Having grown up going to church, I have often been taught by Sunday School teachers, preachers, and pastors that the apostle Paul was the real replacement for Judas Iscariot among the 12 disciples.  Part of their reasoning was that he had such an impact on the first century church with his missionary journeys and has influenced the church throughout its history with his powerful letters.  Additionally they claim that in Acts 1 when the disciples made the decision to choose Matthias, they were not yet filled with the Holy Spirit and were in error for relying on the superstitious custom of casting lots when they should have waited for the Holy Spirit to reveal to them who the replacement should be.  Is this reasoning correct?  Should the apostle Paul be considered Judas Iscariot’s true replacement?

How Matthias was chosen

The circumstances in Acts 1 were such that the disciples “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14).  They were in godly fellowship with each other and with God while waiting for the Holy Spirit to come.  Out of this fellowship, Peter was given knowledge from God about the Old Testament prophecy stating “[h]is bishopric let another take” (Acts 1:20 quoting Psalm 109:8) when he addressed the 120 disciples who were gathered together.  He also understood that Judas’ replacement would need to be a firsthand witness of Jesus’ entire ministry (Acts 1:21-22).

There were apparently only two who met this requirement–Barsabas and Matthias.  When the two were nominated, all 120 disciples prayed to the Lord for him to reveal who his choice should be for replacing Judas.  Since they were in fellowship with the Lord, God must have heard their prayer.  So they cast their lots, and Matthias was chosen by the lot.

Are casting lots worthless superstition?

When we think of casting lots today, the picture that comes to our mind is a bunch of seedy characters in an alley throwing dice or lottery numbers being randomly selected to reveal a winner.  Casting lots in Biblical times had nothing to do with gambling.  It was very similar to drawing straws and was an acceptable practice with God and men.

The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing [decision] thereof is of the LORD.  Proverbs 16:33

The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.  Proverbs 18:18

These scriptures tell us that godly men understood that God’s hand was involved in making decisions by casting lots.  It was known that everything in life happened for a purpose, whether good or bad, even if we don’t completely understand and that man did not have complete control over every situation in life.  Therefore, when the disciples cast lots they were within God’s will to do so.

Why didn’t the disciples wait on the Holy Spirit?

The disciples knew that there were matters that had to be taken care of even while they waited for the Holy Spirit’s arrival.  The ministry they were called to do–being witnesses for Christ–would require some immediate preparation, such as the prayer, supplication, and fellowship they were participating in every day.  They knew the Holy Spirit was going to arrive soon and that he would empower them to get to work preaching the gospel immediately.  There was no time to waste because souls had to be saved and they had to obey Christ’s instructions without hesitation. 

According to the timeline in the scriptures, it was probably several years after Pentecost before Saul of Tarsus (Paul) was actually saved.  Waiting several years to replace Judas would not have been within God’s will.

Is there proof in scripture that Paul was not numbered with the twelve? 

Besides what I have just stated, let’s examine what else is said in the New Testament to help our understanding.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.  Acts 6:1-4

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve… 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

So we see here that Luke, who wrote Acts, knew that Paul was not numbered with the twelve and Paul even did not consider himself one of the twelve.  There were many other apostles other than the twelve apostles like Barnabas, Paul, and James the Lord’s brother.  They all did miracles and preached like the others, but were not numbered with the twelve and that didn’t make them any less important than the twelve.

 –posted by Harry A. Gaylord–