My wife and I finished our reading of Deuteronomy the other night. Like the other books of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy’s not the easiest of reading, especially if you don’t have any Bible aids. As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses repeated the Law to them, requiring their obedience but also emphasizing trust in the Lord. Moses, personifying the Law, was not allowed to enter the Promised Land himself. It was left to Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus (“Jehova saves”) to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, one of my favorite foreshadowings of Christ in the Old Testament.
Last night, in preparation for our journey into our next study, the Acts of the Apostles, I did a deep dive (at least for me) into the first chapter accompanied by my Bible dictionary, two commentaries, and concordance and I came across some interesting information that I’d like to share.
In chapter one, in the opening verses, the apostles witness the ascension of Jesus into Heaven and then return to Jerusalem and wait to receive the Holy Spirit as Jesus had commanded them. In verses 15-22, while still waiting for the Holy Spirit, Peter, always an impetuous fellow, proposes to the 120 believers gathered in the upper room, that they must choose an apostolic replacement for Judas Iscariot. Two men are nominated, Joseph-Barsabbas-Justus and Matthias. A prayer is said, lots are cast, and the lot falls to Matthias, so he is chosen as Judas’s replacement in vs. 26. but that’s the very last time we read of him.
I’ve read this chapter many times previously and always accepted it pretty much at face value as written, but John MacArthur and J. Vernon McGee had some interesting observations in their commentaries. First, MacArthur observes that this was the last instance of the casting of lots by believers in the Bible. He writes, the casting of lots was “a common OT method of determining God’s will” that was “made…unnecessary” by the “coming of the Spirit.”
So should Peter have waited for the Holy Spirit rather than plowing forward?
In his commentary, J. Vernon McGee proposes the selection of Matthias was possibly an error, that the apostles should have waited for the Holy Spirit and His leading on this matter rather than forging ahead. He suggests that the Lord subsequently chose His own replacement for Judas by selecting Saul/Paul, “an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Gal. 1:1).
But the opponents of the “Paul over Matthias” viewpoint say the twelve apostles were chosen to eventually reign over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt.19:28) as opposed to Paul, who was distinctly chosen to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom.11:13). Paul didn’t meet the apostles’ criterion for apostleship but did the Lord have His own criterion?
McGee presents his argument as his own personal conviction and obviously not as essential dogma. It’s an interesting viewpoint and I’d be interested to hear if others have come across it as well. This situation with the differing opinions on the Matthias-Paul question is probably “old news” to many of you but it was the first time I had encountered it.