The Method of Choosing Part 1

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

June 3, 2013
Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

Topic #I: Introduction to the Beginning of the Church, Acts 1.1-1.26
Subtopic B: The Lord Re-Establishes 12 Apostles (Acts 1:12-26)
Secondary Topic 2: The Motion of Peter to Choose Another Apostle (Acts 1.15-26)

Lesson I.B.2.c: The Method of Choosing
Scripture: Acts 1.23-26

Acts 1.23-26 (KJV)
23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed, Justus, and Matthias.
24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
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.
26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.


23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

And they appointed two,
This passage concerns the nomination and election of the person who was to take Judas place among the twelve. Two men, who were known to have been faithful followers of Christ, and men of great integrity, were nominated as candidates for the position. Their names were probably put up by the hundred and twenty (Peter is addressing the hundred and twenty in this chapter), and not by the eleven or the seventy. However these two were probably chosen from among the seventy disciples; and, that means they were well prepared to hold the office of Apostle. It is likely that the disciples themselves were divided over which of these two was the best qualified and therefore they put the matter in God’s hands, or at least they thought they did when they prayed that He would decide the outcome when they cast lots. Only two candidates were presented; probably because they were outstanding Christians and had been personally acquainted with our Lord, or they were better qualified for the work of an apostle than any of the rest; but they were so nearly equal in qualifications, that they could not determine which man was the best person for the office.

Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
“Joseph called Barsabas” is someone who has generated a great deal of conjecture concerning his identity. It is not known for certain what the name Barsabas means, if anything. The Syriac word bar means son, and the word sabas has been translated an oath, rest, quiet, or captivity. Why the name was given to Joseph is not known; but it was probably the family name-Joseph son, of Sabas.

Paul adds that this “Joseph called Barsabas” was a person “Who was surnamed Justus.” This is a Latin name, meaning just, and was probably given to him on account of his notable integrity. It was not uncommon among the Jews for a man to have several names—“Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus” (Matt 10:3; NKJV). This Joseph could be that Jesus who is called Justus, whom Paul speaks of in Colossians—“And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me” (Col 4:11; KJV).He is said to be of the circumcision, a native Jew, who was a fellow-worker with Paul in the kingdom of God and a comfort to him.

Some manuscripts read Joses Barnabas, making him the same Joses Barnabas mentioned in Acts 4:36—“And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus.” His name was Joses; but the apostles due to some feature of his character called him Barnabas, which means “the son of exhortation.” He is said to belong to the sacred tribe of Levi, and he lived on a famous Mediterranean island called Cyprus. Later on, he and Paul would carry the gospel there. This is the first mention of this celebrated companion of Paul's. He next appears on a mission to Antioch—“Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch” (Acts 11:22; NKJV).

One commentator (Lightfoot) supposes that this man was the son of Alpheus, and brother of James the Less, and that he was chosen on account of his relationship to the family of the Lord Jesus. Some think this Joseph is the man who is called Joses in Mark’s gospel—“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him” (Mark 6:3; KJV). This James, who was also called James the Less, was the brother or cousin of Jesus—“There were also women looking on afar off: among

whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome” (Mark 15:40; KJV).

And Matthias.
Nothing is known of the family of this man, or of his character. All we can say for sure is that he was the one who took Judas place among the apostles and shared their lot in life—in the toils, and persecutions, and honors of preaching the gospel to mankind. Joseph and Matthias were both admirable men, and well qualified for the office, so much so that they could not tell which of them was the best man for the position, but all agreed it must be one of these two. They did not submit their own names or promote their own qualifications, but instead, they humbly sat still and were appointed to it.
It should be observed that, though he came short of being an apostle, Joseph did not leave the ministry, but was very useful in a lower position, which confirms the verse where it says, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets?”

24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

And they prayed,
A momentous decision was about to be made. They could not decide who should replace Judas. Immediately the disciples began praying, seeking the will of the Lord. Specifically, they asked the Father to show them which of the two candidates He had already chosen. They decided to cast lots with the understanding that the one upon whom the lot fell was the Lord's choice. The reason that they did not make the selection themselves was evidently because they thought it was only right for the Lord to do it, since He had chosen Judas, and so He should choose his successor. If someone should ask why they confined the Lord’s choice to Joseph and Matthias, the most plausible answer is that, after careful examination of those present, they were the only two who possessed the qualifications named by Peter. Whether the selection of these two was made by the body of disciples, the hundred and twenty, the seventy, or by the eleven apostles alone, is unimportant. Furthermore, this event does not, as many have supposed, set a precedent for the popular election of church officers; because the selection of the two persons between whom an election was to be made, was not the election itself; and when the election took place, it was made by the Lord, and not by the disciples or the apostles. One of them cast or drew the lots, but the Lord determined on whom the lot would fall.

The prayer offered by the apostles on this occasion is a model for this type of prayer. They had a single object for which they bowed before the Lord, and they confined their words to this specific object. They do not repeat a single thought; neither do they vary from their original objective. It is a good idea to pray before undertaking any task, but especially if it involves the selection of an individual to exercise the duties of the sacred office of the ministry. It is likely that one of the apostles offered the prayer, and all those present joined in the petition.

and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men,
This is the first part of their prayer, and what gets our immediate attention is its brevity. I have often wished that I could pray like other men, who use flowery words (some of which I do not know the meaning of), and phrase after phrase to express God’s attributes and accomplishments that last for several minutes. Now, I ask you, should I pray like that or is it better to follow this example. My answer is that what you say is not nearly as important as the condition of your heart. Observe, that here they appeal to God as the searcher of hearts: "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men,” and better than they know their own, which we do not. When an apostle was to be chosen, he must be chosen by his heart; by its character and disposition. Nevertheless, Jesus, who knew all men’s hearts, chose Judas to be one of the twelve, for His wise and holy purposes. It is comforting for us to know that when we pray for the welfare of the church and its ministers, that the God to whom we pray knows the hearts of all men, and has them not only under his eye, but in his hand, and turns them whichever way He wants to, can prepare them meet the requirements of the position He has for them. And because he is the knower of hearts, he knew which of these men was the best to do the important work to which one of them was now to be appointed.

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