Pastor Scott Andrews | July 9, 2023
Introduction – Part 2
As we finished the book of Revelation a couple weeks ago, we read in the epilogue, some of John’s final words, don’t add to or take away from the book – that is, the book of Revelation. But, we can, in principle, apply that to all the Bible – don’t add to or take away from the book. Don’t treat it as a buffet, taking what you like, and leaving behind what you don’t.
You see, I suggested a couple weeks ago, if the enemy of our souls, Satan, can get you to question the Word of God, to take away from it, you have taken the first significant step toward deconversion or deconstruction. You see, our faith is built on the truth of God’s inerrant word, so if we begin to question that foundation, our faith can begin to crumble. To be clear, it is a targeted attack. Remember, Satan has been using it since the beginning of time. He used it with Eve in the Garden of Eden. The conversation between the serpent and Eve began with, first words from Satan’s mouth, “Did God really say….”
And the inkling of doubt begins. Eve affirmed what God had said, if we eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we will die. To which Satan responded, you surely will not die. Notice, in very short order, he went from questioning God’s word, to denying God’s word. Then, he held out a promise, a lie to be sure, but a promise she believed: God knows that on the day that you eat, you will be like Him, knowing good from evil. You will decide in your newfound freedom what is right and what is wrong. Isn’t that what the surveys showed last week – by departing the faith, I find myself much freer and happier. Free and happy to do what? What the sin-filled you wants, without any external constraint – from a Creator God who knows what’s best for you.
When Eve saw that the fruit was good for food, a delight to the eye, and desired to make one wise – in her own estimation, free, happy – she took the fruit and ate, and gave it to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. And on that day, they indeed died. Well, unless of course the whole thing is just a fairy tale – she did it, we can do it too. Let’s question God’s word, deny God’s word, and believe the lie that we can be our own gods, masters of our own fate, and thereby be free and happy.
That’s what people leaving the faith say – I need to be me, I need to be true to myself, I need to pursue that which makes me happy. And yet, the heart is deceitfully wicked, who can trust it? I can, as soon as I get rid of anything or anyone that says I’m wicked to the core. As soon as I begin to live my truth. Do you see the progression: questioning God’s word, denying God’s word, becoming your own god, and you decide what is good and what is evil. Setting yourself up as judge of God’s inerrant word. It’s an amazing tactic, as old as creation, and as alive and widespread as ever. The attacks against God’s word, the foundation of our faith, never cease.
With the book of Luke, which we began last week, it began as early as the second century with a guy named Marcion. Now, Marcion was a heretic – he denied much of the truth of the Christian faith – came up with his own. For example, he came up with his own Bible – because there was a lot he didn’t like. And so, he eliminated Matthew, Mark and John – only accepting Luke of the four gospels. But even then, it was a mutilated Luke – he got rid of verses he didn’t like. Do you see? I become the judge of God’s Word, and simply deny what I don’t want to accept. And then, before long, we get rid of God altogether.
The attacks against Luke continued in the 19th and 20th Centuries with so-called scholars – liberal scholars – denying that Luke even wrote the book. Why? Because if Luke, a second generation Christian, a contemporary of Paul, was able to carefully examine all the evidence – to consider what had already been recently written, to consider the oral tradition recently handed down, and to talk to still living eyewitnesses, we have problem. And so, they suggest it was actually written by someone in the second century – removed from the primary sources.
My brothers and sisters, don’t believe the lies of the evil one. Did God really say – yes, He did. You surely will not die. Yes, we will. You can be free and happy. No, we can’t.
And so, begins the process of deconstruction. You’ve seen it in our culture, you’ve seen it among friends and maybe, painfully, you’ve experienced it in your own family. Question the veracity, authenticity, and reliability of the Word of God, and eventually walk away. By the way, have you ever noticed how demeaning and condescending those who walk away get with those of us who stay, who still believe? Kind of pat you on the head as if you still foolishly believe the fairytale. And yet, the truth is, they have been duped by the oldest Satanic tactic of all time.
