The Humility Of Andrew

The Humility Of Andrew

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Most historians agree that Andrew the Apostle was born between 5 and 10 AD in Bethsaida, Galilee. If correct, he would have been about the same age as Jesus. Andrew is a Greek name that means “manly” or “brave.” Among Jews, it appears to have been a popular choice as early as the second or third century BC. Interestingly, there is no proof that Andrew had a Hebrew or Aramaic name like his more well-known sibling. So, Andrew’s name is the very first thing that stands out. His family was willing to accept Hellenism, which is clear from the fact that his name is not Hebrew, as you might expect, but Greek. Andrew was born and raised in Galilee, a region in the first century that was historically and culturally as much Greek as Jewish.

Both Andrew and Simon (Peter) made their living as fishermen. This occupational choice seems to be why Jesus called them “fishers of men” in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. According to these narratives, Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee shore when he saw Simon and Andrew fishing and asked them to become his disciples. Jesus even stayed with these brothers in Capernaum after beginning his public ministry (Mark 1.29). It’s interesting that Luke, the physician, and the meticulous gospel author, doesn’t immediately mention Andrew’s presence or that he and Simon are brothers. According to Luke, Jesus used Simon’s boat twice: once to preach to the crowds on the shore and again to pull in a massive fish catch on a previously fruitless night. Even though Luke doesn’t name Andrew, he says that Simon (Peter) had help while trawling the waters when he caught the big fish Jesus told him to. Simon (Peter) called for backup and assistance from his friends in another boat after the massive fish trawl so that they could help him haul the fish ashore. Luke reveals that Andrew is Simon’s brother in the subsequent chapter. So, it’s safe to assume that Andrew was out fishing with Simon (Peter) at the time of the incident, which Luke records accurately. Luke shows that Andrew is often given less attention in the Bible than his better-known brother Simon (Peter). This is an interesting fact.

John devotes the most attention to Andrew. The Gospel of John states that Andrew followed the teachings of John the Baptist. Having been moved by the words of John the Baptist, Andrew and another of  John the Baptist’s disciples decided to follow Jesus. When Andrew saw Jesus, he knew he was the Messiah and told his brother. Thus, the Eastern Orthodox Church reveres him as Protokletos, meaning “the first called.” Andrew wasn’t one of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples and apostles (i.e., Peter, James, and John). Still, he probably had more access to Jesus than other disciples and apostles because Peter was his brother. Andrew was with the other disciples on the Mount of Olives when Jesus made one of his rare appearances with “the four.” Andrew asked Jesus to explain what he meant when he said the temple would be destroyed and the world would end.

Most people think that Andrew is the one who sets up meetings between other people and Jesus. For example, Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus (John 1.40–42). Andrew also brought the boy with the bread and fish to Jesus (John 6.8–9). Finally, when some Greeks wanted to see Jesus, they went to Philip, who went to Andrew, knowing that the latter could arrange their introduction (John 12.21–23). In Acts 1.13, Luke mentions that Andrew is in the upper room with the 120. Unfortunately, this verse is the last time we hear about him in the New Testament. As a result, tradition is our only source of information about Andrew’s evangelistic career.

Both Origen and Eusebius credit Andrew with preaching in Scythia. Nestor’s Chronicle says that he also went from the Black Sea to the Dnieper River and then to Kyiv to preach. Afterward, he went to Novgorod (Russia). Consequently, the countries of Russia, Romania, and Ukraine revere Andrew as a patron saint. According to Hippolytus of Rome, Andrew preached in Thrace. The apocryphal Acts of Andrew connect Andrew to Byzantium or Constantinople. Basil of Seleucia claims that Andrew traveled to Thrace, Scythia, and Achaea to spread the gospel. Tradition says that Andrew died a martyr’s death in Greece, in the city of Patras, in 60 AD.

Gregory of Tours, a theologian who lived in the sixth century, read old texts that said Andrew died on a Latin cross like the one used to kill Jesus. But later, it became a tradition that Andrew asked that he be crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is now called a “Saint Andrew’s Cross.” However, we cannot date this explanation for Andrew’s martyrdom before the late Middle Ages. Whether the X-shaped cross is correct, the symbol lives on in many flags worldwide. For example, Alabama and Florida use it in their standards in the United States. Also, The Disciples of Christ and the Episcopals, among other groups, use the St. Andrews Cross in their logos.

