WERE THE 11 APOSTLES WRONG IN CHOOSING MATTHIAS INSTEAD OF PAUL?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Since precious, precious, precious few church members—and even preachers—understand the Apostle Paul’s special ministry, they want him to be the twelfth apostle (taking Judas’ place instead of Matthias). Even some professing dispensationalists criticize Peter and the 10 for appointing Matthias instead of waiting for Paul’s conversion. While we have looked at this issue in previous studies, it would greatly help us if we re-examined it from additional angles and greatly amplified our original comments. “For what saith the Scriptures?”
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION
While I will always be grateful to one particular brother in Christ who helped me progress in dispensational truth, the man (however highly educated) was never able to fully break away from certain denominational tenets. In one commentary, he repeatedly criticized Peter and the 10 apostles for making Matthias the successor of Judas. (I will show you his “condemnations” shortly.) Thankfully, the brother is now in Heaven, fully straightened out. However, there are left here on Earth millions of Christians still confused about the matter. Church tradition is so hard to abandon, dear friends, but we can do it if we truly desire to glorify Father God and magnify His Holy Word.
The dear brother compared and contrasted Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry. He showed how they preached different messages to different audiences. To quote him, “…Paul’s message was new and unique in every aspect—a different message from that delivered by the original apostles…. Paul’s message was not the apostolic message that the other apostles had been delivering. He preached a Gospel of the Grace of God, salvation provided for every creature, whereas the other apostles ministered to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The brother knew the Church the Body of Christ was separate from the nation Israel. He knew how to rightly divide Peter from Paul. We agree with him wholeheartedly… only up to that point though.
Then, his writing style changed from spiritual to carnal. He began to argue Paul was God’s choice instead of Matthias! Again, in this study, we will state and consider his conclusions (which are not unique to him—he merely repeated what others told him). More importantly, though, we will compare his claims to the Word of God. It really does not matter what I say. It really does not matter what that dear brother said. It really does not what his denomination says. What does God say?
1. DID THE 11 APOSTLES HAVE ORDERS FROM JESUS CHRIST TO HOLD THAT ACTS 1:15-26 MEETING AND ELECT MATTHIAS TO FILL JUDAS’ BISHOPRICK?
In his own words, the aforementioned brother wrote: “Please read Acts 1:15-26. Of course, when this was done, they did not have orders from Jesus Christ to hold such a meeting nor to have such an election; on the contrary, they violated the instructions Jesus had given them… ‘And, being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, BUT WAIT FOR THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER, WHICH, SAITH HE, YE HAVE HEARD OF ME’ (Acts 1:4).” (All caps in original.)
The dear brother continued:
“The apostles had strict instructions from Jesus to tarry, to wait for the Holy Ghost, before they moved one inch in the ministry left to them. They were commanded to do nothing until the coming of the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, who would lead them into all truth. There remained ten days from that time until Pentecost; but in spite of the command, ‘Do nothing until the Spirit comes to guide and direct you,’ the disciples did not wait for the Spirit. They immediately called a meeting, and in the energy of the flesh they elected a twelfth apostle. They were informed: ‘But ye shall receive power AFTER the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses…’ (Acts 1:8). But they went ahead with their election. Peter was the impatient one. I am sure that to him ten days seemed a long, long time to be without a twelfth apostle. He suggested that they elect someone to replace Judas. Instead of waiting as they have been instructed, they proceeded with the business of the Lord without the blessing of the Holy Ghost…. Where did Peter get his authority to hold a meeting and elect a twelfth apostle? Where did he get his authority to ordain an apostle? Face it, beloved: Peter (like many of us, even ministers) did what he did in the energy of the flesh. Peter was not willing to wait for the Spirit to lead; he went ahead of the Spirit: ‘And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias’ (Acts 1:23).” (Bold emphasis mine.)
Honestly, these are some very outrageous, inflammatory, and careless claims. In fact, they are downright foolish and baseless. The brother, however well meaning, should have studied his Bible more fully before giving scoffers additional ammunition and doubters more unbelief.
Our dear brother argued that the 11 Apostles disobeyed Acts 1:4, which says: “And, being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.” Friends, we see nothing about Jesus telling the Apostles, “Do not do anything until the Holy Ghost comes.” What He told them was that they were not to leave Jerusalem, for the Holy Spirit would come to Jerusalem (cf. Luke 24:49). That is what Jesus told them. There was nothing about, “You cannot pick a twelfth apostle until the Spirit of God comes.” It is nothing more than the figment of the imagination of denominational brethren.
