I am finishing up a study of the Gospel of Luke that we’ve been doing at our mid-week service at The Hill Baptist Church. On Thursdays, I will be posting some of what I shared with our church about Luke. This is the first entry in that series. It deals with the introduction of the book that is found in Luke 1:1-4. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture citations are from the New Revised Standard Version.
In his very helpful book An Introduction to the Gospels, Mitchell Reddish points out that the most important theme of Luke is this: “The Gospel of Luke has an inclusive understanding of the mercy of God. God’s grace and salvation are extended not just to the people of Israel but to all humanity.” (pp. 152-153) Reddish also notes that Most scholars conclude that Luke was written approximately 80-85 C.E. and that while particulars about the place of Luke’s composition and its intended audience cannot be known, it is generally believed that the book was written in a Greek-speaking area outside of Palestine and was addressed to an audience comprised mainly of gentile Christians.
Luke’s Gospel was not the first effort to record the events and meaning of Jesus’ life. Luke used those earlier efforts as source material. He certainly used Mark; that gospel provides Luke’s basic outline and some 50% of Mark’s material appears in Luke. There is also material included in Luke that also appears in Matthew but not in Mark (this is the so-called “Q” material) and then there is material unique to Luke (his infancy narrative, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan, for example).
Luke refers to “the events that have been fulfilled among us”; the life of Jesus as the fulfillment of OT scripture is very important to Luke.
Here Luke refers to oral tradition, the handing down of the traditions by those who were the earliest followers of Christ. By implication Luke says that he was not an eyewitness but is a recorder of what others had seen and passed down.
Luke set out to write an orderly account that would be useful to Theophilus. The name Theophilus means “friend of God” or “beloved of God.” Who was Theophilus? Some options are: (1) the patron of the book; (2) a recent convert who wanted further instruction; (3) a Roman official whom Luke wanted to convince that Christianity was not a threat to the Empire; (4) a symbolic name standing for the entire church.
Full and accurate instruction was the goal of the writing of this gospel. The gospels and other writings that we have in our Bibles are for our instruction and our training in the ways of Christ. We should treasure this heritage that has been handed down to us. We should also be inspired to do the work of learning all that we can about it so that we will be the kinds of servants of Christ that we are called to be.