Sermon on Acts 1:20-26
Text: “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’ 21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
We just finished some exciting days for our synod. Yesterday, the teacher candidates from Martin Luther College received their first Calls into the teaching ministry. On May 24, the pastor candidates will receive their first Calls into the preaching ministry. If I think back to that day twenty-eight years ago, I can still remember the tightness in the stomach as I sat at the Call service waiting to find out where the Lord would send me. Then synod president Carl Mischke read from the list: ‘Steven R. Kahrs; Zion Lutheran Church, Mission South Dakota; Nebraska District.’ On April 1, 1997, I received the divine Call to serve here at Zion Lutheran Church of Clatonia and St. John of then Firth, now Cortland. This morning, we have a Call meeting in which a divine Call was extended to Matthias to replace Judas as one of the twelve apostles. In connection with this account, we want to look at THE APOSTOLIC CALL: A MODEL FOR US. We will see 1. The Difference Between The Universal And Public Ministry, 2. The Qualifications For The Public Ministry and 3. What Happens When A Call Is Received.
Peter showed the group from the Psalms that it was necessary to replace Judas as one of the apostles. Judas had forfeited his right to be an apostle when he betrayed Jesus into the hands of his enemies. Judas later felt remorse for what he had done and killed himself. Peter recognized the need to replace Judas, so that prayed that the Lord would guide their decision. This one would be called from the midst of the believers to be a leader in the church. He was to become one who would be involved with the public ministry.
What is meant by “public ministry”? To help us understand that term, we need to look at what is called the universal priesthood. This term comes from Peter’s First epistle. There he writes, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) You and I are part of this priesthood. How did we become a part of this priesthood? This happened when the Holy Spirit called us out of the darkness of sin and unbelief to faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. This is not a state that we are in by nature. Our sins had separated us from God and we deserved to spend an eternity in hell because of them. This Spirit-born faith believes that God, by his grace, sent his Son into the world to take our place. By his life, death and resurrection, he has paid for all of our sins. When we were brought to faith, we became a part of this royal priesthood.
One of the benefits of this priesthood is that we no longer need someone to pray to God for us. In the Old Testament, the people needed the priest to offer the sacrifices and pray for the people. They were needed to represent the people before God. Now that Jesus has come into the world to pay for our sins, there are no longer any sacrifices that are needed and we can approach God on our own. We can come directly to God without having someone to represent us before him. As such, we can preach God’s Word, baptize and offer the Lord’s Supper. The Keys, which is the ability to either forgive someone their sins or bind them to their sins, have been given to every Christian. This is our privilege since we are part of the universal priesthood.
Since that is the case, why do we need a “public ministry”? Our God is a God of order. So that there is order in the church, the church Calls one to represent them. They ask one to preach the Word of God to them, administer the sacraments, to visit the sick and teach the young. That is how the public ministry differs from the universal priesthood. We are all priests, but so that good order might be maintained, one is Called to serve the rest of the church. A public minister, whether it be a pastor or teacher, is Called to represent the rest of the church.
While we are all priests, not all of us are in the public ministry. Since this one will be representing us and teaching us, we want to make sure that they have the abilities to do so. We look for certain qualifications. We see this already at the time of our text. When there was a need to fill a position among the apostles, Peter said that certain qualifications had to be met. He said in verses 21&22, “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us.” The man that they chose had to be one who was well-acquainted with Jesus and his ministry. Peter suggests that he had to be there from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry until the end. He would have to be well-versed in what Jesus taught. He would also present a very important message. “One of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” He was to spend the rest of his life proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ saving work of love for the world. These qualifications singled out two men, Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias. These were men who were qualified to fill the vacant apostleship.
We also expect certain things from those who are Called into the public ministry. They need to be qualified. Those who serve as teachers are taught the truths of God’s Word, as well as how to teach the various areas of the curriculum. Those who wish to become pastors also go through a rigorous course of study. For many of them, this task begins in high school. Languages become a focus of study, whether it be Latin, German, or Spanish. As one goes into college, the emphasis on language continues as Greek and Hebrew are added. These two languages become a large part of study, for it was in these two languages that God chose to have the Old and New Testaments written. Every year there are courses on different parts of the Bible. After four years of college, the pastor-to-be begins his years at the Seminary. Here, again, the main focus is on God’s Word. It is studied in English. It is studied in detail in the Greek and Hebrew. Other courses include how to preach and teach, as well as counsel people. All of these courses are there to prepare the young man who wishes to become a pastor. Then, after these twelve years of study, the Seminary faculty will recommend a young man for the reception of his first Call.
Please note one thing. The main focus of every year of high school, college and the Seminary is Jesus Christ. The young man or woman that is sent out is also to be “a witness of [Jesus’] resurrection.” That is the most important thing. Without that being the center of the education, the education is essentially busy work. If that focus is lost, there would be no reason for this type of education. No matter how many degrees one might have, if he has lost sight of Jesus Christ as the Savior, he is not qualified to be a public minister. However, if he has Jesus as the center of his faith and has met all of the other qualifications, he may well be called a minister of the Word. These are the men that the Lord will take and use for the pastoral ministry. These are the men and women the Lord will take and use in the teaching ministry.
Two men met the qualifications that Peter proposed: Joseph and Matthias. The apostles then prayed that the Lord would guide them in their choice. It is possible that the names of the two men were written on broken pieces of pottery and then put into a container, which was shaken until one came out. This might not seem like the best method to us, but they trusted that the Lord would give them the right one. They remembered Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” The lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the eleven apostles. The Call was extended to Matthias, and he took on the responsibilities of an apostle.
When a person receives their first Call, it isn’t done by lot any more. When they receive their first Call, the district presidents have gotten together and tried to match that person’s talents and abilities with the needs of the church or school. They work very hard to do what is best for all involved. They present these Calls to those whom the faculties have deemed as meeting the qualifications.
Later, the Called worker may receive another call. As you know, I received a Call from Shepherd of the Plains Lutheran Church in Fort Morgan, Colorado. What happens next? They must then, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, decide where they can best serve the Lord. They don’t automatically take the Call. They don’t look at a Call as being a step up from where they are serving. They don’t base their decision on closeness to family. They pray that the Lord would guide them. They will ask advice from the place where they are serving, from the circuit pastor, and from other trusted people. However, in the end, they make their decision, trusting that it will be to God’s glory. The main focus is to serve the Lord.
The way the church Calls may seem to be based on faulty human error, whether from the district presidents or the Called worker considering where they can best serve. However, the Lord doesn’t call directly, as Jesus did his disciples. He instead chooses to work through his believers. He has given the church the awesome privilege and responsibility to Call people to serve them in the Lord’s service.
It was twenty-eight years ago that I graduated from the seminary. The Lord has seen fit for me to serve the saints in Mission, South Dakota, those in Las Animas and Ordway, Colorado. Now the Lord has seen fit to Call me to serve you, his saints in Clatonia and Cortland. I thank God for this privilege. Today, we also pray that God would bless the ministries of those who have been assigned or will be assigned over the past few weeks. May he grant them a full measure of the Holy Spirit as they begin their life of service to him. May he also bless his church through their service. Amen.
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