Before Honor Is Humility:
The Story of Andrew

Forerunner, June 2000

In 1621, Robert Burton wrote in his The Anatomy of Melancholy, "They are proud in humility; proud in that they are not proud." How carnal men are to twist virtue into sin! It is enough to make us suspicious when we come across a "humble" person.

We have undoubtedly crossed paths with those who were so proud that they oozed with false humility. Many religious leaders in the world today openly appear this way, as they wax eloquent on their televised evangelical programs. Authors have written dozens of books and Hollywood has produced many movies to expose the hypocrisy of such individuals.

Uncountable numbers of both religious and secular leaders have risen to power on the banner of humility. Feigning an image of heartfelt concern for those who can help place them in the limelight, they glow with an air of counterfeit humility. Eventually, this hypocritical image always becomes apparent, just as our sins expose us in due time (Numbers 32:23). The sin of pride is no different.

Of the many things that people have written on humility, as much as one-third refers to false humility. For instance, the French moralist La Rochefoucald wrote in Maxims in 1665: "Humility is often only feigned submission which people use to render others submissive. It is a subterfuge of pride which lowers itself in order to rise."

From this we can draw the conclusion that sterling examples of humility are hard to find. Jesus Christ is always the pinnacle of humble service. It stands to reason that, through the individual training and example that He gave to His disciples, probably each of them set an excellent example of this wonderful godly characteristic.

From what we can see in the gospels, the apostle Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter (Matthew 10:2), is a model of godly humility. Although the Bible records only a few things about him, each scene in which he appears provides us an example of great encouragement. Perhaps his example is most meaningful to those who consider themselves just ordinary Christians, those without leadership responsibilities in the church.

Traditional History

Like the other apostles, Andrew fulfilled his commission, going and preaching to the scattered House of Israel. Tradition indicates that Andrew preached in Asia Minor and Scythia, which were along the Black Sea and extended as far north as the Volga River. Migration histories show that the ancestors of the Scots and Anglo-Saxons migrated from this area.

Modern Scottish tradition believes that Andrew preached to their ancestors. The story of his martyrdom says he was first stoned then crucified at Patras in Achaea on an X-shaped cross, commonly known as a "St. Andrew's cross." Legend holds that he hung there two days, continuing to preach the gospel until he died. Today, the "St. Andrew's cross" is a unique emblem of the Scottish people.

Andrew's Life

Mark and John write that Andrew was born at Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee to a man named Jonah (John) and his wife. Several major trade routes passed through Galilee at the time, and this fact suggests Greek language and culture, in addition to his Jewish roots, influenced Andrew throughout his early life. It is quite likely he spoke both Aramaic and Greek, and his knowing a smattering of Latin is possible.

Although Andrew was a native of Bethsaida and spent his early years as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, he later moved to Capernaum. On learning of the message of John the Baptist, he, along with a group of others from his area, traveled to Bethany beyond the Jordan River, where John the Baptist was baptizing. While a disciple of John, Andrew learned of the imminent coming of the Son of God. Upon first hearing Jesus' teachings, Andrew, thrilled to have found the Messiah, ran to tell his brother Peter and take him to where Jesus was staying. Andrew was so quickly and fully impressed with Christ and His message that He was among the first to follow Him.

Mark records that on the Mount of Olives, he, along with Peter, James, and John, privately asked Jesus, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?" Like the others, Andrew wanted to know what the future held. He was curious about when the destruction of the Temple would occur and what the signs of Christ's coming and the end of the age would be. Jesus, however, was more concerned about preparing them by exhortation and warning of the trials that lay ahead than about giving them dates and signs. Jesus knew His disciples' dedication and zeal would better come to the fore without the men knowing the deadline of future events.

He was probably present with Jesus on many other occasions early in Christ's ministry, although John does not record his name specifically. Presumably, he was a companion of Jesus on His return journey to Galilee, at the wedding in Cana, in Capernaum, at Passover in Jerusalem, in Judea where they performed many baptisms, and in Samaria (John 2-4).

After Herod cast John the Baptist into prison, Andrew returned to Galilee, where for a time he resumed his old vocation as a fisherman. According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus again called Andrew and his brother Peter, this time telling them to leave their nets to "become fishers of men."

Even though Andrew was ordained one of the twelve apostles, the book of Acts mentions him only once. In the New Testament his name occurs only 12 times, four of these merely in lists of the apostles. Other than in such lists, Luke and Acts never refer to Andrew at all. Jesus seems not to have given him any highly visible responsibilities. Apparently, this humble apostle labored quietly and with deep commitment to serve God.

Andrew's Character

The name Andrew means "manly" or "courageous" which he had to be to face the hurdles of an apostle. From the information we have available in the gospels and Acts, Andrew must not have been much of a talker, as only a dozen or so of his words are preserved in the Bible. Nor did he write any epistles. Most of what we know about him must be deduced.

It is significant that Jesus called Andrew first of all His disciples. The choice was an important one because Christ would want to choose someone who possessed a keen perception of spiritual truth and pursued the knowledge of God until he had a deep understanding. Andrew was a man of strong conviction, enabling him not only to accept Jesus as the Messiah, but also to encourage Peter to become a disciple. Christ probably chose Andrew knowing that He could develop genuine humility in him, making him a useful instrument in God's church.

