♪ [music] ♪ – [D. A. Carson] Everyone who has even an
elementary knowledge of the New Testament knows that it begins Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John. We call them the four Gospels. And sometimes we think “Matthew’s gospel”
and “Mark’s Gospel” and “Luke’s Gospel” but in the original,
that’s not really what is said. What we find instead is “The Gospel
according to Matthew”, “The Gospel according to Mark”, and so forth.
Because from the perspective of the New Testament, there is only one gospel.
But it’s this one gospel according to the witness, the presentation of
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And that’s why there is so much similarity
amongst these four. All of them begin in some way with the beginning of Jesus
and end with his cross and resurrection. Sometimes, often around Easter time,
the mass media talk about The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Peter, second
and third-century documents that some people try to say are as early and as
important as authentic as the four gospels in the Bible. But if you take a look at
The Gospel of Thomas, for example, it’s certainly not “The g=Gospel according to
Thomas”. It’s really a fake document ascribed to Thomas, and it has nothing of
the storyline that the New Testament gospels really have.
There is no account of Jesus’s ministry, no account of his death and resurrection.
It’s simply a collection of 114 sayings or little snippets.
It’s not a gospel in any first-century sense at all. But when we come to the four
gospels in our New Testament, all of them have to do with the gospel,
the good news about Jesus Christ. But this good news is according to
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And in this series, we’re going to be
surveying a great deal of Luke’s presentation,
Luke’s ordering of the gospel. Now, what is really interesting is that
these four gospels all begin in slightly different ways. And Luke begins with four
verses that outline how he went about writing. He did some research.
He said that many people had undertaken to summarize and write documents
regarding the things that surrounded Jesus’ ministry. But he did some research,
he studied these, he talked to people. You can place Luke in all of the early
Christian centers. He talked to people, he knew Paul personally,
he knew Peter personally. He asked questions, he read early church
documents. And then he decided to set out what he calls an orderly account of
the things that happened among them. And he does all of this.
He says in order that this chap that he mentions called Theophilus,
this most noble Theophilus might know the certainty of the things that had happened.
Now, who Theophilus is we really don’t know. He may have been some kind of
patron. In those days publishing was very, very labor-intensive.
There were no printing presses, so manuscripts have to be copied out a few
at a time by a number of scribes taking dictation. So,
copies were expensive and sometimes patrons paid for the copies and that’s
what the publication involved. So, he may have been some rich person who
helped to pay for the publication of Luke’s Gospel. But he was at least
apparently a young Christian who needed to be assured, reassured, of the truth of
the gospel. And so Luke dedicates this to him. That’s worth remembering.
There are a lot of people who think that faith is merely a subjective choice.
“You have your faith, I have my faith. And faith has nothing to do with truth,
faith only has to do religious preference. Who are you to criticize my faith?”
But in the Bible, the word faith is never used that way. In the Bible faith,
amongst other things is the God-given ability to perceive what is true.
And that is why in the New Testament, when the Bible wants to increase faith,
faith in the truth of who God is, faith in what Jesus has done,
faith in his death and resurrection, faith in Jesus personally,
what it does is underscore truth. And by the articulation and defense of the
truth, faith is born and grounded. So, that’s what Paul says that he is doing
when he writes to the Corinthians, it’s what Luke here says he is doing when
he writes to Theophilus, “that you might know the certainty of the things that have
happened among us.” And all of these things he says, are in fulfillment of what has
already been predicted. In other words, the things that he’s about to unpack
regarding Jesus are the accomplishment, the fulfillment of the things already
predicted in Scripture that was given, in centuries before now coming to a crisp
focus in the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension of the Lord Jesus. ♪ [music] ♪