What do we have to gain from observing Andrew? First, Andrew emphasizes the significance of personal evangelism. We typically think of preachers, elders, and those who teach Bible classes as winning souls for Christ from the lectern or podium. However, people are often led to Jesus by people they already know, as we see with Andrew. Even better than a good sermon is bringing about change on the inside and strengthening relationships with others. And yet, that doesn’t mean preaching and sharing your faith in public aren’t necessary. They are. Andrew, on the other hand, is not shown in the Bible giving speeches to big crowds, writing letters, or doing anything else to draw attention to himself. That was irrelevant. Andrew was humble in his service to God’s kingdom. And it seems that Andrew had already figured this out before Jesus gave the Great Commission.

Similar to what we learned in the first lesson on evangelism, Andrews demonstrates that some things are too good to keep to yourself. As the first disciple to meet Jesus, Andrew couldn’t keep quiet about the Messiah’s arrival on Earth. Instead, he had to share the good news of Jesus with his family and friends, including his older brother. Andrew engaged in “word-of-mouth” advertising through his enthusiasm. As statistics show, word-of-mouth marketing is effective. The opinions of others who have made that purchase sway most consumers to buy something, not the commercial or sales pitch. According to Nielsen, word-of-mouth is more effective than advertising at getting people to try new products. It never ceases to amaze me that we can have a perfectly reasonable conversation about anything from pop culture to sports with a stranger, but we’ll never bring up the subject of Jesus Christ. Just think of everything we could achieve if we did! Like Andrew, we must conclude that the treasure we have found in Christ is too precious to squirrel away.

Finally, faithfulness is more valuable than fame. Put Andrew in context with the other two apostles, Peter and Paul. This second group would go on to have highly visible and influential ministries. They would address massive audiences, winning many souls for Christ. They encouraged Christians with their letters, which we still read and cherish today. Yet many more gospel ministers have done their work in relative obscurity and seen fruit for it. Andrew was a follower who participated in this latter group. His name may be less familiar to you. Not many people have heard of him. Still, Andrew showed humility, compassion, and faith in Christ that modern Christians would do well to imitate by serving without seeking praise, leading individuals (not crowds) to Christ, and letting God use his gifts as He saw fit. The Andrews of the world can save more lives than the Peters and Pauls.

Brent Pollard
The Identity Of Unclean Spirits

The Identity Of Unclean Spirits

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

The TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version of this discussion is that when angels mated with human women, they produced abominable offspring whose spirits God refused to admit into the realm of the dead after He destroyed them in the Flood. The wandering spirits eventually possessed some people in the first century whom Jesus and the apostles were able to exorcise. These were the unclean spirits. Because of the power of Christ’s Gospel, they no longer have the ability to hijack our bodies today. If they are still present, they can only help to facilitate situations of temptation. But they cannot touch us or make us sin.  

For those willing to understand how I arrived at the above summary, please keep reading. 

Allow me to begin by indulging in a little inside baseball. In that case, I’ll start by highlighting one of the differences between my brother’s and my time at Faulkner University: two different godly men led the V.P. Black School of Biblical Studies. My brother had the opportunity to sit at the feet of the late Wendell Winkler, whose background was in preaching schools. Meanwhile, when I graduated, the late Kenneth Randolph was the dean. Brother Randolph decided he wanted students to build their libraries and encouraged instructors to assign textbooks to our classes whenever possible. 

I studied hermeneutics under the late Martel Pace. When is an Example Binding? by Thomas B. Warren was the actual text. However, brother Pace insisted on us purchasing Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. When the class began, brother Pace directed us to a sentence in Fee and Stuart’s book. That sentence stated that novel interpretations are incorrect. It is erroneous if no one has ever interpreted Scripture in a given way in over two thousand years of church history. With that clarification, brother Pace told us we could throw the book away as he didn’t want us to learn how to interpret the Bible from Fee and Stuart’s liberal hermeneutic. 

