Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
Our prior lessons this week have all been from Acts 1. Join us for this textual study of the latter half of the same chapter.

"And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 'Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus: "for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry."' (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.) 'For it is written in the Book of Psalms: "Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it"; and, "Let another take his office"'" (Acts 1:15-20).

While the apostles waited in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and when over one hundred other followers of Christ were gathered with them, the apostle Peter addressed the entire group. He declared that the Spirit had spoken before "by the mouth of David concerning Judas" (Acts 1:16). Before considering what David wrote that applied to Judas, let us first note an important principle of inspiration. What was true for David was also true for the other prophets--the Holy Spirit spoke through their mouths. In other words, the prophets did not originate their own prophecies but were moved by the Spirit of truth to record certain matters (cf. II Pet. 1:20,21). For the Spirit to speak by the mouth of a prophet does not mean that the concepts or ideas addressed come from deity; rather, it means every word comes from God! This harmonizes well with II Samuel 23:2 where David claimed inspiration - "The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue." Likewise, the beginning of II Timothy 3:16 - "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." If a piece of writing is Scripture, then its very words are inspired or God-breathed (in the original language). So, what did David, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, prophesy about Judas Iscariot? We will get to that in a moment.

Before becoming "a guide to those who arrested Jesus" (Acts 1:16), Peter acknowledges that Judas was one of the original twelve apostles selected by the Lord (cf. Luke 6:13-16).

Acts 1:18,19 appears to be an inspired, explanatory thought inserted by the writer (Luke) and not a part of Peter's words here. The parentheses in our modern translations make this clear, but even without them the content of what is recorded could not have been uttered by Peter or any Hebrew, for that matter. Reference is made to "Akel Dama, that is Field of Blood" "in their own language" (i.e., the language of the Jewish people). Peter, as a Jew, would not refer to the Hebrew language in this way, and he likely would not define the meaning of Akel Dama. But Luke would do both of these things since he was a Gentile (cf. Col. 4:10-14) and was writing to an audience broader than the Jewish people. The field under consideration was a field of blood in two senses: (1) It was the field where Judas died a bloody death, and (2) It was a field purchased with the blood money Judas earned for his betrayal of Christ.

In this section inserted by Luke, he explains what happened to Judas after he betrayed Christ and hung himself:

These facts became well-known to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

In Acts 1:20, we see the exact references from David that Peter had in mind:

As we consider these thoughts, we must ask: How is it the case that these words from the Psalms apply to Judas? The original language obviously had an application to David's time, but the Spirit saw an ultimate fulfillment in the circumstances related to Judas. The Holy Spirit is now bringing this to light through Peter. Many Old Testament prophecies have a dual fulfillment like this.

"Therefore of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, 'You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.' And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:21-26).

Peter notes two qualifications that had to be met by the individual who would replace Judas. First, such a one was required to have accompanied Jesus and the other apostles during His earthly ministry (i.e., from John's baptism until Jesus' ascension; cf. John 15:27). Such a one would be viewed as more reliable than another who had only been around Jesus a short time. Second, Judas' replacement had to be able to serve as a witness of Christ's resurrection. One who hadn't seen the risen Christ personally was not able to be a true witness for Jesus. But, one who had seen and was willing to tell others about it could serve as a witness. He could prove that Jesus was the risen Messiah (which is the foundation of Christianity; cf. I Cor. 15:17)! Although no one today can be a true witness as an apostle could, we have been given the responsibility to preach and teach the word of God (cf. II Tim. 4:2; Mark 16:15).

Joseph and Matthias were two men proposed who both met these qualifications. Had others also met both qualifications, they probably would have been suggested also. The apostles prayed to the "Lord" that His will would be done in naming a replacement for Judas. The Lord, "who knows the hearts of all," was best qualified to make this decision. After all, He had initially selected Judas and He would now replace him. Thus, the apostles did not vote or choose their favorite personally. They turned it over to the Lord via the casting of lots (cf. Prov. 16:33). Details regarding how they cast lots are not given, though some have likened it to modern day practices of flipping a coin or rolling a die. The Lord guided the process so that Matthias was chosen. Interestingly enough, this is the last mention of Matthias in the New Testament! Surely he did great things as a witness for the Lord, but we simply have no written record of such. Also, it should be noted that there is no record of the other apostles (who were typically martyred) being replaced (and there was plenty of opportunity for such, especially after the apostle James' death in Acts 12:2). Contrary to the claims of some, there is no such thing as apostolic succession in our world today. Matthias was a one-time replacement, not a successor to a "perpetual office." Besides, no one living today can meet the qualifications detailed in this section of text.

Is it not a sobering thought to think of God's intimate knowledge of our hearts? We may be able to fool others, but not the Lord! Nothing can be hidden from Him. Again, this underscores why He should select a replacement for Judas, the one who fell from his position as an apostle through sin (and went to "his own place"--eternal destruction). God would certainly know the better candidate between Joseph and Matthias.

It is true that the use of the term "Lord" in Acts 1:24 is ambiguous and could refer to either the Father or Jesus. So, who did the apostles pray to on this occasion? The immediate context (cf. 1:21) suggests they were addressing Jesus with this petition, which is reasonable since He selected the initial twelve. However, the wider context (cf. 4:24,29,30) shows an example of Christians addressing the Father in prayer via the term "Lord." More can be said in favor on either position, but such is beyond our scope presently. Suffice it to say that the apostles prayed to deity, and their prayer was heard!

Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.