Open your Bible, if you will, to the gospel of Luke. Now I confess that this morning's message to you, like last morning, is going to seem more like a history lecture than anything. One of the exciting things about being a preacher, one of the wonderful things about being a Bible expositor is, that you sort of have to become somebody different depending upon the passage that is before you. Sometimes... Sometimes you are a historian as you create the background scene to the writings of Scripture. And I confess that that's one of the things that I love the most. Frankly, I can... I can pretty well go down into the biblical background category and stay submerged for a long, long time. That's very fascinating to me. I love to study history and backgrounds and try to recreate the reality of things.
And as we embark upon this incredible gospel of Luke, the...the longest of the gospels, a remarkable, remarkable gospel, we have to face the fact that initially Luke is so obscure to us as an individual. We don't know much about this individual. And I wanted you to get acquainted with him. And we have to do that at the beginning because once we launch into the study of the gospel itself, which begins in verse 5, once we actually get in to the narrative story, we will never meet Luke. So if you can just be patient and endure last Sunday and this Sunday, we're going to give two weeks to Luke, this incredible and gifted and inspired writer of this gospel, and then he will disappear from the scene altogether for the remaining decades of our study of the gospel which he wrote.
We're... We’re doing our very best to give honor to whom honor is due, this wonderful, wonderful man named Luke. And so, like last Sunday morning's message, this morning's message is going to be a bit of a history and a bit of an explanation as Luke intends to give to us in the opening four verses. Let me read them to you.
"Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eye witnesses and servants of the Word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus, so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught."
Now as I told you last time, that is a prologue to the gospel of Luke which really begins in verse 5 with these words, "In the days of Herod," etc. That's where the history begins. But before he begins his history, like any good, classical Greek writer, he writes a prologue in which he discusses the sources of his history. He wants us to understand that he is not writing in a vacuum. He's not musing. He's not writing intuitively or he's not writing some tale that he himself has invented, but rather he is writing a valid history and he wants us to know something of his sources, something of his intentions, his purpose and the direction that he's going to go in the history that he will write.
Actually the arrival of Luke on the sacred record of Scripture is unannounced and unexpected. He just appears there. He comes out of some obscurity into the full glare of public presence through his marvelous inspired writings, namely the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. He first appears on the scene here in the gospel of Luke in verse 3, "It seemed fitting for me," and that's all we know is "me." He doesn't even name himself ever in this gospel.
We begin to see something of his appearance in the 15th chapter of Acts where he is writing about Paul and he uses the word "we" and "us" indicating that he was there. He was there. From the 15th chapter of Acts, verses 9 and 10, we have the first "we" passage all the way to the end of the book, chapter 28, where Paul is a prisoner in Rome and he's still talking about "we." So, Luke really was a partner of Paul, as we noted last time, for a great many years of Paul's ministry. He never names himself in the book of Luke, he never names himself in the book of Acts, but he was a long-term companion of the apostle Paul, first appearing in Acts 15 in the "we" passages. All the way to the end of the book he is with Paul. And even at the end of Paul's life, recorded in 2 Timothy 4:11 in one of the three passages in the New Testament where Luke is named, Paul says Luke is still with me, only Luke. So at the end of Paul's life, in his final Roman imprisonment, Luke was still there.
He was the only Gentile to write any Scripture. We know he was a Gentile. In Colossians chapter 4, verse 11, Paul introduces his Jewish companions, his Jewish fellow workers. He says they are of the circumcision. And then after having introduced those who were Jewish, he refers to Luke who therefore is understood to be a Gentile. This... This Gentile who never names himself, who was only mentioned three times in the New Testament, and about whom really nothing is known in terms of Scripture explicitly, this unique Gentile wrote more of the New Testament even than Paul, or any other writer. So we need to know a little bit about him.
And we can discover some things in just looking at his writings. First of all, as I said, because he uses "we" we know that he was a companion of the apostle Paul. That leads us to a lot of conclusions. He must have been faithful. He must have been enduring. He must have been loyal. He must have been brave because of all the things he went through with the apostle Paul. But what we learn in the gospel of Luke about him in this prologue is that he was educated. He was well bred. He was skilled in language. How do we know that? Because the prologue is done in classic Greek, classic Greek. The rest of the gospel record starting in verse 5 and going all the way through the book of Acts is in the more common Koine Greek, the language of the people. But he introduces this gospel with a very classical form of language and he is writing here a prologue in the same form and style that any Greek classical writer would typically introduce his writings. So he follows a form that the educated would know. And we could conclude then that he is trying to appeal to someone and to some group of people who are very educated. That would be supported by the address that he has in verse 3, "Most excellent Theophilus," and I'll say more about that. It does indicate even at first reading that Theophilus was somebody of a higher caliber than normal.
