Category Archives: The Word of God

Study 4 – 1 Corinthians 2:4-16

Words, Spirit and the Mind of Christ

Discussion Question

What would you say are the benefits of being a Christian?

Background

Paul opened his letter to the Corinthians with praise to God because they lack no spiritual gift from Him. They were called into His kingdom by grace and are therefore holy people. The first issue raised, however, is the issue of division in the church which Paul is addressing with them. They are not behaving like the holy people of God, united in mind and thought, but like people of this world. They judge their preachers on the basis of eloquence and persuasion but Paul explains to them that the cross of Christ is all the power that they need. We do not believe the gospel because of beautiful language, but because of the extraordinary God who has revealed the truth to us. Paul is not speaking about human wisdom that they should have confidence in but the truth about God – namely Jesus Christ and him crucified.

We reflected on how the message of the cross is the wisdom of God and also the power of God. The gospel is somehow described as the Spirit’s power.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:4-16

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

What did you see?

Structure

  • The Spirit’s power at work in the gospel (4-5)
  • God has revealed his age old mystery to us by his Spirit (6-10a)
  • Who can know the mind of God but God himself?! (10b-12)
  • Who can understand the mind of God but those who have been given the Spirit (13-16)

In this section, Paul says one simple thing in four different ways: the gospel is brought to us and taught to us by the Spirit of God and no human can claim to have discovered it by their own intelligence. It’s as if he’s saying: no person is a mind reader and if you want to know the mind of God then you need the Spirit of God. If you know the mind of God, it’s because you have been given the Spirit of God.

The Spirit’s power at work in the gospel (4-5)

“My message and my preaching…a demonstration of the Spirit’s power…” Paul lands his previous section on the point that the message of God, (the message of the cross, the testimony about God), originates with God and not man. To further make this point, he shows how it is even delivered to us by God himself. So, when Paul preaches, he is not making up words of wisdom on his own but he is recounting the message of the cross of Christ. I do wonder what people mean when they say “that guy can really preach!” It’s likely that it points to a charismatic and persuasive word of intelligence rather than an exclamation that they heard the word of God through that guy.

“…the Spirit’s power…” Colossians 1:3-9 helps to understand what Paul means here. In that passage, Paul praises God because he can see the results of the gospel working out in the lives of the Colossian church. They received the message of the cross taught properly and they truly understood the grace of God and so understood the hope of eternity. What flowed from that was a life of faith and love. Paul attributes all of that to the work of the Spirit because that is the power of the gospel!

“…so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” No single church, preacher or theological movement ought to take central stage to your faith. When we grow in maturity and when we turn to God in faith, that is the work of God. A healthy church, a faithful preacher, a godly Growth Group are all means of grace but not the authority or master of it. The flip side of this coin is that you must listen for the wisdom of God in your life. This, as Paul has argued, comes from hearing the true gospel and truly understanding the cross of Christ. Flee from gurus and run to the power of the cross.

Now, it’s good to just pause and recognise that there is plenty of wisdom and value in what humans say. It’s good to have doctors and financial advisors and counselors of all sorts but none of them will lead you to salvation and the cure of sin. Self-help books can contain plenty of useful things; psychologists and psychology books are very useful for helping us move forward in our maturity but they will only give us scaffolding for the immediate. Our faith must stand on the power of God.

God has revealed his age old mystery to us by his Spirit (6-10a)

“We do, however, speak a message…” Just because the gospel is the revelation of God from God, it is also something that we hear because people speak it! Hebrews 1:1 says that in the past, God spoke to the human race in many and various ways, but now, he has spoken to us by his Son. We preach Jesus Christ and the cross of Christ and this is the message that we speak.

“…a message of wisdom among the mature…” This word, mature, is about reaching the goal we were meant or designed for. It’s like declaring that those who are not growing in Christ have a stunted growth! Check out these references for a similar use of the word mature: Eph 4:13; Php 3:15; Col 4:12; Heb 5:14; 6:1; Jas 1:4. The mature are those who are hearing the gospel of God and responding in faith.

