The First Business Meeting – Acts 1:15-26

Our message last Wednesday was also from Acts 1.

In fact this series was first intended to be a Wednesday evening Bible Study,

But it’s grown just a little bit.

It is not out of control, but the eaglet has spread its wings.

And it’s my sincere hope that you are not disappointed in this.

Anyway, the message last Wednesday was entitled “The First Prayer Meeting.”

As I suggested, it wasn’t actually the very first prayer meeting, but in some ways it was:

It was the first prayer meeting after the ascension of the Lord Jesus into Heaven,

And it was the first prayer meeting that we can study in the Book of Acts.

I’m calling this message tonight: “The First Business Meeting.”

It was not only the first business meeting since the ascension of the Lord Jesus,

And it was the first business meeting in the Book of Acts,

But it very well may be the first actual business meeting of the “First Baptist Church of Jerusalem.”

I doubt that we have any of this kind of people here tonight:

But there are a lot of people who would quarrel with me about my title and theme.

That’s because they have swallowed the propaganda that there were no churches of Christ before Acts chapter 2.

I hope that we have dwelled on that subject often enough for the members of Calvary Baptist Church to know that the Lord Jesus started His first church in the early months of His earthly ministry.

I hope that you realize that the Lord Jesus gave us some important instruction about the doctrine of the church during His ministry and long before His death.

And I hope that you know that some of the things that He said about the church wouldn’t have made any sense to the apostles unless knew that they were already a part of the Lord’s first church.

In these verses – the largest passage that we have examined thus far in our study of Acts –

In these verses we have an interesting little bit of history.

But it hasn’t been our intention so much to see the history of this book, as it has been to look at the doctrines behind the history.

And what’s more, it’s not cold, dry theology that we’re studying, but living, practical 21st century theology.

If the Bible, and especially the Book of Acts, is not as current and relevant as the “Spokesman Review” newspaper, then we are wasting our time here this evening.

Tonight let’s consider three things: Judas explained, business completed, and prophesy fulfilled.

We begin with PROPHESY FULFILLED.

I wish that I could ask any of you to tell me about the man named Ahithophel

And with a little coaching that you could give me a short biographical sketch of his life and death.

I greatly fear that, not only, will many Christian parents be ashamed at the bema judgment,

When they are reminded that their children don’t know the stories of the Bible.

But I’m afraid that they will be even more embarrassed that they themselves don’t know their Bibles.

After being Christians and members of the Lord’s churches for 20 or 30 years,

They haven’t applied themselves enough to learn and remember some of the simple Bible stories.

For example, what do you know about Ahithophel?

This man was one of the two primary advisors of King David – perhaps even his chief of staff.

We learn about him primarily in II Samuel 15 through 17.

David thought that Ahithophel was one of his closest friends as well as an advisor.

Unfortunately this man was more like a modern day politician than David realized.

And as the rebellion of Absalom was developing, this wicked son of David convinced the chief counsel of the King that it would be politically prudent for him to commit treason.

Ahithophel turned his heel towards David and gave counsel to the rebel.

Fortunately, God overturned those evil plans and saved the kingdom.

And Ahithophel became one of the very few suicides in the Word of God.

There are several different kinds of prophesies in the Old Testament:

One of them comes in the form of living parables,

And Ahithopel was one of those parables.

This man was a type, or picture, or living prophesy of Judas Iscariot.

David wrote about him in Psalm 41:5-13:

Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish?

And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it. All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt.

An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more.

Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them.

By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me.

And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever.

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.

Another place is in Psalm 55:9-15:

Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.

Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it.

Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.

For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:

But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.

We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.

Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.”

Only a blind man can read the story of Ahithophel and not think about the deeds of Judas Iscariot.

But when Peter was talking church about Judas, he doesn’t quote these Psalms, he refers to a couple others.

Psalm 69 is called one of the Messianic Psalms, because it so clearly talks about the Messiah while David talks about his own struggles.

Verses 1-4: “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.

They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.

Verses 7-12: “For thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.

I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.

For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me. When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.

I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them.

They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.

