The In-Between Years - Part 8

Series: The In-Between Years

June 21, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

The In-Between Years - Part 8

We are moving slowly in our look at the church in the book of Acts which may lead some of you to think it’s going to be another long one like God’s End Game. I can promise you it won’t be… probably.

Things will pick up soon, but I felt it necessary to take our time in chapter one because, as I’ve mentioned more than once, it sets us up for chapter two. And chapter two is like an exploding bomb that hurls all the others chapters outward. The shockwaves from that are still being felt today!

We’ve seen how chapter one points us back to volume one of Luke’s two-volume set that chronicles the life of Jesus… 

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,  Acts 1:1 (ESV)

We’ve seen how chapter one recounts what Jesus taught his disciples about the coming of the Spirit, who was with them but would be in them with the birth of the church…

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  Acts 1:4–5 (ESV) 

We’ve seen how chapter one shows us Jesus’ ascension back to the father leaving his followers with a mission:

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  Acts 1:8–9 (ESV)

We’ve seen how chapter one reminds us of Peter’s redemption story and Judas’ tragic story of betrayal. 

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.  Acts 1:15–16 (ESV) 

Finally, today, chapter one gives us the account of how Judas was replaced, which evidently was necessary for things to move forward. This brings up a good question: why did there have to be twelve disciples anyway? Why not just go with eleven? That answer may lie in Luke’s first volume where Jesus told the twelve…

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Luke 22:28–30 (ESV) 

One commentator writes:

…[this] speaks of the apostles’ unique role of sitting in the kingdom and judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Their number corresponds to the tribes of Israel, for in a real sense they represent the restored Israel, the people of God. The continuity with Israel necessitates the restoration of the full number of twelve. Because the church is built on the foundation of these Twelve as representatives of the true Israel… their number had to be completed before the coming of the Spirit and the “birth of the church.” Throughout Acts this unique circle of the Twelve eyewitnesses is characteristically designated as “the apostles.”[1]

Not only that, as I’ve also mentioned before, these disciples who would become the apostles — or the especially commissioned leaders of the early church — were so important their names would one day be inscribed on New Jerusalem’s foundation in the heaven and earth. How strange it would be for one to remain blank or even stranger for one to have a name crossed out.

Peter, as a part of his first act as leader, offers the qualifications for this replacement disciple/apostle…

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. Acts 1:21–23 (ESV)

The credentials were pretty straightforward.

The candidate must be a fellow who had been with Jesus from the time of John’s baptizing to the ascension shortly before. Two were proposed: Justus and Matthias.

It’s kind of surprising that we hadn’t heard of them before and that neither play a role after this even though one becomes the twelfth apostle. Tradition has it that Justus became a missionary and one day, because of his faith, was forced to drink poison. It had no effect. Lots of traditions arose about Matthias, from him actually being a number of disciples already mentioned in the gospels by other names to getting martyred later on.

Well, they had their candidates, now it was time to pray…

24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” Acts 1:24–25 (ESV)

This takes us back to what Jesus did before he chose the twelve…

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:  Luke 6:12–13 (ESV)

This is a model for us. Pray before making big decisions. Seek to discern the Lord’s will first. This next part, though, seems odd and even contradictory… 

26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.  Acts 1:26 (ESV)

You might translate that verse this way:

And they flipped a coin and it landed on Matthias.

They prayed and flipped a coin! Some of you are excited about that right now. You have now found a way to discern God’s will. Reminds me of the guy trying to shed a few pounds who prayed, “Lord, if there’s a parking spot in front of the donut shop when I drive by, I’ll know it’s your will to for me to indulge myself today.” Sure enough, there was one… after the 27th time he drove by.

Before you get too excited or confused understand that lot casting was — and I’m quoting someone here — a common “form… of divination in which the random outcome was believed to reflect divine will.”[2] Practically everybody in ancient times used the casting of lots in one form or another for one reason or another. We see the Roman soldiers doing this at the cross…

35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.  Matthew 27:35 (ESV) 

The Jews did this as well. They used a method of casting lots to determine the fate of two goats used on the Day of Atonement. They used them to determine the distribution of an inheritance at times. They used them in the OT on occasion to identify those guilty of some sin. And they used them to settle disputes… 

18 The lot puts an end to quarrels and decides between powerful contenders.  Proverbs 18:18 (ESV)

God allowed for this. God often allows for and/or uses worldly things to accomplish his will. He’ll take certain aspects of human culture and redeem it for his use and then retire it later. God let his people “flip a coin” like those around them but unlike the pagans..

33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.  Proverbs 16:33 (ESV) 

We are tempted to use this today. But one of the things you note in the NT is the practice of casting lots is never mentioned again. Why? The way God works in and through his people is about to take a radical turn. We’ve actually already talked about it many, many times.

What did Jesus tell the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for? The promise of the Father. And what was that? The coming of the Spirit who had been with them but would be in them. One scholar explains…

“Some have wanted to see Matthias selected by vote of the church, but the text points more to the ancient procedure of lot-casting. One should not be put off by the “chance” element. In the Old Testament the outcome was always seen to be determined by God. That was probably the consideration in this case. Before Pentecost, before the presence of the Spirit to lead it, the church sought the direction of God and used the Old Testament procedure of securing divine decision. After Pentecost the church in Acts made its own decisions under the direction of the Spirit.”[3]

We don’t need to cast lots to determine God’s will anymore. We’ve got his Spirit living within us to guide and direct us.