“…but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” To not mature, it is to not pursuing Christ. The air and flavour of this world is not to pursue Christ and they will not mature in the way that the New Testament describes it. If anyone is offended by this definition of maturity, it must be remembered that Paul is talking about hearing the wisdom of God and that maturity is describing the intention for which God designed the human race! It follows, therefore, that if we seek to mature ourselves apart from the way that God has designed us then we can call it maturity but it is not! It would be like a plant trying to convince you that it would mature far better if it were taken out of the pot and placed on the sandy beach in the sun.

“…God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” God had a plan from the beginning but it was kept secret until the proper time. The word mystery does not refer to something mysterious or mystical, but to something that is a secret. Clues have been handed from God to this earth via the prophets but when Jesus Christ was revealed, God’s great plan was also made known. Ephesians 1:9-10; Romans 16:25. God is patient with his plans. His view of history and human destiny is both authoritative and complete. Our view is so micro and self absorbed. His plans are to include us in glory. This is part of the maturity that God speaks of. Our lives are not to be in pursuit of joy but in pursuit of maturity found only in Christ which is for our own glory.

“None of the rulers of this age…” 1 Cor 1:20; and 1:6 give us the context of what this age refers to. It is humanity this side of heaven. Paul can talk of the people at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and the people in his time as the same age that you and I live in right now. It is the age where many are perishing but those who God has called, who believe in the cross of Christ as the wisdom of God who are being saved.

“None… understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” It’s ironic that we needed to be blind to the plans of God (the mystery) for us to put Jesus to death. If we had seen the plan clearly, we would treat Jesus as God and not crucify him. But then, that would indicate that we could reach holiness and wisdom without the cross.

“What no eye has seen…heard…conceived…God has prepared for those who love him.” Paul alludes to Isaiah 64:4 and reuses the message there to apply it to the post-cross age. Although he doesn’t directly quote from Isaiah, the message is the same. We are not talking about human philosophy when we talk about God and his message of the cross. We are talking about the real and living God who made everything. The revelation of God has not evolved over time through the subconsciousness of the human race. Paul couldn’t get any clearer about this. No person could have made up this stuff! But God has been plotting away since the beginning of time to bring us salvation through the death of Christ and the promise of eternal glory.

PS – I have heard verse 9 used as a kind of whisper about heaven to come. That is, no-one has seen it or can possibly imagine what heaven will be like – but God knows and it will be beautiful. What spoils this narrow interpretation is the way that Verse 10 begins…

“These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.” God is not talking about a secret that is still a secret. He is talking about the mystery of how he is going to make his church holy, righteous and wise. All is done in Christ.

 

Who can know the mind of God but God himself?! (10b-12)

“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Verse 11 makes it clear that this is the Spirit of God AKA the Holy Spirit. Nobody can know the deep things of God apart from God himself. The Holy Spirit is therefore God.

“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?” Who do you really know apart from yourself. Now you might say that you don’t know yourself very well and would love someone to figure you out and let you know! True. But, look at or think about your closest and dearest friend(s). How much do you know them? You never know their thoughts until they speak them or write them! Nobody can ever know me truly like I know me. I will continue to value other people’s insights into my psyche – but my thoughts are my thoughts. My pains are my pains. My emotions are my emotions. Don’t get me started on the things that come to our minds when we are asleep! How to begin to explain what your mind conjured up as a believable story during the night. And then when we speak our mind, is it often only a fraction of what went on inside our brain?

“In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Again, we cannot begin to guess what God is thinking. But what if he revealed to us his thoughts and plans by his Spirit?

“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” We have been given access to the plans and thoughts of God. Notice how Paul explains that the message of the cross is a window into the mind of God. No person has conceived this. The Spirit has revealed that Jesus death on the cross was our substitutionary atonement.

 

Who can understand the mind of God but those who have been given the Spirit (13-16)

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” You could take this sentence out of context in order to show that God gives Spirit words that no person could have invented or understood and therefore show that speaking in tongues of angels is promoted here. But let’s not take it out of context hey? Paul has been talking about audible and understandable words which make up the message of the gospel but that reveal the secret plans of God from eternity. In other words, Paul is saying that this gospel message is not made up but has been give to us by God. The message of 2:4-2:16 is quite repetitive. What’s being challenged by Paul is human wisdom, not human language.

