GETTING THE MESSAGE/Acts 1:15-26
In Acts 1, Luke is giving us a glimpse of the church before she begins the ministry of the gospel to Jerusalem and then to the world. The church is in stark contrast to the rest of the world, which is estranged from God.
This divide between those who belong to Christ and those outside the church is accentuated in our passage. The apostles must replace Judas. In verse 15, Peter stands up to address the issue of Judas. Peter says because of his betrayal Judas no longer has a place as an apostle; and more, he has no share in Christ. Judas is the image of apostasy.
Judas had not fallen away temporarily. He had not backslidden for a time. He had left the Son of God, the only Savior of sinners. An apostate is someone who makes a profession of Christ, has seen the light of Christ, known something of the power of Christ, and yet leaves him for something in the world. In Judas case, it was money.
The Bible teaches that all men are apostate from God because of sin. In Romans 1, Paul indicts the whole human race for not honoring God as we were created to, for serving immoral passions instead of glorifying God. But having embraced Christ, and then to leave him, is worse sin. It is to say, in effect, he is worthy of crucifixion after having confessed him as Lord of all.
The misery of Judas is depicted in this passage. Luke recounts for us in verses 18-19, how a field was bought with the betrayal money Judas received, and that after Judas hanged himself, his body burst open upon this field. The gory details are given to us, so we understand that Judas purchased a cursed field with his betrayal. He exchanged the blessed fellowship of Christ for the world.
Barnabas was of a different spirit than Judas. In Acts 4, we read that Barnabas sold a field he owned and put the money at the feet of the apostles. This isn’t to teach us it is wrong for a Christian to own land or a house or enjoy the creation God made; rather, it is to teach us the hope of a Christian is not in this world. Our interest, our portion, is in a place with Christ. Christ died to prepare a place for us (John 14).
Peter highlights this when he says in verse 25 that Judas “went to his own place.” Judas “place” was away from the presence of God to eternal destruction (2nd Thessalonians 1). The world is under a curse, and if your heart is with it, then that is your place. Every soul is assigned by the Lord to the place it belongs. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also.”
The Lord makes certain he would have us follow a separate path to the world. We are not simply told that Judas was replaced; we are warned he suffered God’s judgment. Christians are set apart by divine calling and cleansing from sin. We are to differ from men of the world both inwardly in our desires and outwardly in our conduct. We are not bound for the same place. Therefore we don’t follow the council of the world, but the Lord’s word.
In verse 21-26, we are taught that the choice of who to replace Judas was according to the sovereignty of Christ, “who knows all hearts.” The method of replacement is to implant in our minds confidence in the apostolic foundation of God’s word, which will give us the New Testament. They are uniquely chosen by the Lord for this purpose.
The replacement, Matthias, had to be someone who was with the other apostles throughout Christ’s ministry on earth, and who witnessed his resurrection. In various places in Acts you will read, “The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” They were witnesses.
Does this mean all men will believe the resurrection of Christ? No, but it means the Lord wants his sheep (who hear his voice) to be assured he speaks to them today through the Scriptures. He has these things proclaimed and written down so we would believe, and believing, have life in Him.
If our orthodoxy, what we believe of Christ, does not filter down to our lives, it is because in self-dependency and pride. We are not listening with faith. Our problem is always spiritual. We need to be brought low by his word and Spirit. Judas never was.