And so, he is writing for people of culture. He is a man of culture himself. And he...he takes the gospel, as it were, and elevates it beyond just the common people. As you know, the apostles were very common. The people who were known as apostles to us in the New Testament and those who were associated with them were common people. The majority of the early church leaders were, of course, the apostles and their associates who were equally common people. The unsophisticated Galileans...unsophisticated Galileans, they were known as, and the populace basically identified them as ignorant and unlearned men. But Luke doesn't fit into the category of ignorant and unlearned, neither does Paul. Paul was educated in the Hellenistic culture of his day. He sat at the feet of the greatest Jewish teacher of his time, a man named Gamaliel. And when Paul came into the apostolic ranks it became apparent at that juncture that the gospel was not just for the, for the weak and the ignorant, the gospel was not just for the common people, it was not just for the lower classes of people, the gospel was for people of learning. And Luke's writings make that fact more established. Luke starts with a very formal high-brow introduction. The gospel is not just for the untutored, it is not just for the ignorant, it is...it is for all, all men and all women at every level of life and every level of society. And the record of the gospel is not some kind of a low-level tradition. It is one that can stand the test of the most careful historic scrutiny and it belongs on the shelf with other great histories as well.
Luke was humble. We know that because he never mentions himself. And that's true of humble people. Proud people talk about themselves. Humble people don't. Luke never did. He never mentioned himself in Acts. He never mentions himself in the gospel of Luke. And though his writings certainly gained great acclaim, and though he is a great and gifted historian, he never mentions himself. We know he is the author because tradition going all the way back into the second century indicates that. We know he's the author because through the process of elimination in the book of Acts it comes out that he is the most logical one who wrote Acts. And whoever wrote Acts also wrote Luke because the book of Acts begins mentioning the former treatise to Theophilus, which is the gospel of Luke. So, Luke was humble. He hid himself behind his great saga.
He was also a...a careful scholar, very careful scholar. You notice in this text words like "carefully, investigated, and exact truth." That's characteristic of Luke. He's very, very precise. When it comes to the geography, as we'll see as we go through the gospel of Luke, when he's talking about geographical locations, he's very precise. He's very conscious also of the right titles for political rulers and he is very exact in the way he uses those titles. He is a very fastidious writer, very careful. And we see that all the way through.
He was very aware of the fact that Matthew had written a gospel and Mark had written a gospel, no doubt. But he wanted... He wanted certainly under divine prompting, but he wanted to add another gospel that was larger, longer, more comprehensive, more complete, a more detailed comprehensive record of Jesus and the gospel.
Luke was a select man in that he belonged to a group of four — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — who were enabled by God to write the greatest story ever told, the story of God's salvation of sinners through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And this narrative that he wrote swept over sixty years from the birth of John the Baptist to Paul's preaching the gospel in Rome, and took up about...takes up about a third of the New Testament. It is... The fact is that Luke is the most complete story teller of the saga of salvation.
So, we can learn all of that about him. And we kind of went over that last time. We're dividing this...this look at Luke in the prologue into four sections. Remember what I told you what they were. We're looking at Luke the physician, Luke the historian, Luke the theologian and Luke the pastor.
Let me review, first of all, Luke the physician. It doesn't tell us here that this is Luke the physician, but Colossians 4:14 tells us that Luke was a physician. He is identified there as Luke the beloved physician. So the first thing to know about the man is he was a physician, he was a scientist. That would tell us that he was an analytical man, that he was a careful thinker, that he was educated. He may well have been educated in Antioch, Antioch in Syria which would probably had some...some kind of university, some kind of educational system in which he was trained as a physician. He perhaps even came to Christ in the influence of the church that was planted in Antioch. Among the five pastors was the apostle Paul himself. It may have been Paul who even led Luke to the knowledge of the gospel. But Luke is known, first of all, as a physician. He was a Gentile. He was not an apostle. He was not an eye witness to the life of Christ. He wasn't even converted till after Christ had died, risen and ascended to heaven and the gospel had been and brought to the Gentile world, so he was not an eye witness. Only mentioned three times in the New Testament, we don't know much about the back... We don't know anything about the background. We can only know that tradition tells us he came from Antioch and perhaps that's where he heard the gospel, even from the apostle Paul.
