I want to start off today with a bit of a reconnaissance of Early-Church history and then afterwards I want to read the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke.
Today’s message is only going to be a mere introduction to the Gospel according to Luke. There are many reasons for wanting to preach from the beginning of Luke; reasons like:
- It’s Authenticity. Is it Authentic or not, or is it some man-made fallacy or pseudepigraphical i.e. is it a made up Book by someone else professing to be Luke when, in fact, it was never Luke but a person pretending to be Luke?
- It’s Divine Writings. Is it inspired by God’s Holy Spirit or not? I want to say that it is most definitely inspired by God and is indeed part of the Holy Scriptures.
- Why did Luke write this Gospel? To gain a deeper understanding as to why Luke wrote this Sacred Book.
- It’s Accurate Historicity! To show that the Book of Luke is indeed a genuine historical account of Jesus and that Jesus, in fact, was a real person; Jesus was God incarnate, and that Jesus was even present already as part of the Triune Godhead even before the foundation of the world.
- Exclusive Incidents! To gain a deeper understanding of exclusive incidents that took place which is only found in the Book of Luke. For example,
- The Histories of Zachariah and Elizabeth. (Luke 1)
- The Angels’ announcement to the Virgin Mary. (Luke 1)
- Mary’s Magnificat (Song of Praise) (Luke 1)
- Elizabeth’s Holy Declaration. (Luke 1)
- Zachariah’s song. (Luke 1)
- Zaccheus THE TAX COLLECTOR. (luke 19:1-10)
- the penitent thief. (Luke 23: 32-43)
- the walk to Emmaus. Luke 24:13-35)
- the famous parables of the Pharisee and Tax-collector. Luke 18:9-14)
- the rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-31)
- the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32)
(J. C. Ryle Collection Book 8) (Kindle Locations 42-43). Prisbrary Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Main Emphasis – The Authenticity of Luke!
I think though, that among all these reasons, my main emphasis is going to be on the authenticity of this Gospel as a genuine historical account; an account that really took place and was carefully investigated by Luke who, by the way, was not only a physician but also, an impeccable and careful Historian.
J.C Ryle comments on Luke with this an invaluable insight. He says; “In the first place, Luke gives us a short, but a valuable sketch of the nature of a Gospel. He calls it, “a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us.” It is a narrative of facts about Jesus Christ. Christianity is a religion built upon facts. Let us never lose sight of this. It came before mankind at first in this shape. The first preachers did not go up and down the world, proclaiming an elaborate, artificial system of abstruse doctrines and deep principles. They made it their first business to tell [all]men great plain facts. They went about telling a sin-laden world, that the Son of God had come down to earth, and lived for us, and died for us, and risen again. The Gospel, [after] its first publication, was far more simple than many make it now. It was neither more nor less than the history of Christ.”
Can the Bible be Trusted or is it a Fairy Tale?
Too many negative things are being said about the Bible these days and also in the days that have gone past that make the Bible seem to be on par with a Fairy Tale. It is said that; the Bible, as a whole, is a man-made fallacy or fabrication of so many things and historical events that never, ever took place. Again, as I have said in the past; we are living in a world that has not changed in 2000 years and is still presently “a world” that is wholeheartedly and vehemently antagonistic towards God and the things of God, including Christianity.
Therefore, my objective today is probably two-fold.
Firstly: To show that the Gospel of Luke is a genuine and authentic historical account of Jesus Christ and Him being the God-man – the only-begotten Son who came to earth in human form to meet man – God’s creation – on his own ground and to be able to relate to mankind in human form.
Secondly: To draw some spiritual truths out of this introduction of the Gospel of Luke because, after all, it is not only just history we are interested in, but also what God said to the Church then, and what God is still saying to the Church today. Therefore, we want to also be able to go away with some Spiritual nourishment and not just academic knowledge, albeit that the academic truth is still quite useful in solidifying the spiritual truths that are found in this marvellous Gospel of Luke.
Now, this is going to be quite an unusual start today because, unlike most sermons that only have one introduction, I feel a need to start with a double introduction this morning and, let me say; there is certainly a method to my madness!
