Welcome to the first blog post in our series on the book of Acts, ‘The Empowered Church’. We will publish a post every Wednesday, to cover the sections that we are not covering during the Sunday morning preaching.
This first post is by Peter Phillips, but we have several different people who have volunteered as blog-post-authors over the series. So you can look forward to a variety of different perspectives on the book of Acts over the next four months.
On Sunday, Tim preached from the first part of Acts 1, encouraging us to wait for God’s timing and to trust him. The second half of Acts 1 focuses on the choice of a new apostle to replace Judas. They were eleven now instead of the twelve that Jesus had chosen. So they recognised the need for a new leader. The man chosen was Matthias.
Now, I find it intriguing that Matthias is not mentioned (as far as I know) anywhere else in the Bible – neither before nor after this particular day when the disciples met in their upper room.
So, who was Mathias? The answer is quite simple – he was a disciple of Jesus. In fact, he was ‘one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us.’ (Acts 1:21-22) Matthias had been with Jesus throughout the three years of his earthly ministry, so he was qualified to be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
(Just as an aside, it is wrong for us to think that Jesus went around with just the 12 men he designated as apostles. Actually, he had a lot of disciples, both men and women, who were with him much of the time. In fact there were 120 of them in the upper room on this day when they appointed Matthias.)
And there was actually another man who was qualified for appointment as an apostle. Joseph (also known as Barsabbas or Justus) met the criteria too. So they decided to draw lots to decide between the two. To us today, drawing lots seems rather an arbitrary, random way of making a decision. In a similar situation, we would tend to compare the two men, and debate their strengths and weaknesses, in order to make a decision.
But the disciples drew lots and put their faith in God to bring the right result. That way the appointment of Mathias was directed by God, rather than human wisdom. It strikes me that this is a good model for decision making – set the basic criteria, and then if there is more than one option, trust God to direct your choice and then get on with it wholeheartedly. Better than worrying over all the details, and then wondering afterwards whether you got it ‘right’.
So I hope that both Matthias and Joseph Barsabbas felt empowered after this day. The empowered church needs empowered leaders and empowered people willing to serve God with the gifts he’s given them. I hope that Matthias stepped up into his new role as an apostle and served God wholeheartedly in it. And I hope Joseph too wholeheartedly served God in his life, wherever that led him after this day.
Both men had walked with Jesus for three years and witnessed his ascension into heaven. God had roles for both of them in his new empowered church. And the same is true for you and me today. God has roles for each of us in his empowered church. God has given us gifts and talents and he has empowered us to serve. As we start this journey through the book of Acts, let’s all take up our roles in God’s empowered church!