The Faith of the First Christians

These first Christians met together for a specific reason: to pray for God’s Kingdom to come to their lives and city. Chuck Swindoll is right: we can do much for God after we pray, but nothing until we pray. With whom will you pray together for God’s will to be done in your lives today?

Interpret life biblically (vs. 15-20)

Peter then stood and addressed the assembled group from the wisdom and word of God. He explained the fact of Judas’ betrayal as a fulfillment of David’s prediction, leading to an open opportunity for another to fulfill his leadership call (Psalms 69:25; 109:8).

Judas’ betrayal led to his suicide by hanging (Mathew. 27:5). After his death, either his body decayed in the manner Peter describes (v. 18), or was cut down with the described result. In this way, Matthew’s account is completed by Peter’s.

Judas’ actions did not prevent the purpose of God—they helped to complete it. When we interpret all that happens to us in light of the word and will of God, we are able to see his larger purposes and fulfill them by our own faithfulness.

When I taught science and faith classes at Southwestern Seminary, I encouraged my students to interpret science through the eyes of Scripture, not the reverse. Scientific “laws” are always being adapted to new discoveries, as is appropriate. But the word of God does not change; it is always his revelation to his people (cf. Hebrews 4:12).

When we seek biblical principles for responding to the circumstances of our days, we will walk in the will and power of our Father.

Trust his will personally (vs. 21-26)

Now the church must choose the person to take Judas’ place of leadership. This was a crucial decision, with much resting on the outcome. If the person chosen turned out to be a traitor like Judas, they could all die and their movement with them. They must step by sacrificial and personal faith into God’s will.

They established guidelines for apostleship: the person must have been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry (vs. 21-22), and be willing to become “a witness with us of his resurrection” (v. 22b). Two men qualified: Joseph called Barsabbas, and Matthias. Their existence shows that more followed Jesus than we find named in the gospels. We are not told that these are the only two who met apostolic qualifications, but that they were the two “proposed” by the church (v. 23).

The apostles sought God’s will in this specific matter, through urgent and heartfelt prayer (v. 24). They then “cast lots” (v. 26), a typical Old Testament procedure for seeking the will of God (cf. 1 Chronicles 26:13-16). Most likely these were two squares or discs; when they both fell “up,” the positive resulted; when they both fell “down,” the negative was interpreted. In this case, the apostles may have written the names of the two men on two discs; whichever name came up on both was determined to be their answer.

Using such tools was in no sense gambling or stepping away from God’s will. Those who used these implements trusted that God would guide the stones or discs to reveal his will. Praying for God to “open or close doors,” or asking him to act in other circumstantial ways, is no less a belief that our Father will use events to disclose his will. Nonetheless, this is the last time “lots” were used in the Bible.

Matthias was the result of their prayer and lot-casting, so “he was added to the eleven apostles” (v. 26). This is the last we hear of him, causing some to suggest that he was not God’s will for Judas’ place among the apostles. Some go further, asserting that Paul was the twelfth apostle meant by God. But the fact that Matthias is not mentioned again in the New Testament is not a conclusive fact, for we hear no more from seven of the other apostles listed in verse 13. Such an argument from silence is speculative at best.

Where do you find yourself needing to know God’s will and purpose for your life today? Follow the example of these first Christians: obey what you know of God’s will, now. Pray with others, constantly. Interpret the events of your life through the eyes and revelation of Scripture. Trust his will personally as he reveals it to you, believing that it is “good, acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). And he will guide you through each step of your path in his will and ultimate purpose for your life.

Conclusions

Norman Vincent Peale once compared God’s will to a flashlight in the dark. The light does not show us all the way to our destination, but merely the next step to take. As we walk in the light we have, step by step, we find our way home.

Acts 1 has given you all the light you need for your next steps in the dark: walk with your Lord personally; seek his purpose passionately; fulfill his will urgently; and yield to his will personally. Lead your class members to do the same, by your example and by your teachings.

Imagine the results if every person who studies this text this week were to adopt its principles. And you have a glimpse into the mind and purpose of God for us all.