“For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:20-26).
Over the years, in my capacity as a youth pastor, youth president, and now pastor, I’ve had the privilege (and sometimes the pain) of watching young men and women launch out into their personal ministries and callings.
I say “pain” because for every young man or woman that successfully pursues and attains their calling, there are many others that get tripped up or stumble along the way, if not right out of the gate. Not by sin, necessarily, as much as by misguided efforts and wrong attitudes.
I wrote a couple months back about the perils of ambition driven by pride, and that’s usually at the root of these mistakes and missteps. There are so many who get a desire to serve—a genuine desire—but allow their desire to achieve a particular position or station to drive their actions in the church.
They’re faithful to attend service—so long as they’re on the schedule.
In meetings, they’re excited and quick to offer input—so long as their suggestions are always the popular and agreed upon.
They support the pastor publicly—so long as they get that seat on the platform, that place in the committee, or that sought-after commission.
Take them off the schedule, however, and their attendance is spotty, at best. Disagree with their recommendations in a meeting, and they’ll either pout or have a convenient excuse to skip the next meeting. If the pastor fails to stroke their ego, they’re supportive in public, but are private cynics and critics.
In this passage, the apostles are wrestling with a situation many pastors deal with consistently. A member of the team has dropped off and needs to be replaced. Who do you choose? Many times we feel the choice is clear. Churches are often full of bright-eyed, eager-to-serve young people who are waiting in the wings to step into a position.
For the apostles, there was certainly no shortage of people to choose from. This event takes place during the prayer revival that would lead to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, so there were at least 120 dedicated people they could theoretically choose from.
Notice they are not looking for a junior member of the team. They’re using the word “apostleship,” not “intern.” Someone whose name will be engraved on the foundation of New Jerusalem. It’s the highest calling in the New Testament church. So the qualifications must have been significant, right?
But when we review the list of qualifications, we don’t see the apostles arguing over what type of degree he should hold, what kind of preacher he should be, or what leadership certifications he should have. No, the qualification is startlingly simple. Peter’s instruction is, “find me the men who have been with us from the very beginning, and have stayed with us through all the ins and outs.”
Faithfulness. That’s it.
They weren’t looking for an impressive resume. They weren’t looking to the ones who joined the crowd once they saw Jesus’ ascension or noticed that there was a need for a new apostle. No, just find me the most faithful men you can.
Also notice they were looking for someone who was faithful, “all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.”
A lot of people are faithful when Jesus is “in.” When the service is hopping, and the offerings are flowing, and work is good, and there’s no resistance—when the Master is performing the miraculous there’s no shortage of followers and “believers.”
But what about when Jesus is “out?” When the service is over, or the event has ended, and Jesus has “left the building,” so to speak? Amazing how the crowd thins when the fish and bread are no longer being multiplied and all that remains is the cleanup.
Peter didn’t want the selfie-taking crowds of hand-clappers and amen-shouters, or the ones who were Tweeting Jesus’ most quotable lines. He was looking for the cleanup crew. Someone who was just as faithful when Jesus was out of town as he was when Jesus was drawing the capacity crowds.
As a pastor, I’m thankful for this guidance. It’s so easy to want the “best” of everything that it’s quite possible—maybe even fashionable and encouraged—to forget what the “best” really is. I don’t need beautiful songs and dynamic preaching from those with flash-in-the-pan faithfulness.
No surprise, really, that they only managed to find two men with that requirement. And then, what’s truly astonishing here is that, when presented with the only two who met the qualifications, they essentially rolled the dice to determine who got the position. The takeaway being that there was no way to lose with faithful men.
Matthais—unremarkable in every way, never mentioned before in Scripture, didn’t preach the power down, didn’t release an amazing solo project. His greatest moment and accomplishment was being judged faithful.
Because faithfulness to God produces intimacy with God.
I don’t know if I can identify with the intelligence and oratory of Paul. I don’t know if I can really identify with the intensity and passion of Peter. But one day I’ll be able to run my hands over the engraved name of Matthais on the foundations of the city I live my life to inhabit—“he was faithful.” May the same be said of me.