Matthias: the First Serious Error of the Early Church

The NT Office of Apostle: a Modern Defense of the Legitimacy of the Selection of Matthias

I selected a well-known Systematic Theology for this chapter of the series to present a typical, modern and erroneous “interpretation” of the historical event recorded in Act 1.15-26, namely, that Matthias should be regarded as the legitimate replacement for Judas Iscariot.

The reference I selected is Dr. Wayne Grudem’s, Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan, 1994, ppg. 906 – 912. [It is a portion of “Chapter 47: Church Government”.]

The biblical rebuttal of Dr. Grudem’s assertions follows in the next chapter.

The historical facts of this important event, as recorded in inspired Scripture, are very simple:

Act 1.15-26
At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms,

‘Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it’;
and,
‘Let another man take his office.’

Therefore it is 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 must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

The following citations are from Dr. Grudem’s Systematic Theology, in which he asserts that Matthias should be regarded as the legitimate replacement Apostle for the vacancy left by Judas Iscariot, the betrayer.

Each of these will be fully and biblically rebutted in the next chapter. Within the representative citations below, only a single one—namely, that Paul was specially commissioned to be an Apostle by the Lord Himself—is biblical. All his other assertions are fallacious and easily rebutted by the proper use of Scripture.

Again: the assertions below are from Dr. Wayne Grudem and are NOT the position of SolaScripturaToday.org!

 


pg. 906-907
Qualifications of an Apostle: The two qualifications for being an apostle were (1) having seen Jesus after his resurrection with one’s own eyes (thus, being an ‘eyewitness of the resurrection’), and (2) having been specifically commissioned by Christ as his apostle.

The fact that an apostle had to have seen the risen Lord with his own eyes is indicated by Acts 1:22, where Peter said that the person to replace Judas ‘must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ Moreover, it was ‘to the apostles whom he had chosen’ that ‘he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days’ (Act 1:2-3; cf. 4:33).”

Summary of Dr. Grudem’s assertion:
There are two requirements for the office of Apostle:

    1. having seen Jesus after His resurrection, and
    2. specifically commissioned by the Lord Christ.

 

pg. 907
“The second qualification, specific appointment by Christ as an apostle, is also evident from several verses. First, though the term apostle is not common in the gospels, the twelve disciples are called “apostles” specifically in a context where Jesus is commissioning them, ‘sending them out’ to preach in his name:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these … These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them ‘… preach as you go, saying “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” ‘ (Matt 10:1-7)

Similarly, Jesus commissions his apostles in a special sense to be his ‘witnesses … to the end of the earth’ (Act 1:8). And, in choosing another apostle to replace Judas, the eleven apostles did not take the responsibility on themselves, but prayed and asked the ascended Christ to make the appointment:”

 

Summary of Dr. Grudem’s assertion:
First, the term “apostle” in the gospel accounts refer to the fact that the first disciples and apostles were “sent out” by the Lord Christ.

Second, the eleven themselves did not really select Matthias (it was really the Lord operating by proxy through His disciples); therefore, the second requirement—"specifically commissioned”—is maintained.

 

pg. 907
“Paul himself insists that Christ personally appointed him as an apostle. He tells how, on the Damascus Road, Jesus told him that he was appointing him as an apostle to the Gentiles …”

Summary of Dr. Grudem’s assertion:
Saul of Tarsus fulfilled the second requirement, namely to be “specifically commissioned” to become Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

 

 

pg. 908
Who Were the Apostles? The initial group of apostles numbered twelve—the eleven original disciples who remained after Judas died, plus Matthias, who replaced Judas … So important was this original group of twelve apostles, the ‘charter members’ of the office of apostle, that we read that the names are inscribed on the foundations of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem …”

Summary of Dr. Grudem’s assertion:
The original twelve (the remaining eleven with Matthias), according to Dr. Grudem, are the “charter members” of that very exclusive group of men called Apostles.

 

pg 908
“We might at first think that such a group could never be expanded that no one could be added to it. But then Paul clearly claims that he, also, is an apostle. And Acts 14:14 calls both Barnabas and Paul apostles: ‘when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it …’ So with Paul and Barnabas there are fourteen ‘apostles of Jesus Christ’”

Summary of Dr. Grudem’s assertion:
With Paul and Barnabas added to the group, there were by that point fourteen apostles.

 

pg 908
“Furthermore, when Paul is listing the resurrection appearances of Jesus he once again readily classifies James with the apostles:

Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor 15:7-9)

Finally, the fact that James could write the New Testament epistle which bears his name would also be entirely consistent with his having the authority which belonged to the office of apostle, the authority to write words which were the words of God. All these considerations combine to indicate that James the Lord’s brother was also commissioned by Christ as an apostle. That would bring the number to fifteen ‘apostles of Jesus Christ’ (the twelve plus Paul, Barnabas, and James).”

Summary of Dr. Grudem’s assertion:
With James added to the group, there were then fifteen apostles.

 

ppg. 908-910
“Were there more than these fifteen? There may possibly have been a few more …

Others, of course, had seen Jesus after his resurrection … . From this large group it is possible that Christ appointed some others as apostles—but is also possible that he did not.

Romans 16:7 says ‘Greet Andronicus and Junias … ; they are men of note among the apostles …’ … The verse has too little information to allow us to draw a conclusion.

Others have been suggested as apostles. Silas (Silvanus) and sometimes Timothy are mentioned because of 1 Thessalonians 2:6: ‘though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.’ … In this case, the ‘we’ refers either to Paul and Silas, or else just to Paul alone.

So it is just possible that Silas was himself an Apostle, and that 1 Thessalonians 2:6 hint at that.

This gives us a limited but somewhat imprecisely numbered group who had the office ‘apostle of Jesus Christ.’ There seem to have been at least fifteen, and perhaps sixteen of even a few more who are not recorded in the New Testament.”

Summary of Dr. Grudem’s assertion:
We don’t really know how many apostles were actually appointed to the office by the Lord Christ, but it was at least fifteen or sixteen. It could have been many more.

 

pg 911
“Summary: The word apostle can be used in a broad or narrow sense. In a broad sense, it just means ‘messenger’ or ‘pioneer missionary.’ But in a narrow sense, the most common sense in the New Testament, it refers a specific office, ‘apostle of Jesus Christ.’ These apostles had unique authority to found and govern the early church, and they could speak and write words of God. Many of their written words became the New Testament Scriptures.

In order to qualify as an apostle, someone (1) ha to have seen Christ with his own eyes after he rose from the dead, and (2) had to have been specifically appointed by Christ as an apostle. There was a limited number of apostles, perhaps fifteen or sixteen or a few more—the New Testament is not explicit of the number. The twelve original apostles (the eleven plus Matthias) were joined by Barnabas and Paul, very probably James, perhaps Silas, and maybe even Andronicus and Junias or a few unnamed others. It seems that no apostles were appointed after Paul, and certainly, since no one today an meet the qualifications of having seen the risen Christ with his own eyes, there are no apostles today.”

Summary of Dr. Grudem’s assertion:
The term “apostle” can be “broad” or “narrow”. The original eleven with Matthias should be classified in the “narrow” sense who, along with Paul, had special authority. Everyone else mentioned after Paul might or might not be apostles, whose total number could be fifteen or sixteen, but might be more.

 

Each of these assertions, the exception being that of the commissioning of Saul of Tarsus, is biblical error and biblically irresponsible and are rebutted from the Scriptures in the next chapter.