Author: Ron Graham
—Verse by verse
This page is a study of Acts 1:15-26. These verses tell of how Judas the betrayer, who had committed suicide, was replaced by Matthias as the 12th apostle.
Matthias Replaces Judas as One of the Twelve.
¶“15And in those days Peter stood among the disciples, around 120 names altogether, and said, 16'Men, my brothers! This scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit predicted by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who turned guide to those who captured Jesus. 17For he was numbered among us and was allotted this ministry. 18This man then in fact got a field with the wages of injustice, and he had swollen up, split in the midst, and everything poured out of his bowels. 19And everyone living in Jerusalem came to know of this, so in their own language the field was called Hakeldama, [the Field of Blood]' ” (Acts 1:15-19).
¶“20Peter then said, 'It is written in the book of Psalms, Let his house be desolate, and let no one dwell there, and let another take the oversight he had. 21So one of these men who were our companions all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from his immersion by John until the day that he was taken up from us, one of these should join us as a witness of his resurrection.' ” (Acts 1:20-22).
¶“23And they put forward two: Joseph (who was called Barsabas surnamed Justus) and Matthias. 24And they said in prayer, 'You, Lord, the Knower of hearts of all men, show which of these two you have chosen. 25May he take as his lot this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas walked away to go where he belongs.' 25So they cast their lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was accordingly counted among the apostles with the eleven.” (Acts 1:23-26).
¶ "And in those days Peter stood among the disciples, around 120 names altogether, and said," (Acts 1:15).
- Names. Here, as in Revelation 3:4, the term "names" means "persons" but signifies the enrollment and registration of those persons in Heaven (Hebrews 12:23). Christians have their "names written in the book of life" (Philippians 4:3, Revelation 20:12,15, Revelation 21:27).
¶ " 'Men, my brothers! This scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit predicted by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who turned guide to those who captured Jesus...' " (Acts 1:16).
- Two Named Judas. There were two apostles named Judas. The first was "Judas of James" (Acts 1:13). He is also called Thaddaeus (Matthew 10:3). The Judas "who turned guide" and betrayed Jesus was Judas Iscariot (Luke 6:16).
- Judas in Prophecy. "This scripture" to which Peter refers, is quoted by him in Acts 1:20, and is found in Psalms 69:25, and Psalms 109:8. Another prophecy was spoken (an oral prophecy) by Jeremiah (Matthew 27:9-10). A similar prophecy is recorded in Zechariah (Zechariah 11:12-13).
¶ " '...for he was numbered among us and was allotted this ministry...' " (Acts 1:17).
- Apostleship Alotted. Peter says that Judas Iscariot had been "allotted this ministry" of apostleship (Acts 1:17). The Greek for "allotted" is kleeros the same word used for drawing "lots" (Acts 1:25-26). Apostleship was regarded as one's "lot" from God, so the prayerful casting of lots was an appropriate method by which another apostle might be "chosen" by God and "allotted" the ministry.
¶ " 'This man then in fact got a field with the wages of injustice, and he had swollen up, split in the midst, and everything poured out of his bowels...' " (Acts 1:18).
- Getting a Field. Judas "got a field" not by buying it personally, but by throwing his thirty pieces of silver into the sanctuary. The field that was bought by the officials technically remained as Judas's estate, since it was blood money (Matthew 27:5-10).
- Ironic Wages. The "wages of injustice" or unrighteousness were used to buy a field for the burial of strangers. This has a symbolic irony to it. Hell is a place for strangers to God, and everyone has a choice to make just as Judas had a choice. "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is life everlasting in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:26).
- How Judas Died The Greek for "swollen up" is not clearly understood. Possibly Luke as a doctor is using terms in a technical sense. However we know that Judas "went and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:5). Subsequently he either swelled up for some reason, or fell headlong from where he had hung himself. Whichever was the case, it resulted in a massive rupture and Judas's death was as horrible as Herod's (Acts 12:21-23).
¶ " '...And everyone living in Jerusalem came to know of this, so in their own language the field was called Hakeldama, [the Field of Blood] ' " (Acts 1:19).
- Field of Blood The name of the field, "Field of Blood" has reference to the blood of Jesus, rather than to the blood of Judas.
