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Matthias is appointed as an apostle in Acts 1:15-26. It seems significant that Luke inserts this story in his narrative after the disciples are instructed by Jesus to wait, but before the Holy Spirit is poured out on Pentecost. But Luke doesn't clearly interpret the action as wrong or as right for the reader. So how are we to interpret it? What do we take away?

Did the disciples disobey the command to wait by taking such an action before Pentecost? Or were they obedient to the command because they waited to go out and publicly witness until the Spirit clothed them with power?

Besides the actual action - what about the way the disciples carried out this move? Peter relied on some scripture from Psalms - rightly or wrongly? They used what seems to be common natural wisdom in establishing basic requirements and selecting candidates - rightly or wrongly? Then they prayed and cast lots - rightly or wrongly?

If the action or any of the methods were right - are any of them prescriptive today for us as post-Pentecost believers? Or was this a unique moment between John 20:22 and Acts 2:4 without direct application after the Spirit was poured out?

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    – agarza
    Commented May 1 at 13:39
  • Jesus was on earth 40 days post-Resurrection. He picked the first 12 and, if He had felt it necessary, He had plenty of time to pick a replacement for Judas. He didn't. Casting lots is a pagan way of doing things. Directly after His Ascension, and before the Holy Spirit comes upon them, Peter makes his move. Guess we won't know the outcome until Matt. 19:28 comes to pass. If Matthias is sitting upon a throne judging the 12 tribes well, then, okay. If not, perhaps we'll see Paul or another.
    – tblue
    Commented May 13 at 22:15

3 Answers 3

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A most telling aspect when considering the rights or wrongs of some communal decision of leaders of God people, is to look at the trouble that ensued from developments with the Gibeonites, starting from Joshua having dealings with them.

In Joshua chapter 9 the Gibeonites approached the people of Israel with a cunning ruse to prevent themselves from being slaughtered. They deceived and lied in order to get Joshua and the people of Israel to take an oath not to kill them, and they, in turn would be their servants. The oath was taken on both sides. Later on, the deception was discovered. But here is the point pertinent to this question about appointing Matthias.

In Joshua 9:14 they "asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord" before accepting as truth the lies presented, and making the oath not to kill them. Had they sought the Lord first, the outcome could have been very different. As things turned out, it did not go too well.

On the contrary, with the matter of Matthias, the apostles sought God earnestly before making any decision. They had neither been commanded to wait before seeking a replacement, nor had they been commanded to go ahead. But they had seen a need, took action they knew to be in accord with biblical principles, and only made the appointment after they were all convinced Matthias was the man. So, when it turned out they had acted too hastily, it was not due to them being presumptuous. They had failed to ascertain God's will in the matter, apparently, but perhaps it was a matter that was neither right nor wrong, in practice.

The wrong decision did not seem to have had any bad after-effects, so I look on it as a matter of indifference. I could be wrong there, but my answer to the question is that it was not connected to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was a matter of timing. Had they held back, it might have had to be for a rather long time, until Saul of Tarsus was converted, and spent a few years growing in faith before meeting all the apostles. For all Christians, earnestly seeking God's will before taking decisions is the lesson, one I have yet to develop! But if we sincerely do that, we can hope for the Holy Spirit's prompting to help us either wait, or proceed.

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6 When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I see no command to wait (as the OP suggests) before the church made any significant decisions, such as appointing Matthias. The Lord promises that they will receive power to witness through the Holy Spirit. The promise is made in response to a question about when the kingdom will be restored to Israel, referring to the disciples' messianic hope that had been dashed on account of the crucifixion. Rather than expecting the messianic reign in Israel to be established soon, they are to focus on witnessing, since it is not for them to know "the seasons." Jesus promises power through the Holy Spirit to aid them in witnessing, but does not instruct them to refrain from other activities of the church.

Since the text does not disapprove of important decisions being made prior to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it stands to reason that this baptism is not required in order for a church to carry out the activity of appointing officers. Particular denominations, of course, will interpret this issue according to their various ecclesiological doctrines, which is beyond our scope here.

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Matthias's appointment serves to fulfill the prophecy foretold by Jesus in Matthew 19:28.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (NIV)

Peter's statement in Acts 1:20-22 NIV

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ (Psalm 69:25) and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’ (Psalm 109:8) 21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

The reinstatment of twelve apostles was achieved through prayer, as stated in Acts 1:24. Therefore, the process was conducted appropriately and without error.

In Acts 1:4, Jesus instructed His disciples to await for the gift of Holy Spirit, focus on this divine endowment. Peter's speech in Acts 1:20-22 had clarified that the time had come to fulfill the prophecies outlined in the Psalm, and Jesus's own prophecy in Matthew 19:28, ensuring that there are twelve apostles would be seated on twelve thrones during the time of judgment.

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