For the Love of God, Volume 1/July 14
From Gospel Translations
Joshua 20—21; Acts 1; Jeremiah 10; Matthew 24
BETWEEN JESUS’ ASCENSION AND Pentecost, the nascent church, about one hundred and twenty strong, met together and prayed. At one such meeting, Peter stood up and initiated the action that appointed Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26).
(1) Peter’s use of Scripture (1:16, 20) is apparently what guides him to his conclusion that “it is necessary” (1:21) to choose one of the other men who had been with Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry as a replacement for the traitor Judas. At the surface level of Acts, the reasoning is straightforward. Psalm 69:25 says, “May [his] place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in [it]”; Peter applies this to Judas. Psalm 109:8 insists, “May another take his place of leadership”; this Peter takes as a divine warrant for securing a replacement.
In the context of Psalms 69 and 109, David is seeking vindication against enemies— once close friends—who had betrayed him. Peter’s use of these verses belongs to one of two primary patterns. Either: (a) Peter is indulging in indefensible proof-texting. The verses never did apply to Judas, and can be made to do so only by exegetical sleight-of-hand. Or: (b) Peter is already presupposing a fairly sophisticated David-typology. If this sense of betrayal and plea for vindicating justice play such an important role in the experience of great King David, how much more in great David’s greater Son? Why should we flinch at such reasoning? During the previous forty days Jesus had often spoken with his disciples (1:3), explaining in some detail “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Certainly the David-typology crops up in the Gospels on the lips of Jesus. Why should we not accept that he taught it to his disciples?
(2) On the criteria raised here—the replacement apostle had to be not only a witness of the resurrected Jesus, but someone who had been with the disciples “the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us” (1:21-22)—Paul could not have met the conditions. Paul’s apostleship was irregular, as he himself acknowledges (1 Cor. 15:8-9). We should not entertain nonsense about Peter and the church making a mistake here because they did not wait for the appointment of Paul.
(3) The choosing of one of two by lot (1:23-26) is not a prescription for local church governance procedures. There is no hint of a similar procedure from then on in the church’s life, as reported in the New Testament. This sounds more like the climax of an Old Testament procedure, with God himself selecting and authorizing the twelve men of the apostolic band.