Having been with Him longer than the other disciples, Andrew witnessed most of Christ's miracles. Jesus' feeding of the five thousand illustrates Andrew's humble nature (John 6:1-14). John records that Jesus was concerned about the condition of the crowd that had been listening to Him teach for a long time. Hungry and tired, they needed to eat. The natural disciple to turn to was Philip, since as a resident of Bethsaida he would know about local food supplies, so Jesus asked him where they could buy food.

Philip's answer seemed discouraging. Even if they could find food for this vast throng, it would cost 200 times an average day's wage for a workingman. He calculated that it would take more than six month's wages to begin to feed everyone in the crowd even a little food.

Then Andrew walked up. He had been quietly working on the problem himself, but all he had been able to find was a boy carrying his dinner. Nonetheless, Andrew presented his "solution" to Christ: "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?" (John 6:9). Barley bread, made from the cheapest of the locally grown grains, was what the poor ate. The fish most likely were of modest size since a boy carried them. Andrew's find was totally inadequate by any standard.

He did not make his suggestion in a haughty or pushy way. Andrew was a man of sound common sense, the kind who stabilizes and lends help in situations where a need must be filled. In this case, however, Jesus gave Andrew a small lesson in humility. He or the other disciples could do nothing about the lack of food physically. It took a miracle of astounding magnitude to fill this need.

Although details are sketchy, Andrew fulfilled important supportive roles in Jesus' ministry in a humble, unpretentious manner. At Passover, the Greeks who wished to "see Jesus" inquired of Philip, but he did not know what to do. Obviously respecting Andrew's decision-making abilities, he turned to Andrew for advice. In no doubt of what to do, he led them to Jesus (John 12:20-36). He had discovered that no one could ever be a nuisance to Jesus if he was seeking the truth.

The Bible describes him primarily as the brother of Peter. Although Andrew's name always appears in the first group of apostles—with Peter, James, and John—he does not seem to be part of that intimate group. He did witness some of the great experiences of Christ as they did. Andrew was not present when Peter, James, and John saw Jesus raise Jairus' daughter from death, Jesus' sorrow in the garden, or Christ's transfiguration. Even later, when Luke describes Peter, James, and John as pillars of the church, Andrew goes unmentioned.

Andrew seems more concerned with serving than building his reputation. His attitude was opposite that of James and John when they asked to be first in the Kingdom. There were times when some of the disciples would haggle over who would be the greatest, but Andrew was not involved in these debates. He did not press for a conspicuous place of honor.

Andrew's emphasis was on the work of Jesus Christ. He exemplifies quiet humble labor, "not with eye service as men-pleasers" (Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 3:22), but service from the heart. Although he was the first disciple called, he never reached a place of "prominence." God inspired His Word to record Andrew on the scene of significant events, yet working quietly in the background.

It is to his credit that he was satisfied to work in relative obscurity more than some of his fellow disciples were. A person cannot be in the forefront of every activity, although many try. Someone once said, "Humility is like underwear, essential, but indecent if exposed." Humble Andrew was content with his lesser role, showing no envy of those who played the lead.

Taught by Christ

As a disciple, Andrew followed the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. He had the wonderful blessing of face-to-face contact with the most humble individual to live on this earth. Of that example, Philippians 2:7-8 says Jesus Christ "made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." Jesus reduced His stature to that of helpless man, emptying Himself of His privileges as a member of the God Family and willingly dying a horrible death so our sins could be forgiven and the penalty paid.

By Andrew's following the humble example of our Savior, he was able to contribute a great deal to the unity of Christ's work through the apostles. Humility is absolutely necessary for unity. Paul writes:

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Philippians 2:3-4 connects humility with love: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."

An obvious truth mostly ignored by the world is that, if we intend to be successful at developing true humility, we must overcome pride. Andrew read and studied the Scriptures. He knew that "before honor is humility" (Proverbs 15:33; 18:12). He understood that he could overcome any pride he had by taking the lower seat and allowing God to exalt him in due time (Luke 14:7-11).

In his book, All the Apostles of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer summarizes the apostle Andrew with a quotation from Daniel McLean in his Studies on the Apostles:

Gathering together the traces of character found in Scripture we have neither the writer of an Epistle nor the founder of a Church, nor a leading figure in the Apostolic Age, but simply an earnest seeker after truth, an intimate disciple of Jesus Christ, ever anxious that others should know the spring of spiritual joy and share the blessing he so highly prized. A man of very moderate endowment, who scarcely redeemed his early promise, simple minded and sympathetic, without either dramatic power or heroic spirit, . . . a man of deep religious feeling with little power of expression, magnetic more than electric, better suited for the quiet walks of life than the stirring thoroughfares. (pp. 55-56)

The apostle Andrew seems to have taken Proverbs 16:18-19 to heart: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud." He remains a sterling example of a man who was part of the greatest movement to influence the earth whose benefit to mankind is immeasurable. As part of the work of Christ, he remained humble and dedicated all the way to his gruesome death. We can find great encouragement in the example of humility and dedication in this relatively "ordinary" Christian—ordinary, but whose teaching and example were made powerful by the gift of the Holy Spirit that God gives to those He calls.

© 2000 Church of the Great God
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