Investigate The Gospel!—Luke 1:1-4

Investigate The Gospel!

Series: Luke—The Infancy Of Jesus (1:1-2:52)

Luke 1:1-4

20161204FBCAM

Levi Durfey 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

If there’s one thing that bugs me to no end, it’s listening to someone share his opinion about something which they actually know little about. 

 

They may have heard a one-sided news story about some situation, or talked to someone who had heard a one-sided news story about it. And they babble on and on, adding their own hot air to what is already hot air.

 

Christianity is one of those things that a lot of people have their opinions about. Over the years, I have heard and read all sorts of comments like:

 

“Religion is a fairy tale for losers.”

“The Bible is made up and full of lies.”

“Science has disproven the Bible.”

“There is no evidence that miracles happen.”

 

Here’s a direct quote that I read recently,

 

There isn’t a shred of historical evidence that this dude jesus ever lived at all. Not a shred. Prophecies are easy when you write a book knowing what they’re supposed to be… (In the comments at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5y8SpBPwbw)

 

And one final quote:

 

“The Bible was written by one person to fool a lot of people.” I personally know the guy who said this last one…it was me, when I was a teenager. I know for a fact, that I had no idea what I was talking about. I hadn’t investigated the claims of the Bible.

 

The Gospel of Luke was written by a man who had investigated the life and work of Jesus Christ. 

 

Then, working under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he wrote those things down so that we could also investigate the claims of Jesus for ourselves.

 

LUKE’S BACKGROUND

 

Who was Luke? We know a few things about him:

 

He Wrote Luke And Acts

 

Luke didn’t sign his name to them, but history has long regarded Luke as the author of both Luke and Acts. He probably wrote them at the same time around 61 AD.

 

He Was A Traveling Companion Of Paul

 

In Acts, there are certain passages where Luke uses language that indicates that he was was traveling with Paul. For example, notice the word “us” in Acts 21:18 (also 16:10–17; 20:5; 27:1–28:16):

 

18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. (Acts 21:18)

 

He was with Paul at the end of his life. In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul wrote that “only Luke is with me.”

 

He Was A Physician

 

We know that he was a physician from Colossians 4:14, where Paul calls him “the beloved physician.”

 

Many scholars have pointed out that Luke writes about things that a doctor would probably notice, like healing miracles. He also seems concerned about all sorts of people.

 

For example, Luke notices women more than other Gospel writers—Elisabeth, Mary, Anna, Mary and Martha, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, Susanna, and other nameless women.

 

He also mentions the poor—like the shepherds who visited Jesus or the widow who gave a mite. He seems to have had a heart for people because he was a doctor.

 

No wonder Paul called him the “beloved physician.” How do you get to be a beloved physician? By loving others; especially those that others people neglect.

 

He Was Not Jewish

 

Luke was outsider to the Jewish faith. It’s possible that he converted to Judaism before he became a Christian, as he seems to know the Old Testament. But, of all the New Testament writers, he is the only Gentile. 

 

Being an outsider caused Luke to notice the outsiders more often than others did.

 

For example, Luke shows us how Jesus cared for those who were outcasts in that society: the sheepherders, the Samaritans, women, and the poor. 

 

We can follow the example of Jesus by noticing who are the outcasts in our community and reaching out to them.

 

Luke was a physician, an outsider to the Jewish faith, and a traveling companion of Paul. As a result, he was a man who was able to do research and writing.

 

LUKE’S RESEARCH AND WRITING (1:1-3)

 

When the Holy Spirit moved the writers of the Bible to write the Bible, He did not turn them into dictation machines. Each human author’s personality shines through their writings. 

 

Luke, being a physician, was prone to investigation and research. We see this part of his personality come through in his introduction in the opening verses of Luke—

 

1 FORASMUCH as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1–4)

 

 

Luke Used The Writings Of Others (1:1)

 

Luke 1:1 FORASMUCH as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 

 

We normally think that only four accounts of Jesus’s life were written—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But Luke tells us that “many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration.”