COMPARING HISTORY WITH HISTORY!
The reason is that; I want to compare history with history!
- My First introduction will be a historical account of a man that lived around 212 years before Christ.
- And then my Second introduction will obviously be the historical account of Jesus according to Luke.
I must warn you though that; we will probably only skim the surface of the first 4 verses of Luke Chapter 1 today and, therefore, I would most likely continue this discussion next week and perhaps even the week after that.
PREFACE OF THE First Introduction!
I want to preface this first introduction by saying that; much of my information has come from various sources i.e. Dr R.C. Sproul, J.C. Ryle, Bible Dictionaries and Bible Commentaries, and various other sources etc.
A BIZARRE BOOK – A BIZZARE MAN!
It was around the year 212 BC that a very strange and bizarre book was published into the Greek Speaking world. Further to this; the fact that the book was very strange, one needs to know that the author of the book was even more strange and perhaps thought of as being more bizarre than the Book itself. I own a small portion of this book and I have got to tell you that; it is way above my intellectual capacity and very difficult to even comprehend.
The Book in question was originally written and dedicated to the Greek King who reigned over the city of Syracuse, in the southern coast of now modern-day Sicily, which at that stage was not Italian at all but part of the Greek empire. Nevertheless, the author of the book was on his own crusade and his mission was to calculate how many grains of sand it would take to fill the entire universe! If there ever was a mathematical and scientific feat in the history of human kind, then it would have to be the endeavour of this man and his bizarre efforts to give this type of scientific calculation and, just so that you know, this would be the last thing this man would ever do just before his untimely death.
The name of the Book was called the “Sand Reckoner” which, as I said, I own, and yet cannot make heads or tails of it. The author of this book died when his city of Syracuse came under attack by a Roman General named, MARCUS CLAUDIUS MARCELLUS, whose nickname was, “THE SWORD OF ROME”.
When Marcus Claudius Marcellus came to conquer the City of Syracuse, he made a;
Much like Jesus said in Luke 14:31, “Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?”, so did “THE SWORD OF ROME” – Marcus Claudius Marcellus – not do his homework properly! When this Roman General decided to bring his troops and his entire navy fleet up against the citadels of Syracuse, he and his troops were in for a dreadful surprise. Much to their astonishment and dismay, they met quite a fierce and formidable resistance during their siege which they never ever imagined was possible. The Roman General had to work furiously and frantically to keep his troops from giving up with utter discouragement because to their amazement, their efforts would become a living nightmare and living hell for a while.
Syracuse had war machines that were so sophisticated and of deadly proportions that the Romans had never ever come across before. These war machines were unlike any war machine that the Romans could ever have dreamt of or had ever invented up to this point.
- The Catapult.
This was used to throw large boulders at the moored ships, breaking many of them into pieces, thereby sinking them where they stood.
- The Death Ray!
This was a series of mirrors used to magnify the rays of the sun and concentrated the sun’s rays onto these ships, much like a giant magnifying glass, and thereby causing ship after ship to burst into flames by the condensed rays of the sun and sinking them into the Mediterranean sea.
- The Giant Iron Claw of Death!
This was probably by far the scariest sight to behold and to encounter on the part of the Romans and their naval ships. As the Roman ships approached the cliffs outside of Syracuse, the sailors looked up into the sky and saw these humungous jaw-like iron claws descending on them from the sky. The jaws came down and clamped onto a ship and hurled it up into the air and then dropping it from a dizzy height. The Romans could not believe their eyes as ship after ship – those ships that were unlucky enough to be in the close proximity of these massive iron claws – were hurled into the air and they were either smashed to smithereens on the rocks together with their occupants at the bottom of the cliff or dumped into the sea, smashing the ship in the waves and drowning the sailors on board. This giant claw was manned by an entire population of one part of the city of Syracuse.
