Summary: Was choosing Matthias as a replacement for Judas really God's will?
The Mystery of Matthias
Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries confronting us in regards to the work of the early church regards the selection of Matthias as a replacement for Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ. Was this an appropriate action on the part of the early church or some sort of terrible error?
In defense of the action I have to say we must use an important element of Biblical interpretation called context. Normally, in Scripture, when we see God's people choose a direction that is out of God's will then we see a negative response from the Lord. That response can be a direct rebuke from the Lord or a rebuke issued through the prophet. That response can be judgment from God. That negative response can also be the natural consequences of that action.
God directly rebuked Adam and Eve in the garden. There was no question that their act was sin. God rebuked Cain for murdering his brother. God confronted Elijah for running away into the wilderness. God is capable of confronting us with our sin. No such confrontation occurs here.
God uses his prophets to confront us with our sin. The prophet Nathan approached and rebuked David for his sin with Bathsheba. Another prophet rebuked Jehosophat for his alliance with Ahab, the evil king of Israel. When Simon (formerly known as the Sorceror) sought the “power” to bring the Holy Spirit upon people, the apostles rebuked him.
God uses judgment to let us know we are in sin. Jonah suffered through a severe storm and three days in a whale's belly because he ran away from doing the will of God. Plagues came upon the children of Israel for their sins in the wilderness. The exile of the nation of Israel and Judah both came about because of sin. The Ishmaelite problem that Israel faces even today are demonstrative of Abraham's sin in entering into a sexual relationship with his wife's handmaiden, even if it was culturally acceptable, it was not God's will.
In defense of the selection of Matthias we must note that Dr. Luke records no negative response in regard of the selection of Matthias as an apostle. He records no message from the Holy Spirit offering rebuke. He records no judgment that falls upon the church because of this action. He records nothing further about Matthias. Therefore, with the exception of the selection of the Paul as an apostle by Jesus Christ Himself, we are provided with no apparent indication that the church made an error.
However, let us look at some other evidence that may demonstrate that their action was in error. First, Jesus' command was very clear. It was not to hold elections. It was to go and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. It doesn't seem too odd to me that Simon Peter is the instigator of this “election.” Peter wasn't too keen on waiting. Do you remember that it was Simon Peter who told his brethren “I go fishing?” Why? He was uncertain of the direction that God was leading him into. So he lapsed back into a life he knew well. This time, Peter isn't lapsing back into an old life, but appears to be chomping at the bit in his desire to be about the Lord's work. So, he proposes that the church take action and select an Apostle.
Second, we must note Peter's words. He declares that the believers must find a way to fulfill prophecy. Now, here, if I was driving a car you would feel me slam on the brakes and hear the tires squeal. Whose responsibility is it to fulfill prophecy? If it is truly God's prophetic Word then it is God's job to fulfill it! When we as believers attempt to fulfill prophecy we do stupid things. Abraham and Sarah sought to fulfill prophecy and attempted to do so through the use of Hagar. However, Ishmael clearly was not the child of promise that God had spoken to Abraham about. I hold the strong opinion that Peter's effort to fulfill prophecy was misguided, at best. It is God's job to fulfill prophecy and demonstrate His power.
Third, we look at God's method of calling Apostles. To be an Apostle, one needed to be called by Christ, not by other disciples. Christ Himself was responsible for the calling of the Apostle Paul. Even the other disciples, as they became acquainted with Paul and saw evidence of his conversion agreed that he was an apostle. Paul called himself an Apostle “born out of due season.”
Finally, we look at the method used to choose. They narrowed their choice down to two men and then cast lots to decide which it should be. Can you imagine doing this in a church today to select a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, or to fill another position. Shouldn't we rely on the Holy Spirit?