Saint Matthias Characteristics

saint matthias
Characteristics of Apostle Matthias

The remaining eleven disciples chose characteristics of Saint Matthias to replace the betrayer, Judas Iscariot, before Jesus’ resurrection.

According to the characteristics of the 12 apostles, it was believed that these twelve witnesses would represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Thus, these followers of Christ gathered together to cast lots between two candidates: Joseph called Barsabas (Justus), and Matthias.

characteristics of saint matthias
St. Matthias, from Christ, the Apostles and St. Paul with the Creed


As one of the Twelve, Matthias was an apostle, which meant he was charged with preaching the gospel and helping it spread throughout the known world. The word we translate as Apostle (Apostolos) means “one who is sent,” and all of the apostles were sent somewhere. But where exactly Matthias went depends on which tradition you follow.

Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos was a fourteenth-century historian who built on the work of his predecessors and had access to important texts that no longer exist. He claimed Matthias preached in Judea, then Aethiopia (modern-day Georgia).

One of the Seventy

In the Gospel of Luke, we learn that Jesus appointed 70 disciples (or depending on the manuscript, 72) to spread the gospel in pairs of two; these believers were sent out to test the hospitality of the towns Jesus was heading to and gauge their receptiveness to the gospel.

They were given the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons (Luke 10:9, Luke 10:17), and they preached the gospel.

Interestingly, Luke is the only gospel writer to mention them, and he doesn’t tell us their names (that’d be about as thrilling to read as Matthew’s genealogy).

While that saves us from slogging through seventy (or seventy-two) names of people we’d likely never read about again, it also, unfortunately, prevents us from learning about these important early followers of Jesus. They were probably leaders in the first-century church.

saint matthias, artist: workshop of simone martini (italian, siena, active by 1315–died 1344 avignon)
Saint Matthias
Artist: Workshop of Simone Martini (Italian, Siena, active by 1315–died 1344 Avignon)

Witness the Resurrection

The first qualification is laid out in verse 22:

‘He must become a witness with us of His resurrection.’

This is interesting phrasing as he would have witnessed the resurrection having been with Jesus from baptism to ascension.

I think the emphasis here is that he must be prepared to become united with them in their witness. Given that the atmosphere of the church was one of unity and prayer, the new person needed to commit to this and become a witness ‘with us.’ There was no space here for a different plan.

This was a group of people that would be witnessing the resurrection amidst opposition. The church would be staking its reputation on the resurrection of Jesus. This crucial doctrine was foundational teaching, and the new member of the Twelve needed to be prepared to witness this.

Purity of Heart

A shortlist of two men is drawn up. Both, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias are ideal candidates. The final decision is committed to God in prayer before lots are drawn. God is addressed as the One ‘who knows the hearts of all men’ or the ‘heart-knower, and He is asked to choose the man He wants.

Ultimately, this is both the most important characteristic of the new Apostle and the one most hidden from us. Who can know the real motives of a man’s heart? Only God. He alone knows our hidden and deep motives. The fact that Matthias is selected speaks volumes of his character.

So Matthias, a man of exemplary character and a persevering witness of the resurrection, is selected by lot and is ‘added to the eleven apostles. Exciting times are ahead for all the apostles as the church is birthed at Pentecost and established throughout the known world.

the election of saint matthias
"One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:
Let someone else take his office.
‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’
Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles."
Acts 1:15-17,20-26, which is today's First Reading for the feast of St Matthias.
This stained glass window is from St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow.


The last qualification is that he must be one of ‘the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us – beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us’. He must have been present throughout Jesus’ ministry.

This was a new movement and the people who were to ensure that the church got off the ground needed to be people who had seen the whole story unfold. They needed to have been part of what was going on when Jesus was conducting His earthly ministry. They needed to be people who could answer the cynics who questioned who Jesus was.

They needed to be people who could accurately report what Jesus had taught so that they could combat any dubious perversions of His teaching. They needed to be people who Jesus had commissioned to go out preaching the message of the kingdom and healing the sick.

This was an issue of credibility and was important since the new church was being established in an atmosphere of hostility. The individual who was chosen therefore needed to have proven that they had perseverance and not left Jesus when the teaching became difficult or when opposition from the authorities had come.

Summary Characteristics of Saint Matthias

Before 120 followers of Christ, Peter gave an account of the life, ministry, and death of Judas Iscariot. Because of the loss of Judas, a replacement was to fill the gap within the original twelve disciples. It was necessary to select one who had known them since the Lord’s baptism by John to the resurrection of the Son of Man.

“And they drew lots for them, and the lots fell to Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26).

Many believe that Barsabbas and Matthias were among the seventy disciples who were sent out to proclaim the gospel (Luke 10:1). However, neither one has been mentioned again in Scripture, nor is there any account for their later ministries.

Read more about Saint Matthias in the Bible.

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