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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Acts 1:12-26 - The absent Jesus guides his church

This passage mentions several interesting people. For example, it contains the last reference in the New Testament to Mary, the mother of Jesus. After this, she was regarded only as a member of the church. There is not a hint in the Bible that she was given, or even desired, a position of authority in the church, never mind a place in the application of salvation. If someone had informed Mary of the great abuse that was to be connected to her name, she would have wept with sorrow.

A second interesting detail from the story is that it contains the first record of an ecclesiastical appointment by the Christian church. Prior to this occasion, all the appointments had been made by Jesus personally, such as when he selected the twelve apostles or when he chose the seventy disciples that were sent by him on a preaching mission. In Lukes account, we can see that Peter, as a representative of the apostles, informed the congregation (which numbered 120) that they had to replace Judas. Peter informed them of the qualifications for office, and then required the congregation to indicate their choice. The incident reminds us of a very important feature of the life of a congregation – the members choose its leaders.

A third detail that is worth noting also concerns Peter. At the time of his denial of his Master, Jesus had said to Peter that when he was restored he would strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32). Here we have an example of him so doing: he guides the church on an important issue. Note his rapid restoration; it took only a few weeks for Jesus to create within Peter the qualifications for ministering to his brethren.

It is also worth noting the character of Matthias. Although this was an important day for him, we cannot but observe that this is the only occasion that he is mentioned in the Bible. Tradition says that he later preached the gospel in Africa. Yet two important lessons can be seen in the account of his selection.

One is the importance of developing in grace. It seems as if Matthias had also been a follower of John the Baptist, and had become a disciple of Jesus then although he was not a member of the twelve. Through these three years he had quietly followed his Master, giving clear evidence that he was dedicated to his kingdom. Then when the time came for more public service, others knew that he was reliable. The Lord will not use in higher service those who do not engage in lower service.

The other lesson to note from this incident is that sometimes the Lord says no to a person who is willing to serve. Joses also had the confidence of the church, and there does not seem to be any difference between him and Matthias as far as preparation for a higher role is concerned. By the means of lots, which was a common method in the Old Testament period for discerning God’s will, the Lord revealed that Joses was not to join the group of apostles. No doubt, the Lord had another role for Joses. Yet we should note that this denial of a place did not disturb the unity of the congregation.

Of course, it is important as we read Luke’s summary of this incident to recall what he has hinted at in the early verses of this chapter. Just as his Gospel was an account of what Jesus had begun to do and teach, so his Acts is an account of what Jesus continued to do and teach. This means that Peter’s understanding of Psalm 69:25 was given to him by Jesus, that the apostle’s ability to convey his message to the congregation was put across to them by Jesus, that the decision regarding Matthias and Joses was guided by Jesus, and that the decision of the lots was overseen by Jesus.

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