Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (NIV).
People like to get a glimpse of a master craftsmen at work in his studio. They like to see how a genius puts things together, whether a work of art, music, design, etc. “Oh, so that’s how it’s done!” brings satisfied smiles to the onlookers. In the same way, Luke gives us a glimpse into his “study” about the holy writing we call “the Gospel of Luke”. In the above verses, he tells us about the method and the purpose that the Spirit led him to use.
Luke begins with his place in telling us the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. He was not the first to do this. He does not identify those who preceded him in this good work, but they included Mark and Matthew (John was written many years later), as well as others who had told the story orally. There were probably a number of spoken accounts of Jesus and the gospel events circulating, which should not surprise us, given the powerful authority of his person, message, and works. But the Spirit chose the four Gospel writers to set forth all this in Scripture (the Holy Writings).
Notice Luke’s emphasis on fulfillment: the things that have been fulfilled among us. He tells us that the good news of Jesus happened in conformity with the plan and promises of God. He wanted Theophilus, the original recipient, to know that what he had become part of, as a follower of Jesus, was in consequence of what the Sovereign God had purposed and accomplished. Nearly twenty centuries later, we need to know this, too. The Lord has called us into the true story of his glory in Christ, because by grace we are in Christ.
Luke reveals his method to us.
- He benefited from the ministry of those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. This usually happens in any human endeavor that makes an impact. People learn from skilled instructors and are able to take what they have received to the next level. Or more simply, they are in the right place at the right time. Luke received truth from eyewitnesses and teachers of the word. They handed it down to him.
- He researched the material. He confirmed information and evaluated it. He had to sort through it and then to profit from it himself.
- He started from the beginning of the story of Jesus. This led him to include important material about Jesus’ forerunner, the prophet John. Jesus did not come on the scene unannounced. God prepared the way for the coming of his Son.
- He was cautious. He affirmed that he himself had carefully investigated everything from the beginning. While Luke tells us many things in common with Matthew and Mark, he adds a great block of material that is his own, when compared to the other Gospel writers. He desired to provide us with an accurate account of what Jesus said and did.
- He considered carefully how to arrange his material: I too decided to write an orderly account for you. By orderly, Luke did not mean chronological. But he did have a plan. Perhaps, we can write more on this another time.
- He wrote purposefully. He wrote to persuade Theophilus and others who would read. Thus, the Gospel of Luke is not “a life of Christ”. None of the Gospels are. They are theological narratives that are intended to inform and to convince people to follow Jesus Christ as fully committed disciples (learners). They are accurately telling us what happened, but in a way to change our ideas, attitudes, and actions.
So then, Luke asks for a careful reading of his work. Hopefully, we will do so, mixing it with faith in God, in order that we might profit from what is written. Luke wrote carefully; can we do anything less than to listen carefully?
Grace and peace, David