Questions From Readers
● How can we say that Paul became the twelfth apostle, when Matthias was chosen by casting lots?—M. W., Florida.
On the night of his betrayal and arrest Jesus said to the eleven faithful apostles: “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and I appointed you.” (John 15:16, NW) The original twelve apostles were selected by direct choice and appointment by Jesus, not by the casting of lots, as in the case of Matthias. In seeking to fill the vacancy left by faithless Judas, Peter had in mind the fulfillment of Psalm 109:8, quoting: “Let a different man take his office of overseer.” But by casting lots to find one to “take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas deviated”, Peter and those with him were acting in advance of the Lord Jesus Christ and without any instruction from him. (Acts 1:20, 25, NW) They did not wait to “become clothed with power from on high”, to “be baptized in holy spirit not many days after this”, and hence this pre-Pentecostal selection of Matthias was not done under the guidance of the holy spirit.—Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, NW.
After the casting of lots no mention is made in the Scriptures of Matthias personally. True, Acts 1:26 (NW) says he was “reckoned along with the eleven apostles”; but it does not say he was reckoned as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Acts 6:2 and; 1 Corinthians 15:5 speak of “the twelve”, referring to the eleven apostles and Matthias, because Matthias and the eleven apostles were associated together as a committee of special servants in the congregation at Jerusalem; but it is noteworthy that in these cases the terms “twelve” and “apostles” are not used together.
But that a replacement, and only one, for Judas was selected in fulfillment of Psalm 109:8 is made certain by Revelation 21:14, which refers to “the twelve apostles of the Lamb”. That replacement was chosen by Christ Jesus, just as were the original twelve apostles. Was not Paul specially chosen, Christ the spirit creature spectacularly manifesting himself to Paul? Concerning Paul Jesus said to Ananias: “This man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.” (Acts 9:15, NW) Jesus sent Paul forth, and Paul was excelled by no other “sent-forth one” or apostle of Christ. He was not bragging, but was writing under inspiration when he wrote concerning himself: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through God’s will.” “Paul, an apostle, neither from men nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father.” “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus under command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus.” “I was appointed a preacher and an apostle.”—Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:1, 11; Titus 1:1, NW.
Nevertheless, Paul’s apostleship was disputed by some in his day, making it necessary for him to declare frequently his appointment from the Lord. He challenged his disputants: “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, I most certainly am to you, for you are the seal confirming my apostleship in relation to the Lord.” (1 Cor. 9:1, 2, NW) As Paul’s words here indicate, and Peter’s at Acts 1:22 suggest, it seemed that one of the tests of being an apostle of the Lamb was to have seen Christ after his resurrection. Hence in this same epistle Paul repeats: “But last of all he appeared also to me as if to one born prematurely. For I am the least of the apostles, and I am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the congregation of God. But by God’s undeserved kindness I am what I am.” (1 Cor. 15:8-10, NW) Paul was known as the “apostle to the nations”. (Rom. 11:13, NW) He produced “the signs of an apostle”. (2 Cor. 12:12) He unquestionably became the twelfth apostle of the Lamb.
● Might not the star that guided the wise men to Jesus have been from God, since these men were apparently sincere and brought gifts and worshiped the child? Also, is it not reasonable to conclude that, since at this time Jesus was no longer a babe in a stable’s manger but a child in a house, he and his parents had by this time moved from Bethlehem to Nazareth?—F. D., California.
We have before us the three Gospel Harmonies, by the System Bible Studies, Chicago, Illinois, and by Prof. A.T. Robertson, and by Dr. Edw. Robinson, and all of them locate the visit of the magi or astrologers as at Bethlehem, and not at Nazareth. After Mary got well from her giving birth to Jesus, she and Joseph could easily have moved from the manger place into a house, so that the child’s being in a house at the magi’s visit proves no change of cities. It would also be unusual after Herod, according to Bible prophecy, had directed the magi to Bethlehem as the prophesied birthplace, if then the star directed them away from Bethlehem and north to Nazareth. Actually, the Bible account indicates that Joseph and Mary and the child took up residence at Nazareth for the first time upon their return from their flight into Egypt. (Matt. 2:19-23) If they had been up at Nazareth when they were warned to flee into Egypt, then to reach Egypt they would have had to travel all that long journey from Nazareth at the northern border of Herod’s territory through to the southern border. On the other hand, at Bethlehem they were already south of Jerusalem and could easily start moving south to reach Egypt ahead of Herod’s murderous executioners.
