The Apostles Pick a New Martyr

Matthias gets a tough job.


Acts 1:20-26 (ESV)

 “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.

The titles used here are interesting. First, Peter says that, “one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” But there are many witnesses to the resurrection – more than five hundred according to 1 Corinthians 15:6. Justus and Matthias are surely in that group. So, what does it mean to become with us a witness to his resurrection?

The key is that there are two different meanings for the word witness. One is to see and the other is to testify. Lots of people saw the resurrected Christ, but that’s not the same as being a witness for the resurrection (though many did that too).

After Matthias is chosen, he’s numbered with the eleven apostles. The Greek word for apostle is apostolos, which literally means delegate, envoy or messenger. His new job is to be a messenger, witnessing to the fact that Christ rose.

The Greek translated as “witness” here is “martura.”  It means to testify but we get the word “martyr” from this.

In the first century, the connection was all too obvious.

In modern America it’s easy to witness – maybe too easy. But around the world, there are still martyrs for Christ. Today, let’s pray for them.

The forces of evil still jail, or even kill Christians for the “crime” of believing in Jesus. This astonishing fact highlights how powerless we are against such focused powers and principalities. Prayer is our weapon, and we must wield that sword with all our might. Here’s a good reference on who to pray for.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.