Plutarch (45 CE -120 CE)
“At the same time huge beams were run out from the walls so as to project over the Roman ships: some of them were then sunk by great weights dropped from above, while others were seized at the bows by iron claws or by beaks like those of cranes, hauled into the air by means of counterweights until they stood upright upon their sterns, and then allowed to plunge to the bottom, or else they were spun round by means of windlasses situated inside the city and dashed against the steep cliffs and rocks which jutted out under the walls, with great loss of life to the crews. Often there would be seen the terrifying spectacle of a ship being lifted clean out of the water into the air and whirled about as it hung there until every man had been shaken out of the hull and thrown in a different direction, after which it would be dashed down empty upon the walls.”
Well, to cut a long story short, even after suffering the loss of many of his naval ships and troops, Marcus Claudius Marcellus eventually overcame the city of Syracuse. The most important thing for this Roman general was to find the man who was responsible for the invention of these extraordinary war machines and his command to his troops was that the man was to be taken alive and unharmed.
ARCHIMEDES – EUREKA!
The name of this genius was none other than Archimedes. While the Romans were invading the city, Archimedes was apparently busy with a mathematical equation in the bathtub. After finding that his experiment worked, he apparently ran out into the streets, stark-naked shouting; “Eureka”. Not knowing that he was in danger, Archimedes returned to his home and got busy with another mathematical equation. A Roman soldier, who was sent to capture Archimedes alive, came into his home while Archimedes was busy with this geometry experiment. Archimedes was so bewitched by his experiment that he did not even notice that it was a Roman soldier who had come to take him away. In the thick of his geometry experiment, not realizing that there was a Roman soldier standing at his door, he dismissed the man whom he thought was a stranger and told the Roman soldier, “DO NOT DISTURB MY DIAGRAMS!” It is said that the Roman soldier was so infuriated that he beat the 75-year-old genius to death.
A LEVER LONG ENOUGH TO MOVE THE WORLD!
Two more things that I want to point out about this genius is that;
- Archimedes is regarded, even today among the scientific world, to be the most brilliant genius ever to walk the face of this planet.
- One of Archimedes’ more famous quotes is, “Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I will move the world!”
Now, I want to bring this home and transition into the Gospel of Luke by saying the following about the last point I made about Archimedes and that is; “Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I will move the world!”
R.C Sproul puts this beautifully and poignantly into perspective. He says, “A little over 200 years after Archimedes made that statement, a lever was found that was [actually] long enough to move the world. It was a tree about 3.5 metres high. The place that this tree was placed was a place called Calvary because, it was the cross of Jesus Christ that not only moved the world but, moreover, turned the world completely upside down. It was the Cross that revealed the sovereign power of God Himself through Jesus Christ His Son that turned this world upside down. It was the message of the cross – that long lever – that was placed on the solid ground and changed the world forever.”
SURVIVING MANUSCRIPTS OF ARCHIMEDES VERSUS THE BIBLE!
Just one thing I would like to point out, and I know I have said this before, but I feel I need to say that again. So many people would rather believe secular historical books as factual, but they cannot get themselves to believe at all that the Bible, in its entirety, is factual and true! In comparison to the original copies of the manuscripts of the Bible that we have in our possession today, there are approximately 5500 copies. Would any one like to take a guess as to how many original manuscript copies of the history of Archimedes and his scientific discoveries and mathematical equations are actually available in its original form today? Only one! A copy of Archimedes’ texts was first made around 950 AD and only discovered in 1229 AD.
Again, I want to say that if there was ever a book or rather a volume of books that God, Himself, made sure would be preserved, then that would have to be His Holy writings of Scripture – The Bible!
Second Introduction – The Gospel of Luke
Therefore this now brings me to the second introduction and that is the introduction to the Gospel of Luke. I want us to open our Bibles and we are going to read only the first 4 verses of Luke Chapter 1.
Luke 1:1-4. (ESV)
1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Point 1 – The Purpose of Luke!
Here we see, in the first 4 verses, that Luke expresses his purpose for writing his book, and that is to accurately record all his research about Jesus Christ with historical truth. You have got to know that, not only was Luke a Physician but also a well-educated historian and citizen of the Greco-Roman world.
