The Expository Files



 Luke. 1:1-4

"Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed," Lk. 1:1-4.

When you need objective information on any subject, what kind of information do you want? You don't want to be misinformed. You don't want to sort through a dozen opinions. You don't want to be deceived or misled. You don't want mere media sensationalism. You want the truth. If we seek to be informed on some subject, we value good information; we want the truth.

I believe, in the passage above, there were at least two people who had this interest, Luke and Theophilus. Luke wanted Theophilus to know "the certainty" concerning the things he had been taught. Theophilus - based on this reference and Acts 1 - sought to be informed correctly about those things that pertain to Jesus Christ. Both author and reader placed the highest value on the truth, a true account concerning Jesus Christ.

Only this gospel writer begins this way. Matthew begins with the genealogy of Christ. Mark simply gives his gospel a short introduction: "the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ." John begins with who Jesus Christ is. Only Luke begins with this prologue, which is very formal; a common literary way to begin a document and the emphasis here lies in accuracy, in certainty. This shows the highest interests in truth beginning with . . .

Luke's Indication of Eyewitnesses

In 1965, a man by the name of Al Primo was the news directory of a Philadelphia TV station, KYW-TV. In a highly competitive market, they were looking for some slogan or phrase to re-craft their news program. Al Primo created a format called, "Eyewitness" news. They implemented the new format, under the title, EYEWITNESS NEWS. The format quickly brought the ratings of KYW-TV up, and they surged past the longtime leader for first place. In 1968, Primo moved to WABC in New York and took the format with him. Today, all over the country, local TV stations use the catchphrase, Eyewitness News. {Nobody says that quite like Marvin Zindler in Houston.}

In the judicial system, especially in criminal cases, if Prosecutors have eyewitnesses they present their case with more confidence. If the eyewitnesses agree and there are several who report seeing the same thing, the verdict for conviction is assured. You will hear lawyers say that the more eyewitness they have, who give the same testimony - the better their case.

In the Bible, not long into the early pages of the Old Testament, you can see clearly the value of eyewitnesses. Under the Mosaic Law, you couldn't just accuse anybody of anything. It was necessary to have evidence and eyewitnesses were highly regarded. Not only in the Mosaic code, but in Matt. 18:16 and in 2 Cor. 13:1, it says - "let every word be established."

When the gospel of Christ was presented to the world, and as it was being written by inspiration, eyewitnesses came forward, who had witnessed not only the life of Christ and His death, but His resurrection!

The apostle Peter made this fundamental: "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him for the Excellent Glory: 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain," (2 Pet. 1:16-18).

There were some in Corinth who claimed, "there is no resurrection of the dead." The apostle Paul responded to that: "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time," (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

The apostles didn't just make up the gospel story. The resurrection of Christ didn't begin as a rumor, that became a tradition, defended by people who didn't know the facts. Eyewitnesses gave such powerful testimony to the facts of the gospel, men who opposed the gospel didn't deny the facts, they went after the messengers (see the book of Acts).

Simon Greenleaf, one of the greatest authorities on legal evidences, concluded and wrote many years ago: "It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had no Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact."

So it was that Luke wrote to Theophilus, that from the beginning there were eyewitnesses who confirmed and delivered the story of Jesus Christ. The testimony was, He Is Risen!

Our confidence can be the same today. Everything about our faith and practice today rests on the historical fact of Christ's Resurrection. The meaning we attach to being a Christian; the purpose of our work; the strength for that work and the hope we enjoy.

It is like Peter said: "...His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (1 Pet. 1:3).

Luke said to his friend: "it seemed good to me."

There is another passage in the writings of Luke using the same expression. In Acts 15:25, in the letter sent out by the apostles after the meeting in Jerusalem over issues of Judaism, it said: " seemed good to us..." I take that, not to imply any doubt, but to mean - something called for; spiritually good, necessary.

We have just observed, Christianity is a religion built on facts; notably, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But those facts will never have the intended force, until it seems good to us to provide this information; to deliver the message to people.