Although I felt cheated at the time for wasting money on a book I wouldn’t use, brother Pace’s point has stuck with me. When I approach a Scripture or text and want to understand what it means, I first consult other Scriptures. Then, when I finally turn to human scholarship, I always look for the oldest interpretation of the Scripture. With this method, it is surprising how much of the doctrine taught in contemporary Christendom dates back less than 200 years. Other false doctrines may have origins in the 1500s, during the Protestant Reformation. Others emerged before 1000, eventually leading to the establishment of the first apostate church. 

Despite being accurate regarding salvation, we sometimes see deviations from original thought in issues of Christian judgment. For example, I’ve been thinking about angels and demons. I’ve often said that much of what people believe they know about the subject finds basis in Milton rather than Scripture (e.g., the war in heaven). The Bible is silent on angels, including their orders and responsibilities. When asked who the archangels are, you will hear names other than Gabriel and Michael (i.e., Raphael and Uriel). According to some, an archangel by the name of Lucifer fell. From whence does this extra information come? The accepted canon of Scripture does not include it. 

On the other hand, the apocryphal Book of Enoch is one source having a lot to say about angels. The Book of Watchers refers to the first thirty-six chapters of the Book of Enoch. The author of Watchers claims to explain things like how angels fell. Given that Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch, this source is more interesting than you might think. Jude quotes the apocryphal book in verses 14-15. This inclusion by the Holy Spirit does not imply that the Book of Enoch is anything other than apocryphal, but rather that this widely read book from before the first century AD still got a few things correct, precisely what Jude quotes. Although it is not a direct quotation, Jude verse six parallels ideas found in the Book of Watchers, namely that the “angels who did not keep their own domain but abandoned their proper abode” (NASB1995) refers to angels who chose to leave heaven to intermarry with human women. 

It took a long time for me to accept this. I was of the school of thought that interpreted Genesis 6’s “sons of God” as the descendants of Seth, who began calling on the Lord’s name (Genesis 4.26). That was a more recent interpretation contradicting the phrase “sons of God,” which almost always referred to angels. Even so, I would never teach what I am about to discuss as doctrine because it may confuse some. However, if one considers the context of Jude, one will notice that the sin of verse six is akin to that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 1.7). In other words, it was a matter of immoral sexual behavior. It was never in God’s plan for angels to have companions. They are presumably “complete,” lacking nothing in their distinct being. In response to the Sadducees, this is why Jesus stated, “…in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (emphasis mine—Matthew 22.30 NASB1995). 

I’ve heard it preached that Jesus said angels can’t get married, but He said they don’t get married in heaven. It is not a giant leap to conclude that if angels took on a form with a digestive system (cf. Genesis 18.5ff), being able to eat, they could also take on a reproductive system commensurate with the masculine forms assumed in their interactions with humanity. Furthermore, Paul warns us that the devil can disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11.14). So, it appears God endowed angels with such abilities implied by taking on an assumed form. 

But how does this relate to unclean spirits? What does this even have to do with Faulkner University and hermeneutics? Following the Scriptures, I will consult other scholarship sources; the earlier, the better. So, I went back and read what early Christian writers like Justin Martyr and Origen had to say about the subject. Justin, in particular, confirmed Jude’s message that the angels’ transgression was sexual. According to Justin, angels fell in love with human women and decided to copulate with them, the latter giving birth to the “mighty men of old, men of renown” (Genesis 6.4). These deviations resulted in conditions that caused God to regret creating man. One of the things that the Book of Watchers says that Justin seems to accept is that these fallen angels taught men how to make weapons of war and fight one another. Have you ever thought about Genesis 6.13? God saw the earth filled with violence. That is an intriguing coincidence. 

As a result, God destroyed all except Noah, Noah’s family, and the animals aboard the ark with a Flood. But what became of those who died in the Flood? Would Ecclesiastes 12.7 not be applicable? Their “dust” was returned to the earth, while God received their spirits. But what if among the dead were spirits inhabiting bodies that God did not sanction, a cross between fallen angels and humans? Would He let those spirits into Sheol or Hades? Wouldn’t they be punished like the fallen angels for whom God created hell itself (2 Peter 2.4-10)? 