We do know he was loyal because he stayed with Paul for so many years. We know he was brave because there were a number of imprisonments. He was with Paul in three imprisonments, one in Caesarea, two in Rome. We know about his faithfulness because he traveled with Paul over thousands of miles and would have been exposed to the same terrors and the same robbers and the same hostilities and the same illnesses and the same deprivations of travel in the ancient times that Paul was. We know also about him that he must have been a kind and tender hearted man because Paul called him beloved. And as you go through the gospel of Luke you will note there's a graciousness about him; he's not an in-your-face type of guy. There's a sweetness about Luke, there's a graciousness about him that comes through. He was beloved. He was Paul's private, personal physician and he endeared himself greatly to the apostle Paul. So we met Luke the physician.
Secondly, last time, we began to look at...look at Luke... We began to look at Luke the historian. I'm trying to go fast because I've got a lot to say. we began to look at Luke the historian. The first three verses introduced us really to Luke the historian. As a historian he is greatly respected because of his precision, his exactness, and because of the fact that he was a research historian who looked at available accounts. He had good source material. Let's look at it, verse 1. As he introduces the gospel in this classic prologue, he says, "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us." Verse 1 then is saying to us that I have sources, I have sources. He goes back to his sources as he begins. He knew that there were many enemies of the gospel. He knew that there would be many people who would like to criticize his writings and try to discredit his writing. So he made every effort to base his writing on accurate sources so that it might, as he notes in verse 4, be exact truth. He was careful to be fastidious, as it says in verse 3, in investigating everything carefully from the start, from the beginning. Verse 2, he...he sought out eye witnesses and servants of the Word who handed down their first-hand accounts.
He is going to give us exact, historical details that he has himself done great research on. In addition to that, of course, the Holy Spirit will reveal things to him that he didn't know, a combination of which, as we'll see in just a moment, comes together in the gospel of Luke.
Tradition says that Luke died at the age of 84. So he lived a long life and no doubt was immensely respected by people for this marvelous, historical account that he provided of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. As well as the gospel, he wrote the book of Acts.
Let's look at verse 1 and look at his sources, just a comment or two, then we'll go on to verse 2 where we left off. He says, "Many have undertaken to compile an account." There were many. This is including Matthew who had written his gospel by the time of Luke, and Mark who had written his gospel. There were other apostles, of course, who probably had written down memoirs of the experiences and the teaching of Jesus. There were other disciples, associates of the apostles, who had written. There are many, he doesn't tell us who they are. There were many sources, many sources that were chronicling “the things accomplished among us.” What does he mean by that? Well he looks not...he could have said that "wrote about the life of Christ," but the gospel record is more than the life of Christ, it's more than the story of Jesus, it's the story of redemption, it's the story of salvation accomplished among us. That's the issue. Christ is the main character, but the main subject is salvation. The four gospels are the saga of salvation. They are the saga of redemption, the story of God saving sinners through Jesus Christ. Again, Jesus Christ is the main character, but the story is the story of what God accomplished through Christ in us by way of salvation. He says there were many of these accounts, many of these.
Further, verse 2, he adds, "These accounts that have come to us of what God has accomplished among us come from eye witnesses and servants of the Word who have handed them down to us." This is very important for a historian, very important for any writer, I know as a writer myself, to have primary sources, to be able to go back to the original source. That is particularly true of those who are historians. If you're going to write an accurate history, you have to have first-hand source material, you have to get back to the first-hand source material. Luke is a true historian, a true historian. Not only a physician trained in the science that had to do with the physical body and caring for it, but a historian of great care, a man who knew how to give attention to detail in the process of doing research. And he knew that his critics would shoot him down if he didn't say his sources were primary sources. So he introduces the sources in general in verse 1, and then he introduces the sources in specific in verse 2, coming down to the fact that they were those who from the beginning were eye witnesses and servants of the Word who have handed them down, "them" meaning the accounts, to us. We are building our gospel, he is saying, really on first-hand eye-witness-source material. This is affirming the reliability of what he is going to write from apostles, from associates of the apostles who were there with Jesus, who were there, who can give us accounts, first-hand authenticity brought the message to Luke.
And remember what I told you last time, he may well have interviewed people who were there as well. Certainly Matthew was there and he would have met Matthew most likely during the two-year imprisonment in Caesarea which is just west of the city of Jerusalem and Matthew would have been alive and in the area. He certainly knew Mark well. Mark traveled with Paul and so did he, they traveled together. And Mark had received first-hand eye-witness records from Peter and he had been exposed to those through Mark. There were other disciples and other associates that he would have met. I suggested last time that some commentators believe it was very probable that Luke himself could have interviewed Mary and gotten her first-hand account of the virgin birth. And so he had eye witnesses, critical to getting to the truth, eye witnesses who had passed the information to him.
