Were the disciples right to choose Matthias, the replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26)? Opinions differ. Some think the disciples were wrong to pick Judas’ replacement, while others accept their decision. Was Peter acting recklessly to propose replacing Judas? Or is there Scriptural basis for his decision?
I believe there are at least two reasons to accept the disciples’ decision to select a replacement for Judas and to accept Matthias as that replacement.
The first reason is the Scriptural precedent Peter cites. He quotes the 69th and 109th Psalms to support his decision. Psalm 69 is clearly a Messianic Psalm, as verses 4 and 9 point ahead to Jesus’ enemies hating him without cause and His cleansing of the Temple, respectively. Jumping down to verse 21, we see a reference to the Crucifixion, prophesying of the gall and vinegar Jesus was offered while on the Cross (Matt. 27:34). The Psalmist then prays for judgment against God’s enemies in verses 22-28. Peter quotes verse 25, applies the oracle therein to Judas, and combines it with Psalm 109:8 – another imprecatory prayer – to support seeking someone to take the office Judas left. In short, Peter sees Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (including surrounding events, such as Judas’ betrayal, his suicide consequently leaving his office as Apostle vacant, and another taking his place) as fulfilments of prophecy (see Acts 1:16-17, 20).
The second reason that proves, in my opinion, the disciples’ choice valid is the way they go about making the selection. They sought the Lord’s will through two methods:
- Prayer. They acknowledged the decision was not theirs but God’s when they said, “Lord,…shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship…” (Acts 1:24-25).
- Casting lots. Opponents of their decision believe the casting of lots is like leaving the decision to chance, akin to gambling. Yes, it was practiced by pagans (ex. Jonah 1:7; Matthew 27:35), but casting lots was also an approved method of seeking God’s will in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 16:8 and Joshua 18:6, 8 and 10). Additionally, Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” The disciples are submitting to the will of God.*
Detractors of the decision also say that since the Holy Spirit had not yet come on Pentecost, He could not have been leading the disciples’ thinking here. While it is true that Pentecost had not yet arrived, Jesus, while He was with them, breathed on them, imparting the Spirit to them (John 20:22). On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit filled the disciples and empowered them to testify of Jesus, according to Acts 1:8.
Those who are against the decision to choose Matthias believe the disciples should have waited, and if they had done so, Paul would have taken the office of Apostle which Judas left. But Paul could not have been that replacement for a couple of reasons, in my opinion.**
The first reason is because Paul was not converted until either later that same year or the following year (historical chronologies differ). Those in disagreement say the disciples, in choosing a replacement, were taking wrongful action when Jesus told them to wait. But the reason the disciples were waiting was primarily for the incoming and infilling of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that Christ had promised (Luke 24:49), not necessarily to appoint another apostle, which Jesus did not forbid. The second, perhaps weaker, reason is because Paul did not meet the criteria set forth in Acts 1:21-22, i.e. Paul had not been a follower of Jesus from the time of His Baptism to His Ascension. Paul realizes this and acknowledges it, as he writes, “And last of all he (Jesus) was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:8-9).
The reasons I provided above are why I believe the disciples, led by Peter, made the right decision in choosing a replacement for Judas and in designating Matthias as that replacement. Peter acts calmly, thoughtfully, and I believe Scripturally, in this matter.
Poll: What do you think? Was the decision to choose a replacement the right one or not?
Do you agree or disagree? Were the disciples right or wrong to pick a replacement for Judas? Feel free to leave your reasoning in the comments section.
* It should be noted just because the disciples practiced the casting of lots in this case, it does not mean we should practice it today. We now have the complete, sufficient Word of God and can discover God’s will by reading and studying Scripture. We no longer have to resort to casting lots.
** The purpose of this is not to question Paul’s Apostleship. We accept Paul as an Apostle and his writings as authoritative Scripture.