1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Accompanying MacArthur sermons: Luke: Physician & Historian and Luke: Theologian & Pastor
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: Eyewitness to Jesus
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Skeptics Welcome
Let's get started on the book of Luke!
And Luke starts out with an introduction before he gets going. Luke is humble, and does not mention his name as the writer of either Luke or Acts (both of which it is universally accepted that he wrote). But we do know a few things about Luke from other scripture. We know, from Colossians 4:14, that Luke was a physician. He was a scientist, a learned man, an analytical man. We know he was from Antioch in Syria. We know that he was a Gentile (the only Gentile to pen a book of scripture!) and likely converted to Christianity a bit later in life, definitely after Christ's death, resurrection and ascension. So he was not personally an eyewitness to the life of Christ.
We know that Luke was passionate about Christ and that he was very loyal. He was with Paul and suffered alongside him - he was imprisoned with him three times and, according to 2 Timothy 4:10-11, was the only one who did not leave Paul when the going got tough. We know that Paul loved him.
Luke was a historian. We know from these verses that he already knew about the books of Matthew and Mark - and did, in fact, know them both personally. Knowing that his writing needed to be iron clad, Luke researched and he interviewed eye witnesses. This book was written about 30 years after Jesus' ascension, so if Luke wanted to interview any living eye witnesses, he had to do it now. Luke makes it clear that he was not an eye witness himself, but that his sources were eye witnesses and servants of the gospel. He investigated everything right from the beginning and when he had acquired such a precise understanding, he was compelled to write it out exactly.
And Luke is detailed! There are, according to MacArthur's sermon, 7 miracles, 19 parables and about 30 life events of Jesus that are only recorded in the book of Luke. Not in Mark, and not in Matthew. (Driscoll has slightly different numbers as you'll see in the quote at the end of this post - but the point is the same). Luke has added a lot of information here for us. In fact, the books of Luke and Acts make up more than half of the the New Testament - not in # of books obviously (Paul had 13 - or 14 if he wrote Hebrews), but in length. And, obviously, all of Luke's research led to him writing this book under the direction and control of the Holy Spirit.
Luke also writes an orderly account - he writes in a logical order. It is generally chronological, but some of it is also thematic in order to make a point, so it's not strictly chronological. If this was strictly an historical account it would be entirely chronological. But Luke was also a theologian, and so it follows a logical and persuasive order, so as to lead the reader to believe the gospel of salvation. Luke is definitely a theologian - he deals with God's sovereignty, that salvation is extended to everyone (Jew and Gentile alike), the role of the Holy Spirit, the fear of God, forgiveness, worship, the Second Coming - but his main focus is the cross.
And who did Luke write this book to? To Theophilus, which means loved by God. This book is obviously also intended for all of us who are loved by God, but it was specifically written for Theophilus. For one man. Our God is such a personal God!! Luke refers to him as "most excellent Theophilus" which very likely means that he was wealthy and in a position in the Roman government. Mark Driscoll contends that likely, due to his prominent position, he wanted to make very sure of the accuracy of this Christian faith before taking the risk of publicly claiming Christ - and that he possibly even funded the research of this book (and the book of Acts) and possibly paid Luke to take the time off work to do the years of research required to write these two books.
Driscoll says (emphasis mine):
there are four Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have 60 percent of their material in common, they are known as the Synoptic Gospels. When you watch the nightly news, it’s like that, the local ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliates. Pretty much the same nightly news, a little different order, a little different emphases, but pretty much the same idea-60 percent of the content. John is like the BBC, it’s just on it’s own. Ninety percent of John’s Gospel is unique to John.
But there are some portions of Luke and some aspects of Luke that make Luke a very valuable contribution, one of which is that Luke is almost entirely chronological. So, if you’re a historian and sequential data matters to you, some of the other Gospels are arranged theologically, Luke’s is arranged chronologically. So it’s almost in order, there are a few minor exceptions.
And there are forty-one parts of Luke that are not in any other Gospel, and had Luke not investigated it and written it down, had Theophilus not funded it and commissioned it, we wouldn’t know any of these forty-one things about Jesus. So there’s some treasure in here that you can’t mine anywhere else.
And I, for one, am looking forward to it!
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 1:5-14