Sermon: The Gospel According to Luke (Luke 1:1-4)

The Gospel According to Luke

Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)

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.

1. Who Was Luke?

To begin with, we really don’t have much historical background on Luke.  Just a few places in the Bible where his name is mentioned.

Col. 4:14 (ESV)

Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.

Philemon 1:24 (ESV)

and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

2 Tim. 4:11 (ESV)

Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.

We also know from Acts 16 on, Luke was Paul’s traveling companion.  Through thick and thin, Luke was their.  He had a passion for truth and for lost souls, just like Paul did.

As we look to his writings, we learn that Luke was gifted with literary skills.  The prologue for his Gospel is written with the skill of a classical Greek writer.  The prologue verses 1-4, in the original Greek form one long sentence.  He writes in Classical Greek then as if to say, know I need to make sure everyone understands the events surrounding Christ, I’ll write in Koine or layman type Greek.

Luke was a skilled physician.  Luke, no doubt proved to be very valuable to Paul, not only as a trusted companion but as a skilled doctor.  Many times through the years Paul needed aid from a skilled physician.

2. To Whom was Luke Writing?

Or who was Theophilus?  Scholars believe that Theophilus was a Greek or Roman governor or dignitary, hence, the most excellent preface.  Whoever he was, he was not familiar with Jewish practices and need further instruction.  He had been taught some of the things concerning Christ and Christianity but needed a fuller account.

Also many folks believe that Theophilus was converted or saved as a result of reading the Gospel of Luke that’s why in the beginning of Acts he’s not referred to as most excellent which may indicate brother Theophilus.

This man believed much of what surrounded Jesus but was in need of clarification and reassurance.  The whole account of Jesus’ life and claims need clarification.

3. Why did Luke Write?

This man believed much of what surrounded Jesus but was in need of clarification and reassurance.  The whole account of Jesus’ life and claims need clarification.  The reason is that God does things way outside our thinking.  In other words, much of what He does really doesn’t make sense from a human perspective.

The way in which we would go about saving a fallen mankind would probably differ from the way God did it.  His way is far superior than the way we would go about it.

Luke wrote for clarification and confirmation.  So that the things that were hard to believe would be shown as accurate and true.

Listen to Darrell Bock,

The Gospel of Luke is about life and God’s plan. It is a story written to a man, Theophilus, who in all likelihood was a believer who needed reassurance (1:4). A Gentile in the midst of what had originally been a Jewish movement, he seems to have been asking whether he really should be a Christian. Had God really called all nations to enter into life with God? Was a crucified Messiah the beacon of hope for both Jews and Gentiles? Would God really save through a ministry that ended with crucifixion? What about the endless obstacles the church was suffering in getting its message out into the world? Might the obstacles not be a sign of God’s judgment on a message gone awry, rather than evidence of blessing? Questions like these probably haunted Theophilus. They are not unlike questions we might raise as we contemplate what God has done and imagine how we might have done it differently.—Darrell Bock’s NT Commentary

Much of the time the telling of history changes down through the centuries.  Through the centuries reports and opinions change.  So often, those reporting or researching it are doing so with an agenda.  For example, who was Christopher Columbus?  If I were to ask that question, I’d get many different answers.  Some might say that he was a sailor or an adventurer.  Some may answer that he was the discoverer of the New World.  In the book, The rewriting of American History, the author tells us about the real Christopher Columbus,

He was in fact, all the above, but the most important aspect of his life—his Christianity is never mentioned.  Not many people are aware of Christopher Columbus’ deep faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ.  Furthermore, very few people realize that it was this faith which was the impetus that initiated his whole voyage.  Columbus wrote a book entitled Book of Prophecies, in which he copied down Scripture pertaining to bringing the gospel to unknown coastlands…Columbus’ entire voyage was funded and made possible through Queen Isabelle and King Ferdinand of Spain—uniquely in light of its missionary outreach.  Isabelle, herself having a strong Christian worldview, the populace accepted and embraced Columbus’ tenuous expedition primarily for evangelistic reasons.—Catherine Miller (Page 2)

I bring up Christopher Columbus because what we have learned, for the most part, is not the complete picture…and in some cases a very biased and distorted portrayal of his life.  Christopher Columbus was a missionary explorer.

If we are to understand who he really was, we need to read what he wrote or at least read what someone wrote who knew him.  The true events must be had by those who lived them or those who were close associates of those who lived them.