- Money Laundering The 30 pieces of silver were blood money. The chief priests viewed the money as "the price of blood", referring (as we said) to the blood of Jesus. They deemed the money unfit for the temple treasury, so they laundered the money. Acting as Judas’s executors, they purchased the field on his behalf (Matthew 27:1-8).
- Why the Name It was "for that reason" that the field acquired its name "Field of Blood" (Matthew 27:7-8), but it was most likely the populace, rather than the chief priests, who dubbed it such.
¶ " 'For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his house be desolate, and let no one dwell there, and let another take the oversight he had.' " (Acts 1:20).
- Judas’s Ministry Judas Iscariot had the ministry of apostleship, an important place as an overseer of the church, but he "blew it" so to speak and so forfeited and vacated his place, perversely exchanging it for another place.
- Judas’s Scriptural Replacement Peter is quoting prophetic passages from the Psalms as his authority for replacing Judas (Psalms 69:25, 109:8). Whilst these scriptures don't refer specifically to Judas, Peter is using the principle stated in them that wicked persons deserve to be disgraced and replaced.
¶ " 'So one of these men who were our companions all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from his immersion by John until the day that he was taken up from us, one of these should join us as a witness of his resurrection.' " (Acts 1:21-22).
- Qualification For Replacement Apostle The 12th apostle had to be qualified, and one qualification was that he had been a companion of Jesus and the apostles duing the whole time of Jesus's ministry, that is from Christ's baptism through to his ascension.
- Track Record of Loyalty The expression "all the time" signifies that any candidate for apostleship must not have been among those disciples who deserted Jesus towards the end, but must have stayed and remained faithful (John 6:66-68).
- Ability to Testify One of the important and special functions of the twelve, was their eye-witness testimony, based on their personal and constant companying with Jesus.
¶ "And they put forward two: Joseph (who was called Barsabas surnamed Justus) and Matthias." (Acts 1:23).
- Unknown Disciples Because of the strict qualifications, it is perhaps not surprising that among more than 100 persons there were apparently only two who filled the requirements. It is a little surprising, however, that these two men are not mentioned previously, and this is the first and last time we encounter them in the scriptures.
¶ "And they said in prayer, 'You, Lord, the Knower of hearts of all men, show which of these two you have chosen...' " (Acts 1:24).
- Jesus Chooses Whilst the group put forward the two men who were qualified, it was left to Christ to make the choice.
- Peter Not Yet Empowered It is interesting that Peter seems to acknowledge that he did not "know the hearts" of these two men as the Lord did. After he received the power from on high, however, Peter was able to discern the hearts of men, and on that basis he did not hesitate to cut off the lives of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).
¶ " '...that he may take as his lot this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas walked away to go where he belongs.' " (Acts 1:25).
- Judas’s Choice Judas "walked away" or "turned aside" from his apostleship. This was his decision, God did not compel him to do it.
- Judas’s Destiny The expression "where he belongs" or "to his own place" does not signify that Judas was born to be a traitor destined for hell. On the other hand, one belongs in hell if one chooses the path to destruction, just as one belongs in heaven if one chooses the path of life (Matthew 7:13-14). In fact, human beings do not belong in hell. It was never intended as a place for them. It was "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41) not for the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. However those who do not follow the path of Christ make themselves "accursed" and make hell the place where they belong. But this was never meant to be their destiny.
¶ "So they cast their lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was accordingly counted among the apostles with the eleven." (Acts 1:26).
- Election of Matthias Legitimate. Some people say that the disciples were premature and presumptive in choosing Matthias, because God wanted Paul to fill Judas's place. There is nothing to support this claim, and a few facts against it:
- Peter was obeying the scriptures and showed the act to be scriptural, properly interpreting the prophetic scriptures.
- Peter limited the choice of candidates to those properly qualified, and may well have been previously instructed in this by Jesus.
- The matter was taken to God in prayer. The result is represented as God's answer to the prayer.
- Casting Lots The casting of lots was not "gambling", but an appropriate ceremony for determining God's choice. The apostleship itself is spoken of as a "lot" so it is proper for Matthias to have been "counted" among the apostles.