Luke 1:1-4



As we begin this journey through the book of Luke there are three unique points about this book that I want to bring to the forefront.  First, Luke’s sources in completing this book were many and varied. Matthew and John were eyewitnesses to many of the events they wrote about, and many theologians believe Mark’s gospel came from the stories of his father in the faith, Peter.  Luke did not follow Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry; nor did his father in the faith, Paul.  This means, all the information Luke recorded in this book came from reliable sources who did follow Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry.  To compile this book required more than a handful of witnesses.  

Perhaps this explains why Luke records intimate stories relating to the birth and childhood of Jesus that the other three gospels do not.  In all likelihood, he interviewed Mary, and the half-brothers of Jesus, James and Jude.   Not only this, Luke’s Gospel has a more universal appeal than the other Gospels based largely upon testimonies from those people directly related to the story. He records the stories of social outcasts like the prostitute who anointed the feet of Jesus, Zacchaeus the tax collector’s conversion, the repentant thief who died on a cross next to Jesus, the parables of the Prodigal Son and the repentant tax collector, the only healed leper of the ten to come back to praise Jesus for his healing, a Samaritan, etc.  Additionally, Luke gives the testimonies of women to a larger degree than the other Gospels.  He invested time to write the stories of Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, the widow of Nain, the women who financially supported him, the prostitute, Martha and Mary, and the women mourned at the crucifixion of Jesus and his burial.[1]

Second, Luke’s perspective is vastly different than the other three Gospel writers.  He was the only Gentile writer in the New Testament. His cultural and customs background was vastly different than the other penmen of the New Testament.  Even though the Roman Empire controlled much of the world military, the world was still philosophically Hellenistic.  The term “Hellenism” means “Greek life” and one of the distinct features not exhibited in previous philosophical thought was the pursuit of individual happiness.  Each school developed its own principles on what is necessary to achieve happiness[2]and excellence.[3]  During this time, there were unparalleled achievements in arts, drama, philosophy, athletics, and politics.  Ultimately, this led to a self-centered culture where “I” became first, along with unrestrained pride and hubris.  Therefore, within the context of Hellenism, there was a constant tension between excellence and pride.  

Luke’s goal was to presents the Idea person in Jesus Christ who would shatter their idea of the ideal human excellence.  His attitude, teaching, miracles, works, perfection, and death demonstrates the idea person.  As the idea person, Jesus mastered interpersonal relationships, forgiveness and prayer.  These three aspects of Jesus Christ are tied together with humbleness.  

Third, Luke had a different audience in mind than the other Gospel writers.  Matthew had the Jew in mind (lost and saved), Mark had the Roman in mind (lost and saved), John had the lost person in mind but Luke had a saved person in mind. His letter was written to a convert of Jesus Christ with the stated purpose of building upon a foundation that had already been laid (Luke 1:4). No one knows for sure the real identity of Theophilus.  Eusebius believed Theophilus to be King Agrippa the Second.[4]  To further compound the problem, Theophilus was a common Jewish name.[5]  However, based upon the Gentile flavor of this book, Theophilus was probably a Gentile. The only thing we really know about Theophilus is he loved God.  His name means someone who loves God but more than that Luke intimates Theophilus to be a believer and disciple of Jesus Christ.  His name very possibly was given to him based upon his passion for Jesus. Therefore, Luke’s gospel is not focused on converting the lost but strengthening the faith of a person who loves God and someone who wants to know more about His or her Savior.  

Within the introductory sermon, I want to mention three points:


Luke is the author of the Gospel according to Luke.  The Lord being my helper, there are six points I want us to recognize about Luke. First, Luke was faithful to the end. Paul wrote of Luke:  2 Timothy 4:10, 11 – For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.  The context in these two verses shows a contrast between Demas, and Crescens, Titus and Luke.  Paul was imprisoned for the second time and nearing his martyrdom. At a time when Paul would need his friends the most, Demas left him for his love of the present world.  The contrast is between Demas and Luke.  Luke stayed faithful to Paul during his final days and the Lord because he loved the world to come more than his present world. 

The word Paul used for “love” is the highest form of love within the Greek language. Luke’s love for the world to come speaks more than devotion for the world to come.  We can be devoted to something or someone without passionately loving that something or someone. We can fall in love with the pursuit of devotion, instead of the thing being pursued. The religious leaders of Israel loved the pursuit of separation from the world more than the God who called them to be separate.  Conversely, the driving force behind Luke’s faithfulness was not his love for Paul but the world to come. 

