Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 1:1-4 – The Gospel Truth

Grace For The Journey

I really feel that God has guided me to begin a verse-by-verse study of the Book of Luke.  I believe strongly in expositional preaching, preaching and studying through Books of the Bible together and learning from the Spirit of God as He teaches us in His Word.  It has been my practice for quite some time now to preach through Books of the Bible.  The Apostle Paul speaks of the importance of teaching “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27.) and, for that reason, I have tried to strike a balance between Old and New Testaments literature that make up the 66 books of the Bible.

Why preach through books of the Bible?  First, it is the best way to do as Paul said in Acts 20:7, to “not neglect declaring the whole counsel of God.”  I believe that is an essential assignment of the pastor/shepherd.  2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 

Because all Scripture is profitable,

All Scripture should be preached.

This means that I am to do my best to present a healthy spiritual diet from Old and New Testament Books that make up the Bible.   

Another benefit of preaching through books of the Bible include not only that we will get the healthiest diet of spiritual food, but it also protects the preacher from preaching only his favorite parts of the Bible. 

  • Some preachers enjoy preaching on the 2nd Coming and do so every week.
  • Some enjoy preaching on the love of God and do so every week. 
  • Other preachers focus on a particular doctrine or a particular theological system and search for passages that support it and teach it every week. 

Going through books of the Bible forces us to deal with things we may not otherwise deal with, the hard sayings of Jesus, for example, or difficult questions the Bible raises.  We grow more healthily when we study through books of the Bible.

So today we begin a study of perhaps the most favorite Gospel in the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke.  Luke is by far the longest Gospel in the New Testament and, when you consider that Luke also wrote the Book of Acts, then you become aware of the fact that Luke is responsible for over a quarter of the content of the New Testament.  Luke is described in Colossians 4:14 as, “the beloved physician.”  He traveled with the Apostle Paul on a number of his missionary journeys and stayed with him to the end.  In what most scholars believe to be Paul’s last letter, 2 Timothy, Paul, awaiting trial sometime before his execution writes in 2 Timothy 4:11, “Only Luke is with me.”

Luke writes this Gospel account around the year AD 60, though we cannot be certain of the exact date.  Luke is especially unique in a number of ways. 

1) Because it is the longest Gospel it contains information that is not found in the other Gospels. 

For example, the first two chapters are really not found in the other Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John. 

2) Also unique to Luke’s Gospel are the great story of Zacchaeus, the “wee little man,” and many popular parables, at least 18 occurring only in Luke. 

These include the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Pharisee and the tax collector, the rich man and Lazarus, and one of our favorites: the Prodigal Son.

3) The word “save” or “salvation” is stressed much in Luke’s Gospel. 

It is interesting that the word “salvation” does not even occur in Matthew and Mark.  This is one reason many believe the key verse of Luke to be Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”

4) There are other emphases in Luke that are worthy of noting this morning.  For example . . .

  • Luke talks more about possessions than any other Gospel writer. 
  • He is very much concerned about our understanding the danger of riches and material wealth. 
  • He also has a special place in his heart for women and children. 
  • He stresses the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • Another great theme in this book is what some call “the great reversal.” 

He will stress Jesus’ teaching, for example, that “the first will be last and the last will be first (13:30).”

5) Luke’s major aim in writing this Gospel is missional. 

He writes to point us to the truth of Who Jesus Christ is.  He teaches us about the Son of God who became Son of Man, living a perfect life in our place, and dying to take the punishment we deserved for our sins. 

Our study today focuses on “The Gospel Truth.”  That is a phrase you hear sometimes when people want to stress that they are really telling the truth.  Sometimes they will say, “You’ve got to believe me.  It’s the Gospel truth!”  From an historical standpoint, the slang use of this phrase reveals that even secular society recognizes that the Gospel is considered true by those who believe.

Luke’s major purpose in writing this Gospel

Is to assure us that what we

Are reading and studying is true.

You see that in these opening verses.  Luke is writing to an unknown man by the name of Theophilus and Luke says he is writing to Theophilus there in verse 4, “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.”

It is from verse 4, from this purpose statement of Luke’s, that we find the title of our sermon series: “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”  There are many things that are not certain about the times in which we live. 

  • How certain are you, for example, that you will keep your job? 
  • How certain are you that your investments will grow in value in the days ahead? 
  • How certain are you that your health will remain good? 
  • How certain are you that you will have no problems at your school this week? 
  • How certain are you that you will have no problems in your marriage or in your family, or anywhere else? 

We may all respond differently relative to our own challenges and concerns but, at the end of the day, we cannot be completely certain of very much.  For this reason, some will argue that we cannot be certain about anything.   Existentialists and other philosophical systems deny the existence of absolute truth.  They believe you cannot depend on anything and you cannot know anything with certainty so just live in the moment.

But Luke says . . .

There is one thing about which

We may be absolutely certain:

The Gospel.  The Gospel is true. 

Jesus Christ is real.  He is the Son of God. 

He died on the cross for our sins that we may be saved.

You may have this certainty in uncertain times.

As we study these first four verses of Luke chapter, we will discover some important characteristics of Christian truth . . .

I.  Christianity is Reliable Truth – Verses 1-2.

We learn in verse 3, that Luke is writing to this man named Theophilus.  It means “friend of God” or “lover of God.”  We do not really know who this guy is and so I will not speculate.  That Luke refers to him as “most excellent” Theophilus suggests that he may be of some royal position.  One of the main reasons we know that Luke wrote the Book of Acts is because he speaks of Theophilus in his introduction to that Book, as well.  Acts, chapter 1, verses 1-3 says, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  Here, Luke addresses again Theophilus.  Luke refers to his “former account.”  The former account “of all that Jesus began both to do and teach” is the Book of Luke.  This leads us to understand that Luke’s Gospel is Volume 1 and the Book of Acts is Volume 2.  Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.

