Who is the 12th Apostle?

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ACTS 1:26 — “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”

Revelation 21:14 says there are 12 apostles whose names are in the foundations of the eternal city of God, the New Jerusalem. Also Matthew 19:28 says there are apostles who will sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.  

Who is the 12th apostle that takes Judas’ place? Matthias or Paul? 

Sixteen times Paul said that he was an apostle. He was personally called of God for this (2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1). 

The argument that Paul took the place of Judas as the 12th apostle is made as follows by George Sayles Bishop: 

“The one who takes Judas’ vacant place is Paul, not Matthias. Matthias was the suggestion of Peter, and Peter made mistakes. He made a mistake when he said: ‘Be it far from Thee, Lord.’ He made a mistake when he denied his Master. He made a mistake at Antioch when he overturned the Gospel and taught circumcision: ‘Building again the things which he had destroyed.’ ‘I withstood him to the face,’ says Paul ‘because he was to be blamed.’ Impetuous Peter steps forward to make an apostle. He gives the Lord, so to say, a choice between two, Matthias and Justus. The lot falls on Matthias and they number him with the twelve and that is the last that is heard of him. The Lord keeps silent. By and by, He comes down from heaven and, Himself in Person, adds to the original eleven, another twelfth apostle, ‘one born out of due time.’ ... The twelfth name on the ‘twelve foundations’ of the New Jerusalem will not be that of Matthias but that of Paul: not only an apostle but ‘not a whit behind the very Chiefest apostles’ though in himself, nothing” (
The Doctrines of Grace, New York: Gospel Publishing House, 1910, p. 373).

We disagree with this for the following reasons:

First, the Bible specifically says that Matthew was “numbered with the eleven” (Acts 1:26). Twelve verses are devoted to this scene. While it is true that Peter made mistakes, the Bible plainly identifies the mistakes. The situation in Acts 1 is different. It is not merely Peter acting on some personal whim, it is the entire 11 acting in one accord with the other brethren assembled together. Twelve verses of Scripture are devoted to this scene and there is no hint that they are acting contrary to God’s will. In fact, they are acting in accordance with prophecy (Acts 1:20; Psalm 109:8). And they were acting prayerfully (Acts 1:24-25). 

Second, while it is true that Matthias is not mentioned by name again in Scripture, it is also true that most of the apostles are not mentioned again by name. When the apostles are mentioned thereafter in Acts 2:37, 42, 43; 4:33, 35, 36, 37; 5:12, 18; 11:1; 15:2, etc., Matthias was doubtless one of them because he had been elected to that position. 

Third, Paul did not meet the standards set out in Acts 1:21-22. 

“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Fourth, Paul was distinguished from the other apostles in Scripture itself. Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13; Gal. 1:16; 2:7-8; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 2:7). While Paul preached to Jews, his special calling was to establish the first Gentile churches across the Roman Empire. 

We believe, therefore, that Paul’s place of authority in Christ’s earthly kingdom will continue to be associated particularly with Gentile saints. 

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