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Luke 1:1-4 and a most important job

Originally posted November 26, 2017.

Much of this blog is devoted to the subject of work, typically paid work.

But some of the most important jobs in history have not been paid jobs. The authors of the Bible – the only authors to have ever written something inspired by God – had an extremely important job. I don’t think they received a salary or official pay for it, but their work has reaped dividends for years to come.

I think especially about Luke, author of the aptly named book called Luke. It’s often well known for the Christmas story account in Luke 2. I’ve enjoyed reading the first few verses of its account the last couple of years.

I used to wonder how the authors became inspired to write the Word of God. Did they just magically know what happened? Some may have had dreams, others were actual eyewitnesses of what happened, and others had to gather information.

After reading the first few verses of Luke – verses that many of us will skim over initially – it appears that he had to gather information. He was inspired to write the book of Luke, but he still had to do the legwork.

Below are some of my thoughts on Luke 1:1-4.

I sometimes wonder what December and the rest of winter would be if it weren’t for Christmas. It’s a cold time of the year. The sky is gray often, it gets dark outside sooner, and the cold causes people to stay inside more often. Without Christmas, we wouldn’t have the Christmas lights, the music, or the Christmas spirit. It would just be a cold, dark season. Thank goodness for Christmas for bringing light and cheerfulness to an otherwise dark season.

The Gospel of Luke (along with the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, and John) kicks off after a very dark 400- to 500-year period. Thank goodness for the hope that was ushered in by Christ’s birth. In the first chapter of Luke are two poems and songs of praise – one by Mary and one by Zechariah. What incredible news they had just received. Forget the fact that they had been informed by an angel of the news. It was the message that was delivered to them: Zechariah was to be the father of John the Baptist, and Mary would give birth to the Son of God.

No pressure!

The last time a divinely inspired book of the Bible was written was about 400 years earlier. In the book of Genesis, Eve may have been hoping that her child, Cain, would be the Messiah. The wait was much longer.

But before getting into the story of the birth of Christ, Luke’s divinely inspired book starts by greeting Theophilus. We’re not entirely sure about who Theophilus is, but Luke addresses him with a tremendous amount of respect. Theophilus means “dear to God” or “friend of God. The commentator Matthew Henry suggests that Theophilus is perhaps a magistrate, because Luke addresses him in similar fashion in which Paul addresses the governor Festus in Acts 26:25. If nothing else, multiple commentators seem to agree Theophilus is of high rank.

The first few verses of Luke are ones that many may gloss over, as it may seem to be a superficial introduction. At times I wonder why God chose to include something in the Bible, while other times I greatly wish he had chosen to have his writers go into more detail.

The first few verses are of very important apologetic value, and they stress the fact that many people have spent time studying “the narrative of the things that have been accomplished” among them. (vs. 1). He mentions the “eyewitnesses,” he mentions the “ministers of the word” and he mentions how they brought that information to him and others. (vs. 2). He then concludes that since he was greatly blessed with this information – information about the greatest story ever told – that perhaps he should pass it along to someone else. Luke was greatly blessed by being taught this information. Sometimes the best thing we can do when we learn about something is to teach others.

When I was studying journalism in a Christian college, I remember a journalism teacher told me that Luke was in ways like a reporter. He gathered information and began writing about it.

This all shows us that despite God’s supernatural intervention, in His providence he also allowed for study and eyewitness accounts to the story of Jesus and his life and work while on earth. Despite God’s omnipotence, He still expects and requires careful study and careful teaching.

Evidently God did not choose to simply magically or mystically allow people to suddenly know what happened. It still required study, it involved speaking with eyewitnesses, and it involved teaching. And as Luke points out in verse 3, it involved the person being taught to then teach someone else.

And why did Luke decide to give this account to Theophilus and to us? His answer is in verse 4: “That you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” Evidently Theophilus had already been taught about Christ, at least in part. It evidently doesn’t hurt to hear the story again, although perhaps by a different perspective. There were hundreds of eyewitness accounts, there was an oral story going on just years after Christ’s resurrection (as a study of I Corinthians 15 will show), and we have the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and John. Evidently in God’s providence the Gospel of Luke was important. And how thankful we should be for the Gospel of Luke! He brings a lot of details and information to the account that are enriching in many ways.

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