Conclusion: As we close out chapter one, we note a few things about this band of 120 disciples who would become the early church.

They gathered together. That’s a characteristic of God’s people under the new covenant in Christ. When you observe the church in Acts you see them coming together. It was at the top of their list of things to do. The idea of being a Christian and not being part of a local fellowship of believers wouldn’t compute to them, and it shouldn’t to us.

They prayed. That’s another thing you see. The church in Acts prays. When they called a prayer meeting, the house was packed. Not out of a sense of obligation but anticipation of what God would do.

When we modern Western Christians call one, you hear crickets. Have Phil Robertson speak and you’ll be forced to meet in a football stadium. Have a prayer meeting and you won’t fill a classroom. This convicts me.

They turned to God’s Word. They held the Bible to be written ultimately by the Holy Spirit; they held it to be divine in its origin. Peter said…

16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.  Acts 1:16 (ESV)

The Scripture, though written by men, was inspired by God’s Spirit. In other words, it was as if God spoke through them. And because of that they turned to it; they obeyed it. JD Greear says…

Because they saw the Bible as divine;

■  Their opinions about things ceased to matter; what mattered was what the word said.

■  And because they saw the Bible as divine, they devoted themselves to it.[4]

In the church today we downplay the Bible, making it say less than what it does or making it say what we want it to say.

Or we idolize it, making it the fourth person of the Trinity. We act is if it contains the totality of who God is. If heaven and earth cannot contain the Creator, do you think a book can? That was the sin of the Pharisees. They thought they had figured God out; that he was contained within the confines of the Torah, the Law.

Downplaying the Bible and idolizing it are opposite and equal errors.

You watch as we take a look at the church in the book of Acts and see how they gathered together, how they prayed, how they turned to God’s word.

I haven’t used the Cotton Patch Gospel in a while. It’s one of my favorite Bible paraphrases. A man named Clarence Jordan recast the stories of Jesus into the mid 1950s South. Jesus was born in Georgia and the events of the gospels took place in the Bible Belt.

Let me close by reading chapter 1. Just listen… 

Acts 1 (The Cotton Patch Gospel)


1. I wrote the first volume, Friend of God, about the many deeds and lessons which Jesus got under way, up to the day when he ascended. Prior to this he had given, through the Holy Spirit, specific orders to his special agents, and had shown himself to them with many positive proofs that he was still alive even after he had been killed. Through forty days he appeared to them and discussed matters concerning the God Movement. And while staying with them, he urged them not to leave Atlanta but to wait for the Father’s promised gift about which he had told them. “Yes, John dipped people in water,” he said, “but in just a few days you all will be dipped in Holy Spirit.”

6. So those about him began asking, “Will that be the occasion on which you will take over the government?” He said to them, “You are not to get all worked up about timetables and events which the Father has under his own control. But as the Holy Spirit comes over you, you will get power and will be my agents in Atlanta and throughout Georgia, in the ghetto and across the land.” As he said this, and while they were watching, he was carried away and a cloud kept them from seeing him.

10. As he went away, and while they were still staring into the sky, two men in blue jeans joined them and asked, “Citizens of America, why stand there looking at the sky? This Jesus who was carried away from you into the sky will come just as you saw him going into the sky.”

12. Then they returned to Atlanta from “Peach Hill Orchard,” which is in the suburbs of Atlanta. When they got back, they went upstairs where they were living. This included Rock and Jack and Jim and Andy, Phil and Tom, Bart and Matt, Jim Alston and Simon the Rebel, and Joe Jameson. All of them, including the women and Mary, Jesus’ mother, and his brothers, were continually praying together.

15. While this was going on, Rock arose and said to the brotherhood (the number in the assembly was about one hundred twenty): “Brothers, it was inevitable that David’s inspired prediction about Judas being in cahoots with those who framed Jesus, should come true. He belonged to our group, and thereby obtained a rightful share in this undertaking.”

(It was he, you know, who with his bribe money bought a plot, where he fell and busted open, and his guts spilled out. That’s why the people around Atlanta refer to it as “The Blood Plot.”)

20. Rock continued, “In the book of Psalms it says,

‘May his barn be empty

and his house be vacant;’


‘Let someone else take over his office.’

“So, we’ve got to choose someone to join with us as evidence of Jesus’ aliveness—someone who has been with us throughout the whole time Jesus was among us—from the beginning at John’s baptism until the day of his ascension.”

23. They then nominated two, George Jones, who was nicknamed Barsey, and Matt. They prayed and said, “You, Lord, heart-knower of all, please make clear which one of these two you have selected to receive the rightful share of this undertaking and commission from which Judas deserted to go his own way.” They had them draw lots, and the share fell to Matt, who was then counted in with the eleven officers.

There are probably a hundred or more things we could have gleaned from chapter one, but we are going to move on to chapter two next week with the coming of the Spirit and the birth of the church, the event that turned the world upside down and is still doing so today.

God wants to turn your word upside down, in a good way. Have you taken him up on his offer to save all those who call on his name?

Maybe you have and you get tired of me asking. Well let me ask something else. Have invited someone else to take God up on that offer?

[1] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, pp. 93–94). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Fleenor, R. (2016). Lots. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 95). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Greear, J. D. (2017). The Word of the Apostles as the Foundation of Movement: Acts 1:12–26. In J. D. Greear Sermon Archive (Ac 1:12–26). Durham, NC: The Summit Church.

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