“The person without the Spirit does not accept…cannot understand…because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” Recall that in 1 Corinthians 1:2 the church was described as called. And in 1:26-31 we were reminded that God chose who he would reveal his will to and include in his church. Understanding the gospel with acceptance is a work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus described to Nichodemus (John 3) that the Spirit can’t be seen but His work is plain to see. And in Colossians 1:3-9, Paul can tell that the Spirit of God has been at work because they have responded to the gospel. That is why the gospel is described as the power of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:5).

“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments…” This is a verse to keep in your pocket for good theological discussion! When we come to understand the gospel, we can say that it is we who considered the words, weighed up the evidence and the options and made a judgment call on what to do next BUT only a person with the Spirit can make such a judgment call because only they can consider it as wisdom from God.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” The rhetorical answer is no one, correct? Paul has already concluded that nobody can know the mind of God except God himself. Well…

“But we have the mind of Christ.” Boom! The gift of the Holy Spirit is such an important one that gives us the knowledge of God. Without the gift of the Spirit, we would be blind and stupid fools. Unable to discern the mind of God. But with the Spirit in us, we have the mind of Christ. That is, we are able to be wise and grow in wisdom. The fruit of this is character. The Spirit brings us the gospel of grace, allows us to understand it and conclude that this is right. The Spirit of God then transforms our minds to know the mind of God more and more. And the Spirit of God enables us to discern between right and wrong. This is called maturing in Christ.

What did we learn?

The Spirit of God is like a conduit to the mind of God. He opens our eyes to behold the beauty in the cross and the wisdom in the gospel. No human can possibly conceive the things that God has known and thought for all time. But the Spirit of God is God’s gift to those who love him – indeed the means to loving him. A preacher’s words are no mere words since they uncover, discuss, persuade and exhort the people of God to know the mind of God.

Now what?

Topic A: Turn sermons and daily bible readings into an act of worship. This passage is reminding us about the great privilege we are given when we receive the Spirit of God. We ought to regard the bible and times spent listening to Spirit-filled preachers as moments of the wisdom of God being revealed to us. How often have you skipped reading the bible this week? Are you conscious that you are skipping time spent listening to God?

Topic B: Being thankful for the Holy Spirit. Proof of the Spirit dwelling in you is that you truly understand the grace of God and are growing in maturity. Those who have the Spirit of God living in them have the mind of Christ, are holy and chosen by God to be his people. You are a child of God with God’s commitment to grow you. The Spirit of God is teaching you.

Topic C: Conscious of the foreign nature of this world/age. If it is only those who have the Spirit who can know the mind of God, then everybody else does not and cannot know the mind of God. Yet the majority of people, especially the rulers of this age, do not know God’s mind and will regard the gospel, the church and the cross as foolish. It is important to be aware of this chasm we are living amongst. When interacting with the people of this world, be aware that many do not have the mind of Christ. Knowing this does not make us superior. Knowing this gives us an alert mind to the dangers of thought we live with.

Study 12 – Luke 19:28-48 (41-44)

The King Has Come

Context

Luke has not let us forget that Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. Having fixed his eyes on that destination in Luke 9:51 we finally have arrived with Jesus. On his journey to this place he has taught about the nature of discipleship and the urgency to separate oneself from this world and commit to God’s kingdom now. But we have been told that on arrival into Jerusalem, Jesus will be arrested, handed over to the Romans, mocked and killed but three days later he will rise from the dead. Many, including his disciples, had thought that when Jesus arrived, he would usher in the kingdom of God right there and then.

Jesus is at the doorstep of Jerusalem and crowds have followed him. Among the crowds are the disciples who have left everything to follow him, others who have embraced Jesus as Lord, general onlookers who are enjoying the healings and teachings but have perhaps not yet jumped on board with Jesus. And then there are the Pharisees. We leave this whole series on Luke here with the anticipated arrival into Jerusalem.

