The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are commonly known as the “Works and Ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Matthew wrote Matthew. He was an apostle. Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark. He used Peter’s sermons and teaching as his source. He was not an apostle. John wrote John and the three Letters bearing his name as well as the Revelation. He was an apostle. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and he too was not an apostle. He also wrote Acts, known as the “Acts of the Apostles”. Many commentators refer to Luke’s Gospel record and the Book of Acts as Lucan Material. If you only had these two Books, Luke and Acts, you would have all the material from God incarnate in Jesus to the expansion of the Church to “all the known world” of the day. This period covered almost 70 years. My intention is to work through the Book of Acts, but let’s start in the Gospel of Luke.
1) Luke’s purpose for writing the Gospel of Luke.
(1) Luke was a medical doctor. This might be the reason for his careful, sensitive and methodology in gathering information and his reliance at times of interviewing women, especially those close to Jesus. If you consider the way a medical doctor opens his patient’s, say abdomen … he will very carefully check all organs to ascertain why there is pain, discomfort and lack of functionality of a certain organ. That was Luke as he gathered information, sifting through every little piece, comparing it with other sources to understand its veracity and suitability to be included in his documents. At the same time we remember that:
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed!
(2) Luke was an evangelist. The uppermost thought in his mind whilst undertaking his Luke / Acts task was to lift Jesus Christ high, proving Him to be the promised Messiah through exposing His Person, Ministry and Sacrifice, coupled to the Church fulfilling Jesus’ Acts 1:8 order to evangelize the world (known world at that specific historical period). As an evangelist, he breathed and lived “Gospel” and wanted to see people from all nations come to faith in Jesus whilst providing an accurate historical record of what transpired. This makes him a historian as well.
(3) Luke was used by God to pen what He wanted us to know and what He wanted as part of His Word, the Bible.
2 Peter 1:20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2) Luke’s main target was Theophilus, most likely a high ranking official in the Roman Court.
Lk 1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught
(1) Luke does not hesitate to point out that he does not have the sole copyright and license over the Gospel. Many others wrote material. Maybe Luke consider their audience and knew his was different … or … maybe some materials other than Mark which had been written and Matthew being written with John to follow were not accurate because of adding in or leaving out vital “Gospel” material. Verse 2 is telling! The material included in writings was handed down by eye-witnesses of what Jesus did (His life, ministry, death and resurrection). The handing down would have been faithful and true, but the record might not have been. Remember, from the start of the Church there was opposition. Heretics ran wild with their renditions of what they wanted as the Gospel. These were known as Pseudo Gospels, one of which is used by the Islamic faith called the Gospel of Thomas.
(2) Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit wants accuracy and truth. The word “therefore” at the beginning of verse 3 is telling. Others have written, and as said, some of the materials would be accurate but some not. Because of this … therefore … Luke writes but before he completes his Gospel he has … carefully investigated everything from the beginning. Again we must be reminded of his training as a medical doctor. The methodical, thorough investigation was meticulous.
(3) Luke knew that the Truth sets people free from the bondage of sin and the devil. Truth is the Word of God. I shall never forget that through reading the Bible I was convicted of my sin leading to faith and repentance. The Truth sets one free … this is what Luke wanted for “most excellent Theophilus”. Notice that he … carefully investigated everything from the beginning. From the incarnation (chapter 1) through to Jesus Ascension (chapter 24).
(4) Luke wanted Theophilus to move from the oral teaching to the written record.
Lk 1:4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
There was nothing wrong with what Luke and perhaps others had taught him, but the written record could be re-read, meditated upon, studied and questioned. This is the backdrop to us working through the Book of Acts from tomorrow. There are three matters to consider before we end off today …
(a) The assurance of salvation. It seems as though, with all the pressure from Rome, the Caesar cult that might have been present already, the attacks upon the Church and Gospel Workers from Judaism and Pagan Religions of the day, that Luke wanted Theophilus to understand the Person and Word of Jesus Christ (and in Acts, the Work of the Holy Spirit operating in and through the apostles and Christian workers). An accurate understanding of the Lord Jesus’ Person and Work leads to saving faith and the assurance of salvation.
(b) The ability to defend the faith. One of the greatest needs within the Church is the desperate need for apologists. Men and women who are able to defend the faith using the Word of God to prove what they believe and stand for. Theophilus as a Roman Official would need to do that … and so do you and I because the majority of people we rub shoulders with daily, reject the Biblical account of Jesus as God, Lord, King and Savior.
(c) The need for believers to be evangelists. With the material (Gospel of Luke) Theophilus could share the Gospel one on one. So ought you and I. We have the complete Bible and we have God wanting us to share His Gospel Truth with others. Will you do this?
Father, thank You for Your Word and Gospel. Help me to know it and use it. Amen.