“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)
We do not have biographies for most people identified in the New Testament. But it appears clear Luke, the author of that Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, was a Gentile, not a Jew. He had a Greek name, as did his friend Theophilus, and was not among the “men of the circumcision” who were fellow workers with Paul. (Colossians 4:10-14)
Luke was not engaged with Jesus when He walked the earth prior to His ascension. And Luke was not a writer or historian by trade. He was a physician, well-educated but not, in those days, a person of prominence or rank. (Colossians 4:14) The compassion Luke displays in his Gospel for women, the poor, and the marginalized is a wonderful reflection of his experiences in that healing profession.
We do not know when or how Luke became a Christian. His name only appears in scripture three times, always in letters by Paul from a Roman prison near the end of Paul’s ministry. (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 19) But Luke first shows up near the outset of Paul’s second missionary journey to Asia and then Greece. (Acts 16:9-12)
God’s ways are not our ways. We cannot presume to understand all the reasons He chose Luke to write one of the four Gospels or the Book of Acts. We can, however, observe that:
(1) As a Gentile and a companion to the apostle to the Gentiles, Luke could be divinely inspired to write the Gospel that was from a Gentile Christian perspective.
(2) Luke was well-educated, like Paul, and it is clear from Luke’s explanation to Theophilus that Luke played close attention to both what was happening around him and what he was being taught by Paul and others. He saw the need for “an orderly account” – a comprehensive written witness that would live beyond the “eyewitnesses”– and he was driven to the research that would empower him to be that author.
That research included both interviews of eyewitnesses and reading the Gospel of Mark. Most theological experts agree the Gospel of Mark was the first Gospel written, and that it was written by John Mark as he accompanied the apostle Peter and heard his teaching. Almost all the Gospel of Mark is contained in the Gospel of Luke.
I also believe that Mary, mother of Jesus, was personally interviewed by Luke. Where else would he have learned in such detail about the birth of Jesus and the incident in Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old?
All scripture is God-breathed and immensely valuable, but I am confident you will agree with me that the Gospel of Luke and the other three Gospels, which include the actual words of Jesus, are the “cream of the crop”. So, the question is: where is this column really going? As set forth in the title, sometimes you have to write things down.
I identify with Luke. I too am well-educated and spent my early life practicing a secular profession. I too came to Jesus later in life. And I too have never been personally “prominent” – never the pastor of a big church or a sought-after celebrity preacher. My largest “congregation” by far has been those who read this column over the last fifteen years, and I will be forever grateful to the Kingsport Times-News for the opportunity.
The name, “Theophilus”, means “Friend of God”. Eleven years ago, my beloved Christie and I founded Friends of the King Ministries. Six years ago, Christie pressed me to compile my columns in a book: Moon in the Darkness: 100 Reflections on the Kingdom of God. (The columns I have written since then are available on our website.) And last year, during the time I was caring for Christie before she went to heaven, the Lord stirred me to write a new book: Be With Jesus, Be Like Jesus, Be For Jesus: A Path to Christian Maturity and the Next Great Awakening.
There is no gospel of Doug! But I believe this book, which will not fit in the space for this column, explains where all Christians need to be focused in this hour. We have been waiting on God when, in fact, He is waiting on us. Stated in a nutshell, God lives in you. What are you going to do about it?
The book, e-book, and audiobook are available from the publisher, WestBow Press. The book and e-book are also available on Amazon and with other online booksellers.
Sometimes you have to write things down.
God bless you, and God bless our community.