Should we cast lots today? What can we learn from the disciples’ actions before advent of the Spirit? What does the addition of a 12th disciple say about Israel and the church? We asked Art Azurdia…
Listen to sermon (Acts 1:12-26):
First, the obvious question: Should we make decisions by casting lots?
Oh sure, as long as I get to load the dice! As I expressed with the various qualifications that I used in the sermon, I do of course think the way they did it was honoring to the Lord. But we must note that after this instance in Acts, we never see that practice being employed in the Scriptures. Now with the giving of the Spirit and the fullness of New Testament revelation, I personally would be uncomfortable with casting the lot, though people far more influential than me used it. John Wesley used the lot, and George Whitefield in his early days of his ministry used it in decision making. And we do well to remember that these were people that studied the Scriptures, prayed incessantly, and asked the body to participate in the selection of individuals. So there seemed to be a rigorous discernment process, and the clear implication then was that the Lord would reveal through the lot what He had already determined. This in contrast to the way most people think about casting lots today, which doesn’t include any of those types of qualifiers.
How should the necessity of a 12th man shape our understanding of the relationship between Israel and the church?
To start, we must note that Israel is the instrument that will take salvation to the world. Like Jesus says in John 4, salvation is of the Jews, it begins with the Jews, and it goes to the Jews first, with the intention of taking it to the ends of the earth. So there is a sense in which God uses Israel especially as his instrument to proclaim the universal Gospel. But I think it is also true that the concept of ‘Israel’ is used to speak of the people of God in both Testaments, and this text stresses that continuity in that the addition of the twelfth man hearkens back to the twelve tribes of Israel. This does not deny that there is a design for ethnic Jews who come to faith in Christ in fulfillment of God’s purposes. Yet it seems in the New Testament that there are cases wherein language is used that speaks of Israel, particularly of the Exodus generation, but is now applied to the church as we know it.
What did you take to be one big pastoral application from this historic moment in the church?
It is important to note that we see the disciples doing everything possible to get ready for what only God can do. One of the takeaways from this is that while we realize there are things that only God in His sovereignty can do (and we have to acknowledge that), this is not in any way an excuse for passivity. God’s sovereignty does not undercut our need to work hard, be faithful, and do what is required of us in the outworking of God’s purpose.