Basic Facts from Luke

Basic Facts from Luke

In our new testaments, the third account of Jesus’ life is also the only record addressed to a specific audience, in this case an individual. Theophilus–whose name means “lover of God” –is also the “addressee” of the book of Acts, which is Luke’s sequel to the life of Jesus. Some commentators assert that “Theophilus” is merely a metaphor for all Christians. Theophilus was a fairly common name in the Gentile world of the first century, however, so there is no reason to think Luke was not writing to a specific brother in Christ. In his style, Luke seems to write primarily for Greek/Gentile readers, as he stresses the human perfection of Jesus (from a Greek philosophical perspective, Luke presents Him as the “ideal” man).

Luke acknowledges (1:1-4) that his is not the “first” account of Jesus’ life, and notes that “many others” also wrote about Him, including those who were eyewitnesses (such as Matthew and John). This acknowledgement does not undermine Luke’s inspiration in writing; rather, it emphasizes the high degree of interest the life of Jesus inspired in the ancient population generally, even some thirty years after He returned to heaven. Luke’s statements that he had “followed all things closely for some time” (ESV) and that his purpose was to write an “orderly account” reflect his training and education as a medical doctor (Colossians 4:14) –someone who evidently investigated everything he was told about Jesus very carefully (Luke 1:3), and did not simply accept what he was told without seeing firm evidence or testimony to confirm it. He also presents his evidence in a very logical way, as befits an appeal to the rational (Greek) method of investigating any subject –on one level, Luke’s writing is an appeal to the “intellectual elite” of his day, expressed in a way that would be familiar to them. His stated purpose (v. 4) was to provide a record that could assure Theophilus of complete confidence in his faith in Jesus as the Christ.

Unlike Mark or John, Luke provides a comprehensive view of the Christ, including events that preceded His birth (including the background of John the baptizer’s birth) extending through His resurrection from the dead and ascension back to the Father. According to 2 Timothy 4:11 and Phi-lemon 24, Luke was a traveling companion and coworker of the apostle Paul. The scriptures give us no record whatsoever of his own life or conversion to Christ, however.

In Luke 1:32-33, as the angel Gabriel tells Mary of the Son she is to bear, Luke records the spiritual fulfillment of Nathan’s long-ago prophecy to king David (2 Samuel 7:13) concerning God’s promise to establish his (David’s) throne “forever.” Solomon had fulfilled the part of the prophecy that pertained to building the temple (David had aspired to this goal, 2 Samuel 7:1-3, but God forbade him from it, vv. 4-13). The promise in verses 13 and 16 to establish David’s house and throne “forever,” did NOT pertain to the physical nation of Israel but to spiritual “Israel” –the church of the new testament (Galatians 6:16, cf. Romans 2:28-29). This latter fulfillment occurred on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead; in Acts 2:32-33, Peter shows Jesus as already crowned and reigning over His kingdom, from His throne at the Father’s right hand.

-Dave Rogers

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