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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.’
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