November 24, 2013—Sunday Morning
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 is the longest book in the New Testament and along with his other book, Acts, Luke is responsible for 1/4 of all the New Testament. Luke wrote more New Testament Scripture than anyone else, including Paul. I say that to say that our task of going through the gospel is going to be a lengthy trip and is going to require patience, alertness, and effort on your part if you hope to gain the fullest benefit from each portion of God’s Word.
The first four verses of the book of Luke form one long sentence in the Greek. It is what we call the Prologue or the Introduction to the Gospel. It is the only gospel that contains such an introduction.
Luke’s original writing would be contained in a scroll and not a book so that as the reader opened the scroll, the first thing they would encounter is this introduction that would allow them to understand what the rest of the letter would be aiming to do.
1. The Research For the Document!
A. The Limitations Of Luke’s Task.
We have to remember that as Luke takes on this task there are no printing presses, there is no postal service, no email, no texting, and no faxes. So Luke would have to accumulate his work through word of mouth or by oral tradition. They did not write things down as we do but they were trained to memorize these events. And it is by this training they were able to pass along these facts about the Lord Jesus. And they were trained to memorize the details in a very accurate degree. So this work is going to be quite a bit more difficult than it would be for us with our computers, internet and word processors.
B. The Labor of Luke’s Task.
With only oral tradition as his disposal, Luke must now talk to people who had seen these things happen and get their eye-witness accounts. It seems to me that Luke knows that there are others who have attempted to compile these truths. So I suppose that he would talk with them and get details and names of those who were the eye-witnesses to those events that were compiled. Then he would talk with those who were ministers of the word. He would talk with the apostles of Jesus Christ and others who were ministers of the word. Of course, as a companion of Paul, he would receive much truth.
Now notice that Luke says that his investigative research began at the beginning. Therefore we get the story from the very incarnation of Christ. So Luke does not leave any stone unturned, nothing was not looked carefully at, till the very end.
2. The Reliability of the Document!
I am amazed that one of the questions that is currently making the rounds in academic Christianity is whether Adam and Eve were really historical characters. Was their story real or was it simply allegorical?
The question that always comes up is how reliable can the gospels be if they come from oral traditions. Can not some things be embellished or could bad memory give us false doctrines and facts. Two things are important here.
A. The Investigation of Luke.
What Luke says here is very important. Luke says that he writes these things only after he has perfect understanding of ALL things from the very first. In other words, Luke looked at these eye-witness accounts and corroborated them with other sources so that what he includes in this writing he is confident that it is full and accurate. Questionable truths would be omitted but those things that were certain would be included in his writing so that all who read can have absolute confidence in the reliability of the gospel. Luke is sure that the contents of this book is true and accurate and contains no inconsistencies.
B. The Inspiration of the Spirit.
The investigation of Luke to assure reliability is very convincing but is not enough because Luke, although aiming at accuracy, could make mistakes. The accuracy of Scripture does not rest only on Luke’s work but upon the inspiration of the Spirit.
Here is a great opportunity to peak into the work of the Spirit in the work of the inspiration of the word. Notice that Luke did not go into some sort of trance and write down every word spoken to him, like a secretary would do. No Luke says he went out and gathered these truths from eye-witness accounts and then he put them down in an orderly way. So he was very involved in this process.
So what does inspiration mean? It means that the Holy Spirit so superseded this process that everything the Luke recorded in this gospel was true and it was penned down so that every word was error and exactly what God wanted to say and how he wanted it said. So much so that they are the very words of God. And in that process the work and the personality of the writer is not removed.
One of the things that we should make us stop and marvel is this. If Luke gets his information from oral tradition then the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is operative even in these eye-witness testimonies. So inspiration stretches beyond Luke to every witness he interviewed. It is for this reason we place absolute reliability on all Scripture and the Gospel of Luke specifically.
3. The Response To the Document!
Luke’s gospel is addressed to Theophilus. We are not sure who Theophilus was except he seemed to be battling with the certainty of those things that he had heard concerning Christ.
The response the Luke desires from Theophilus and all that read this gospel is that they mightiest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. The word translated certainty carries a couple of key meanings that give us a better idea of the particular response Luke desires.
A. It Is A Response of Security!
It is the word that is used to describe security of the locked prison cell in Acts 5 and the security and peace that people are speaking of when sudden destruction comes upon them in 1 Thessalonians 5.
Luke wants our faith grounded in truth that is unshakable. Truths that are solid and stable. Truths that you can anchor your faith in. No matter what people say or what pressure is applied, you are secure in the unspeakableness of these truths. Luke wants Theophilus to know that the truths in his gospel are without a doubt true and he can securely put his faith in these truths.
B. It Is A Response of Safety!
We live in a world where everything is changing. Everything experiences some sort of alteration. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. What is important today may not be as important tomorrow. It does not seem that we can commit ourselves to truths that may be moving or adjusting. Our faith cannot find safety in truths that are moveable.
Of course, in Biblical times commitment to Christ and these truths carried a cost. It could cost you your family and your inheritance. If commitment to these truths landed you in jail or facing death, you want to know that your faith is safe in unchangeable truths. It certainly is not good to suffer for truths that we question or doubt are really truths.
So Luke wants Theophilus to feel that these truths are safe from being stolen, safe from being changed, safe from ceasing to be what they are, safe from becoming unimportant or irrelevant. Safe from not being reality anymore. Safe from being fables or myths. They are safely the truth. These truths are mountains and not clouds.
We need certainty. We need to have our faith in the certainty of God. God is real, God is active, and God is Sovereign.
We need certainty of Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God, He is without sin, He is our substitute, He is our Sacrifice, He is the anticipated Messiah, He is our Lord and our Savior.
We need certainty of Salvation. God came to save sinners—Jews and Gentiles. Salvation is Jesus Christ alone. Salvation is in the forgiveness of our sins by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ.
We need certainty of Faith. The way we have salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. If we trust in our wealth or our righteousness we will miss it. Only God-given faith will connect you to this Savior.
Here is the unshakable and unalterable truth. God is at the beginning planning all things, God is in the middle governing all things, and God is at the end being magnified in all things. Jesus Christ is his divine Son. Salvation is his glorious work. And faith is your way in. Believe and live, of excellent Theophilus, believe and live.