In Luke chapter 1 we read about Luke’s concern for accuracy.  Christianity is reliable truth.  Verses 1 says, “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us.”  Luke says that “many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us.”  He is talking about the true events of Jesus Christ.  He is talking about the life and ministry of Jesus.  He says that “many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us.”  Many have undertaken the job of writing down an orderly account of the true events of Jesus.  The “things which have been fulfilled” refer to how Jesus’ life and death fulfilled the Old Testament teachings and expectations of a coming Messiah, the Savior and Deliverer who would save people from their sins.  In none of the other Gospels do we read so many quotes and allusions to Old Testament prophecies of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as we read in Luke’s Gospel.

Luke says, “Many” have taken up this task.  Perhaps Luke had in hand the Gospel of Mark, believed by most to the oldest of the Gospels, but more importantly, Luke is simply writing that these accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus were all over the place.  Many had written down what they had heard and seen.

In Verse 2 he says, “Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us.”  Luke refers here to reliable eyewitness testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ, namely the 12 Apostles.  They had been with Jesus “from the beginning,” the beginning of His ministry.  They had walked with the Lord Jesus Christ, heard what He had said, seen Him die on the cross, and they had seen Him in His resurrected body, and watched Him ascend up into heaven.  They were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.  They “delivered” what they had seen, writes Luke, “to us,” to believers.

We are reminded here of something almost completely unknown to us in contemporary America.  I am speaking of the oral tradition.  That is, that people would memorize large amounts of material and speak them to others so that they would memorize the material too and pass it along to others.  The Ancient Near East in Jesus’ day was primarily an oral culture.  There were no bookstores, internet access, or phones to text messages.  People passed along information orally.  Accuracy was essential and usually it was spot-on.  Perhaps this seems foreign to us in our modern Western context because of our need to write down anything we wish to remember!  But it was not unusual at all for a Jewish boy before his Bar-Mitzvah at around age 12, to have memorized entire portions of the Old Testament.  This was the way things were done and with careful accuracy.

Luke tells us in verses 1-2 that Christianity is reliable truth.  What we are reading is based on eye-witness testimony.  It is not a collection of fairy tales or wishful thinking. It is truth, reliable truth. 

Secondly . . .

II.  Christianity is Reasonable Truth – Verse 3.

In verse 3, Luke says, “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.”  We see here again Luke’s concern for accuracy!  He writes of his own “perfect understanding of all things from the very first.”  Other translations refer to Luke’s “careful investigation” of the things he heard and read from eye-witness testimony.  He takes all of this material and he writes it down in logical and reasonable fashion.  He writes “an orderly account.”  Luke writes down this true information about the Lord Jesus Christ in a reasonable and practical way.

It is important to remember that

Luke’s primary concern is not

Chronological, but logical. 

His concern is not so much

What happened first, second, third,

And so forth.  His concern is that

These events did, in fact, happen.

And Luke arranges the material in a way that suits his purposes.

This is what we expect of any good biography.  Sometimes biographies take us from adult to child, to adult again, and back to teen years.  It just depends on the writer of the biography and his purposes in writing the biography.  We need to remember that as we read the Gospel of Luke.  There are times when things will not follow a strict, chronological sequence.  And they shouldn’t!  Just as not all Gospels should agree with one another in wooden, rigid, or fashion.

If you interviewed four people who watched a sporting event, you would get four different accounts of the event.  They would all be true, but you would get varying details as they were of particular interest to the individual four persons.  One person stresses what the athlete was wearing, another the athlete’s competition, another still how skillful was the athlete, and so forth.  The most important thing to remember is that Luke is writing his account under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  His “orderly account” is a logical order that suits God’s unique purposes in telling the Gospel story.

Christianity is reliable truth, reasonable truth and, finally . . .

IV.  Christianity is Received Truth – Verse 4.

In verse 4 Luke declares, “That you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.”  Luke says to Theophilus, and to all who will read this Gospel, “I want you to know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” 

We have spoken already of Luke’s concern

That we know the truth of the Gospel.

Now we focus, however, on the

Individual appropriation of the truth.

He writes that Theophilus may know the certainty of those things in which he was “instructed.”  The word “instructed” there refers to teaching. We get the word “catechism” from this Greek word.  It refers to Theophilus’ receiving the truth of the Gospel into his life.  Whoever Theophilus was, he had heard the Gospel and received it into his life.  He had been taught it and he received this truth into his life and began to live it.  And Luke says, “I am writing this to you so that you may know that what you have received is, in fact, absolutely true.”

What difference does all this make to you?

When the Conservative Resurgence began in 1979 I was in seminary in what was thought to be one of the most conservative seminaries in the Southern Baptist Convention.  I had some really great professor who love the Lord and His Word.  They believed it from cover to cover.  I did have a couple who were questionable in their commitment to the accuracy and truthfulness of the Scriptures.  They taught some things in their classes that challenged my view of the Bible.  They were very adept at avoiding and evading questions to their beliefs and teachings.  God used that time to grow me to the point where I became fully convinced of the reliability and truthfulness truth of God’s Word.  I know “the certainty of the things in which I was instructed” by my parents and church as I grew in the faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ   Do you?  Are you willing to stake your life on the truth of God’s Word?

There is very little about which we can be absolutely certain.  But one thing is unmistakably certain in uncertain times

. . .

Jesus Christ is real. 

He died to forgive

You of your sins. 

He died that you

May have eternal life.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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