Acts and Mission: Matthias

It isn’t my intention to go through every verse, or even every incident as I work through the book of Acts; I want to focus on the sorts of issues that Kouyanet generally examines; cross-cultural mission and the world church. At first glance, the appointment of Matthias as an Apostle to replace Judas wouldn’t seem to be ideal material in this sort of overview but stick with me for a moment.

If you are unfamiliar with the story you can read it in Acts 1:12-26. Generally, when people talk about this passage they highlight a couple of issues; Matthias was chosen by lot and we never hear a single word about him after this passage. I’ve heard frequently heard this used as a reason why we should not use drawing lots as a way to make decisions. While I wouldn’t advocate for it, this is to misread the passage which does make any comment about drawing lots, beyond saying that the disciples did it.

Something that I find fascinating is that the Apostles chose someone who had “been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us”. It would seem that the group of people following Jesus on a regular basis was larger than we might sometimes gather from the Gospels. However, I digress. I want to highlight two things.

Their motives were biblically based: Peter turns to the Old Testament as his basis for appointing someone to replace Judas:

‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the Book of Psalms:

‘“May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,”

and,

‘“May another take his place of leadership.” (Acts 1:20)

In passing, I find it impressive that Peter could quote verses from Psalm 69 and Psalm 109 apparently at the drop of a hat. The important thing here is that from the off, the disciples were seeking to base their practice on the teaching of Scripture. They were to face some major challenges understanding the meaning of Scripture in their new world, but they got off on a good footing. It is probably worth saying that maintaining 12 Apostles undoubtedly had a symbolic sense as it reflected the 12 tribes of Israel.

Their motives were missionally based: take a look at this short statement in verse 22: “For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection”. It was important to have another Apostle to be a witness to the resurrection! In other words to tell people about the facts of Jesus death and rising from the dead. Matthias was not appointed because the church needed another leader, someone to fill a place in the hierarchy. He was appointed to be a witness to Jesus.

Basing its praxis in the Scripture, the church in its very earliest days already saw its role as bearing witness to Jesus.

One last comment in passing: verse 15 tells us that the church numbered about 120 at this point.