These eye witnesses are further described as servants of the Word. In the Greek language when you have one article — an article is like "the" — when you have one article and two expressions, those two expressions modify or describe the same entity. If it said in this verse, for example, there were those who were the eye witnesses and the servants, we might conclude he was talking about the two groups. But when there are the eye witnesses and servants, we know that “servants” is further modifying the eye witnesses. So these were eye witnesses who became servants of the Word.
Now “the Word” Luke uses for “the gospel,” for the gospel. “The Word” refers to “the gospel.’ In fact, I'm not going to take the time but he uses it that way in Acts a number of places. Just maybe one or two to sort of show you how he uses it. Acts 8:4, "Therefore those who had been scattered” scattered under the ravaging persecution of the apostle Paul against the church in Jerusalem “those who had been scattered went about preaching the Word and Philip went to Samaria." That Word that they were preaching was the gospel. It was the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. In Acts chapter 10 verse 36, "The Word which he sent to the sons of Israel.” What was it? “Preaching peace through Jesus Christ," Acts 10:36. So the Word is the gospel of peace available to sinners, peace with God through Jesus Christ. And Luke uses it that way in chapter 11 verse 19, chapter 14 verse 25, and even in chapter 6 verse 4.
So he said there, very important to follow this, there were eye witnesses who were there and they saw it and they were given the responsibility by God to become servants of the gospel. That is they were to carry that gospel out, they were the proclaimers, the preachers. They knew Jesus, they watched His life and His ministry and they went about preaching with regard to that personal, first-hand experience. So they were the ones out of the many who really established the truth. They were the faithful preachers. And they, he says, have handed down to us the true accounts, the true accounts.
That phrase "handed down to us," you see it at the end of verse 2, is a technical term used in Greek literature for possessing something authoritative, something authoritative. They handed down the authoritative truth to us.
So, Luke is a historian. He makes no claim to be an eye witness, but he does make a claim to having eye-witness sources who were apostles and their associates. They were eye witnesses and they were the servants of the gospel. What does that mean? Well they were given by God the responsibility to care for the gospel, to protect it. It kind of works like this: God gave them the firsthand, eye-witness experiences, then God enabled them to preserve those until such a time as writers could be inspired to write them down. That's part of the preservation of the truth that is involved in maintaining the message. So Luke is saying, from original sources, preserved by the servants of God, who both preserved and preached the truth, has come to me a true understanding of the story of Jesus and the gospel. He took advantage of all the available sources. And since he had all of that opportunity and all of that exposure, he says in verse 3, "It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning to write it out." And we'll stop at that point.
Fitting, what does that mean? Right, good, suitable, noble. Since I had all of this information, since I had garnered it all and it was all first-hand accurate information, it seemed fitting for me as well. And then he further strengthens his case for credibility: “Having investigated everything carefully from the beginning.” What would that mean? Well that would mean that if he had two accounts and there was a discrepancy in one, he would go find the accurate one. The NKJV, the New King James has a wonderful translation of verse 3 where it says, "Having investigated everything carefully from the beginning." It says this, "Having had perfect understanding of all things from the very start." Now this man is a consummate historian. He has come to a perfect understanding of everything from the beginning of the gospel. He's...he's got a grip on all of it. He has by careful investigation, he has by fastidious research come to a perfect understanding of everything from the start. Because he had acquired such precise understanding, he was compelled to write. And when he did write, verse 4 says, people reading it would know the exact truth. They would know the exact truth.
The word "carefully" there in verse 3, having investigated everything carefully, could be “accurately.” That would be a synonym. A first-rate historian, h e didn't just copy down his sources. It wasn't just a sort of an assembling of all kinds of source material, that's not the case. He didn't just copy Matthew, or copy Mark, or copy other things that had been written. In fact, Luke is very, very unique in a number of ways. There is material in the gospel of Luke that is not in Matthew, that's not in Mark and a lot of it that's not in John. Luke found this material through his sources and what he didn't have through his sources the Spirit of God gave to him supernaturally. And even what he did have through his sources, the Holy Spirit guarded supernaturally, so he recorded it accurately, precisely and exactly as God wanted it to be recorded without error.