Verses 20-26: “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.

Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.

Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.

Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.

For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.”

Peter quotes from verse 25 of LXX version, the Greek version, of the Bible and applies this to Judas.

Then he refers to a verse from Psalm 109.

“Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;

For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.

They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.

For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer.

And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.

Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.

When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.”

I believe that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter took scripture that was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit hundreds of years earlier and said that it applied to Judas Iscariot.

In other words, we have in Ahithophel, a prophesy of one of the people around the Lord Jesus.

We have a lesson here about the foreknowledge and foreordination of Jehovah.

And Peter knew his Bible well enough to see, refer to, and to apply that prophesy.

Our second thought is in regard to the DEATH OF JUDAS.

The statement in Acts 1:18 – “He fell headlong & burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out,”

Is in no way contrary to Matthew 27:5 which says,

“And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Here is the obvious:

For a hanging to work, the victim or the suicide must some how be hanging in such a way that he can’t hold himself up with his feet.

From these and other scriptures, it appears that Judas was filled with remorse after his betrayal of Christ.

He returned to the priests and tried to return their bounty money, but they refused it.

So he threw it down on the floor and sulked his way out.

Since this was during the Passover season, I’m sure that the priests didn’t contaminate themselves with blood money, and ordered some servant to gather the coins

Then Judas went, with a length of rope in his hand, out of the Essene gate on the south side of Jerusalem to the edge of the valley of Hinnom.

Hinnom was a deep, narrow ravine on the south of the city, where in the times past the idolaters of the city worshiped Molech and other false gods, sometimes with the burning of their own children.

This valley was sometimes called the Valley of Tophet.

Eventually part of it became the city dump and it is said that the refuse that was dumped there was constantly smoldering in flames.

It was used as an illustration of Hell and the Lake of Fire.

It appears that Judas tied his rope to something reaching over the cliffs of Tophet, put some sort of noose around his neck and jumped.

But the branch or whatever held the rope broke, and either alive or dead he plummeted into the valley where his body smashed on the rocks below.

He both was hanged and smashed, fulfilling both scriptures.

Then the bounty money was eventually used to purchase a portion of that valley as a burial place for paupers and criminals.

The death of Judas is an intricate and accurate illustration of the end and judgment of any lost man.

He died because of his sins.

He died essentially at his own hands.

He died filled with remorse, but without genuine repentance.

He died over the fires of Hell.

And he died without anyone really caring that he was gone.

Finally we come to the BUSINESS MEETING.

I have to admit that my opinion of this event has changed over the years.

I have preached in the past that this meeting and the election of Matthias was totally wrong.

But, not only have I mellowed over the last twenty years, but I’ve gotten a tenth of a percent smarter.

(Maybe even a twelfth of a percent smarter.)

From the Biblical facts, there isn’t enough evidence to condemn the decision or steps that the church took here in this chapter.

And in fact, as an independent and sovereign congregation they could do whatever they wanted to do,

And our opinion of the matter doesn’t matter a whole lot.

There are many commentators who say that Matthias should never have been elected as an apostle.

And quoting them I have said that since Matthias is never mentioned again after this chapter this is proof.

I have read that since the Holy Spirit had not yet descended on the church, so that they didn’t yet have Holy Spirit leadership for things like this.

I have argued that when God called Paul to be an apostle he was the God-ordained successor to Judas.

Okay, what are the Biblical facts?

The Bible doesn’t teach that the Holy Spirit ARRIVED on the Day of Pentecost;

We see the Lord Jesus giving the disciples the Holy Spirit before His crucifixion.

John 20:22 – “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”

What took place in Acts 2 was a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit filling of those disciples.

Secondly, this business meeting took place sometime during a week and a half of intensive prayer.

It is reasonable to assume that Peter felt lead of the Lord to lead the congregation in this matter.

Third, although Matthias is never mentioned by name again that doesn’t mean that he isn’t included.

One of the qualifications mentioned by Peter was that Judas’ replacement be a witness of the resurrection.

That reduced the selection from all those baptized by John to the 500 who had met the risen Saviour.

