HG001. Introduction to Luke, Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:1-3: Luke's introduction

Harmony of the Gospels  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  14:30
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Luke 1:1–4 NKJV

Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Acts 1:1–3 NKJV

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

My intention for the coming 3 years is preach on the four Gospels in the morning services. This will be the kind of timeline that Jesus spent with His own disciples and it will be our aim to spend as much time with Jesus as possible.

We know that the Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synoptic gospels, meaning, with one eye, or; ‘seeing altogether’. That’s because they have similar content as any cursory reading would show whereas the Gospel of John stands on its own. But we are not going to let that stop us looking at all four gospels in a rough chronological order. There may be some disputing about the exact chronological order which is why I am using an expert in the field, namely, AT Robertsons’ book ‘A Harmony of the Gospels’ as a template. However when I say in chronological order I am going to miss a number of those which relate to the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus and delay them until the weeks leading up to Christmas.

That is the plan, let’s see what pans out.

Now, this means I need to make an introduction, and that is, to Dr. Luke. It might surprise you to know that he wrote more words in the New Testament than anyone else including Paul. John wrote 20%, Paul wrote 23% but Luke wrote 27% in his Gospel and Acts of the Apostles so we should not discount him by any means.

Today we are going to look at Luke’s Prologue, which means ‘introduction’, in Luke 1.1-4 and Acts 1.1-3. Luke’s Gospel was written anytime from 63 to 80AD though I would argue for an early date due to the way the Book of Acts ends and to keep Jesus’ prediction in Luke 21.20 of the destruction of Jerusalem that happened in 70AD.[1]

This is the earliest manuscript of Luke 1:1-2

None of the Gospels actually say who wrote them. In the gospel of Luke the internal references means that only a man of Luke’s business would know is sufficient for us to believe that he did indeed write it.[2]

Luke’s profession is known:

Colossians 4:14 NKJV

Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.

We also know that he was a companion of Paul the Apostle during some of his second and third missionary journeys. We find Luke mentioned in Colossians, Philemon and 2nd Timothy. And we know from Acts he stayed behind in Philippi to help the fledgling church, perhaps as their Pastor.

So, let us come to Luke 1:1:

v.1 Luke was an historian first class. Throughout this Gospel and in Acts his pinpoint accuracy has set him to be the considered reliable in his narrative even by non-believers. One of the famous stories of New Testament scholarship recounts the early scepticism of the famous Sir William Ramsay regarding Luke’s history, and how the facts completely changed his mind so that he eventually wrote: “Luke’s history is unsurpassed in regard to its trustworthiness.” [5] [6]

But Luke was more than a simple historian he was also a theologian interpreting the historic events so that the hearer(s) would know the Gospel. Luke obviously had access to a number of sources to put together this Gospel possibly including Matthew and Mark depending on when these were written. It is probable though that he spoke directly to Mark. He must have spoken to eyewitnesses about the events of Jesus who were still around at the time including James and Peter in Jerusalem.

The word ‘eyewitnesses’ is a unique one in the New Testament. It literally means doing an autopsy which is typical language for a doctor. Luke was saying he has done an autopsy and am writing to tell you what I’ve found. And because of these sources he was absolutely confident of having the facts at hand as well as a putting together of the stories so that the heart would be pierced.

This was a man who was careful and did his research. This takes nothing away from the Scriptures being inspired by God as Luke was under the influence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that we could receive his words two millennia later. In fact where it says, ‘from the very first’, in verse 3 it can be translated as from above. It is also why many of those who have made a narrative of the life and times of Jesus no longer exist as they were not inspired by God.

How confident are we about our faith? Can something shake us? Could we fall away because we have not really found out for ourselves? A favourite saying of a friend of mine 20 odd years ago was: God has no grandchildren. We cannot rely upon the faith of our parents or upon the fact that others have worked it out for themselves or upon a minister. We have to find out for ourselves.