If that so-called “star” had been from God, why did it forsake the magi after it had taken them to Jesus, thus leaving them free to return to Herod? Why did not the “star” guide them back another way, if it was from God, and not make it necessary for God to intervene by sending an angel to them to direct them not to report back to Herod? The angel from God directed the shepherds to Bethlehem and gave them a sign by which to recognize the infant, but the “star” did not do this first. So the magi were called to Jesus’ enemy to ascertain for him the child’s location after all this time, maybe two years after his birth. After Herod was alarmed and stirred up to make efforts to kill the child, then first the “star” appeared again and guided the magi to where the child was. So all the evidence is against the “star” being from God, for God does not direct his people by movements of stars. But those magi were astrologers and star worshipers, no matter how sincere their hearts might have been respecting the “King of the Jews”. (Deut. 4:19; 2 Ki. 17:16; Isa. 47:13, 14) The Devil used them unwittingly in an attempt against the life of the young child Jesus.
● How does Hebrews 1:10-12 harmonize with Ecclesiastes 1:4? Is not the text in Hebrews referring to the literal earth and heavens created by Jehovah God?—R. A., Alabama.
Ecclesiastes 1:4 refers to the literal earth when it says: “The earth abideth for ever.” Hebrews 1:10-12 does not contradict this, because it is referring to the symbolical earth and heavens of Satan’s world, saying: “You, O Lord, founded the earth at the beginning, and the heavens are works of your hands. They will perish, but you are to remain continually; and they will all grow old like an outer garment, and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as an outer garment; and they will be changed, but you are the same and your years will never cease.”—NW.
Incidentally, before proceeding to a direct answer of the question it might be noted that Paul here quotes Psalm 102:25-27, and applies it to Christ Jesus, whereas the psalm seems to be speaking of Jehovah. Trinitarians use this in an effort to prove Jehovah and Christ are interchangeable, are one in a triune god. However, we know that angels representing God were spoken of as though they were God, just as we know that Christ Jesus did the actual work of creation yet Jehovah is spoken of as the Creator, because Christ did it as Jehovah’s representative workman under God’s command and through God’s power. This point is even touched on in the context of the scripture we are here considering, Hebrews 1:2 (NW) speaking of Christ as the one “through whom he [Jehovah] made the systems of things”. So either Jehovah or Christ could be spoken of as making the heavens and earth, depending on the particular viewpoint taken in each case.—See The Watchtower, August 1, 1951, page 478.
That heavens and earth are not always to be taken in a literal sense has been shown many times in The Watchtower. (1 Ki. 10:24; Ps. 66:4; 96:1; Hab. 2:20; 2 Pet. 3:5-13) The symbolical heavens and earth comprising this wicked world are shown by many scriptures to be doomed, and it is such heavens and earth that Hebrews 1:10-12 says will perish. But how can it be said they were founded by God and Christ? Christ, through Jehovah’s power, made the covering cherub and the sons of God, and thereafter they rebelled to become the wicked heavens. Likewise, Christ by God’s power made Adam and Eve, but they rebelled and today it is their wicked descendants that form the visible earth of Satan’s world. The original symbolical heavens and earth were made good by Jehovah through Christ, then called the Word. But it defiled itself and degenerated into the present evil world.
To illustrate, it was like the nation of Israel that was planted by God a good vine, but turned into a degenerate plant that was a stranger to God. (Jer. 2:21) Similarly, Christianity was planted clean, but most of it did not stay clean by constantly renewing itself in godliness, but it became apostate, clothed itself in the old worn-out pagan doctrines of antiquity, rather than holding fast to the garments of praise and salvation that once identified it as God’s servant. In a like manner the once good heavens and earth degraded itself into this present evil system of things, thus becoming useless like an old worn-out garment fit only to be laid aside, destroyed, to be changed for a new heavens and new earth organization. This chapter of Hebrews 1 is showing the exaltation and permanency of Christ Jesus, and Heb 1 verses 10-12 are brought in to prove Christ will outlast this wicked world that is to perish.