FINAL PREPARATIONS EQUIP THE APOSTLES TO LAUNCH THEIR GREAT COMMISSION MINISTRY UPON THE ARRIVAL OF HOLY SPIRIT POWER
Think of soldiers being deployed to the battlefield. They have finished their training. They finally receive their orders regarding their specific mission. They are in a state of readiness to perform their mission.
[Review from last week – 1:12-20]
2 KEY AREAS OF FINAL PREPARATON FOR LAUNCHING THE APOSTOLIC GREAT COMMISSION MINISTRY
I. (:12-14) STRENGTHEN YOUR SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIPS –
DRAW CLOSE TO GOD AND TO YOUR PARTNERS IN GOSPEL MINISTRY
II. (:15-26) SUBMIT TO GOD’S SOVEREIGN PLAN – WHICH INVOLVES FOLLOWING THE BLUEPRINT OF GOD’S REVELATION
A. (:15-20) Sin is No Surprise or Threat to God’s Sovereign Plan —
God’s Sovereign Plan for the Launch of the Great Commission Ministry Took Into Account the Apostasy of Judas
Transition: Some commentators believe that Peter overstepped here and was in error in this selection process. They want to have Paul included as the 12th apostle and therefore believe there is no space for Matthias.
Argument based on:
– Text that speaks of 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel – can’t have 13 stones – Rev. 21:14 – promised by Jesus in Matt. 19:28
– Prominence of Apostle Paul – how could he not be included on the same level with the other 11? But others in the NT are called apostles and not included in the 12.
– Never hear of Matthias again … but never hear of several other of the apostles again either.
– Peter’s personality is prone to acts of presumption
– Try to disparage the practice of casting of lots as a pagan methodology
– Does the command “Wait” imply taking no administrative action as well?
– Presented here in positive fashion – in contrast look at how seriously the sin of Ananias and Sapphira is dealt with
– First act of obedient apostles could not be a major blunder without some indication in the text
– Transitional nature of the early mission of the apostles – a reoffer of the kingdom to the Jews – only after the repeated rejection did Christ raise up Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles – even though that was in His eternal plan
– Would bring into serious question the efficacy of prayer and the ability of the apostles to rightly discern the will of God when they were seeking it sincerely – [would seriously change my application for today’s message]
– Paul did not meet the requirement of having personally been present during the earthly ministry of Christ
– Paul never argued that he should be included in this elite group: 1 Cor. 15:5,8
– Foundational nature of the apostles – there from the beginning of the building of the church; Paul is in a special category
Fundamental Principle: interpret the unclear in light of the clear; don’t make problems where none exist; take the clear, simple sense of the passage whenever possible; don’t complicate things unnecessarily
Bruce: The idea that Paul was divinely intended to be the twelfth, and that the apostles here wrongly anticipated God’s plan, betrays a misunderstanding of the unique character of Paul’s apostleship.
Since we believe this to be a positive example – what can we learn for our situation today?
B. (:21-26) God’s Will (His Sovereign Plan) Can Be Discovered and Implemented –
God’s Sovereign Plan for the Launch of the Great Commission Ministry Filled the 12th Apostolic Slot with God’s Choice —
Man looks on outward appearance but God looks on the heart
In fact: Must be discovered and implemented – Context here is discovering God’s choice for spiritual leadership – Apostles as the foundation of the church – but for us today:
Whom does God want to be the undershepherds serving under the Chief Shepherd?
Some Christians are virtual agnostics when it comes to the Will of God – What’s the use … I don’t know what God wants me to do; I don’t see God giving any clear direction to His church …What’s it matter what choices I make??
Look at the theology of the hymns we sing – do we really believe what we are singing:
“He leadeth me, O blessed thought! O words with heav’nly comfort fraught! What e’er I do, where’er I be, still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me … by His own hand He leadeth me
“All the way my Savior leads me; What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy, who through life has been my guide? Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell! For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well”
“Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but Thou art mighty; hold me with Thy pow’rful hand; Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more”
1. (:21-22) God’s Choice for Spiritual Leadership Must Meet God’s Revealed Standards
– Meshes with His Revealed Criteria of Qualifications
– Meshes with His Revealed Definition of Role and Responsibilities
God Embraces the Next Man Up Philosophy – Without Compromising on the Necessary Qualifications
“It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us– beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us– one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
Key Question: Why was it “necessary”? This solves the whole issue
“therefore” – look in the previous context to see what it is there for = points back to fulfillment of specific prophecy – application to Judas being made by the Holy Spirit
[Aside: Note how the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the use of the gift of prophecy interpreted OT passages and applied them to present day events is not a good pattern for us who must be more circumspect in our interpretation and application – this is a major difference between the hermeneutics of the amills and the premills]
“Let another man take his office” – clear instructions
a. One Primary Qualification: Participation in the earthly ministry of Christ along with the other apostles – beginning back at the baptism of John up until the Ascension
Does not mean that you personally had to see Jesus baptized by John … but from that time period characterized by John’s preparation ministry …
Involves a certain level of experience
Involves a certain level of knowledge
b. One Primary Function: Witness of the resurrection in ministry partnership with the other 11 apostles – read through Acts to see the emphasis on this witness to the resurrection
Involves a certain level of ability
Look at all of the problems that arise in our local churches when we fail to emphasize the revealed qualifications for spiritual leadership … or we fail to focus on the intended functionality
2. (:23) God’s Choice for Spiritual Leadership Must Be Recognizeable and Acceptable to the Existing Disciples –
Identification of the “they” = 120 disciples involved in the evaluating who met the qualifications
Acts 6 – input from the congregation in selection of deacons
Acts 14:23 – who is involved here in the ordaining decision? Derivation of word involves stretching forth the hand – does not necessarily imply some type of congregational voting; word is used in general sense of ordaining, appointing
“And they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias.”
