Last week, we began our study of the book of Acts with Jesus' command to the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We read that,
Acts 1:14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer...
This morning, we'll be finishing up chapter one, as we see what else the disciples do as they're waiting...
You remember that when the apostle Judas became bitter, he went to the chief priests and said,
Matt. 26:15-16 ..."What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.
When Judas found his opportunity, he took it. Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Judas led a large crowd to come and arrest Him.
Judas did feel remorse for what he had done when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He...
Matt. 27:3-8 ...returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, "What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
Judas went and hanged himself in the same field as was eventually purchased by the chief priests bought for a burial ground. This place would become known as Ak-el-dam-AH.
He had given up the glory that he could have had as a follower of Jesus for money that he didn't even keep. To make matters worse, after he hung himself, the rope broke, and...
Acts 1:18 ...falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.
It's like they say: No guts, no glory.
When they were gathered together praying, Simon Peter stood up and reminded the 120 believers of Judas' betrayal. He said that his understanding of Scripture (Ps. 69:25; 109:8) was that while Judas' home would remain desolate, his office of apostle needed to be filled.
The Scripture Peter quoted told them that another man should take the office which Judas had occupied. Peter determined that the office needed to be filled with a man who'd been around since the days of John's baptism, all the way through Jesus' ascension.
Two men were put forward as possibilities. Although some talk about this "limiting God's choice," the church has always - and continues to - follow "select from among you..." (Acts 6:3) men for leadership.
The two choices were Joseph and Matthias. Ultimately, Matthias was the one chosen.
A lot has been said over the years about Matthias not really being the twelfth apostle. "Paul was the 12th apostle," people vehemently assert.
But there were a lot more than 12 apostles. Barnabas and Paul will both be called apostles in this book (Acts 14:14). And in Romans, Paul mentions two more apostles, saying,
Rom. 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
Also, Paul mentions in Galatians that Jesus' half-brother James was an apostle in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:19).
As for who the actual "Twelve" are, after Judas killed himself, they were called "the eleven" (Matt. 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:9; 24:33). Now, in verse 26, Matthias is added to the eleven. In chapter six (Acts 6:2), they are called "the twelve" again. Notice that this is BEFORE Paul became a Christian. I think that answers that.
But the real quandary we have about this passage of Scripture isn't about apostleship - it's about the casting of lots. Or more specifically, how we can know God's will.
You see, Peter knew from the Word that something must be done. He knew that they should pray about it. But before being filled with the Holy Spirit, all they knew to do was leave it up to circumstances. Of course it's true that God can speak through anything. The Word says,
Prov. 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
But is this the way that we should now determine God's will? Should we base everything on circumstances? Just roll the dice? Just let "open doors" be our guide to God's will?
I guess we need to examine what "God's will" really means. The writer of Hebrews explained it to us when he said, "May the God of peace...
Heb. 13:21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight...
The word will (Greek: "THEL-ay-mah") means "desire or wish." What does God desire or wish for you? To do what is pleasing in His sight.
But how do you know what will be pleasing in His sight?
The Bible does talk a lot about us needing to do God's will ("Thy will be done," "the will of the Lord be done," etc.). But very seldom does it actually describe what God's will specifically is.
1Th. 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1Th. 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality
1Pet. 2:15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
Notice how these things all describe God's will regarding how we're living, not the decisions we're making? We're always going be faced with decisions. "Should I live here or here? Shoud I take this job or this job? Should I do this or that?" Are we to base them on the casting of the dice? On circumstances? No.
We are to do the will of God in our lives, and in the course of that, make the decisions that we want to. If we are living right, giving thanks, being sanctified, abstaining from immorality, and doing right, then we'll be doing the will of God by following our hearts, for the BIble says,
Psa. 37:4-5 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.
So then, if you're seeking God's will in a decision, do God's will in your actions.
Rom. 12:2 ...do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.