In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “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. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
“‘Let another take his office.’
So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 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.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
This event – filling the place vacated by Judas as one of the twelve witnesses to the resurrection – is decidedly androcentric. What I mean is that it would appear that no women were considered for the empty post. Who were the first people to see Jesus risen from the dead? Some women! So why were they not candidates for the empty seat? I think it is because Jesus chose 12 men to be with him. Luke tells us that women were among the group that traveled with Jesus, supported him financially and received his teaching (see, for instance, Luke 8:1-2). Yet he chose 12 men to fill this role of “disciple.” And presumably, that is why His 11 disciples chose another man to fill Judas’s empty seat. It would seem God approved of their choice of Matthias. God knows how to tell His people that He doesn’t like any of the candidates they have put forward (1 Samuel 16:10). But here God gives an answer by casting of lots for Matthias.
Because of this passage and others we will discuss in the upcoming weeks, I believe there is another “plumb line” for the Church: different roles for men and women in the Church. Last week, I underscored the equality of men and women in the Church: they are both new creatures in the image of Christ equally gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve the Church. But this equality does not mean there is no difference between men and women and how they are deployed for service in the Church. What it means is that they are both essential, equally valuable and useful.
My two plumb lines for marriage were based on the historic events of creation described in Genesis 1 and 2. I believe it is significant that we see indicators of those same two plumb lines in Acts 1 and 2. Before Paul ever gets around to writing his famous (and infamous) passages in Galatians, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, God has already led his New Humanity through two historic events that mimic the Creation. The events of Acts 1 treat men and women differently in the structure of the early Church (like Genesis 2). The events of Acts 2 affirm equality between men and women as persons made and regenerated in His image for use as His witnesses (like Genesis 1).
As we proceed through some tough passages about gender differences in the Church, we need to remember both the equality of men and women and the truthfulness of God’s Word given through His human apostles. Paul is not writing his own opinions. Peter calls Paul’s letters “scripture,” (2 Peter 3:16) a term which equated Paul’s letters to the Old Testament. Paul writes that all Scripture is “inspired by God” or “breathed out by God” in 2 Timothy 3:16. Jesus says the “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Consequently, Ruth and I are seeking to grapple with what the Scriptures say about women and men in the Church, even though we may not always understand why God differentiated between them in ministry roles. It is our aim to respect His Word and seek to submit our lives to it. We will start with Galatians 3:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 12 in the next post.