Acts 1:1-3 should be considered at this point: “ The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,  Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:  To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:….”
Notice especially verse 3. For 40 days after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ talked to His 11 Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) and the rest of Israel’s Little Flock about “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Check Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:12-20, Luke 24:25-53, and John 20:19–21:25.) After hearing Jesus Christ talk about the kingdom of God for 40 days, the disciples rightly asked in Acts 1:6, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” They are obviously talking about the Lord Jesus reestablishing a kingdom like King David of old had (a literal, physical, visible, earthly kingdom).
We find Peter in verses 16-20 (Acts chapter 1) claiming that the Book of Psalms twice referred to Judas Iscariot’s fall: “ Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.  For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.  Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.  And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.  For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.”
Apart from this commentary in Acts, we would have never been able to figure out Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 were really talking about Judas Iscariot. How was Peter able to guess correctly? Well, the truth is that he did not guess anything. The Lord Jesus Christ opened the Scriptures for the disciples during that 40-day period. He told them all about Judas’ departure predicted by David 1,000 years earlier in the Book of Psalms. Peter was NOT (!) “acting in the flesh” when they held an election for Judas’ replacement. As Peter said, the Book of Psalms (109:8) declared “his bishoprick let another take.” This verse, inspired by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:16), gave Peter and the 10 the authority to appoint the twelfth apostle. They did not need the coming of the Holy Spirit to guide them concerning Judas since He had already written a verse to guide them! As we will see later on, these Apostles asked the Lord whom “He” had chosen. Who “walks in the flesh” when asking God’s will to be manifested? It makes no sense. The Apostles were seeking God’s will not their own will in Acts chapter 1.
Furthermore, returning to the issue of the kingdom of God (Acts 1:4)…. The Lord Jesus, before the cross, told the Apostles that they would sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:27-28). They needed to be exactly 12 in number—no less. Hence, the Lord Jesus, during the 40 days, gave the remaining 11 Apostles insight into Judas’ vacancy needing to be filled. So, Peter did not need the coming Holy Ghost to lead him here because the Lord Jesus Himself had already provided instruction from the Psalms. Again, we see Peter and the 10 are unfairly criticized here. Those accusing them of “acting in the flesh” are simply unqualified to speak about the matter. They need to hush and study their Bibles more prayerfully and carefully. The critics are “acting in the flesh!”
2. WERE THE 11 APOSTLES WRONG IN SETTING UP JUST TWO POSSIBILITIES—JOSEPH/BARSABAS/JUSTUS AND MATTHIAS?
Our aforementioned brother in Christ continued to write the following:
“‘And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias’ (Acts 1:23). Can you imagine the Holy Ghost setting up two men to be voted upon? If God Almighty calls a man, He appoints a man—not two men to be voted upon by other men. It is true that they prayed for the Lord to show them which one was to be chosen—but their prayer was wasted and empty, because they asked God to pick one of the candidates they had chosen. It seems they would have prayed for God to show them which one of the one hundred twenty should be appointed to fill the place left by Judas. Why did they select only two, when there were one hundred twenty of them waiting in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit? They prayed, ‘Shew which of these two….’ They did not get an answer; therefore they were forced to cast lots—or to vote—for the one to fill the place left vacant by the death of Judas. ‘And they gave forth their lots; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles’ (Acts 1:26). Can you imagine these dear men voting, instead of waiting upon the Holy Spirit to appoint the apostle? The men who were there had been individually called by the Lord Jesus Christ, yet they were not willing to wait for Him to call one to take the place of Judas.” (Bold emphasis mine.)
Imagine that—the brother suggested that the Apostles’ prayer “was wasted and empty!” Outrageous! This is a Bible teacher?
To bolster his view here, the dear brother proceeds to quote Acts 13:1-4. After the prophets and teachers in Antioch fasted and prayed, the Holy Ghost had them select Barnabas and Saul (Paul) as “foreign missionaries” (of course, they were not “missionaries” as he claimed—they were “apostles” Acts 14:14 says). Our brother says, “Please notice: At the close of a period of fasting and prayer, the church was instructed BY THE HOLY GHOST to appoint Barnabas and Saul as missionaries. You must agree that this was carried out in quite a different manner than casting lots to see who would go….” Goodness! Goodness! Goodness!