It appears unlikely that the “unclean spirits” mentioned in the Gospels and the book of Acts are the spirits of evil, departed men. A teacher once told me that Legion hung out in the cemetery (Mark 5.1ff) to linger near their former bodies. In other words, whoever the Legion demons were, they were all former humans doomed to spend eternity in hell. But why would God choose to isolate the miraculous period of the first century to allow some evil deceased spirits to remain and not send them immediately into the realm of the dead, as Ecclesiastes 12.7 suggests? Of course, God could direct every such person into the path of Jesus or the apostles for exorcism, but it seems strange to defy nature just to read about a few exorcisms in the Gospels and Acts. Indeed, the ability to raise the dead alone could serve as the ultimate form of confirmation of the Gospel. Moreover, since the power of sin is death, raising the dead would still prove our Lord’s power of the kingdom of darkness (1 Corinthians 15.51-57).  

Examine how Jesus interacts with these unclean spirits (aka demons). In Matthew’s account of Legion, another demon-possessed man accompanies Legion (Matthew 8.28). Both possessed men were violent and would not let anyone pass. The ones inside these men recognized Jesus as the Son of God and wondered if He had come to torment them ahead of time(Matthew 8.29). They asked Jesus to send them into an adjacent herd of swine if He was going to cast them out of those men (Matthew 8.31). When Jesus granted their request, the demons caused the herd of pigs to jump into the sea and drown (Matthew 8.32). Why not send them to Hades if these were the departed spirits of evil men? Why put them in pigs? 

These unclean spirits knew God would destroy them, but they thought the time was too soon. Of course, we know that those in Tartarus, the place of torment within Hades, like the rich man, immediately knew their eternal fate, but how else would these possessing living men in the first century know such things? They had probably never experienced Tartarus’ torment because they were free to roam (cf. Matthew 12.43-45; Luke 11.24-26). Again, it would appear to be inconsistent with what we know about our existence following death. It makes more sense, however, if there have been spirits of grotesque angel-human hybrids roaming the earth since the Flood. 

Let us look at some examples of demon exorcism in Acts to illustrate these fascinating phenomena further. First, Paul cast out an unclean spirit from a young woman who had been following him around Philippi, proclaiming him to be a servant of the Most High God and preaching the way of salvation (Acts 16.16-21). Paul became irritated with her and rebuked the spirit in Jesus’ name, causing the demon to flee. The event that led to Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in Philippi was this exorcism. When Paul expelled the evil spirit, he took away her divining ability that her owners exploited to make money. Then, in Ephesus, Paul exorcised demons without even being in their presence. People took handkerchiefs that Paul had touched, which were enough to heal and drive away the evil spirits (Acts 19.12).  

This display of Jesus’ power prompted some of Paul’s opponents to try to imitate him. Finally, Acts 19.13-16 contains a humorous account of a failed exorcism. Sceva’s seven sons took it upon themselves to exorcise an evil spirit in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches. The demon said it recognized Jesus and Paul but wanted to know who these men were. The possessed man then leaped on them and thrashed them mercilessly. It caused quite a stir in Ephesus and inspired both Jews and Gentiles to exalt Jesus’ name (Acts 19.17). 

There are no further references to unclean spirits after Ephesus. We know Paul told the Corinthians that the miraculous age would end when the perfect (i.e., complete) arrived (1 Corinthians 13.8-12). By the end of the first century, God had completed His revelation to mankind. And then there was the New Testament. But what about the spirits? Origen, a Christian who lived near the end of the second century, observed that the demons vanished along with the ending of the spiritual gifts bestowed by the apostles through the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 8.14-17).  

In other words, Jesus Christ’s power defeated the kingdom of darkness. Those spirits, if still present, could no longer possess people or cause mischief as they did during the brief period described in the New Testament. This statement does not imply that Origen did not have some ideas. He did. Since, as James stated, our lusts entice us, allow our desires to conceive, and give birth to sin (James 1.14-15), the remaining unclean spirits serve as “midwives,” facilitating our sin. This truth does not absolve us of our guilt, but it may point to perpetrators in the unseen realm who are more than willing to assist us.