Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10/14- Luke 1:1-4 Trustworthiness of the Gospel

(10th cenury Byzantine icon of Luke)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

10/14- Luke 1

1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)

Calvin abridged: Luke is the only Evangelist who has a preface to his Gospel, for the purpose of explaining briefly his motive for writing. Some say that Luke wrote to godly people who loved God [the meaning of the name “Theophilus”]. But here it is the same as Paul’s writings that were addressed to certain individuals and cities though the passage applied to all (I Tim. 1:14; 3:14). “Many have undertaken to draw up an account”- This sounds like a reason to not write a gospel. But Luke was not saying other writings were false as much as he wanted to add to them (especially things that may have been left out, or only oral accounts). God was sorting out, by this the gospels that reflected brightly his adorable majesty from the disgusting stories under the pseudonyms of Nicodemus or others that are palmed upon the world. “fulfilled among us”- refers to things fully ascertained and do not contain any doubt. While faith ultimately rests on the inward confirmation of the Holy Spirit who seals the testimony, once this confirmation is inside of us there is some weight to the knowledge which we obtain by our own observation or the statement of others (historical knowledge). He also intimates that those from whom he had received this information had been divinely authorized to preach the Gospel. It is important that Luke says he uses eyewitnesses. God has used every method to prevent our faith from resting on the doubtful and shifting opinions of human beings. There is less room for excusing the ingratitude of the world that would openly prefer uncertainty in the Gospels, which would come out of vague and unfounded reports. “Carefully investigated”- This notes that a careful examination was performed so that everything in the Gospel had been recorded well as if from a spectator’s viewpoint.

Thoughts: Luke is a necessary fourth viewpoint of Jesus’ life. He approaches his work less like a theologian (than John or Matthew), and more like an historian. The Greco-Roman histories of Luke’s day often contained such a preface. While there were no “modern” scientists in the day, Luke, as a physician, was examining things and giving the most accurate account possible of the life of Jesus. Luke also wrote the history of the early church which we call “The Acts of the Apostles” or shortened to the Book of “Acts” which was also written to “Theophilus” (Acts 1:1). In Luke’s mind, the historical nature of Acts was also the historical nature of his gospel- relying on eyewitnesses and careful investigation. This is in contrast to the Gnostic gospels that have Jesus flying off the roof, or marrying Mary Magdalene, or otherwise making up stories so Jesus appears to do and be more like we want him to do and be. We live in a day in which many are wondering what’s the difference between a false and true gospel, and how do we know which one to believe? Matthew, Mark, Luke and John bore the corroboration of the still living eyewitnesses in the church, including the apostles and their early disciples (like Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp). The gospels were a narrative of Jesus’ life (in contrast to the Gospel of Thomas which only had sayings of Jesus), and were accepted by the Church in the east and the west of the Roman Empire. The word “canonical” means recognized or accepted, and these four gospels were the accepted and recognized gospels of the Church. By the time Luke wrote his gospel, some of the eyewitnesses had died, and there was concern that an authorized gospel be written before others died out. The point is, Luke writes an important, accurate, and corroborated narrative for us inspired by the Holy Spirit and that is used by the Holy Spirit today to convey the greatest story ever told of the greatest life that was ever lived.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord for the life you lived on this earth, and for Luke who recorded your earthly life so that we may be more like you, and know your salvation.

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