When reading the appointment of Matthias, you come across very specific actions and precise language. Consider, of course:

Acts 1:21-26 ESV

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Here we see the apostles themselves (namely Peter) create a criteria for the position of apostle, narrow down candidates, then cast lots in order to decide upon the right suitor.

Now let us consider a succession of texts from Paul, who uses his own peculiarly specific word choice:

Romans 1 ESV

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,

Nothing too extraordinary there other than Paul saying he was called to be an apostle. Called by whom? It isn't quite clear here yet, but let's read on, shall we?

1 Corinthians 1 ESV

1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

Here, I think, we can begin to see Paul making a statement about his election / calling to be an apostle, by God Himself, rather than by men as Matthias was chosen.

2 Corinthians 1 ESV

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

Once again, Paul makes mention of "the will of God."

Galatians 1 ESV

1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the brothers who are with me,

This is where I see Paul drawing the biggest distinction in the appointments of Matthias and of himself. He outright states, "no man chose me, I was chosen by God Himself."

So my question simply follows on the natural reading of the texts: Did the early church fathers see the appointment of Matthias, perhaps, to be hasty and contrary to God's will, especially when considered in the light of Saul's election, conversion, and choice of words? Do we have any thoughts from the fathers regarding the election of these two apostles?

Of course, as an aside, we also have the Lord's words recorded in Acts 9:15

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

  • Good question. Most modern commentators don't see any problem with Matthias's appointment, and those that I've found that do object don't cite church fathers to support their position, as one might expect they would. But who knows, there may be a church father who sees an issue with the appointment of Matthias. Oct 14, 2015 at 22:18
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    Note also that the end of Acts 1:24 says "... show us which one of these two you have chosen". Oct 15, 2015 at 5:17
  • Is this question a false-choice? Could both the Matthias and the Pauline appointment be legitimate? i.e. is there any reason to limit the number of concurrent apostles to 12, or claim that God cannot work through different means in different cases?
    – LightCC
    Dec 26, 2015 at 6:12
  • @LightCC it would just seem odd to me that we don't limit the number of concurrent apostles to 12 in light of the words found in Rev. 21:14 "The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." It appears that either Paul or Matthias gets left out... does it not? Unless we go with the original 12, in which case it would be very interesting that Judas is the one included. Dec 26, 2015 at 18:38
  • Acts 1:21–26 makes it clear that Matthias was also chosen by God. Dec 9, 2016 at 15:28

2 Answers 2


[I have edited my previous reply to address the question more directly.]

The very earliest Church Fathers were the Apostles themselves, so I think it is worthwhile first to consider what is stated in the Acts of the Apostles.

I think we must also carefully consider how Paul's ministry began. I think it is fair to say that everyone who serves Christ does so according to His will and not their own. This is not to say, however, that the fact that Paul became an Apostle by God's will means that the Church had no role whatsoever.

When the Lord first revealed Himself to Paul and blinded him and responded to his question, What wilt Thou have me do? by telling him to see a certain disciple of the Church and receive further instructions (Acts 9:5-6). Thenceforth, Paul received all of his direction from the Church, except at the very beginning when, in typical new convert fashion, he went directly to the Jews to point out their errors and had to be rescued in a basket lowered down the city wall (Acts 9:20-26). I am not completely sure, but I do not think we ever see Paul acting completely on his own in Acts. He is usually directed where to go and with whom to go.

As you point out, how Matthias is called is much different from how Paul is called, but what the two have in common I think is that when they are called, they serve the Church and do not set out to establish some sort of independent ministry.

Regarding the thoughts of the Church Fathers who followed the Apostles, you ask, in part:

Did the early church fathers see the appointment of Matthias, perhaps, to be hasty and contrary to God's will?

Based on the resources I have access to (Logos, ANF, NPNF, etc.), it seems that none of the Apostolic Fathers nor did any other Church Father up to the 4th century discuss this passage. The first discussion I found of Matthias appointment was in John Chrysostom's Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, where he makes no indication that he views the appointment of Matthias as something contrary to God's will, but is rather very much in concord with God's will:

Then after the event [the Ascension], he appositely brings in the Prophet, saying, For it is written in the Book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein” [Acts 1:20; Psalm 68:25 LXX]; this is said of the field and the dwelling: And his bishopric let another take; that is, his office, his priesthood. So that this, he says, is not my counsel, but His who hath foretold these things. For, that he may not seem to be undertaking a great thing, and just such as Christ had done, he adduces the Prophet as a witness. Wherefore it behooves of these men which have companied with us all the time. (v. 21.) Why does he make it their business too? That the matter might not become an object of strife, and they might not fall into contention about it. For if the Apostles themselves once did this, much more might those. This he ever avoids. Wherefore at the beginning he said, Men and brethren. It behooves to choose from among you. He [Peter] defers the decision to the whole body, thereby both making the elected objects of reverence and himself keeping clear of all invidiousness with regard to the rest. For such occasions always give rise to great evils. Now that some one must needs be appointed, he adduces the prophet as witness: but from among what persons: Of these,”\ he says, which have companied with us all the time. To have said, the worthy must present themselves, would have been to insult the others; but now he refers the matter to length of time; for he says not simply, These who have companied with us, but, 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 (v. 22): that their college (ὁ χορὸς) might not be left mutilated. Then why did it not rest with Peter to make the election himself? What was the motive? This; that he might not seem to bestow it of favor. And besides, he was not yet endowed with the spirit. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabus, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias (v. 23.). Not he appointed them: but it was he that introduced the proposition to that effect, at the same time pointing out that even this was not his own, but from old time by prophecy; so that he acted as expositor, not as preceptor (Homily III).

Chrysostom seems to maintain that Matthias appointment was not only proper, but was in a sense extraordinary in that one of the reasons he was appointed was that he had been a personal witness to Jesus, along with the rest of the Apostles


From what I understand, Paul wasn't witness to our Lord as Mattias was, and Paul was sent to gentiles. I know Peter was once sent to a gentile, but usually only to "the lost sheep of Israel"

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  • In I Corinthians 9:1, Paul explicitly claims that he was a witness to the Lord Jesus.
    – Jed Schaaf
    Apr 5 at 23:26

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