CLAIM: The eleven apostles needed a twelfth after the death of Judas. To make the decision between Barsabbas and Matthias, Luke records that “they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). Why did they cast lots for such a major decision, and are we supposed to do this today?
RESPONSE: This practice of casting lots is taken from passages such as Proverbs 16:33 which states, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” This practice was common in the old covenant for difficult decisions. In fact, God gave the high priest Urim and Thummim, which were sacred dice that would help them in casting lots (Lev. 8:8). The events of Acts 1 were still technically in the old covenant, because the Holy Spirit wouldn’t fall on believers until Acts 2 at Pentecost. Since both Barsabbas and Matthias were equally qualified to be apostles, this decision was certainly difficult, so they used the practice of casting lots to determine God’s will. Now that we are in the new covenant with the special indwelling of the Holy Spirit, these sorts of practices are not necessary. This must be why we never see another instance of casting lots in the NT after this event. In fact, when decisions like this occur in Acts 6 and Acts 13, we do not see the casting of lots, but only references to prayer instead.