Luke’s Gospel is not just history, but it is clear, good, and true history! Luke has used the best traditions of his day to present Jesus Christ as God’s promised Messiah, sent to redeem all humanity. Therefore, the Bible that we have today, among all the 66 books, includes the Gospel of Luke because the point of his Gospel is as applicable and useful today as it was then – 2000 years ago!
The entire gospel of Luke falls into several different levels of investigation:
A. Careful Historian!
He is a careful historian who was actually a second- generation Christian. The account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has been carefully researched by him and he has acquired his information from many different sources.
B. The Apostle Paul!
One of the sources would most definitely be from the Apostle Paul since Luke was Paul’s travelling partner in some of Paul’s missionary journeys. (Acts 16 and 29).
C. First-hand Eyewitnesses!
Luke also acquired a lot of his information from first-hand eyewitnesses who had either known Jesus i.e. the women that travelled with Jesus and also from all the eye witnesses who knew for a fact that Jesus had indeed risen from the grave and Jesus appeared to them in person all at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:3-9).
D. The 12 Apostles!
Then finally, of course, it would have been a careful examination of the 12 Apostles and their testimonies about Jesus, bearing in mind that Judas was not one of them, but rather it would have included Matthias who took the place of Judas (Acts 1:12-26).
NB! Just to add a bit more weight to this when regarding Judas, his betrayal of Jesus and the replacement of Judas was already predicted by God in Psalm 109:8. This was at least 1000 or more years before Jesus even came on the scene or even Judas for that matter.
Again, the point of the introduction given by Luke is to make it clear that his writings are not just hearsay, but rather a thorough and deep investigation of the life and death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ who was both God and man at the same time.
E. Pure Facts!
Another thing we need to bear in mind is that the events recorded in the Book of Luke are not necessarily chronological but rather they are historical writings of pure facts as opposed to fiction or legend. Myths and legends were most certainly known in those days by both the Greeks and the Romans. Legends were well embraced and good for campfire stories but, the account of Jesus is certainly not meant for a campfire story but it is rather a historical account of God bringing about salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Point 2 – Who is Theophilus?
Theophilus was not necessarily the name of a certain person whom Luke was writing to but, rather this name “Theophilus” was a very common saying or name given to certain people in the ancient Eastern world whereby it described the recipient of a letter or even a close friend to be of the same faith and persuasion as that of the writer. Again, Theophilus may very well have been a real person but there is no historical account of such a man so, whether there was a man named Theophilus or not is not really the case or the point of Luke’s address to this certain person known as Theophilus. More importantly, I think, is the actual rendering of the name which makes more sense in this introductory section of the book of Luke and when we understand what the name Theophilus actually means then I think we would be able to understand to whom Luke is actually addressing and why he writes what he writes with such precision.
Strengthening Our Faith!
Luke begins his introduction to assure the reader that what he is about to say in the rest of the book about Jesus is not only precisely accurate but, more so, it is to strengthen the faith of the early Church and also those who are honestly and sincerely inquiring about Jesus! This would obviously have the same bearing on us in 2017 so that we can have our faith strengthened and also help those who are sincerely searching for Christ to surrender their hearts and lives to Him!
Theophilus comes from two Greek words;
- Theo = God
- Philo = Lover
Therefore, Theophilus means, “God Lover or lover of God”!
Again, you have got to know that one of Luke’s main aims are to clarify misunderstandings about the person of Jesus and he goes about it by giving an accurate and factual historical account of Jesus. And, in so doing, he aims to strengthen the faith of those early Christians or God-fearers and help them stay in their faith and not wander off as so many had indeed done, especially if you read what happens in the Church of Galatia in the Book of Galatians. Therefore, Luke’s preoccupation and his objective are to use his book as evidence pertaining to Jesus Christ and also as an evangelical outreach to the Christians and God-fearers of his day.
Again, even in the Book of Acts Chapter 1, Luke makes the very same introductory remarks as he does here in his very first chapter of his gospel of Luke. Therefore, just as it was Luke’s purpose to strengthen the faith of those early Christians, so it is with us today. When we read the Bible, especially now that we have started with the Book of Luke; the main aim is so that our faith may be strengthened.