If we rely upon how we feel…and feelings are a real part of us as people…but if we rely upon feelings then when we are feeling low or depressed then, if this is the measure of our faith, we will fall away. Just as we cannot rely upon our feelings when we are low we cannot rely upon them when we are high. There is only one sure thing we can rely upon and that is God and His Truth revealed in Scripture. Luke has done a lot of the hard work for us in presenting his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles but we are also responsible to check out the facts and get a sure foundation for ourselves. Our faith is based upon what God says:

Romans 10:17 NKJV

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Everything else is presumption. It is taking God at His word and sticking to it. If we really know the Word of God then we would also believe it. Then, it is simply a choice laid before us whether we want to walk with God or to walk in the world.

Luke introduces us to Jesus and His earthly life and when he capped of the Gospel he then went on to wrote of Jesus’ works through the Church in Acts as the Ascended One who will return again.

Could we turn to Acts 29, please. Did you find it? If so, there is something seriously wrong with your bibles! The point is that we are the next chapter of Jesus working through the Church. There is even an organisation calling themselves Acts 29. God is at work in our generation and we are part of it.

The central verses for me in the whole of Luke’s Gospel are:

Luke 4:18–19 NKJV

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

The same spirit that was upon Jesus now lives in us. This is the Acts 29 for us here in Manselton. His Spirit is upon us to preach the gospel, to meet the needs of the disadvantaged, to bring healing in Jesus’ name, to see people freed from bondage to Satan. To clearly declare and make known that this is the time of God’s favour. We are the next chapter. We need to step out in faith. Luke himself makes it absolutely clear that it is Good News for everyone.

v.3 Luke is actually writing to Theophilus, which means ‘beloved of God’, was not a generic letter written for all who would read but was most likely an individual that Luke knew. However with that said it is clear that Luke had a wider audience that he wanted to reach, perhaps within the fellowship that Theophilus was.

v.4 He wanted to instruct him (and any others that did read the letter) carefully concerning the faith.[7] He wanted Theophilus to have absolute confidence that what he had already heard was reliable and that he may know the truth about the Gospel. In fact the word instructed is where we get the English word Catechumen which means ‘someone who is being taught the basics of Christianity’. Catechism is the beliefs to be learned. Luke’s purpose was ‘to write a basic, well-organised, authentic, confirming account of the deeds and words of Jesus.’[8] It is also the most comprehensive of all the Gospels in its details otherwise unknown through the other Gospels. Luke wanted to strengthen the faith of the believers.

He wanted to make it clear that the Gospel is for everyone who would receive it. Luke writes of Samaritans coming into the Kingdom as well as Gentiles, publicans, sinners, outcasts, poor, rich, Jews, and high-society people too.

Luke was known as the ‘beloved physician’. Why? Was it because he was great at being a doctor? What shines through is that this is a man loved because he loved. He loved people and was someone willing to associate with people of low esteem for their service. Some believe that he was the one mentioned in

2 Corinthians 8:18 NKJV

And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches,

Luke was the doctor of souls.

Throughout the Gospel there are so many individuals mentioned by name: Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Martha, Zacchaeus, Cleopas, the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. Jesus’ parables in the Gospel of Matthew centre on the kingdom, but those in Luke stress people. And for you ladies his Gospel is known as the Gospel for women for the frequent mention and high regard for them (which was unusual in his day) mentioning so many of them by name too: Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, Martha, her sister Mary, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, the widow of Nain, the widow who gave all she had, the daughters of Jerusalem, the women in Jesus’ parables and so on.

Our faith, then, as we continue to read and study through Luke and Acts should grow along with the other Gospels. It should grow from a basic understanding to a thorough one where we can step out in trust of Jesus confirming His words to us and in the life of this fellowship and in the lives of those about us on this estate and where God sends us.

Where did Luke get his understanding? He was a man who came under the influence of Paul having been his companion. His maturity as a Christian came from following the words, actions and example of Paul. He was following his own example in what he wrote in:

Acts 2:42 NKJV

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

We can tell that Luke was diligent in these matters.

It was Luke who was the only one who stayed with Paul throughout his imprisonment when everyone abandoned him. Luke was committed even in harsh environments to persevere for his friend and mentor.