In this regard, we can easily diagnose why Luke loved the world to come by viewing who was his father in the faith.  Why was loving Heaven more than this present world easier for Luke than others?  He must have been taught this time and time again by the Apostle Paul.  Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" – 2 Corinthians 5:8. Also, to the church at Philippi, he wrote: "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" – Philippians 1:23.  Paul’s theology on the world to come was to be with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Luke stayed faithful to the end of Paul’s life and as history records, his life because of his love for the world to come where his Savior, Jesus Christ was.  Luke wanted to be with Jesus.  

Second, Luke was passionate about Jesus Christ.  Luke 1:3 - "It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus." The phrase “perfect understanding” indicates Luke did extensive research into the life of Jesus Christ. He was not an eyewitness to the life of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, Luke went to as many eyewitnesses as possible to write the story of Jesus Christ.  This explains why he gives more background into the birth and childhood of Jesus than all the other Gospel writers combined.   He went to as many eyewitnesses as possible because he was passionate about getting the details of the life of Jesus wanted to right. 

Luke’s passion for making sure he got the life of Jesus correct has an application for us.  Luke was willing to go to whomever he needed to glean new insight into the life of Jesus.  How far are we willing to go to make sure we get the story right?  If we are to pursue the life of Jesus correctly than we must do two things.  First, we cannot rely on our emotions, feelings, thoughts but God’s word. Phillip taught the Ethiopian Eunuch about Jesus Christ through God’s word, not his feelings or emotions.  Luke wrote: Acts 8:35 - "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus."  Jesus is not taught through experiences but the truth, God’s word.  We must study God’s word diligently and faithfully if we are to present the right Jesus to the world.  Several years ago, there was a movement within Christianity in a wristband. Etched in the wristband were the letters WWJD – What Would Jesus Do.  I believe many Christians were absolutely sincere in desiring to do what Jesus would do in a giving situation.  The problem was people did not know enough about Jesus or God’s word to make the right decisions regarding what would Jesus Do.  

Second, not only must we study so that we can know what Jesus would do or our expectations in presenting Jesus to the world, we must surrender to the truth that God allowed us to know.  Arguably, the bigger issue is not knowing enough about Jesus but not surrendering to what we already know about Jesus!  If we are to be like Luke in our passion in presenting the right Jesus then we must follow Jesus.  The only way we can follow Jesus is to be totally surrendered to Jesus and His word. Paul wrote: 1 Corinthians 11:1 - "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."  Being a follower of Christ means he calls the shots, not us.  Several years ago, I delivered a helium tank to a particular high school in Cincinnati, Ohio.  While delivery the tanks, I overheard a conversation the baseball coach had with his team captain.  Generally speaking, I am a nosy person, so I took my time and worked quietly so I could hear the conversation.  The head coach asked his team captain advice regarding a current situation on the team. This is not the kind of relationship we have with Jesus.  He is not our coach or guidance counsellor.  He is the Lord, and He is not invested in our advice or counsel regarding His word or following Him.  He expects us to embrace His Lordship and follow Him, without question.  The word “followers” in 1 Corinthians 11:1 means to imitate the person you are following.  We will never present a good Jesus to the world if we are not imitating Him in everything.  

Third, whenever I think about Luke, I am reminded that no one is beyond the grip of hope and salvation. Luke’s salvation gives hope to many Christians that God will save their loved ones.  After all, if God can save Luke than He can save anyone.   Humanly speaking, Luke had two qualities that made it difficult for him to be saved: first, he was a Gentile.  The Jews viewed the Gentiles as moral deviance.  A second-century sage Rabbi named Shimon bar Yohai believed the best of the Gentiles should be killed.[6]  Even though the Jewish Christians in the first century did not take as extreme a view as Shimon bar Yohai, they nevertheless did not believe the Gentiles deserved salvation.  In Acts 11, Peter returns to the church at Jerusalem after preaching the Gospel to Cornelius, his household and servants. The Jewish Christians contended with Peter regarding his entering into the house a Gentile home and eating with Gentiles (Acts 11:1-3). So, for Luke to be saved meant that God did the impossible in the mind of many early Jewish converts. 

The second quality against Luke being saved was his education. He was a physician. Yes, there were many physicians who were nothing more than phonies during the first century, Luke does not seem to be a phoney. Medical Schools began in the first century,[7]and based upon the recommendation of Paul, Luke probably went to medical school because he knew his how to practice medicine. He comes across as someone who would have gone to medical school. Going through medical school would have merged philosophy and science to the curriculum. He would have been taught Plato and Hippocrates theories and philosophies on medicine.[8]Paul wrote regarding salvation: 1 Corinthians 1:26 -  "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called."  Yet, despite these disadvantages in being saved, the Lord had the power to save this educated Gentile named Luke. 