All of us ask questions and all of us do not understand certain things at certain times and may even be unsure of our faith many times, but know this; through the power of the Holy Spirit and His illumination of the Word of God, it brings clarity and strength to all of us in our daily lives as we walk by faith.
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch!
Think about the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26-40? It was the same for him. He was a God-fearer and yet he could not understand the words which he was reading from the Book of Isaiah Chapter 53. It took a person like Philip to help him understand what he was reading and to bring clarity about the person of Jesus Christ who, by the way, was predicted over 700 years before Jesus even arrived on the scene. After having heard the way Philip explained and clarified all that the Ethiopian was reading; it illuminated the heart of this God-fearing Ethiopian; it resulted in this Ethiopian becoming a Christian, and it also strengthened the faith of the Ethiopian.
Therefore, in the same way that Luke is seeking to bring clarity and evidence to the fact that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world, so was Philip able to show from Scripture that Jesus Christ had already accomplished that which was promised thousands of years ago.
Therefore, the point of the introduction and, of course, the rest of the Book is in order;
SO THAT YOU MAY KNOW WITH CERTAINTY…!
- FEELINGS OR EVIDENCE!
How can one know for certain? Do you go or believe by the way that you feel? Well, let me assure you that I know many so-called Christians who live their so-called Christian lives on their feelings alone and most of the time their lives and faith is an absolute mess and disaster. They seem to believe when they “FEEL GOOD” about something or even themselves, but the other 99% of the time they feel rotten and are unhappy with life. They complain about everything and anything and their faith is never firm or consistent.
The entire objective of Luke is this: it is not just to give an account of a historical event but also, more importantly, to give this historical account with irrefutable evidence. This is so important for us to understand when it comes to the Bible and especially now that we are reading the Book of Luke. It is not just a story and it is not just filled with wonderful Sunday school anecdotes but, rather, it is of utmost importance to us, as the readers, and to us who confess our trust and our belief in Jesus Christ, to solidify our faith based on evidence. Faith is not blind! Faith is evidence and as the Book of Hebrews says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen…” (Hebrews 11:1).
Concerning the things, you have been taught!
- THE WORD!
The word for “Things” is the Greek word “λόγων” which literally means “Words”. This Greek word comes from the root form of LOGOS, which means “THE WORD”!
I believe that this word is used on purpose by Luke to imply to things that are not different but end up being the same.
First Implication: LOGOS!
Luke is implying that the words that he is writing and the words that his friend Theophilus is reading and has also been taught are completely divine and come through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!
Second Implication: JESUS – THE WORD!
Here again, Luke is most certainly alluding to Jesus Christ as being the Divine Truth and the Divine Word. Moreover, the fact that Theophilus is being encouraged by Luke to know with certainty these “WORDS” that he has been taught is saying to Theophilus that they are not just mere words but THE WORD – JESUS CHRIST!
John 1: 1-4
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
I need to finish off for today and continue with this next week. But I want to make one final point and that is this:
OUR CHRISTIAN FAITH SHOULD NEVER BE BASED ON OUR FEELINGS BUT ON THE EVIDENCE WHICH GOD PROVIDES FOR US THROUGH HIS DIVINELY INSPIRED WORD. HIS WORD IS HISTORICALLY ACCURATE, SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE AND LIKE THE BOOK OF 2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17 SAYS, “16ALL SCRIPTURE IS BREATHED OUT BY GOD AND PROFITABLE FOR TEACHING, FOR REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION, AND FOR TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, 17THAT THE MAN OF GOD MAY BE COMPLETE, EQUIPPED FOR EVERY GOOD WORK.”
AS FAR AS I AND MANY OTHER GREATER SCHOLARS THAN ME ARE CONCERNED; THE BIBLE IS ONE OF THE MOST ACCURATE BOOKS, IF NOT THE MOST ACCURATE BOOK, THERE IS!
Ps. Shane Bryant (OMIN CLC, DDIV, ADIV, BDIV)