Though Matthias is only mentioned once in the biblical record, we actually know more about him that some people think.
Matthias the Early Disciple
In order for Matthias to be nominated as an apostle, he had to have been one who “went in and out” with the apostles and Jesus, dating back to the baptism of John.1 This means that Matthias was well-known among the apostles as being one who had proven faithful in following the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. Matthias would have seen Jesus perform miracles, and most likely was among those who traveled with Jesus to Jerusalem and saw Jesus overturn the tables of the money-changers.2 Since he had to have been one of the earliest disciples in order to be nominated to be an apostle, it also means he was probably one of the ones in Judea with Jesus, baptizing people.3
Matthias the Witness of the Resurrected Christ
We are not told exactly when and how Matthias saw Jesus after His resurrection, but we do know that it happened, because it was a requirement for someone to be nominated to become an apostle. Certainly, it was one of the following occasions:
Christ died on behalf of our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He has been raised up on the third day, according to the Scriptures. And that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve; thereafter He appeared to over five hundred brethren at once, out of whom most remain until now, but some have also fallen asleep; thereafter He appeared to James, thereafter to all the apostles.4
Matthias the Chosen
Prior to Pentecost, there were around 120 disciples meeting together in Jerusalem, and Matthias was one of them. He watched as Peter stood up and announced that the Scriptures foretold that Judas Iscariot was to be replaced:
Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, “Men and brethren, it was necessary for this Scripture to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of David, spoke before concerning Judas, who was the guide for the ones who took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained a part of this ministry. … For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein,’ and ‘His overseership let another man take.’ Therefore, from these men who have accompanied us all the time in which the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, until that same day that He was taken up from us, must one have been to be a witness with us of His resurrection.5
We don’t know what Matthias was thinking at this point, but it probably included the idea, I’ve been with them during that time.
Among the 120 disciples that were there, only two men were put forward—Joseph Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias himself.6 The apostles did not choose between the two of them, but instead, they went to God in prayer, asking Him to show which one had been chosen.
They prayed, and said, “You, Lord, who knows the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, to go to his own place.”7
After the prayer, they8 cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias.9 As a result, he was chosen to become the new twelfth apostle. This selection shows that he was a faithful disciple, and that the Lord trusted him.
The results of this selection were that Matthias was baptized with the Holy Spirit not long afterwards, along with the rest of the apostles. He stood up and preached the wonderful works of God in another language, along with the rest of the apostles. He performed miracles and wonders, like the rest of the apostles. He helped oversee the distribution of funds for the needy saints in Jerusalem, along with the rest of the apostles. In short, even though he was the newest apostle, he was still an apostle, with every bit as much authority as the other eleven had. It wasn’t as though he was some newcomer to the scene, for he was one of the earliest disciples of the Lord, and had been in the apostles’ company for years.
Matthias died in faith, and when this life is over, we can hope to meet him as well.
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 This has caused some unnecessary confusion, because none of the apostles followed Jesus until at least 40 days after His baptism. The reference, then, is to someone who was a disciple of Jesus dating back to the time when John was still alive and baptizing people—obviously, the earlier the better.
2 John chapter 2.
3 As recorded in John 3:22, 4:1-2.
4 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Modern Literal Version. Some believe the phrase “all the apostles” is a reference to the seventy men that Jesus “apostled” (sent) in Luke 10.
5 Acts 1:15-17, 22. Verses 18-19 are an insertion by Luke, explaining what happened to Judas after the betrayal, something that the author didn’t include in his gospel account.
6 Since Peter laid out the requirements for the replacement, it appears as though these two men were the only ones who were qualified. It’s not that the others among the 120 weren’t faithful disciples of the Lord, but that they weren’t able to be a witness of the entire ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, as Matthias and Joseph were. This is strong evidence that the man called “Nathanael” by John (see chapter on Bartholomew) was already one of the apostles, for he fit these qualifications.
7 Acts 1:24-25. The KJV needlessly confuses some of this passage. The word “whether” is used, when the Greek is literally “which one.” It uses the phrase “that he may take,” when the Greek is literally “to take,” and makes perfect sense just like that (as rendered in the translation we have chosen to use above).
8 The text isn’t clear as to the identity of the “they” under consideration. It may be that Joseph and Matthias both cast their lots, and it landed on Matthias. It could be the apostles themselves who did this. The second seems more likely, as Joseph and Matthias were not the “they” who were praying in the verses previous to this (see how they are referenced as “these two” and not “us two”).
9 The casting of lots is not, as some would have us believe, a form of gambling. Gambling involves risk, whether it is placing a coin in a slot or wagering large amounts of money on a football game—there is always the risk that you will lose something. In casting lots, there was no such risk of loss. It is equivalent to flipping a coin or drawing straws to determine who is chosen for a specific job. In fact, the book of Proverbs (16:33) says that “the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof [that is, the determining of who is chosen] is of God.”