Acts 1:15-26 - God Gives Us Leaders

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Sometimes a leader in a local church will fail. When this happens, a new leader usually is selected. It is not only in our day that this happens. When Jesus was on earth, Judas miserably failed. Judas was one of his trusted disciples, but he betrayed his Lord. As a result, the early church had to elect a leader to take his place.

We read all about it in Acts 1:15-26. Between the ascension of Christ on Mount Olivet and the Day of Pentecost, the apostles and others devoted themselves to prayer. When they returned from the Mount to Jerusalem, they went to their Upper Room headquarters. About 120 persons were present. Several points stand out .

1. The failure of Judas gave rise to the need for an election. When leaders fail, we must elect new leaders and move ahead.

Peter stood to speak, and he cited (Acts 1:20) David's comments in Psalms 69:25 and 109:8. He finds the fate of Judas foreshadowed in these verses. Because of the treason of Judas, a new person had to be elected to take up the ministry and apostleship abdicated by Judas.

Not all elections in the church result from the failure of men. However, they sometimes do. We must remember that the future of the church is not based upon any of Christ's followers but upon Christ Himself. When men and women fail, others take their places. Jesus will build His church, and the church will live on.

2. The Word of God is inspired. We must be guided by the Word in all that we do.

Peter started his speech by claiming that the Holy Spirit had inspired King David. Here and in Acts 4:25 Luke records that David spoke by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit spoke using David's mouth. A similar statement is made in Mark 12:36. In II Peter 1:21 Peter expanded his claim of inspiration to other men who were moved by the Holy Spirit. According to him, they spoke from God. The inspired Word predicted the failure of Judas and his terrible end.

Today, when leaders fail, we have the full word of God to guide us in all things. Normally, our situation probably will not be specifically mentioned or prophesied, but the overall guidelines are there. They were spoken by men of God inspired of the Spirit. Thus, when men fail, we rely on the Word of God. The Word of God will continue to guide our lives and our actions in difficult times.

3. The apostles nominated two men who met definite criteria. We should state the needed qualifications of leaders that we are selecting.

The apostles put forward the names of two men-Joseph Barsabbas (who was also called Justus) and Matthias. These men had to meet certain qualifications or criteria. The nominees had to have been eye-witnesses of Jesus and His ministry from the beginning. This included the baptism that John the Baptist performed.

Whatever position we are considering, we should set down the criteria for that task. The qualifications should be listed. For example, the apostle Paul sets down criteria for overseers and deacons in the church in I Timothy 3:1-13. They must, for examples, be above reproach and be able to teach. Unless you met these qualifications, you would not be considered for a leadership role.

4. The disciples prayed and cast lots. When we elect leaders, we should pray and vote.

The apostles prayed and cast lots. They prayed that God would show them which one of the two nominees He had chosen. Even though the apostles had selected the nominees, they were confident that they would end up with God's choice. The implicit premise is that they were led of the Spirit in selecting the nominees.

Then, the apostles used a procedure that would be unusual to us. They cast lots. We do not know exactly how they did this. However, one method that was sometimes used was to write names on rocks and put the rocks in a vessel. The vessel was then shaken until one fell out. This seems like a very human process, but we read in Proverbs 16:33: "the lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord." We can be sure that God guided the process.

Today, we do not cast lots, but we do cast our votes. We pray collectively and individually that the Lord will guide the process and that His desired leader will be chosen. This does not mean that everyone should vote for the same person. The diversity of opinion expressed in votes can be, in itself, an expression of the will of God. Through our elections, we harmonize with the will of God in selecting leaders.


Most of the elections in the church take place without someone having failed. However, as in the case of Judas, sometimes we must replace someone who has stumbled and fallen. If your church faces a situation like this, just be filled with peace and confidence in God. He will guide in all things. God will give us the leaders we need to move on and see the victory of the kingdom of God.

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