Just as it seemed good to Luke, it should seem good to us to undertake the work of dispensing this vital information. {Now Luke was inspired by the Holy Spirit. One translation says, he "had perfect understanding of all things from the very first." While this includes his own information and research, there was oversight and guidance in writing that we do not claim, when we speak or write today. Yet, these inspired men who gave us the New Testament were not without volition or free will; they were compelled by sincere motive, to instruct people in the truth, and to teach Christians, that they might have certainty concerning the things of the gospel.}

Christians today need such will and motive. Does it seem good to you to speak to your friends and neighbors about the gospel of Christ? Does it seem good to you to tell people that Jesus is the Head of one church? Does it seem good to you to encourage people to read the Bible, to have the information that was sent to Theophilus? Does it seem good to you to pray for the furtherance of the gospel and participate to the full extent of your ability?

Luke was not just a writer. He was a man, not only who knew the facts - he was moved by those facts. I believe he knew of the sin that is the ruin of the race. He was convinced, Jesus "presented himself alive to" many witnesses, involving "many infallible proofs." He knew well the events of the Day of Pentecost. It was his steadfast purpose, not only to understand the significance of what was happening - but to call upon others to believe and obey Christ.

It all seemed good to him and it needs to call forth our efforts, in our time, with good motive, accompanied by prayer and every resource we can apply to the work.

Then, I want us to see that phrase again, in verse 4:

"That you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught."

I hope it is true of each one of us that we want accuracy; we want certainty about those things that pertain to Jesus Christ. Have you noticed in recent time, there has been a resurgence of interest in who Jesus Christ is? But the loudest voices seem to have no idea who He is!!

Every holiday season, the TV networks and cable news magazines present to their audiences the modern speculation, the recent findings, the buzz in the academic world about who Jesus of Nazareth really was. Men who are called "scholars" will get together and report their research and debate the revisionists' questions. You hear about the DaVinci Code, the so-called Gospel of Judas and the various oral traditions.

It seems to me - when I watch and read about all of this - there is a strong element of about 50% imagination, and 50% unbelief. It is pooled unbelief, that finds enough popularity and financing to reach people.

Often, attempts are made to prove preconceived skepticism and that imprint of unbelief is so transparent, you know you are going to hear more folklore than faith . . . more fraud than fact.

Such was the case last month when James Cameron and the Discovery Channel tried to stir up another skeptical enterprise. You've heard, no doubt, about the Jesus Tomb. Based on poor statistical analysis; implicitly corrupt historical models, and I think - unholy desire to cash in, press conferences and a TV special propelled another fraud on the public.

I'm at the place where I don't believe all these sensational claims require a detailed response. Let us do what Luke did and direct people to the accuracy of the gospel. If you want to know The Real Jesus, He emerges from the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Instead of trafficking in presumptions and fantasy listen humbly to the gospel accounts. Give yourself to a fresh reading of the Bible - - without the ideological framework of humanism and modernism, and skepticism.

You will find simple, powerful honesty and evidence you can get in touch with, without the exploitive academic credentials men glory in. Approach the text of Scripture with a good and honest heart. You'll discover one who "committed no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." He authenticated His power to forgive sins by giving a paralytic the power to walk. He predicted His own death and it all came to pass just as He said. He was a teacher come from God, and He practiced what He preached.

No one ever thought like He thought. No one ever claimed what He claimed. No one ever taught what He taught. No one ever lived like He lived. No one ever died like He died. And though His own family and His own men were not ready for it - He arose from the dead. The compelling evidence of that history, Luke says, can be known with certainty!

The heart of the gospel is that Christ died, was buried, and was raised to die no more. Great significance is place on this history in the New Testament. These facts mean we can be forgiven and live right; we can be saved. Do not be deceived by the sensational efforts of unbelievers because they cannot change history, and they cannot take from you what you have from God. Read your Bible, put the truth into practice, and know the certainty of these things.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 14.4; April  2007