Read Luke 19:28-48 (41-44)

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”t

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Observation

Structure

  • 28-31 Jesus sends an advance party
  • 32-40 Jesus’ reception
  • 41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem
  • 45-48 Jesus stirs the pot

 

28-31 Jesus sends an advance party

“Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives…” Bethphage is a village on the Mount of Olives near the road from Jericho to Jerusalem and near Bethany. So, Jesus stops here first before entering the city of Jerusalem itself. Bethany is about 3km from Jerusalem. This is where Mary, Martha and Lazarus live. Also the home of Simon the Lepar where Jesus’ was anointed with perfume (Mark 14:3-9). The Mount of Olives was frequented by Jesus (Luke 21:37; 22:39; see also Matt 24:3; 26:30).

“…you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.” Jesus’ instructions to the two disciples are quite precise, including his prediction of what they might be asked and how to answer. Either Jesus had arranged this colt with the owner on a previous visit or, he is the Sovereign God who knows stuff like this, just like he knew the name of Zacchaeus and that he’d be sitting in a figtree waiting for him. Jesus is deliberately fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. This is a donkey which the Messiah will enter Jerusalem on in victory. As we will see by the response of the people, Jesus is preparing Jerusalem to view Jesus as their King.

“…say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” As just mentioned, Jesus is priming everyone to notice what is happening as he enters. He doesn’t wish to sneak in quietly this time like times before. This entrance into Jerusalem is the one when he comes to be anointed as King.

32-40 Jesus’ reception

“As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.” The two disciples that went ahead of Jesus with the message that “The Lord needs the colt” seems like enough info to get a welcoming crowd to respond with a makeshift red carpet welcome! This is a scene like a true kingly reception. Huge crowds had been attracted to Jesus’ teaching while he travelled toward Jerusalem, so word may have easily reached the city that Jesus was on his way.

“When he came to the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives…” At this point, the journey into Jerusalem becomes real. The road coming out from the Mount of Olives down into the Royal City of David pushes out from the trees to reveal the city in full view. I found a tourist website which contains images of a track down this mountain (important not to wear flip-flops on this road!). https://www.verywellfit.com/mount-of-olives-palm-sunday-and-holy-thursday-walk-4020347

“…the crowd whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God…” As Jerusalem bursts into view, the disciples in the crowd burst into cheer. It is the travelling company of Jesus who have been part of his background crew who stimulate the praise and worship session. It is an exciting moment as they arrive at the city. This is likely to be more than the 12 disciples but those in the crowd who are buzzing for Christ to arrive in Jerusalem.

“…for all the miracles they had seen…” Their witness is of all the amazing things they had seen Jesus do. What accompanied Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God was the affirmation from God through signs and wonders that the Messiah had come. They saw the blind see and the lame walk and they believed that this is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! See Psalm 118:26; Luke 13:35. Psalm 118 is a resounding song of national victory as all of Israel are called to praise the LORD for his victory.

“…Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” Some Pharisees were unimpressed by apparent blasphemy and gave Jesus the opportunity to correct his disciples. IF, for some weird reason, Jesus had accidently chosen the wrong animal to ride into Jerusalem on and give the wrong impression, now was the time for Jesus to apologise and set the record straight with, “I am not the Messiah, sorry to steer you all wrong!” But instead, he says,

“…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” An exaggeration from Jesus to make the point that the disciples are only doing what the world and creation ought to be doing! They are exactly right for saying what they say and for getting excited. They are using the correct emotion for the occasion. Besides, the rocks were relieved that people had finally got something right! See Isaiah 55:12. It is no small moment for the promised King of Israel to finally arrive in the Holy City to claim His eternal throne. We should not overlook this moment as though it is a day like any other day. Jesus is on the move! His face was set on Jerusalem, to win victory for his people, and he is now arriving. The week that follows this arrival will be a week that changes the world.

41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” While the crowd of disciples were celebrating and praising God, Jesus was mourning. He not only knows what is laying ahead for him but he knows that Jerusalem has already been left desolate by God (Luke 13:35). Although the disciples are responding correctly with their joy, Jesus is also correct to be sorrowful for the city that He has been preaching to and shepherding for 1000 years since David took it from the Jebusites and shepherding its people for 1000 years longer when he called Abraham to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldeans and move to the promised land.

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace…” The Kingdom of God has been spoken of in secret all this time. Only after the cross and resurrection, did the converted apostles understand all that had been written about God, the Messiah and the people of Israel. The revelation began in Genesis 3:15 and has been sprinkled across the pages of the Old Testament. The people wanted the Messiah to come to bring peace but the way it would come was not expected by anybody.