That brings us to the Gospel of Luke and what he desired to accomplish.  Luke’s purpose was to set out facts and true narrative accounts about Jesus.  He wanted folks, especially his friend Theophilus, to understand that their belief is backed up by solid evidence.  Their faith was fixed on facts not some invented or imagined concept or theory.

Christianity is a belief system based on facts.  We must never forget that the things we are to believe are facts not some mystic irrational teaching but facts handed down from one generation to the next.  The good news is news.  It is documented, witnessed, and proven accounts.  Luke’s purpose in writing is to document the facts surrounding the life and teachings of Jesus.  That’s why the third Gospel is entitled, The Gospel According to Luke.

The implication is that as Christians, we can know for sure the facts about the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is this narrative that Luke is endeavoring to write down with the utmost accuracy.

We also realize the reason Luke wrote was because God wanted him to write.  He was carried along by the Holy Spirit and he wrote what God wanted him to write.  He did this in such a way as to have the writing his words and God’s words.  When we read the Gospel of Luke, we are reading the very words of God.

4. Luke Wrote A Trusted Narrative (Luke 1:1)

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,

One thing we may miss when thinking about the different Gospel writers and others is that they all lived in the same region and many interacted with each other.  Luke compiles a narrative using first hand accounts and sources to do so.  He is not interested in hearsay or speculation.  Luke wants facts, and that’s what he writes.  Luke probably had access to Mathew, Mark, Jesus’ Mother, Mary and others.  We know for sure that he spoke extensively with Paul and probably Peter as well.

Also notice that Luke isn’t interested in writing only a biography about Jesus. As John MacArthur writes,

Luke’s goal was not to produce just another biography of Jesus, though that would have been a noble end in itself.  Far more than that, he understood that the gospel is the story of what God accomplishes through Jesus Christ in the lives of sinners.—MacArthur (Commentary on Luke pg13)

What did Jesus accomplish in the lives of sinners?  Jesus accomplished complete redemption.  The Book of Luke is the narrative account of how Jesus did just that.  Luke shows us just how amazingly the works and life of Jesus fulfills or accomplishes all that the Old Testament speaks of.

Through the diligence of Luke and the working of God’s Holy Spirit we are given a perfect source concerning the life of our Lord and how the events in His life accomplished salvation for His people.

Luke was not an apostle but he did spend many years with Paul the apostle.  When he speaks of the things accomplished among us, he is referring to the events surrounding the life of Christ which the apostles could verify and then he is referring to the events after Jesus went back up into heaven that the Holy Spirit accomplished through the apostles.

We could look at the famous we passages to see that from Acts 16 on, Luke was writing first hand what was being accomplished because he was actually there with the Apostolic team..

5. Luke Wrote An Orderly Narrative

[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,

I want you to see what Luke’s reason is for writing.  Theophilus is Greek.  He needs the Gospel presented to him in a way he can understand.  His friend needs to understand the events surrounding the life of Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t want there to be any confusion concerning Jesus.

Luke has diligently researched the eyewitness accounts and then compiled another through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  God knew that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are perfect Gospel accounts but that for non Jews, an account written for them would be very helpful and would serve them well.  Luke’s Gospel is proof that salvation is for all people not just for those who are of Jewish dissent.

Luke’s writings, namely, Luke-Acts covers a large portion of the New Testament and spans a period of 61 years.

It says that this account of Christ is orderly.  We might think that by orderly, he means in order or written chronologically.  Really, what Luke means is that his account is systematic.  What he writes down for us is narrative theology and it’s arranged in a logical way.  Much of it is chronological but it’s more history with God’s purposes being revealed.

6. Luke Wrote a Confirming Narrative

[4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

We see Luke’s pastoral heart coming to the surface as he goes to great pains to confirm to his doubting friend the truthfulness surrounding the life and teachings of Christ.  Whatever Theophilus was going through, whether it was persecution, ethnic issues (like could this Jewish religion really be meant for Gentiles as well), or just plain doubt, Luke was willing to do whatever needed to be done to reassure his friend of the things he has believed.

Luke invites his reader to consider the story of Jesus again and know that these indeed were events that have been fulfilled among us.

My prayer is that we too can be the beneficiaries of this Holy Spirit inspired Gospel.  In the next few months, we will be taken to loftier heights as we consider together the Gospel According to Luke.

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