Knowing for certain
Luke writes about the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The book is one of the gospels and helps to open the pages of the New Testament. Luke writes in such a way that while the reader is made aware that there is a backstory to this book, it stands alone as the story of how God brought salvation to mankind.
Luke writes about a time in history which did not go unnoticed by many (see Luke 24:18). It was a period in Israel’s history, about 400 years after the final words of the Old Testament were penned. Although the Jews had returned from Exile, they were currently under the reign of Rome rather than having a Jew for their king. Centuries have passed without a word from Yahweh. Then Jesus came.
- 1:1 Many have written about…
- 1:2 Just as some had seen…
- 1:3 I too decided to write…
- 1:4 So that you may know…
1:1 Many have written about…
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us
Paraphrase: a stack of researchers have attempted to collate the events surrounding [God] fulfilling his word in our time
We don’t know who Luke has in mind when he says ‘many’ nor whether this includes or excludes Matthew, Mark and John. Luke’s overall point in this paragraph is not to put anybody else down but to express his personal intend and qualification.
As to the things fulfilled among us, it is curious that he doesn’t simply say, ‘an account of Jesus Christ the LORD’ similar to Mark’s opening verse. Although the subject of his book obviously centres on Jesus, he emphasises the fulfillment that has taken place ‘among us’. In other words, things have happened in Luke’s modern history which are well worth telling and preserving because they are fulfilling God’s word. That it is God’s word fulfilled may be implied by the end of the second verse.
The things that have happened in Luke’s history are not small things and they have drawn the attention of many researchers and writers and believers. This is no small statement. Luke is not creating an obscure view of history but is marching with many who have heard what happened. Something big has occurred in history and a stack of people are writing about it.
1:2 Just as some had seen…
just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word
Paraphrase: in the same way, those who saw it unfold with their own eyes passed on what they knew to be [from God]
Not only are people writing about these things but it is widely known and spoken about. Luke is referring to news that he can trace back to eyewitnesses. This is like reporting on the events of 9/11.
‘Servants of the word’ could refer to the disciples who were servants of Jesus, known as the Word. This, however, is unlikely as there’s no evidence of anyone referring to Jesus as The Word other than John’s opening statements in his gospel account. More likely is that the eyewitnesses are also believers in God and his word. The promises of God have been fulfilled in the first century. Those who saw it and also believe (as opposed to those who refused to believe even though they too saw) were spreading the stories of what they saw.
1:3 I too decided to write
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
Paraphrase: So, since I’ve researched all this carefully and thoroughly, I’ve made up my mind to write one volume on this whole matter, Theophilus
With this in mind – this too is interesting. Why should it matter whether others are attempting to write an account of the events or not? What is Luke driving at? Surely it is that Luke seeks to testify to the truth, just as the eyewitnesses and many others are doing so. He doesn’t wish to disagree with the other researchers. He doesn’t wish to rewrite history but to do what others are doing, and yet, do it with the expertise and access to the truth that he has been privileged to receive.
Luke’s work is not sloppy, according to him, and he has in mind to write his account with the highest audience in mind. Whoever Theophilus is, he is regarded by Luke to be most excellent! It is possible that Theophilus never existed as a unique person but represented all those who love (phili) God (theos) and Luke wrote in this way to disguise protect his audience from persecution. This is speculative and it is equally possible that Theophilus was a real person. The phrase ‘most excellent’ is a way of referring to someone of importance (eg, Acts 24:3; 26:25).
Luke’s ‘orderly account’ is not to be pushed to mean ‘chronologically perfect’ but simply that his material has been gathered and presented in an orderly and thought through manner. It is quite clear that Luke wrote both Luke and Acts and that these ought to be viewed as two volumes of the same research. This strengthens the idea that Luke is researching the events that have happened among his audience rather than simply writing a history of Jesus.
1:4 so that you may know…
so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Paraphrase: My aim in this is to give you assurance of the facts which support what you have already learned. All that you have heard about Jesus is true – all of it!
‘So that’ is like ‘in order that’. This is his aim! We can all underline this verse in our bibles to get the idea of what Luke wants his readers to ‘get’. Interestingly, he is not writing with the aim to prove something, like John is (see John 20:31). No, Luke is giving the supporting and researched evidence for all that Theophilus has already known and been taught. There is a fine line between these two ambitions.
The bottom line, though, is that Luke desires to preserve the facts and to preserve them in such a way that they are ordered and useful for the faith of those who read it.
Luke is determined to put together a well researched paper concerning the fulfillment of God’s word which has happened in his own history. He aims to give us an account that we can trust since it agrees with all the eyewitnesses and multitude of accounts floating around at the time. Something big has happened in the world and Luke aims to preserve it for all to ready and be assured of its accuracy.
- Being assured of the evidence behind the Christian faith.
- Being assured of the dignity of the bible.
- Being assured that God fulfills his word.
Prayer of the Week
Father, thank you for giving us your word and a multitude of witnesses to your word being fulfilled. Help us in our unbelief to know the certainty of the things that we have been taught. Bless us through these studies so that we may love you more and see your promises clearly. Amen.