“…but now it is hidden from your eyes.” In God’s sovereignty, the people who receive him with gladness today, will either flee or join in on the cries to crucify Jesus in less than a week’s time. They see a triumphant King riding into Jerusalem, but peace will come when that same King gives up his last breath on the cross.

“The days will come upon you when…they will not leave one stone on another…” Jesus must be referring to the destruction of the Temple which took place in 70AD. The Jews who were waiting for the Messiah and did not see him arrive on that day (did not recognise Him as the Messiah) but crucified the carpentar from Nazareth, will have their place of worship taken from them. It is on par with the exile of the people into Babylon. Many still wait for the Messiah to return and are buried on the Mount of Olives so that when he finally arrives, they will rise to life and march into the city. But, the Kingdom of God has already come and it has left the building! When Jesus rose from the dead he instructed his disciples to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations. This Temple has no purpose for God any longer and it never will.

“…because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.” Once Christ has risen, his kingdom will expand to the ends of the world and many in Israel saw the Messiah but did not recognise him.

45-48 Jesus stirs the pot

“…Jesus entered the temple courts…every day he was teaching at the temple.” Jesus has come to his Temple and stands right in the heart of Yahweh worship to teach people. His ministry is not secretive and he is not preaching in upper rooms or small villages any longer.

“…he began to drive out those who were selling.” People had found a money making venture at the place of prayer and worship. Isaiah 56:7 describes the true purpose of the Temple. It was not an exclusive place but for all to come with welcomed sacrifices. Trading money for acceptable sacrifice had become a profitable trade. This robs the place of God of its true purpose.

“But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.” It is just too sad a state of affairs. All of the people listed were to be shepherds to Israel, leading them to repentance and true worship but instead, they want to put the Messiah to death. The betrayal of Jesus illustrates how damning our human race is and how loving God is to put up with us.

“Yet they could not find any way to do it, because the people hung on his words.” So ironic. If only they would hang on his every word too! Don’t you just wish the world would stop speaking for a day and listen to the word of God! This also helps us to see why they needed to find a secret way to arrest Jesus and put him on trial at a secret hour.

Meaning

When Jesus arranged for a donkey to be ridden into Jerusalem, he was making the statement that the Messiah has come. The crowd with him were praising God and giving testimony to the many great things they had seen Jesus do. Returning to the house of prayer every day, the Word of God was present in the Holy City, but rather than being embraced by the leaders, he is hated. Jerusalem will not see the King that is right in its midst. Jesus will bring peace despite Jerusalem’s blindness and hate. The city will be destroyed, but the Messiah will bring the victory of Yahweh and extend peace throughout the world.

 

Application

Topic A: Considering the Holy Land. Jerusalem was the place that God himself had allocated as the position of the Temple. The Temple was the place that God had allocated to meet with His people. The Mount of Olives was the place where Jesus was baptised (tradition holds in the Jordan just passed the Mount of Olives), where he raised Lazarus from the dead (in Bethany), where he arrived victoriously into Jerusalem, where he spent many nights sleeping and praying and where he prayed in anguish the night of his arrest. But the gospel has moved on from there. God dwells with man through the Holy Spirit and by his Word. Where two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, he is there with them. Jerusalem and the surrounding places now serve as historic sites but they are no longer where Jesus has his throne now will it be for there will be a new Jerusalem and a new heaven and a new earth.

Topic B: Praising God with joy! Read through Psalm 118 and spend time rejoicing that God has won the victory over sin and death through Jesus. The day Jesus arrived into Jerusalem is remembered as Palm Sunday because of the other gospels which mention palms as well as cloaks. A joyful Sunday because Jesus actively pronounced himself as King that day and arrived to fulfill prophecy.

Topic C: Hanging off the words of Jesus. We will love Jesus and know Jesus, know God and love God, follow Him and obey Him when we listen to Him. A closed heart, closed ears and closed bible will bring a rebellious response to God. Come to the Lord and listen to him before it is too late.

Luke chapters one and two

Luke 1:1-4

Knowing for certain

Context

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.

Observation

Structure

  • 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.

Meaning

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.

Application

  • 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.