, but not in their unique office as witnesses, but as preachers of the word; appointed to establish, to organize, and to edify and rule the churches. The special Work of the apostleship ceased with their death. The ordinary work of the ministry, which they held in common with all others who preach the gospel, will continue to the end of time.
It is remarkable, and I want to mention how the first chapter of Acts brings the four Gospels to a focal point. Matthew concludes with the Resurrection, Mark with the Ascension, Luke with the promise of the Holy Spirit, and John with the promise of the Second Coming. The first chapter of Acts brings all four gospels together and mentions each of them. The four Gospels funnel into Acts, and Acts is the bridge between the Gospels and the Epistles.