Can Christians Learn God’s Will by Casting Lots?

Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide. Weeks later the disciples sought to replace Judas. The disciples chose two men out of the 120 people in the upper room and then they cast lots to see which of the two would be the twelfth apostle. This is the last reference in the Bible to casting lots, and the only time the New Tesament describes Christians making a decision by casting lots.

Casting lots was a regular practice in Israel during Old Testament times. God instructed the Israelites to cast lots as part of the prescribed ritual on the day of atonement. The high priest would cast lots to decide which of two goats would be sacrificed. Later, lots were cast to assign land to tribes and cities to families. When the temple was built lots were cast to arrange the service of certain Levites. The book of Proverbs seems to speak favorably of casting lots. “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.” (Proverbs 18:18) “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Casting lots in the Bible was the process of reaching a decision through the random result of thrown sticks, stones or bones. The most common modern parallel is flipping a coin– heads we go out to eat, tails we eat at home. Sometimes the coin is tossed to reach an impartial decision, sometimes to resolve a dispute and sometimes to reach a decision when a person cannot decide. Though the Old Testament used lots as a legitimate part of certain decisions, the New Testament church never did. Is it alright for Christians to roll dice, draw cards or flip coins to determine God’s will?

The Bible does not condemn casting lots, but the New Testament has no examples of casting lots after the reception of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Once Christians received the Holy Spirit they did not need to rely on external devices for guidance. When the church selected elders, deacons or missionaries they did not cast lots. When the apostles sought God’s direction in their ministry travels they did not cast lots. The apostles and early church made decisions through prayer, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s instructions. The Holy Spirit’s guidance of every Christian eliminates the need to cast lots.

Instead of casting lots, Christians are to learn the will of God. In the book of Colossians Paul prayed for the believers to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Prayer is a key element of learning the will of God. When Paul desired to go to Rome and then to Spain he asked the church to pray for him that he would be able to do so.

The will of God is learned through the Word of God. God’s commands are always God’s will. The wise application of Biblical principles also direct the Christian to know God’s will. In situations where the Biblical commands and principles leave room for a Christian to legitimately choose any of several options, then the Christian ought to make the best decision possible while trusting God to guide and protect in the decision making process. If God directs the fall of the lot, how much more will He direct His child who seeks to make a wise decision that obeys and honors Him.

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