Was it wrong for the disciples to choose Matthias as the 12th apostle? Many consider Paul was the one God intended to replace Judas, and that Peter and the others jumped the gun by drawing lots and choosing Matthias. We know also from Revelation 21:14 that there’s only space for 12 apostles’ names on the city wall foundations — not 13. How should we understand this?
Like a seasoned historian, Luke presents the beginning and growth of the church with all its background in the Acts of the Apostles. The Lord at His ascension commanded that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Spirit. This was followed by the 10 days of prayer by the 120 early disciples (Acts 1:13-15).
On one of those days, Peter rose up and, quoting the Scriptures, suggested that they choose one from among them in the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:20-26; Psalm 109:8; Proverbs 16:33). In recording the selection, Luke has not presented it in a bad light at all. He presents it as a right step by Peter and others. So, there is no reason why we should reject the choice of Matthias as one among the Twelve.
An objection often voiced against the choice of Matthias is that he is not mentioned anywhere else after Acts 1. But this cannot really be seen as an issue, as not much has been recorded about most of the other apostles too.
Matthias not being mentioned after Acts 1 cannot be seen as an issue, as not much has been recorded about most of the other apostles too
Interestingly, Apostle Paul — whose candidacy for inclusion among the Twelve many would vouch for — excludes himself from the list of the Twelve. Notice the following verses: “and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve… Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me (1 Corinthians 15:5, 7-8).
As can be seen from the text, Paul clearly excludes himself from among the Twelve and the apostles. Luke too mentions the Twelve in exclusion of his hero, Paul (Acts 6:2). There are those who take the Twelve as a title, more than a number. But the exclusion of himself from “all the apostles” is loud and clear. The term ‘the apostles’ is used here with restricted meaning for the Twelve, rather than in a general sense.
This exclusion doesn’t mean that Paul was lesser than the Twelve. Notice the claims of his apostleship in 1 Corinthians 9:1-2: “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” And again in 2 Corinthians 11:5: “Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles.”
We can see these asserts in his epistle to the Galatians too: “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…” (Galatians 1:1); “Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me…” (Galatians 1:17). He also reminds his readers that the signs of a true apostle were found in him (2 Corinthians 12:11-12). What’s more, in all his epistles, we can find Paul asserting his apostleship in the salutation.
However, in light of the verses mentioned earlier, we need not take this as a claim of position among the Twelve. He was the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 9:2). His calling was a special and unique one.
Interestingly, Apostle Paul — whose candidacy for inclusion among the Twelve many would vouch for — excludes himself from the list
Mathias was chosen because ‘The Twelve’ was necessary for the witness to the people gathered on the day of Pentecost. It’s worth noting that we don’t find such a decision being made after the death of any of the other apostles. For example, James was martyred (Acts 12:2), but no other was chosen in his place. This tells us that the choice of Matthias was necessary for the testimony of the day of Pentecost. It was on that day the church was formed (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Paul was not even a believer at the time. Also, numbers are significant only in Jewish contexts (even the number of believers are mentioned only when the gospel was preached among the Jews). They were not significant after the gospel was extended beyond the borders of the Jews.
In this context, the question about whether it is Matthias or Paul who will be among the foundations of the Holy City (Revelation 21:14) is pertinent. The book of Revelation is full of symbolic language. In many places, scholars are still doubtful about whether to take certain things symbolically or literally.
The 12 foundations may well represent the whole church, just as the 12 tribes represent the whole of Israel. Here, the question about Matthias or Paul being among the 12 foundations of the city doesn’t arise at all. If at all the foundations are to be taken literally, it is not Paul but Matthias who qualifies as one among the Twelve.
These statements, in no way, belittle Apostle Paul. He is not in any way lesser than the chiefest among the apostles. On the contrary, he was one among those who were instrumental in laying down the doctrinal foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5).
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