We now ask in faith. Why did the Apostles pick two men? Were they “limiting God,” as the dear brother claimed? Why tell God to pick one out of two when God could have selected one out of the 120 believers assembled there (Acts 1:15)? Notice verses 21-23: “ Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,  Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.  And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.”
Judas Iscariot’s successor had to meet two qualifications. Firstly, the man had to have been a follower of Christ all the way back to the ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew chapter 3). Secondly, he had to be a follower of Christ up until His ascension into Heaven in Acts chapter 1. That is, the candidate had to be a follower of Christ all the way through His three years of earthly ministry. Where did the Apostles get such requirements? Did they fabricate them in the flesh? Of course not! Why, again, the Lord Himself told them!
The Lord Jesus said in Luke 22:28-30, the night of His arrest: “ Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.  And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;  That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Again, Israel’s 12 thrones were to be occupied by 12 men who continued with Christ in His temptations. Those 12 Apostles were to testify of what He had taught from the beginning of His ministry to the end, culminating in His resurrection and post-resurrection ministry. Judas’ replacement could not be a man saved at the middle or end of Christ’s earthly ministry. This tells us that, of 120 Messianic Jews in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 1, only two followed Christ from John’s baptism until His ascension. Those two men were Joseph/Barsabas/Justus, and Matthias. The Apostles were not limiting God by restricting the number to two candidates. God certainly did not want to pick just any person to be a witness of Christ. Any late convert did not have all the information that Jesus had taught, and certainly would not be able to teach others either. Furthermore, Paul was not converted until long after the resurrection—he could not be Judas’ replacement!
“Why did they select only two, when there were one hundred twenty of them waiting in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit? They did not get an answer; therefore they were forced to cast lots—or to vote—for the one to fill the place left vacant by the death of Judas.” These are such reckless statements, friends. Having addressed the first part using the Scriptures, we now move on to the second part. The casting of lots—why did they do it?
Casting lots was perfectly acceptable in the Jewish program, as Proverbs 16:33 says: “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” It was acceptable when dividing the Promised Land by lot in the Book of Joshua. God endorsed this usage of lots, and surely He did in Acts chapter 1. Before the completed Word of God, the written Bible we have today, divine revelation was limited. There were other ways God communicated with people (dreams, visions, miracles, angelic appearances, the stars, the Urim and the Thummim, et cetera). It is not that the 11 Apostles cast lots because they did not get an answer from God. They cast lots so they could get an answer from God.
Acts chapter 1 again: “ And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,  That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.  And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” The passage does not say, “They prayed, but God did not answer them, so they cast lots.” Verse 26 begins with “and,” meaning it continues the thought of verses 24-25. Again, they cast lots so they could get an answer from God.
Notice Acts 1:26 again: “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” This verse tells us the Holy Spirit considered Matthias the twelfth apostle. Add to this the fact that, before Paul was even converted in chapter 9, we read about the “twelve.” Paul himself claimed that he was not one of the 12 Apostles. The Holy Spirit said that Paul was not one of the 12 Apostles.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: “ For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:  And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:  After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.  After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.  And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” We see the 12 Apostles in verse 5, and we see the Apostle Paul in verse 8. Paul is not one of the 12! Do you see that?
3. DID GOD RECOGNIZE THE CHOICE OF MATTHIAS?
Our dear brother’s final vilification is summarized now:
“It is very clear that God did not recognize the choice of Matthias, because this dear man is never mentioned again in all the rest of the Bible. God ignored man’s ordination—and after Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost had come, God chose HIS man to fill the place vacated by the betrayer, Judas Iscariot. God named Paul to be an apostle. It was not man’s choice, but it was an outright call, commission, and ordination by Christ. Paul was ordained of God for the office of apostleship.”
We stand in awe! After writing that Paul was not preaching the same message as the 11 Apostles, after arguing that Israel and the Body of Christ are separate, our dear brother (in the same book!) stuck Paul into the twelfth apostolic slot! Unbelievable! Paul was one of the 12 Apostles but he was preaching a different message than the other 11? How absurd! If Paul was preaching a different message—and he was (even as the dear brother proved!)—then he was certainly not one of the 12 Apostles!
