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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 ESV)

Peter, based arguably on his own common sense, arbitrarily narrowed down the options to Joseph and Matthias. Then came the tiebreaker by the casting of lots, favoring the latter. Doesn't this contradict the way apostles are to be called, by the will of God, through the Holy Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 12?

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV)

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31 ESV)

How can we reconcile the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, who appears to be telling us that it has to be God himself, through the Holy Spirit, who determines who is going to be an apostle, with the rather strange way in which Matthias was elected as an apostle in Acts 1:21-26?

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    When people cast lots in the Bible, it was usually the case that they thought that God was going to guide or make the decision. They didn't think they were basing it on chance or luck; they thought God was behind whatever decision the lots made. People in the OT used to cast lots all the time(see Joshua 18:6-10; 1 Chronicles 24:5, 31; 25:8-9; 26:13-14). Essentially, the people in Acts 1 cast lots figuring God was behind whatever decision the lots would have made, and so it would have been God who appointed either Matthias or Jospeph. Good question. +1
    – Rajesh
    Apr 29 at 17:30

2 Answers 2

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No contradiction here; the Christian leaders at the Jerusalem council illustrate how this works.

Example of Inspired Church Leadership

From Acts 15:

7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them...

They reasoned among themselves and applied the wisdom & knowledge God had already given them, after which Peter (who held priesthood keys) summarized the situation and suggested a means of moving forward.

James (the son of Joseph) shows that their course of action is in line with the scriptures:

15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written

A communication was developed to inform the churches of the council's decision (that there was collective agreement among the leaders is evident from verse 22). Included in that communication is the highly relevant line:

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us

The leaders of the church gathered, discussed, reasoned, referred to the scriptures, and their conclusion was endorsed by inspiration from the Holy Ghost.

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Casting Lots

Casting lots is described by other writers, allowing us to posit 3 possible descriptions of what is taking place here.

  • Chance: Stones are placed into an urn (one for each candidate); the urn is shaken, and the stone that falls out first is selected
  • Vote: The 11 vote on the matter by each marking a stone for either one of the candidates and placing their stone in the urn (like a ballot). Then the lots are removed and counted, the position being given to the man who receives the most votes
  • Hybrid: The 11 vote on the matter by each marking a stone for either one of the candidates and placing their lot in the urn. The urn is shaken, and the lot that falls out first is selected. The outcome still depends on chance, but the opinions of the 11 affect the probability

The text does not provide sufficient detail to determine which of these options (or further hybrids amongst them) was used. The implication is that which is left to chance in this matter would be left to God.

(See discussion of the Greek terminology here & competing commentaries explaining the phenomenon–and its usage by Homer and other writers–here. Note that pieces of wood could be used in place of stones, the method being essentially the same)

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Guidance through the Holy Spirit

The early church demonstrates that being led by the Spirit is neither disorganized chaos nor anarchy. The Holy Spirit made known to Peter--the mortal leader of the Christian movement--when the time came for the Gospel to be preached to the Gentiles. It is apparent that other leaders of the church, at least by the time of the Jerusalem Council (AD 49), had received this witness from the Spirit as well.

If the God-appointed leader is following the Holy Spirit & the individual empowered by the Holy Spirit (as discussed by Paul) is as well, they are not going to receive conflicting instructions from the same source.

A prime example of this is Paul himself--who was called by the Lord and guided & empowered by the Holy Spirit--yet also recognized that the work he (Paul) was doing & the message he was preaching needed to align with what Jesus' appointed shepherds/overseers were teaching (see Galatians 2:2,9; John 21:15-17).

God is capable of revealing/ratifying information through multiple levels of delegation. In Paul's case it appears that the general mission was given to him by the already-existing leaders of the church, and specific insights & gifts to carry out this mission were given by the Spirit directly to Paul.

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The ‘church’ was newly formed. The members would have been well versed in Torah. So would have by nature followed Old Testament process.

There is no one verse in the book of Psalms that contains the prophecy that Peter quoted here. Rather this is a combination of two different passages. The first part is quoted from Psalms 69:25, and the second part is probably from Psalms 109:8.

There is no reason to doubt that Peter was directed by the Old Testament to view these prophecies as pertaining to Judas and giving instruction to find a replacement. However, it is not as clear that the replacement they found was really God’s choice.

Casting lots was a common practice in the Old Testament. The priests used lots to choose the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:8) and to divide the Promised Land among the twelve tribes of Israel (Numbers 26:55 and Joshua 14:2). Solomon wrote, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33), and “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty” (Proverbs 18:18).

However, this is the last mention of casting lots in Scripture. Now that the Holy Spirit has come, direction comes directly from God to the believer through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26 and James 1:5).

At this time, the teachings of Paul were not available, so the ‘teachings’ in 1 Corinthians 12 (Paul’s Gospel) were not available for consideration - so how could this be a case of a contradiction?

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