Now, what was the testimony of Paul about Jesus’ resurrection in I Corinthians 15?

“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:

After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also.”

When Paul spoke of the “TWELVE,” to whom was he referring?

It was not to the original twelve, because Judas was excluded from seeing the risen Saviour.

And it was not to the eleven and then himself, because he mentions himself later.

I think that it was to the original eleven and to Matthias who was a witness of the resurrection and by the time of Paul, included in their number.

Then there are verses like Acts 6:2:

“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.”

Who were the twelve of Acts 6?

And what about the dozens of references to the “apostles” throughout the Book of Acts:

Acts 2:43 – “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.”

Acts 4:33 – “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

Matthias may not be mentioned by name again in the Bible, but neither is he clearly excluded.

Now, just let me point out some random things about this business meeting.

First, this is a pretty good sized congregation:

I put a quote in the bulletin today which said that 50% of all churches have 100 or fewer members and that 25% have 50 or fewer.

This congregation of 120 was larger than half the churches in existence today.

Second, it can be argued all day long without a definite conclusion being reached,

But the words “the number of names together” can mean that there was a roll of members.

It doesn’t say that there were 120 people present, but that there were 120 “names.

There was order and arrangement in that 120; this was not just a crowd of disciples.

I believe that it refers to the membership of the church in Jerusalem at that time.

Third, as I’ve already mentioned it came in the midst of a prayer meeting, precisely where all business meetings should be found.

Nearly all of the special descriptions of the Lord’s church take it back to it’s relationship to the Lord.

For example, it is called the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ.

And, of course, the Lord Jesus is the Head of His church.

The decisions that are made by the church, should not be personal choices, but the decision of the church body after diligently seeking the will of the Head.

Fourth, Peter may have been the leader of this meeting, but there is not the slightest indication that he considered himself superior to the rest of the people there.

There was no Pope or Pontifex Maximus present at this church meeting.

Fifth, Peter and the church believed that what they were doing was scriptural, and they used the Bible in deciding to go ahead.

Apparently, the eleven apostles determined the criteria for Judas’ replacement:

He needed to be someone who had been with the church since the beginning and who had been scripturally baptized by John the Baptist.

There was no room for a novice in this office, because there were troublesome times ahead.

And since, the key to the ministry of the church was the resurrection of Christ, it was essential that this man be a witness of the resurrected Lord.

So the list of possible candidates was fairly narrow.

Not all those who had been baptized by John were among the 500 who witnessed the resurrection.

And probably not all who witnessed the resurrection had been with the church from the beginning.

But then too, there might have been some who met those three qualifications, who were still not quite qualified to be an apostle for other reasons.

So the eleven nominated the two whom they felt were most fit for the post: Joseph Barsabas Justice and Matthias.

And then after more specific prayer about this special vote, the whole church “gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”

Lastly we come to the question of the LOTS.

There are those who believe that the church prayed and then Peter or some one had a fist of straws, of which Barsabas chose one and Matthias chose the other.

Others thing that it went something like the use of the Urim and Thummim in the Old Testament:

Perhaps there were a white stone and a black stone in a pouch of some sort,

And it was determined that the fella who pulled out the white stone was God’s choice.

But this is not the only explanation to this verse.

Here is a quote from a man named Dean Plumptre.

I couldn’t find his name in Cathcart’s “Baptist Encyclopedia,” so I assume that he wasn’t one of us.

“The Greek word is not the same as in verse 17, and implies that Matthias was “voted in,” the suffrage of the Church unanimously confirming the indication of the Divine will what had been given by lot.”

Based upon that statement I looked up the word “numbered” in my Strong’s concordance.

Remember that James Strong was not a Baptist either.

His definition of the word “numbered” is:

“To deposit a ballot in the urn (i.e. by voting for) to assign one a place among, to vote one into place.

Or to vote against with others, i.e. to condemn with others.”

I believe that what we have in the last half of Acts 1 is a God-given example of how He wants His churches to determine His will.

It basically boils down to: much prayer and then the vote of the congregation.

Thus, herein we have the theology of the Business Meeting.