 

Evidently, there were many people who had at least attempted to write down what the events of Jesus’s ministry. For whatever reason, their work did not make it into the Bible. 

 

Perhaps some of them were like the Gospel of Thomas, which is full of errors and fantasies about Jesus. Others may have told the truth as accurately as humanly possible.

 

Whatever the case, only two of them, Matthew and Mark (at the time that Luke was writing), turned out to be inspired scripture. Luke uses quotations from both Matthew and Mark in his own writing.

 

Luke Talked To Original Eyewitnesses (1:2)

 

Luke 1:2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 

 

The “eyewitnesses” and “ministers of the word” are referring to the same people. These were people like Peter, James, and John—the original disciples. They were there with Jesus in the very beginning and walked with Him throughout His ministry.

 

Peter himself said that—

 

16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)

 

After Jesus’s death and resurrection, these eyewitnesses became “ministers of the word,” otherwise known as apostles. In fact, to become an apostle, a person had to be an eyewitness (Acts 1:21-22).

 

Luke, as a companion to Paul, would have had the opportunity to meet many of these apostles. One can imagine the conversations that he might have had!

 

You can see Luke sitting down with Peter one day and asking, “Peter, can you tell me what was going through your mind when you denied Jesus three times?”

 

I think Luke could have also met other eyewitnesses as well. He may have he talked to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and it was she that told him all the things that she had kept and pondered in her heart (Luke 2:19). 

 

Perhaps Luke also talked to one of the shepherds who were there on that night that the angels sang. Or to someone who had heard the story from one of the shepherds after they had “made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17).

 

Like a physician desires to examine every facet of a problem, so Luke examined every writing and every eyewitness that he could get his hands on. As a result of all this research…

 

Luke Had A Fully Informed Understanding (1:3)

 

Luke 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 

 

“It seemed good to me also”—since Luke had all this firsthand, eyewitness information and testimony, it “seemed good” to him to write down an account. 

 

I doubt that God directly said to him, “Sit and write the following,” like He did with Moses when He gave him the law to write down. Instead, the Spirit prompted Luke so that it “seemed good” to him to write.

 

Luke was unique: he was a logical, diligent physician, a traveling companion of Paul, a man who loved research and writing. He says that he “had a perfect understanding of all things from the very first.” 

 

In what way did he have a “perfect understanding”? Obviously, he doesn’t mean that he knew absolutely everything there was to know about Jesus. The word here—παρηκολουθηκότι, VRAP-SDM, παρακολουθέω—means to follow or investigate something carefully. 

 

Luke had investigated everything about the events surrounding Jesus to the point that he had a fully informed opinion— a perfect understanding. 

 

One way that his “perfect understanding” comes through is that 30 percent of the information in Luke is new information not found in the other three Gospels (Bruce B. Barton, David Veerman, et al., Luke, Life Application Bible Commentary [Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997], 1.)

 

Having investigated the life of Jesus, and thereby gaining a perfect understanding of the life Jesus…

 

Luke Wrote An Orderly Account (1:3)

 

Luke 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 

 

Luke says that he wrote this gospel “in order”—καθεξῆς, B, καθεξῆς. That doesn’t necessarily mean chronological order. The Gospel of Luke is generally in chronological order in that it starts with the birth of Jesus, then His ministry, and then His death and resurrection.

 

But there will be times that the reader will notice an event in a different order. Compare, for example, the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Luke switches the order of the temptation to leap off the temple and the temptation to worship Satan so he would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. 

 

Is it wrong because it’s not in chronological order? No—Luke may have wanted to emphasize something. I notice, for example, that the way Luke writes it, Satan doesn’t try to use scripture until the final temptation. Perhaps that means something, perhaps not, we’ll find out when we get to that chapter.