Barsabbas = “son of the Sabbath” – probably born on the Sabbath
Maybe these were the only two men that met these qualifications
Someone does not just pop up out of nowhere; you don’t put someone into leadership without close personal knowledge of their character and qualifications; this is not something you audition for with a couple of preached sermons
Certainly not a popularity contest
But not ignoring or minimizing the input and discernment of the entire body of believers; not every input will be a mature one or a valid one; but still should be considered and evaluate
3. (:24-26) God’s Choice for Spiritual Leadership Must Become Evident Through a
Process of Sincerely Seeking God’s Will
5 Principles Regarding the Selection Process of Church Officers:
a. (:24a) Involves a Commitment to Persevering Prayer
“And they prayed,” Καὶ προσευξάμενοι
Discerning God’s will in any area always starts with a study of biblical principles and with persevering prayer – we come before God in humility; in recognition of our limitations; in a desire to embrace His will
b. (:24b) Involves a Recognition of the Surpassing Knowledge and Sovereign Wisdom of Jesus in providing guidance for the church
“and said, “Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen”
Ministry roles appointed by the Head of the Church; we just recognize the giftedness and character and free up for ministry
We must settle in our minds the important question of who is in charge of the church of Jesus Christ – too many times men get too big in their understanding of their own calling and giftedness and imagine that in some practical sense they are in charge of God’s church; we are prone to act presumptuously; to pridefully imagine that we know the hearts of men and can make such decisions; even leaders as influential as the original apostles recognized their limitations and submitted to the Headship of Jesus Christ; you don’t see Peter taking charge in the sense of dictating which individual should be chosen as the replacement for Judas
Do we really believe that Jesus can guide us and that we are just undershepherds with delegated authority?
Heart and character issues take precedence over intellect and natural abilities
Reference to God the Father or to the Lord Jesus Christ here?? Difficult to say for sure
[Bock: Usually the Father performs the action and Jesus mediates in Acts – ]
But possibly addressing Jesus directly here as the one who needs to personally choose the 12th apostle as He had done with the other 11 – cf. vs. 21 “the Lord Jesus”
c. (:25a) Involves an Understanding of the Nature of the Specific Office
“to occupy this ministry and apostleship”
Longenecker: probably a hendiadys (i.e. two connotative words connected by a conjunction that are used to express a single complex idea normally expressed by an adjective and a substantive noun), with the definite article tying the two elements together, and is best translated as “this apostolic ministry.”
The importance of the particular role –
The qualifications … as we have discussed –
How this role is different from other roles –
Transition: an understanding of the nature of ministry
d. (:25b) Involves a Dedication to Servant type leadership vs Greed and Self Promotion
“from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
Contrast John 14:2-3 – Ultimate destiny is in view; Christ preparing a place for His disciples; Judas rejected Christ and turned aside (apostasy) to go to his own place
Longenecker: likely a euphemism for “to go to hell” which shows spiritually the awfulness of Judas’s fate
You are able to recognize the genuine by having a good understanding of the counterfeit; what was it that led Judas to reject this apostolic ministry and make a choice to betray Jesus – to go his own way instead of submitting to God’s Sovereign Plan?
e. (:26) Involves a Confidence in the Selection Process which God will bless
“And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”
Process of discerning God’s will by the drawing of lots was common in the OT for very special circumstances; but last time it is referred to in the Scriptures – Transition in how one determines the will of God – no longer rolling the dice
Prov 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
(Lev. 16:8 – method prescribed by God for choosing a scapegoat in the Day of Atonement ritual)
Kent: Usually stones were used, either a white and a black one, or stones on which the names of the candidates were written.
Our process today will be different – not the drawing of lots – but these 5 principles still apply;
– We enjoy the completed canon of God’s revelation
– We enjoy the guidance from the indwelling Holy Spirit
– We enjoy the counsel of many godly people who have gone before us
CONCLUSION: FINAL PREPARATIONS
– Strengthen your Spiritual Relationships
– Submit to God’s Sovereign Plan
Stott: The stage is now set for the Day of Pentecost. The apostles have received Christ’s commission and seen his ascension. The apostolic team is complete again, ready to be his chosen witnesses. Only one thing is missing: the Spirit has not yet come. Though the place left vacant by Judas has been filled by Matthias, the place left vacant by Jesus has not yet been filled by the Spirit. So we leave Luke’s first chapter of the Acts with the 120 waiting in Jerusalem, persevering in prayer with one heart and mind, poised ready to fulfil Christ’s command just as soon as he has fulfilled his promise.
Apostles are now ready for the Spirit in all of His power to be poured out upon them so that they might testify to Christ with great effectiveness