To be clear, I don’t think a true believer will walk away. John said it this way, they went out from us – they walked away – because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would have no doubt remained with us. So, what we are talking about is people exposed to the truth of the faith, considering or considered the truth of the faith – perhaps even convinced at some point, but never actually committing. Facing the challenges of culture, opposition to the faith, the lies of the enemy, the perceived or real hypocrisy in the church or family, and rejecting the whole thing – walking away. Maybe seeing the forbidden fruit – looks good, delightful, desirable.
But as I suggested last week, Jesus is the antidote to doubt, to deconstruction, to unbelief. But it requires that you believe this is God’s word – or at least give it a fair shake. You see, the attacks against Luke have continued. While he claimed he had carefully investigated the evidence, the liberals continue to question Luke’s reliability. Why, if this is a carefully investigated, historical account, why all the errors? Oh, you didn’t know that? Historical errors?
That’s a fairly common attack as well, questioning the reliability of the historical record, thus throwing the entire account into disrepute, into question, into doubt. I mean, if this is all God’s inspired Word, it has to all be right, right? Right.
I shared this a couple months ago in our core class on the book of Daniel. You see, liberals attacked the book of Daniel as well. It was a favorite target. Because, if Daniel, the Daniel of the 6th Century BC, wrote the book, then he wrote with amazing – more than amazing, supernatural accuracy about the prophecies of four coming world empires – Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. It’s too detailed and too accurate to be prophecy – it must be history. It’s called vaticinium ex eventu – prophecy written after the event. You see, it’s actually history. Plus, you have those miraculous events like the three Hebrew children thrown into fiery furnace and walking out, Daniel and the lion’s den. We can’t accept that – it’s myth, it’s legend.
And so, a big arrow in the quiver of their attacks could be found in Daniel 5. There, we read Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon before it fell to the Medo-Persian Empire. There’s only one problem, the Babylonian historical records had no mention of some king named Belshazzar – the last king was actually named Nabonidus. This is a significant historical error – surely if Daniel wrote the book, who was alive when Babylon fell, he would know who the last king was. Come on, pat you on the head. So, they say, the book was actually written hundreds of years later as religious propaganda, containing amazing prophecies and fantastic stories – neither of which can be trusted. Whoever wrote it, he wrote it after the fact.
Not so fast. In the mid-19th century, in the midst of zealous attacks against Daniel, archeologists uncovered some cuneiform tablets which contained the rest of the story. Actually, Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon, as the Babylonian records show. But, he often spent time in Tiama – in Arabia – and left his son as co-regent – his son named Belshazzar. And suddenly, history caught up with the Bible, and the liberals were left with egg on their faces, as they often are when attacking the Word of God.
Oh, and by the way, if you read the account in Daniel 5, you find that to the one able to interpret the handwriting on the wall, Belshazzar would make that person third ruler in the kingdom. Why third ruler – why not second? Because his dad was first, he was second – and the interpreter, in this case, Daniel, would be third ruler. Who would know that small important detail except one who was actually alive and present? Wow, I guess Daniel wrote the book that bears his name after all – prophecies and all. You see, we have no problem with it being a supernatural book.
The same thing happens with the gospel of Luke. There appeared to be errors in the historical record. Luke got some things wrong – he therefore cannot be trusted. If Luke were such a careful historian, alive at that time, he wouldn’t have made such careless mistakes. Must have been written by non-Luke, much later. Not so fast. As we will see through our study of the book, historical facts have been proven over and over.
In fact, in the early part of the 20th Century, a British atheist archeologist named Sir William Ramsay set out to debunk the truth claims of the gospels and Acts. He decided to follow the alleged footsteps of the Apostle Paul through his missionary journeys by going to all the places the archeologists examined. Along the way, Dr. Ramsay was incredibly converted to Christianity, because he discovered that with “every spade of dirt turned over in those days, some historical aspect of the Gospels [especially Luke] was verified and authenticated. As a result, Ramsay and even other secular historians have said that Luke, apart from inspiration, apart from the divine assistance that he enjoyed, was the most accurate historian of the entire ancient world.” (Sproul) Ramsay himself concluded his study of Luke’s writings with these words, “In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” Because history and science and geography eventually catch up with the Bible.