But Luke's material is wonderfully unique. Half of Luke... Almost half of Luke's material is unique to his gospel. Almost half of what is in Luke is nowhere else. For example, if you chronicle the gospels and you go through, you'll find about thirty-five miracles, thirty-five specific miracles recorded in the gospels. Twenty of those are in Luke. Of the twenty in Luke, seven are only in Luke. So if we didn't have Luke we would miss seven miracles that Jesus did. There are about fifty parables that Jesus taught, depending on, you know, how precisely you define a parable, but about fifty parables. Thirty-five of the parables are in Luke, and nineteen of the parables are only in Luke. And if Luke hadn't recorded them we wouldn't have them. And also there are about thirty events in the life of Jesus which Luke records and no one else does. Seven miracles, nineteen parables and thirty events in the life of Jesus are inimitable to the gospel of Luke.
So he was... He was studying and he was doing research, but he was not limited to that. He didn't just copy out of Matthew and Mark's gospel because there's so much that wasn't in those gospels. In the end he knew what was in Matthew, he knew what was in Mark, he didn't use all of it in his gospel. He didn't repeat everything that was there. He knew what was in all of the sources but in the end it was the superintending work of the Holy Spirit to pull it all together. And Luke's study and research, listen carefully to this, in no way negates Holy Spirit inspiration. What the Holy Spirit did was superintend what Luke knew, give him what he didn't know, guide his selection of material out of his personal knowledge and his personal research, add to it what he had never ever found anywhere else, bring it all together and make sure Luke wrote exactly what God wanted written, no less, no more and wrote it without error. The Holy Spirit kept Luke from error in every sense, from errors of fact and from errors of doctrine so that he wrote exactly what God wanted written.
He was under...he was under the same process that any other Bible was...Bible writer was under, any other one. Here's the definition of that, 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture...” That would include the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. “All Scripture is inspired (by whom?) by God." God-breathed, theopneustos, God-breathed, it all comes from God. It was God taking all of his experiences and all of his research and all the information and all the material and all the sources that he had become familiar with and all the oral tradition passed down and all the people that he may have talked to, it was God taking all of that, it was God taking his knowledge of Matthew or Mark's gospel, if as we assume he had read those, and it was God then moving in the mind of that man so that he would record precisely what God wanted said.
Second Peter 1:20, "No prophecy, no proclamation, of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation." No book of Scripture is ever one man's ideas, or thoughts. Next verse, 2 Peter 1:21, "No prophecy, no proclamation of Scripture was ever made by an act of human will but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. Luke was a historian and he was a very good historian, he was a very faithful and diligent historian. And in the end that does not obviate the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit took all of that, blended it together in a powerful expression of what we call the doctrine of inspiration so that Luke wrote a perfect account. Not only perfect because he had exact knowledge, but because God enabled him to say exactly what God wanted said in exactly the way God wanted it said without error.
Thirdly we meet Luke the theologian. I confess at this moment, trying to give you an idea of Luke the theologian here could consume a lot of time and I'm going to resist that. Luke is a theologian and I'll show you where we're introduced to that. Look at verse 3. He says, "It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning to write it out for you” here's the key phrase “in consecutive order," in consecutive order, or as the New King James says, "An orderly account,” in an orderly account.
Now what is the mark of a good theologian? A good theologian is someone who is analytical, who is systematic, who is logical. And that's exactly what that's saying. When he says "in consecutive order," that's probably not a good translation. He probably could have a better translation then "in consecutive order," because it sort of gives the idea that this thing is strictly chronological, that he starts with John the Baptist, ends with Paul, and everything else is just a series of chronological events in perfect succession.
Let me... Let me say this. Generally Luke is chronological. Certainly the gospel of Luke is generally chronological, it starts with the birth of Christ, goes to the boyhood of Jesus, the baptism of Jesus, moves to His public ministry, goes to the cross. And you've got ten chapters of Him traveling to Jerusalem to die, the cross, and then the resurrection follows the cross. I mean, generally it is chronological. The book of Acts, of course, is chronological. It starts with the Spirit of God being promised. Then the Spirit of God comes. The gospel goes to Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria, the uttermost part of the earth. So there's... There’s a a flow of chronology, and there has to be in any good history.
But, it is not strictly chronological. There are times when Luke wants to make a theological point, so he gathers material thematically around that theological point. So he will not become slavishly chronological if at some point he needs to deviate from his chronology to enrich a point with issues or with discussions or events pulled from various times but to illustrate a point that he's making in that very chronological flow he'll do that. So it is both chronological and it is thematic at certain points and he'll pull things from various parts of the history of the life of Christ and bring them into one focus in a given text in order to enhance the point that is being made there.
