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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 1 - Verse 26

Verse 26. And they gave forth their lots. Some have supposed that this means they voted. But to this interpretation there are insuperable objections.

(1.) The word lotsklhrouv—is not used to express votes, or suffrage.

(2.) The expression; "the lot fell upon," is not consistent with the notion of voting. It is commonly expressive of casting lots.

(3.) Casting lots was common among the Jews on important and difficult occasions, and it was natural that the apostles should resort to it in this. Thus David divided the priests by lot, 1 Ch 24:5. The land of Canaan was divided by lot, Nu 26:55; Jos 15:1-17:18. Jonathan, son of Saul, was detected as having violated his father's command, and as bringing calamity on the Israelites, by lot, 1 Sa 14:41,42. Achan was detected by lot, Jos 7:16-18. In these cases the use of the lot was regarded as a solemn appeal to God, for his direct interference in cases which they could not themselves decide. Pr 16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." The choice of an apostle was an event of the same kind, and was regarded as a solemn appeal to God for his direction and guidance in a case which the apostles could not determine. The manner in which this was done is not certainly known. The common mode of casting lots, was to write the names of the persons on pieces of stone, wood, etc., and put them in one urn; and the name of the office, portion, etc., on others. These were then placed in an urn with other pieces of stone, etc., which were blank. The names were then drawn at random, and also the other pieces, and this determined the case. The casting of a lot is determined by laws of nature, as regularly as anything else. There is properly no chance in it. We do not know how a die may turn up; but this does not imply that it will turn up without any regard to rule, or at haphazard. We cannot trace the influences which may determine either this or that side to come up; but still it is done by regular and proper laws, and according to the circumstances of position, force, etc., in which it is cast. Still although it does not imply any special or miraculous interposition of Providence; though it may not be absolutely wrong, in cases which cannot otherwise be determined, to use the lot, yet it does not follow that it is proper often to make this appeal. Almost all cases of doubt can be determined more satisfactorily in some other way than by the lot. The habit of appealing to it engenders the love of hazards and of games; leads to heart- burnings, to jealousies, to envy, to strife, and to dishonesty. Still less does the example of the apostles authorize games of hazard, or lotteries, which are positively evil, and attended with ruinous consequences, apart from any inquiry about the lawfulness of the lot. They either originate in, or promote, covetousness, neglect of regular industry, envy, jealousy, disappointment, dissipation, bankruptcy, falsehood, and despair. What is gained by one is lost by another, and both the gain and the loss promote some of the worst passions of man: boasting, triumph, self-confidence, indolence, dissipation, on the one hand; and envy, disappointment, sullenness, desire of revenge, remorse, and ruin, on the other. God intended that man should live by sober toil. All departures from this great law of our social existence lead to ruin.

Their lots. The lots which were to decide their case. They are called, theirs, because they were to determine which of them should be called to the apostolic office.

The lot fell. This is an expression applicable to casting lots, not to voting.

He was numbered. By the casting of the lot—sugkateqhfisyh—. This word is from —qhfova calculus, or pebble, by which votes were given, or lots were cast. It means, that by the result of the lot he was reckoned as an apostle. Nothing further is related of Matthias in the New Testament. Where he laboured, and when and where he died, is unknown; nor is there any tradition on which reliance is to be placed. The election of Matthias throws some light on the organization of the church.

(1.) He was chosen to fill the place vacated by Judas, and, for a specific purpose, to be a witness of the resurrection of Christ. There is no mention of any other design. It was not to ordain men exclusively, or to rule over the churches, but to be a witness to an important fact.

(2.) There is no intimation here that it was designed that there should be successors to the apostles in the peculiar duties of the apostolic office. The election was for a definite object, and was therefore temporary. It was to fill up the number originally appointed by Christ. When the purpose for which he was appointed was accomplished, the peculiar part of the apostolic work ceased, of course.

(3.) There could be no succession in our times to the peculiar apostolic office. They were to be witnesses of the work of Christ. For this they were sent forth. And when the desired effect resulting from such a witnessing was accomplished, the office itself would cease. Hence there is no record that after this the church even pretended to appoint successors to the apostles to discharge their peculiar work. And hence no minister of the gospel can now pretend to be their successors in the peculiar and original design of the appointment of the apostles.

(4.) The only other apostle mentioned in the New Testament is the apostle Paul, not appointed as the successor of the others, not with any peculiar design except to be an apostle to the Gentiles, as the others were to the Jews, and appointed for the same end, to testify that Jesus Christ was alive, and that he had seen him after he rose, 1 Co 15:8; 9:1; Ac 22:8,9,14,15; 9:15; 26:17,18.

The ministers of religion, therefore, are successors of the apostles, not in their peculiar office as witnesses, but as preachers of the word, and as appointed to establish, to organize, and to edify and rule the churches. The peculiar Work of the apostleship ceased with their death. The ordinary work of the ministry, which they held in common with all others who preach the gospel, will continue to the end of time.

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