“What is an apostle?” This is an important question to answer because many people in Christendom claim that there are apostles for today or at least claim that some enjoy what is called the spiritual gift of apostleship. Over the course of my next couple posts or so, I hope to give a brief understanding of how Scripture describes and defines apostles and whether or not there is a gift called apostleship. A great place to start is Acts 1:21–26.
To give a dash of context, after the suicide of Judas Iscariot, Peter addressed the matter of finding a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15–20). In doing so, he laid out two requirements for who this replacement apostle should be (Acts 1:21–22), and the subsequent prayer of the people (cf. Acts 1:15) revealed a third requirement as well (1:24–25). Acts 1:21–26 begins with the words of Peter:
“21 ‘So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:21–26)
The requirements that can be gathered are as follows:
- The candidate was required to be someone who followed Jesus during his entire earthly ministry, beginning from Jesus’ baptism by John to Jesus’ ascension into heaven (1:21–22a).
- The candidate was required to have seen Jesus after His resurrection (1:22b).
- The candidate needed to have been appointed by the Lord Jesus himself (1:24–25).
While the first two requirements are fairly straightforward, the third is not. Some question the wisdom of the Christians’ use of lots to decide between Justus and Matthias, but my understanding is that the Lord (i.e., the Lord Jesus; cf. Acts 1:21) providentially allowed the use of lots to appoint the replacement for Judas. The Christians were led by the eleven and prayed to the Lord Jesus that He would reveal to them the apostle He had already chosen (Acts 1:24). In this way, it could be said that, just as Jesus had personally appointed the other apostles (Mark 3:13–19), so also did He appoint Matthias through the casting of lots.
Luke’s description of Matthias’ appointment showed that the early Christians accepted this choice as the Lord’s mind on the matter: “he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). Later reference to “the twelve” assume Matthias’s legitimacy as an apostle as well (Acts 6:2).
I’ll say more next week.