Imagine the answers in 40 A.D. if you’d gone around asking people their input on “Jesus of Nazareth”…kind of an ancient “Google search”. In addition to accurate testimony, there would have been wild stories, odd “explanations” and mythical tales. That was the context in which Luke set out to compile his account of Jesus’ life and ministry. In similar fashion, you’d get much of the same from an actual Google search today and Luke’s model is still applicable as we read and write various faith related things. Consider his intro:
“1 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled Or events that have been accomplished, or events most surely believed among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us.3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.” – HCSB
Based on these verses, Luke had three qualities we should look for when considering modern writing:
Question 1: Is the source credible?
Luke had credibility. He was an “Antioch endorsed” missionary assisting Paul. He was personally involved in God’s powerful work throughout the Roman Empire. He was a “learner” and a “practitioner” with his hands directly involved in ministry(Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-21:18, 27:1-28:16, Col. 4:10-14, Philemon 24, II Tim. 4:11). So when considering a Christian related book, post, or email, can you discern anything about the author or origin? I’m not suggesting everyone who writes needs to be an expert (that would knock me out for sure), but anonymity and vagueness are not productive.
Question 2: Are the statements reliable?
Luke stuck to the facts and relied on eyewitness accounts. He says in verse 3 that he “carefully investigated” and then put things in an “orderly sequence”. Imagine that, he got his facts together first before tweeting, uh, I mean writing. As followers of Christ, we are to test every spirit (I John 4:1) and not believe everything we hear. False teachings, rumors, character assassinations and dissensions are much less likely to gain a foothold when we are interested in the truth. In the early days of the Church, many false teachings were cropping up, but thankfully there were men like Luke, Paul, John, Matthew and Mark who were devoted to getting it right and following the Holy Spirit’s lead.
Question 3: What’s the motive for the work?
Luke’s reason for writing was pure. He says in verse 4 to Theophilus, “that you may know the certainty of the things you were taught”. Luke didn’t sit down one afternoon and say, “I think I’ll write some scripture.” He just humbly did what God was leading him to do and was honored for his faithfulness. You get the sense that he was trying to encourage and strengthen Theophilus in his faith…what a great motive. According to the Bible’s standard, all Christian writing should ultimately point to Jesus. Unfortunately, the lines can easily get blurred between what’s for Christ’s glory and what’s for our own. Luke got it right and I’m praying that many in our generation will too.
Series: Thoughts on Luke – Luke 1:1-4