Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 25, 1957

The Divine Organization Of The Church - No. 3

G. C. Caldwell, Sr., Manchester, Tennessee

As noted at the close of our last article, there were, in addition to the twelve already discussed, two other apostles of Christ, Matthias and Paul.

Let us examine the election of Matthias to fill the vacancy caused by the apostasy and death of Judas Iscariot, as doubt is sometimes entertained concerning the authority by which the apostles acted and, consequently, the validity of his apostleship.

After having given the great commission Jesus said to the apostles, "Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Some infer from this passage that the apostles acted without authority in selecting Matthias, and in so doing violated the command to "tarry"; and hence, they suppose that Matthias was not an apostle. As further evidence of their so-called "unwarranted act", the proponents of this theory present in evidence such passages as Matthew 19:28 and Revelation 21:14. We shall not here attempt a refutation of all the arguments used in favor of this theory, but will simply state our honest convictions regarding the matter, as based on both facts and reason.

At the time of this selection the apostles, of course, were not inspired, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. Peter, however, quoted from the scriptures that were inspired when he said, "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." (Acts 1:20). Therefore they proceeded to select one to take the bishoprick of Judas. This they did, not of themselves, but first they prayed unto the Lord, saying, "Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen." (See Acts 1:15-26). This was not a political election, nor an issue decided by majority vote. Rather, it was a selection which was made by the Lord Himself, through the apostles. After calling upon the Lord to make the choice. "they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell unto Matthias." (V. 26).

The casting of lots was a familiar process with the Jews, and was often used to establish matters pertaining to God's dealings with man. (See Num. 26:55; Lev. 16:8, etc.). The thing of great and practical importance here is, the apostles placed the responsibility of the selection, not in themselves, but on the Lord, and He made the choice. So Matthias was chosen by the Lord, "and he was numbered with the eleven apostles." Luke who was inspired at the time of the writing of Acts records the incident with no hint that such was in violation of the will of the Lord.

In Acts 2 there is a record of events which transpired at the time of the coming of the Spirit. It begins by saying, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they (the apostles) were all with one accord in one place . . . . and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." (Vs. 1-4) Be it remembered that the New Testament as originally written was not divided into chapters and verses. These divisions were made by man, and while their advantages are many, they sometimes occur at a point where the meaning of a passage may be obscured from the casual reader. The division of chapters 1 and 2 of Acts is a case in point, If we read the last verse of chapter 1 and the first verse of chapter 2 without the division, the meaning is clear; the validity of Matthias' selection is verified. Now in verse 14 (ch. 2) it is said, "But Peter standing up with the eleven lifted up his voice" etc. Peter standing with the eleven certainly would make twelve apostles present. Thus Luke unqualifiedly endorses Matthias as an apostle.

Of the background of Matthias we have nothing of New Testament account, except the fact that he had been a disciple from the beginning of the Lord's ministry; and of his subsequent career the New Testament is silent.

We have already pointed out that there were in reality fourteen apostles of Christ, and we have given discussion to thirteen of them, the original twelve and Matthias. It seems appropriate that we should reserve for the last the Apostle Paul as "one born out of due time." (I Cor. 15:8).

Paul was called to the apostleship in the full and proper sense. He did not arrive at it by his own choice or through accidental circumstances. (See Acts 26:1518). Since his apostolic power and authority is not today called in question, we prefer here to speak briefly of his character and work.

The characteristics of Paul were a keen and quick consciousness that demanded first of all that which was right, then a self-sacrificing devotion to that which he regarded as right, regardless of the cost in labor or suffering. These were marked characteristics of his, even before his conversion; and they were broadened and strengthened by his faith in Christ until he became possessed with a passion to suffer like Christ for the salvation of the world. The whole period of his Christian life was one of labor, suffering and self-denial. See 2 Cor. 11:23-28).

He was not only more abundant in his labors and sufferings in his traveling and preaching the gospel, but he wrote more of the New Testament than any other writer. Fourteen of his epistles have been preserved, and it is certain that he wrote others which have been lost.

Here is one to whom no single man that has ever lived, before or since, can furnish a perfect parallel. If we look at him only as a writer, how immensely does he surpass, in his most casual Epistles the greatest authors of all ages! If we look at the Christian world, the very greatest worker in each realm of Christian service does not present an inferior aspect of one phase only of Paul's many-sided pre-eminence. If we look at him as a moral reformer, we may compare him with the greatest one of them; but in his practical control of even the most thrilling impulses — in making the spirit of the prophet subject to the prophet — how grand an example might he not have furnished to the most impassioned of them! But no other servant of God has ever attained the same heights in so many capacities, or borne in his body such evident brand-marks of the Lord. In his lifetime he was not behind the very chiefest of all the servants of God who have since striven to follow the example of his devotion to the Lord. He, of course, did not claim superiority over the other apostles, neither did he concede such superiority to any single one of them. The Romish fallacy concerning the so-called superiority of Peter, and the position ascribed to him as the head of the church, by Roman Catholics, is not only false; it is dishonoring Christ, degrading to the apostles, and wholly without scriptural warrant or sanction. Paul did not recognize Peter as head of the church, and when he "was to be blamed," Paul "withstood him to the face." (Gal. 2:11).

The work and qualifications of the apostles are clearly set forth in the New Testament. To them belonged (1) the responsibility of bearing testimony in behalf of Christ (Acts 1:8); (2) revealing to mankind the essential truths and principles of the Scheme of Redemption (Jno. 16:13); (3) enacting all necessary laws and establishing all ordinances of the kingdom (Matt. 28:18-20); (4) demonstrating by various miraculous signs and wonders that Jesus had been exalted to be a Prince and Saviour, and they themselves were his own chosen and appointed ambassadors to proclaim His will to all the world (Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 2, etc.); (5) to confer on others the power to work miracles (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6; 2 Tim. 1:6).

From this brief survey of the special duties and prerogatives of the apostles it is obvious that they should all have the following qualifications:

First, they must have seen Christ and been eye and ear witnesses of what they testified to the world concerning Him (Jno. 15:27; Acts 1:21, 22; 22:14, 16). Second, they must have been chosen and appointed to their office by Christ Himself (Luke 6:13-16; Acts 9:15 etc.) Authority to choose an apostle was never delegated to any man or body of men. Even Matthias was appointed by lot, the disposing of which was, in all cases, from the Lord. (Prov. 16:33). Third, they must have the gift of plenary inspiration (Matt. 10:16-20; Jno. 14:15-18; 16:12-15, etc.) This was necessary to enable them to understand properly the Oracles and teachings of the Old Testament; to reveal fully and infallibly the remaining mysteries of the Scheme of Redemption, and to give to the church such a code of laws and regulations as would be a perfect rule of faith and practice in all ages and under all circumstances. (4) they must have the gift of tongues and the power to work divers sorts of miracles (Acts 3:126; Heb. 2:4 etc.).

From these premises, therefore, it follows of necessity, the apostles could have no successors in office. No man, or group of men can ever possess their qualifications, or discharge the special duties of their office. The fact is that in, and by, and through their writings they themselves still live and preside over the whole church according to the promise of Christ given to them in Matthew 19:28. Therefore, it is concluded that the twenty-seven Canonical Books of the New Testament are the only proper successors of the Apostles of Christ in the earth today.