This meant, someone defied the odds and preached the Gospel of hope to Luke.  We must have confidence in the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit in working in the heart of the unbeliever.  

Fourth, Luke loved people. There were two philosophical schools of thought in the first century regarding how doctors should provide medical care for their patients. The first school of thought was promoted by Plato in the 4thand 3rdcenturies BC. He believed medicine should be practiced with the greater good for society in mind. The other school of thought came from Hippocrates. He believed medicine should be practiced with the individual in mind.  He emphasized the doctor/patient relationship.[9]  There is a significant difference between the two.  You may remember, in 2017 the UK decided not to provide any more care for a baby. They decided to discontinue any additional care because “he had remained unresponsive to treatment and his condition has rapidly declined.”[10]  They believed there was significant brain damage.  This decision was not based upon the individual, but the good of society. Society was spending too much money to keep him alive and they were not getting their return on investment for his care. Hippocrates would have focused on the individual and not society; therefore, provided care until the child passed.  I do not know the school Luke embraced before salvation but I do know the school he embraced after salvation.  Based on Paul’s statement regarding Luke’s position as a physician, he most certainly supported the doctor/ patient relationship rather than what was good for society.  Paul wrote: Colossians 4:14 - Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.  Individuals were important to Luke because he loved people more than society as a whole. 

Fifth, Luke’s humility. Even though Luke wrote more of the NT than any other writer (if we base this on word count), he never once mentioned himself in the first person. The only time he included himself was when he had to; usually within the framework of a group setting – “we.”  He never spoke of his accomplishments, family background, education, or successes.  He kept the story away from him as much as possible.  The only reason we know that Luke was a physician is by Paul.  


Theophilus was the recipient of this Gospel.  I do not want to spend time discussing who Theophilus could have been.  Luke did not go into any detail, so our best answers would be educated guesses.  Instead, I want us to focus primarily on two points regarding Theophilus. First, his name means “a lover of God.” Luke wrote this Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles to a man who loved God. He did not write this Gospel to convert Theophilus but to strengthen him in his faith. To continue what someone else had started (Luke 1:4). This is important to see for two reasons: first, by deduction, this Gospel will benefit anyone who loves God and desires to have more knowledge about Jesus Christ. You and I are the Theophilus’ of this Gospel. Second, we must continue to grow in our salvation. Being saved is wonderful but God help us never to be satisfied with just being saved.

There is a second point about Theophilus, namely, he was teachable.  Theophilus wanted to know more about Jesus from someone who knew. The Lord has allowed me to pastor for seven-plus years, and before this, serve as a youth pastor for several years.  Regardless of age or background, I have witnessed more people unteachable people than teachable people.  A person who has a teachable spirit will surrender to the lessons taught; rather than, continue on without change.  


Last, the purpose of this Gospel.  Luke wanted Theophilus to “know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:4).  The word “certainty” means “not to slip or fall.” Luke understood there would be naysayers of Jesus Christ.  He served with the Apostle Paul long enough to know the power and influence these naysayers have on new converts of Jesus Christ.  Luke did not want a naysayer coming along teaching an untruth about Jesus Christ that would cause Theophilus to trip and fall.  Luke wanted Theophilus to be anchored in the Rock; so, no matter who came along trying to convince him of an untruth about Jesus, Theophilus would stay true to the words of God.  



[1]Robert H. Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 238-39.

[2]James Fieser, “Hellenistic Philosophy - from the History of Philosophy: A Short Survey,” University of Tennessee Martin, September 1, 2017,

[3]G. Capmpbell Morgan, The God Who Cares (Old Tappan, N.J.: F.H. Revell, 1987), 7.

[4]Gordon Franz, “Luke the Physician: With,” Bible Archeology, January 23, 2014,

[5]BRYANT EVANS, “Who Is Theophilus?,” Preachers Study, October 11, 2011,

[6]MLJ, “Overview: Attitude Towards Non-jews,” My Jewish Learning Center, accessed December 9, 2018,

[7]“Ancient Roman Doctors,” UNRV - Roman History, accessed December 9, 2018,

[8]Gordon Franz, “Luke the Physician: With,” Bible Archeology, January 23, 2014,

[9]Gordon Franz, “Luke the Physician: With,” Bible Archeology, January 23, 2014,

[10]Susan Scutti, “Alfie Evans Not Allowed to Leave Country, Uk Court Says,” CNN, April 26, 2018,