2 Timothy 4:11a NKJV

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

Luke obviously knew firsthand the power of the Gospel. He knew and believed it with the certainty with which he was writing so that Theophilus could know the certainty and how we as readers of Luke’s Gospel can also know the certainty of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God’s goal through Luke was to provide assurance about the Jesus event. It is this Gospel that we should reach people with for it is for the everyday man and woman and child. Luke has communicated the message of the Gospel intentionally for the kind of people who live on this estate, for you, for me. Luke is an artist crafting words which we need to make use of when we are meeting people. And this is the exciting Gospel that we are going to spend a great deal of time in and I recommend that we each go away and read the Gospel for ourselves. Luke wants us to meet the living Christ.

Question is do we want to? Well, it doesn’t matter whether we want to…the fact is that as we progress through Luke he will inspire you to! But why wait for me to read it to you – you can know now the power of Jesus and His story that can impact your life. You have it available to you to read in your Bibles, on your Tab, on your mobiles, on your computers. Luke would have you read it to know the power of the Holy Spirit changing your life.

Luke’s Gospel is one that is full of joy: There is joy on earth in the finding of the lost sheep and the lost coin, and there is joy in Heaven when lost sinners are found.

The key verse for Luke is

Luke 19:10 NKJV

for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Luke’s heart is that the lost should be found and because of it this Gospel came into existence by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to direct us to the One who has come to seek out diligently those who are lost without Him. Jesus has come to save even those who seem far past saving and where others have lost hope…He has saved many of us here who would have thought themselves beyond saving.

And perhaps there are one or two here who have yet to yield to Him so that He can give you eternal life and save you from eternal fire. We cannot save ourselves and that is why He came. Is Jesus your Lord and Saviour? Have you repented and asked Him into your life? Well, today is the day. What is stopping you? Save yourself from this corrupt generation and yield to the one who loves you so much.

Luke wrote his Gospel so that we can be absolutely confident of those things which we have already learned concerning Jesus and because of it we can be full of joy; for we were lost but now we’re found.


[1] It is thought to be Rome as Acts cuts off in Rome and the suggestion is that Acts must have been written at this time and Luke’s Gospel just prior to that. If it was in Rome then 63-65AD are the most likely dates of Luke-Acts. It may well have been written either in Rome (in prison with Paul) or in Antioch.

[2] In the ‘we’ passages in Acts (Acts 16:10–17; 20:5–21:18; 27:1–28:16) he is the one writing from his own experience in, as it would seem, a travel-diary. No one seriously challenges that he wrote it as by a process of elimination it is clear that it could really only be Luke. He is mentioned in the Marcion Gospel, who was a heretic, that Luke is the author around 150AD and by Irenaeus in 180AD. The title: ‘according to Luke’ appears in most MSS and therefore forms part of the written word.

[3] Luke was writing from a Roman perspective rather than a Jewish one. Luke was writing from the perspective of the Church already starting to be established.

[4] Outline of Luke:

a. Preface (1:1–4).

b. The birth and childhood of Jesus (1:5–2:52).

c. John the Baptist and Jesus (3:1–4:13).

d. The ministry in Galilee (4:14–9:50).

e. Progress towards Jerusalem (9:51–19:10).

f. The ministry in Jerusalem (19:11–21:38).

g. The passion and resurrection of Jesus (22:1–24:53).

[5] The remarkable accuracy of such references, confirmed by his own observations and archaeological finds in Asia Minor, caused W. M. Ramsay (cf. Pauline and Other Studies [1906], pp. 199f) to withdraw his earlier sympathy for the reconstructions of F. C. Baur and to become a convinced advocate of Luke’s historical reliability. Contemporary Roman historians have concurred (cf. A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the NT [1963], pp. 188f).[Bromiley 1979-1988 Vol. 3 p.183]

[6] Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (p. 15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[7] Theophilus, we can glean from Luke’s writings, was not familiar with the geography of Israel but must have been a Gentile familiar with the Roman world.

[8] Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Barry, J. D., & Wentz, L. (Eds.). (2012). In The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., Butler, T. C., & Latta, B. (Eds.). (2003). In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Bromiley, G. W. (Ed.). (1979–1988). In The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans.

Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Freedman, D. N., Myers, A. C., & Beck, A. B. (2000). In Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Nolland, J. (2002). Luke 1:1–9:20 (Vol. 35A). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Powell, M. A. (Ed.). (2011). In The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated). New York: HarperCollins.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996). In New Bible dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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