Bottom line then is, the way to understand the phrase "in consecutive order," is to understand it as in logical order, in logical order. It doesn't strictly mean chronological. At times, as I said, he's thematic and puts material together around a theme rather than historical sequence. The phrase helps us to understand Luke as a theologian. He is writing systematically. He is writing logically. He is writing in a progression that is intended, here's the key phrase, in a progression that is intended to persuade. A theologian's job is to persuade someone to believe, to lead you to understand a truth, to lead you to understand a doctrine by a thoughtful, logical, progressive, systematic, persuasive explanation. And that's exactly what Luke is going to do in this gospel. And the goal of this gospel is to persuade a person to believe, to persuade a person to believe. That's a theologian's desire. It is a distinctly, logical, sequential effort to bring someone to full persuasion about Christ. His goal is to lead the reader to believe the gospel, to believe the full truth of God's saving purpose in Christ, to believe the story of redemption, to believe the message of salvation. I like to think of it this way: Luke is saying this, I'm writing this out for you in logical, persuasive clarity. That's what he's doing, that's a theologian's task. Not just a historian, I'm not just dealing with linking events together in a chronology, but rather in the process of moving through this chronology focusing on persuasive, logical understanding of divine truth.
So he's going to show us the theological significance of what happens. And as he shows us the theological significance of what is happening, he'll build around that theological theme a little bit to increase that persuasion. And there are a number of things that he deals with. As you look at Luke the theologian, he was...he was quite a remarkable theologian. The first great area of theology that concerns Luke is God's sovereignty in history. He was a believer in the sovereignty of God. Luke was a Reformed theologian, though he didn't know it. He believed in the sovereignty of God. He saw salvation history as God's sovereign plan of redemption unfolding through Jesus Christ. Salvation had come. In fact he uses the word “now” fourteen times. He follows salvation history through the birth, the boyhood and the baptism of Jesus, through His ministry as God continues to work His saving plan. And then he follows him for ten chapters from Galilee as he comes down to Jerusalem, coming toward the cross and his movement toward the cross chronologically and historically is filled with theological implications as he heads for that monumental, redemptive, substitutionary death on the cross. The great passion week of Jesus is from chapter 19 to the end of chapter 23, and chapter 24 ends with the resurrection of Christ. All through this you see God's hand working the great work of redemption. He follows salvation history and sees God ruling in all of it.
Second thing, he not only understood that God's sovereign rule over history, but he understood the universal extent of salvation. He understood that salvation was for everyone. He was a Gentile. He was writing to Theophilus, who was a Gentile. He was a part of the Gentile world and he wanted it to be made very clear that this wonderful reality of God's saving purpose, this great saga of redemption, involved Gentiles. He's very concerned about what's going on in Samaria and in chapter 10 he...he's concerned about the rejection that occurred in Samaria. He is very concerned about salvation extending everywhere.
By the way, as a footnote, Matthew never uses the word "salvation." Mark never uses the word "salvation." John uses it once. Luke uses it six times in his gospel and I think seven times in the book of Acts. He emphasized salvation. And he emphasizes that it was not just for Jews. One of the ways he emphasizes it... And I could give you many, but just one of them is very interesting. When Matthew wrote a genealogy of Jesus to show where Jesus had come from, he started with...you remember who? Matthew 1:1, where did Matthew start his genealogy? With Abraham, the Jew. Luke gives the other genealogy of Christ. You know where Luke starts the genealogy? With Adam, the father of all men, because Luke is very concerned that we understand the unfolding saga of redemption embraces the world, not just the Jews. That's in... That's in Luke 3:38 where he does his genealogy in reverse and it all goes back to Adam. He is concerned about a Roman centurion and so he tells the story of Jesus reaching out to a Roman centurion who is a Gentile and an enemy of Israel. In chapter 14 he's concerned to tell the story of Jesus when he told the parable about the man who was going to give a feast and he invited the guests, who would have been the Jews who were already pre-invited. They wouldn't come and so he says go out on the highways and byways and get everybody you can get. That's again an expression of the universality of salvation. And when he comes to the great commission at the end of the...of his gospel he is concerned to let everybody know that we're to preach the gospel to the whole world.