 

When Luke says that he writes things, “in order,” he means that he is writing things in a way that makes sense. Sometimes that will be chronological order, and other times, it will be in some sort of topical order.

 

What we must do is not to be worried when we find parts that are in a different order from the other gospels. It doesn’t mean that it is inaccurate or not true. 

 

It does mean that Luke is making a point about something and we should look to see what that might be.

 

Do Our Lives Match Our Message?

 

So what does the fact that Luke was a careful researcher and logically-minded author mean for us today?

 

It means that we can trust the what is written in this Gospel. Now, of course, we can trust the Gospel because it is God’s own word.

 

But there is also something to be said about the fact that God chose a diligent, careful man such as Luke to put the Gospel onto paper. 

 

If God had chosen a lunatic or in some way not a careful person, that would cast doubt on the message God was conveying. 

 

Luke is a credible witness to Jesus Christ. His character made him credible. Character produces credibility.

 

We may not be physicians or Gospel authors like Luke was, but the principle still applies: character produces credibility. Do our lives match up with our message?

 

  • Does our speech—the way we talk about people, especially people different from us, our jokes, and so forth reflect Christ?
  • Does our work ethic indicate that we are Christians? Are we prone to fudge the books? Are we lazy while on the job? Do we ignore our Christian values at work?

 

The Gospel message is, of course, powerful by itself because it is from God (Romans 1:16). We can however, live in such a way that either obscures it or magnifies it to others. How clearly can others see the gospel in your life?

 

Luke wasn’t just writing to write. He says that he had a purpose in writing the Gospel. What was it?

 

LUKE’S PURPOSE (1:3-4)

 

Luke 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 

 

To Write Theophilus (1:3)

 

Who was “Theophilus”—Θεόφιλε, NVSM, Θεόφιλος? His name breaks down literally into “God” and “love.” 

 

The phrase “most excellent,” is a title, like “your honor,” which means that Theophilus was likely a man of means and nobility. 

 

Because he was probably rich, some suggest that he financed the writing of Luke’s Gospel. It was very expensive to have anything written on paper, especially something as long as Luke’s Gospel.

 

He was most likely a new believer, one who needed his faith strengthened. This is why Luke says that his purpose for writing to Theophilus was…

 

To Make His Faith More Certain (1:4)

 

Luke 1:4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

 

Theophilus was “instructed” in the basics, but he needed “certainty.” 

 

We can imagine that Theophilus had heard the basic gospel through preaching, but wanted to have that on paper so that he could study it for himself. Being a man who could afford such things, he asked Luke to write everything about Jesus down for him. 

 

 

How Can Our Faith Be Made More Certain?

 

Just as Theophilus struggled with doubt and needed reassured of the certainty of the gospel, so also we, from time to time, struggle with doubt and need reassured of the certainty of the truth of Jesus Christ.

 

How does the Gospel of Luke help us be more certain of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

 

It invites and challenges us to investigate the truth of the Bible. Many Christians come from homes and churches where to question the truth is looked down upon. God said it, I believe it, that settles it—don’t ask any questions.

 

Unfortunately, when young people who come from these homes meet someone who challenges their faith, perhaps a professor in college or a teacher in high school, they are woefully unprepared for the challenge. 

 

Had they been able to answer some of their questions of doubt in the safe haven of their family or church, they would have been better able to face the challenges in the harsh world.

 

I encourage you to pick up the book Cold Case Christianity by Jim Warner Wallace. Wallace is a former detective and former atheist who investigated the claims of Christianity himself and became a believer. His book will be a huge encouragement to any Christian’s faith. And he can show you how to investigate truth for yourself.

 

Luke was an investigator and his example encourages us to investigate the truth as well. Christianity is not a “blind faith” religion. It is one that calls us to check Jesus out. 

 

It was the investigator Luke who, in the book of Acts, pointed out the example of the Berean Christians—

 

11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. (Acts 17:11–12)

 

Investigate the claims of Christianity, because your conclusion will determine your eternity.

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