Re-read the dear brother’s comments: “It is very clear that God did not recognize the choice of Matthias, because this dear man is never mentioned again in all the rest of the Bible.” Interestingly, Jesus selected Apostles Bartholomew and Lebbaeus Thaddaeus back in Matthew 10:3. Other than reading of them in a relisting of the 12 Apostles (Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13), we do not hear about Bartholomew and Lebbaeus Thaddaeus again in Scripture. By the dear brother’s logic, the Holy Spirit evidently did not approve of the Lord Jesus’ own apostolic selections either! No, let us not be foolish. The Holy Spirit did indeed recognize Matthias as the twelfth apostle. No church tradition or denominational whim will ever change the Bible text here or anywhere else.
Acts 1:26 again: “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” It does not say “the eleven numbered him with themselves.” The Bible says, “he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” According to the testimony of the Scriptures, Matthias was indeed the twelfth apostle.
You should be reminded again that Paul did not consider himself the twelfth Apostle. Go back to our second point, where we quoted 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 as ample and unmistakable proof.
Did the 11 Apostles have orders from Jesus Christ to hold that Acts 1:15-26 meeting and elect Matthias to fill Judas’ bishoprick? Yes, they did. Jesus Christ educated them in the Psalms that spoke of Judas Iscariot’s departure and replacement. Acting on the Holy-Spirit-inspired Psalms, the 11 Apostles began the process of choosing Judas’ successor. In the coming kingdom, Israel’s 12 thrones over 12 tribes needed 12 princes to sit on them. Jesus Christ spoke with His disciples about the kingdom of God for the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3). He told them all about how to prepare to function in His absence. The Holy Spirit would come on the Day of Pentecost some days later (Acts chapter 2), but He (the Lord Jesus Christ) had given them enough information to function until He (the Holy Spirit) came. Matthias’ selection was approved of the Lord.
Were the 11 Apostles wrong in setting up just two possibilities—Joseph/Barsabas/Justus and Matthias? No, they were not. Jesus Christ Himself had already set restrictions on those who would occupy Israel’s 12 thrones (Luke 22:28-30). These men had to have continued with Him during His temptations. Only two out of the 120 in Acts 1:15 met that qualification—Paul did not even fit this (he was not saved until Acts chapter 9). The Holy Spirit honored Jesus Christ’s stipulations and selected one of the two. Why did God pick Matthias instead of Joseph/Barsabas/Justus? I cannot answer that, and nobody else can either. It really makes no difference anyway. We do know that God selected Matthias, and that is what ultimately matters. As for the casting of lots, this was perfectly acceptable in the Jewish program. Proverbs 16:33 endorsed the usage of lots to show the will of God. The Apostles were certainly not wrong in casting lots any more than the Jews were wrong when casting lots to divide the land of Canaan in the Book of Joshua.
Did God recognize the choice of Matthias? Yes, He did. Acts 1:26 says: “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” It does not say, “the eleven numbered him with themselves.” The Bible says, “he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” According to the testimony of the Scriptures, Matthias was indeed the twelfth apostle. His absence from the rest of Scripture proves nothing concerning his legitimacy; otherwise, we are forced to say that Bartholomew and Lebbaeus Thaddaeus, never mentioned again in Scripture, were also illegitimate (and Christ chose them in Matthew chapter 10, without human instrumentality). The inspired Word of God spoken through the Apostle Paul indicates that Paul was not one of the 12 Apostles (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
If we study Paul’s Acts ministry (9-28), and his epistles Romans through Philemon, we see that he is certainly not a part of or an extension of Peter and the 11. He did not teach what they taught; he did not go around like they did, building on Christ’s earthly ministry. The Dispensation of Grace was committed to Paul, not the 12 Apostles (Ephesians 3:2). Even the Apostle Peter recognized the special wisdom given to Paul (2 Peter 3:15-16). Paul is never to be confused with the 12 Apostles. The first two chapters of the Book of Galatians make this quite clear.
Anyone who wants to make Paul one of the 12 Apostles is either: (1) innocently allowing denominational teaching to confuse them and they are inadvertently propagating falsehoods, or (2) they are intentionally perverting the Scriptures because they want to advance their pet theological position. No one reading and studying the Scriptures honestly will conclude anything other than Matthias being Judas’ divinely ordained successor. Any honest Bible student will see the unmistakable fact that Paul was an Apostle whose ministry and message were completely separate and distinct from Peter and the 11.