In fact, he sees the gospel not only for all...all nations, but for all kinds of people. He's very concerned about prodigals, you know, writes about the prodigal son. He's concerned about Samaritans, who are half-breed outcasts. He's concerned about women who were seen as low class in the society. He's concerned about really fallen women, sinful women, demon-possessed women, prostitutes, outcasts. He's concerned about tax collectors. He's concerned about a despicable man by the name of Zaccheus and tells us the story of Zaccheus, which is nowhere else. He's concerned about lepers. He's got a lot of lepers in here, at least ten in one passage, who were the pariahs of society. He's very... He likes to talk about tax collectors and every time he mentions a tax collector, who was the most despicable person in the Jewish culture, it's always in a favorable light. Though he doesn't ignore the salvation of the rich, he makes a lot out of the salvation of one rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, who gave his tomb to Jesus. Although he doesn't ignore the salvation of the gospel to the wealthy and the upper class, and I think he wrote for them in mind indicated by the prologue, but he spends an awful lot of time focusing on Jesus' ministry to the worst of the...the flotsam and the jetsam of humanity. He saw that the ministry of the great physician was to those who were desperate, that salvation was for everybody.
Luke makes a major thrust in discussing the ministry of the Holy Spirit, much more so than any of the other gospel writers. He focuses on the Holy Spirit, particularly early in the gospel of Luke. The Holy Spirit is just everywhere in the first few chapters. The Holy Spirit is involved in the birth of John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit is involved, of course, in the birth of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is there early on talking to Mary, talking to Zacharias. The Holy Spirit is leading Simeon to come and worship the Christ child. The Holy Spirit is involved in the baptism of Jesus and the temptation of Christ and we learn about the Holy Spirit.
Of course we learn about Jesus Christ. Luke has a great theology proper, the doctrine of God as sovereign over everything. He has a good pneumatology; he understands the role of the Holy Spirit. He has a great Christology, which, of course, is the theme of the whole book, the doctrine of Christ. You want to know something very interesting? Luke is the only gospel that mentions the doctrine of justification. The Doctrine of Justification is the heart of Christian theology. It's the heart of Reformation theology, that we have been declared righteous. That doctrine of justification is Luke's to discuss and he does it when he writes about a publican and a sinner who went into the temple to pray and the publican who was a tax collector, again an outcast, a pariah, a despised and hated man went home justified and Luke gives us our first introduction into justification. And justification is also in the story of the prodigal because this wretched, wicked sinner comes home and he has no...no value, no virtue, no worth, nothing and his father puts on the robe and gives him the ring and has a feast. And that's what justification is; it's taking an unworthy sinner who belongs in the pig slop and covering him with the robe of righteousness. And even Zaccheus is a picture of God's justification, as is the sinful woman in chapter 7.
So, Luke understands theology and he makes a point of these great doctrines. He...other theological themes he deals with...the fear of God, praise to God, forgiveness, joy, wonder, worship. He says a lot about worship as we'll find out when we go through. He shows the majesty of Jesus and his ministry to people in need. He focuses on the prayers of the Lord.
But in the heart of his theology is the cross, the cross, the cross, the cross. Ten chapters, from chapter 9 verse 51 all the way in to chapter 19 Jesus is going toward the cross, going toward the cross, going toward the cross. Chapter 19 He arrives there, all the way to chapter 23, that's all about the cross. You could say from chapter 9 to the end of 23 it's the cross, because that's where God fulfilled His redemptive plan, Jesus moving relentlessly to the cross. The Son of Man, the key verse in Luke, Luke 19:10, "The Son of Man has come to seek, to save that which was lost."
One other thought in his theology, Luke is interested in the Second Coming, the Second Coming. He records much of what Jesus said about His glorious return. He tells us salvation is future, salvation is eternal and there is a glory to come and the Savior will be back for His people.
Well, that's a...that's a fast overview. Luke the physician, Luke the historian, Luke the theologian, he's quite a guy, isn't he? Lastly, Luke the pastor, Luke the pastor.
Oh it doesn't say in here that he's a pastor, but I'll tell you what, this never ceases to amaze me. Verse 3 he says, "It seemed fitting for me having investigated everything carefully from the beginning to write it out for you in logical, persuasive clarity, most excellent Theophilus, so that you might know the exact truth about the things you've been taught."
Wow! That's just unbelievable. You can imagine a person writing a book to be published. Can you imagine a person writing a book to be given to one person? That's a pastor's heart, isn't it? I don't know how he met Theophilus. We don't know anything about Theophilus. He has a nice name, beloved of God, it's a nice name. We don't know anything about him. We know he was probably on the upper side of society, "most excellent." That little modifier is used in the book of Acts by Luke to refer to Felix the governor and Festus the governor. And that occurs in Acts 23 and 24 in the case of Felix and 26 in the case of Festus. So it meant somebody who was elevated, somebody who is high up, most excellent.
