Q: #566. Was Paul supposed to replace Judas Iscariot as the 12th disciple?
A: For a while now, I have held the belief that it is “possible” that when the disciples chose Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot as the 12th disciple (after Judas committed suicide: Mt 27:3-5), they may have gotten ahead of God’s timing. I think there is strong evidence that God had chosen Paul to replace Judas instead of Matthias. I have mentioned this belief on the site several times, but the other day, a gentleman asked me “why” I believe this. So, here is my explanation.
***Note: Let me state again that this is just a “theory” of mine.
1st: When you read about the choosing of Matthias in (Acts 1:15-26), you will see three things: #1. God never told them to choose a replacement for Judas at that time, #2. They didn’t pray and ask God if they should choose a replacement at that time, #3. They didn’t pray about who to choose until they narrowed the field down to two people: Barsabas and Matthias.
2nd: They made their choice between Matthias and Barsabas by “casting lots.” While this was a valid way to seek God’s will in the Old Testament (more on this here), I believe if they had heeded the command of Jesus to “wait for the promise of the Father (the Holy Spirit)” (Lk 24:49)(Acts 1:4-8) before making a decision, which occurs in the next chapter, they would have been guided by the Holy Spirit on who to choose, and when to choose him.
***Note: If those who chose Matthias had done the 1st and 2nd things above correctly, perhaps God would have revealed that He had someone else in mind to replace Matthias: Paul.
3rd: Jesus “personally” (face to face) called, and handpicked each of His 12 disciples (Lk 6:12-16)(Mk 3:13-19)(Mt 10:1-10)(Acts 1:2-3) (more on this here). He did not do this with Matthias.
4th: Jesus “personally” (face to face) appeared to Paul on the “Road to Damascus” (Acts 9:1-9), and told Ananias in (Acts 9:15) that “He (Paul) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” In (Gal 1:1), Paul says of himself: “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead).” Could this be a picture of Matthias being chosen to be an apostle through men, but Paul being chosen to be an apostle through Jesus Christ? (Also see: Acts 22:10,14-15, Acts 26:15-18, Gal 1:12,16, Rom 1:1)
Continuing on to (Gal 1:12-13)(NKJV), Paul also says, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. (12) For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In other words, Paul is saying that “Jesus taught him the Gospel by revelation.” How this worked I don’t know, but perhaps it was somewhat in the same way that the authors of the Bible received revelation from the Holy Spirit to write it (2 Pet 1:20-21)? But anyway, I think it is interesting to note that just as the 12 disciples were directly taught by Jesus, Paul also claims to have been taught directly taught by Jesus. (***Note: These two verses actually make more sense to me when I filter them through this lens.)
5th: Look at (1 Cor 15:5-9): “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: (6) After that, he was seen of above (by over) five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. (7) After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. (8) And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (9) For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
We see a few things in these verses that may support my “theory.”
In these verses, Paul is speaking of all of the people that Jesus appeared to after His resurrection. In verse 8, he includes himself as having seen the resurrected Jesus (speaking of when Jesus appeared to him on the “Road to Damascus”). He also numbers himself as an “apostle.” And, not just an “apostle,” but an apostle “born out of due time.” Why did Paul use this phrase?
I believe Paul is placing himself with the 12 (or 11) apostles, but he did not see the risen Jesus, or become an apostle at the same time they did. This occurred later: he was “born out of due time.” It is also worth adding here that a classic (not the only) definition of an “apostle” is “one who has seen the risen Jesus.”
6th: After the choosing of Matthias, we never again hear of him in the Bible. (“Peter and the 11” are mentioned in Acts 2:14, and the “12” are mentioned later in Acts 6:2, and Matthias would have been one of them). (However, to be fair, it should be noted that we don’t hear about many of the 12 disciples in Acts.)
Obviously, the answer to this question is unknown with certainty, and in the grand scheme of things it is really not very important. However, it is a good conversation starter for Bible geeks (like me).
P.S. Here is another interesting thing to ponder. In (Rev 21:14) it says, “And the wall of the city (the New Jerusalem) had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Whose name is going to be on one of those “foundations:” Paul or Matthias?