The study of Scripture may at times be confusing. In the case of Acts 1:12-26, there are several different views. It is important that as we study such difficult passages that we compare scripture with scripture and that we rely upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The main issue here is the choosing of Matthias to be numbered with the original twelve apostles. To begin with, we must define what an apostle is and what qualifies one to be an apostle. An apostle is one who is chosen to be a messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that sense, we are all called to be apostles. However, we should refrain from using such terminology in order to not cause confusion. Though we are all called to be messengers of Jesus, the office of an apostle is totally different. We must make it clear that there are no apostles today. Anyone who claims to hold the office of an apostle is a farce. The qualifications of an apostle are seen in verse 22 of our text. It must be one who was with Jesus from the baptism of John the Baptist to the ascension of Jesus. He must also be one who is an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ. The purpose of the 12 apostles was to provide a witness to the 12 tribes of Israel. Later on, Paul claims to be an apostle, however, he never claimed to be one of the 12. Paul was an apostle to Gentiles. Now that a witness or testimony of the resurrection of Christ has been provided to both the Jews and the Gentiles, there is no need for apostles today.
As a new Apostle is chosen to replace Judas, we have an example of how a local church today should decide on choosing a pastor or other church leaders.
There must be unity (v. 14). Think about the number of people that went to that upper room to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. According to verse 15, there were 120 people present. Think about those who were there. There were many different people with many different backgrounds and perspectives. Peter was the leader of the group, however, he was the very one that denied Christ three times! Thomas, the doubter would have also been there. There could have easily been a lot of finger pointing and blaming and division, but there was none. They were in complete unity. My friend, before a congregation can make a major decision such as choosing a pastor or other leaders, there must be unity. I believe that we have a responsibility to keep the unity of the church, if at all possible. Let’s say a church is choosing a new pastor, there must be unity. I have served as a lead pastor in four different churches. Two of those four I received 100% of the vote. In the other two, there were less than five that voted no. I would not accept a call to pastor a church unless the church was united in bringing me there. There must be unity. I also try to practice such a pursuit of unity as a pastor. For example, if I have an idea about something that would make a major change in the church, I always consult the deacons of the church and sometimes other individuals. If I do not have a consensus, I do not move forward. In one church, I presented an idea to relocate the church to a new property that would have provided double the space we had, a house, and over 20 acres of land. The current property was completely land-locked and the building could barely seat 100 people. The property could have been purchased with cash that the church had. I thought it was a great idea and really believed that the Lord was in it. However, when I presented the idea to church leaders, I had 2 trustees for it and 2 against and 2 deacons for it and 2 against. I told those men that we would table the issue and keep praying and that we would not present the idea to the church unless we were all united. I could have been stubborn and pushed for it anyways. However, no matter how wonderful it would have been, it was not worth splitting the church over. My friend, when it comes to making major decisions in the life of the church, there must be unity.
There must be prayer (v. 14). Let me ask you: do you pray for your church? Do you pray for God to give a united vision? Do you pray for unity? Do you pray for wisdom? When an idea or a suggestion is brought to the table, do you pray about it before you decide? The pastor and staff must be men of prayer. The deacons and trustees must be men of prayer. Ministry directors must be people of prayer. The congregation of the church should have such confidence in the leadership that they know that whatever is presented, it has been fervently prayed for and everyone involved is confident that what is being decided is the will of the Lord. Not just the leaders, but, the church as a whole must be people of prayer. Everyday we should be praying for the increase of the church. Everyday we should be praying for wisdom and direction from the Lord. Everyday we should be praying for a united vision and purpose. If we are all people of pray and people of the Word, then there will always be unity in everything that we do.
There must be a collective decision (v. 26). Now, casting lots was common in that day. Basically, they would right names on rocks and put them in an urn. The first one to fall out is the one that they chose. This may or may not be the practice seen here. It could have been that everyone wrote down the name they voted for and then put those in the urn and cast the lots. Either way, the principle here is that there was an agreed upon method of making a decision. The principle here is that major decisions in a church should be decided on by the congregation. It should not be left to one person or one group of people. Some churches, the pastor makes all the decisions, this not a good practice. Yes, the pastor should play a leading role and there are some day to day decisions that the pastor makes on his own, however, major church decisions should not be made solely by the pastor. Some churches, a board of elders makes all the decisions. This also is unbiblical. Major decisions should not be made by one certain group. Some churches, everything must go through the deacons. This also is not a good practice. Some churches, the congregation votes on everything including who comes to preach revival meetings and whether or not we put in a new ceiling fan or change a light bulb. This type of church governance is both unrealistic and divisive. The proper way of church government is for the leaders of the church to bring to the church body any major decisions with there recommendation and have the church give an up or down vote. A pastor led, staff executing, deacon supporting, and congregational approving church is the only proper way of church governance. There must be leadership, yes. But, there also must be checks and balances and prayerful decisions made by the collective church body.
Matthias is the one chosen to be the apostle to replace Judas. The entire process was a perfect display of unity, prayer, and proper decision making. May we as a church have the same unity and purpose as was seen in those early days recorded in the book of Acts.