This was a formidable person. And what was Luke's goal here? Well, Theophilus had been taught. It says at the end of verse 4, he had been taught, he had been taught things about Christ. Obviously we could conclude, however, that the teaching was unclear or incomplete. And so Luke says, "I want you to have the exact truth." What a pastor's heart. So he does all of this research, all of this incredible writing to give to this man, to either bring him to saving faith if he was just on the edge and didn't have a complete enough understanding of the gospel to believe. He was certainly interested and he had been taught something about the gospel. Or, that he was a new Christian, a new believer and he needed to have a greater understanding of his faith. Whatever it is, and we don't know in the case of Theophilus. Probably more likely that he was a believer and needed a more perfect understanding.
In that case, it's a pastoral work intended to teach this...this man that he had met, to bring him to exact truth. Let me tell you, anything short of that is a failure to understand the responsibility of the pastor, isn't it? My job as a pastor is not to fuss with your emotions. My job as a pastor is not to make you feel good about yourself. My task as a pastor, it's just like Luke's was, is to bring you to an exact understanding of what? Of the truth of God, isn't it? As I say, we don't know anything about him. But we know enough about Luke to know that Luke cared enough about this man's soul to bring him to the exact understanding of truth. Cared enough about him to write this long, intense, complex, monumental history and theology of salvation and give it to Theophilus. That's a remarkable evidence of personal concern to shepherd the soul of one man.
Now that fact that Luke gave this to Theophilus doesn't indicate that he didn't expect anybody else to read it. I'm sure he did. I'm sure he expected the friends and family of Theophilus to read it. But the fact that he knew the others would read it and that it might even go beyond that in no way diminishes the graciousness of his heart and his love for that one man. He knew that every soul was precious to the One who came to seek and to save the lost. And like his Lord, he had a shepherd's heart.
Isn't it wonderful that he served one man so well and God took the service that he rendered to one man and has spread it across the globe in thousands of languages? And millions of people have come to salvation through the letter that Luke wrote to this man. I've always said that through the years. You take care of the depth of your ministry and God will take care of the breadth of it. You do something as profound as what Luke did and, believe me, it will go to whatever end that God desires it to go. Millions of people have been converted by the account that Luke wrote for Theophilus.
He gave him — and this is where we need to wrap it up — he gave him exact truth. What a great statement. "Exact" is the word asphaleia. It means reliable, certain. He gave him a precise, reliable, accurate, complete understanding of the amazing. saving story of Jesus and the gospel; clear, complete, sifted from all error and persuasive, persuasive. He wanted that man to know the truth. I don't have any...any different desire than he did. I want you to know the truth.
So this remarkable physician, historian, theologian and pastor had the greatest privilege this life could ever offer any man, to be inspired by God to write an exact, reliable, powerful, precise, persuasive history and theology of the saga of salvation. And by this writing has become the instrument God used for the salvation of millions.
You know what my prayer is? That that work will go on as we go through Luke. That many, many more will be saved as we preach Luke's gospel here, as it goes onto tape and as it goes onto radio all over the world. We're going to pray that God will again use this wonderful physician, historian, theologian, and pastor as an instrument to bring many to the knowledge of Christ. Let's pray.
Our hearts are filled with anticipation, Lord, as we approach now the study of this wonderful book and plunge, as it were, into the great record that Luke has given us under the inspiration of Your Spirit. We pray, oh God, today that we might realize that the greatest story ever told is the story that You forgive sinners, that God desires to be reconciled to sinful men, the story of salvation, that a sacrifice was made for our sins, namely Jesus Christ who died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins that we commit. And that the extent of that salvation is that it embraces the whole world and all who in every nation, tongue, tribe and people desire to come can come and receive that salvation. We thank You that it provides peace with God for the wealthy and for the poor, for the moral and for the immoral, for the esteemed and the respected and the outcasts. We thank You for this great, great message. We pray that there would be no one here who would turn away from the great truth that You are a saving God who sent Your Son to this world to save sinners. That is the greatest story ever told. We thank You that for those of us who believe it is a story we live with joy and gratitude and shall forever. Work in every heart, Lord. Wherever there is one who doesn't know Christ, who has not received salvation, the forgiveness of sins, may it be Your mercy and Your grace that is bestowed upon them today that they might believe and be saved. To that end we pray, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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