Now, Luke was not only a careful historian; he was also a capable theologian. After all, he hung out with the Apostle Paul. As we saw last week, his purpose was to provide a carefully investigated, orderly account so that we can know with certainty the things we have been taught. Ans so, as with any author, there are some major themes that appear throughout the book that I want to highlight today – but know this, we will see these over and over through our study.
If there is a theme verse, many suggest it is found in chapter 19, verse 10, which reads, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Please note, that verse comes after the parables of the lost things in chapter 15 – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son – lost but now found. And as in those cases, there is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents. One sinner who was lost, but is now found.
In those and other stories, we find several themes, several topics that are quite important to Luke, and should be to us. Consider the following:
First, salvation and salvation history (that is, the unfolding plan of God) were very important to this author. How Jesus fits into this eternal plan is incredibly important to Luke. I mentioned this last week – he goes to great pains to demonstrate the continuity of the OT with the NT – that we should not, as some have suggested, unhitch from the OT. That’s what Marcion said, by the way, and other current well-known pastors say today who fail to see that continuity.
God’s plan has been unfolding since the beginning of time, and Luke makes sure we understand all of it – from the beginning of creation to the end of time – points forward and backward to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is the apex of the plan of God, and it all fits incredibly together. We looked at the two on the road to Emmaus in the last chapter of the book last week, when we read:
25 And He [Jesus] said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
27 Then beginning with Moses [who wrote Genesis] and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
All the Scripture points to Jesus, and Luke wants us to know that. In fact, in John 5, Jesus said one day to the Jewish religious leaders, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.”
And by the way, when we get to Volume 2 of Luke’s work – that is, the book of Acts, we will find the church carries on the mission of Jesus – to seek and save that which was lost. Of course, the church doesn’t do the saving, but we share the message of salvation. It’s why we are here.
In fact, I found this interesting, but Luke makes more of salvation than any other gospel writer – Matthew, Mark or John. Actually, the word salvation doesn’t appear in Matthew or Mark, and occurs only once in John. Luke uses the word six times, and seven more in Acts. He uses the word Savior twice, starting right at the beginning in Mary’s song, “God my Savior,” and the verb to save appear more often than any NT book. It’s key to understanding Luke – Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.
And who are the lost Jesus is seeking? That’s another key issue for Luke – in his gospel and the book of Acts, we find the gospel extends beyond the Jews – in fact, to everyone who will believe – Jew and Gentile. There is a universality to the proclamation. Not that everyone will be saved, but the offer is extended to all. There are several things to note about that:
Matthew takes Jesus’ genealogy back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. Luke takes Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Adam, the father of all people.
When Jesus is born, the angel and the choir say, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men, with whom He is pleased.”
In Luke, we find the parable of the good Samaritan, or the restored, grateful leper who was also a dirty Samaritan. We read in the prophecy of Simeon as he took the baby Jesus in his arms, “My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all the peoples, A light of revelation for the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Further, Jesus spoke positively of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian. We read of the healing of a centurion’s son.
Jesus talks about people coming from all directions of the compass to sit in the Kingdom of God. And so, the gospel is to be preached to all nations in Luke 24. You see, the truth is, God loves all people. That’s another theme that runs through this book – love. God loves people, and wants all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. He wants you to be convinced and believe the gospel, to stay convinced and continue believing the gospel. Because He loves you.
Now, what people did Jesus save when He came to seek and save the lost. That’s another amazing thing in Luke’s gospel – we get the names of people we hardly see or don’t see at all anywhere else. Here’s the truth – Jesus not only loves the people, all the people of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight – He loves the individual person. He knows you and He sees you. And Luke names them. We hear about Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Martha, Zacchaeus and Simon the Pharisee, and Cleopas.
Which leads to the next very important theme – what kinds of people does Jesus love that Luke records? Well certainly all kinds of people, but he includes people not highly esteemed in first-century society – women and children, the sick and the poor, the sinner and disreputable. You see, Luke gives a very significant place to women. Three-eighths of the people mentioned in Luke are women. That’s incredible – at a time when the rabbis said it was a sin to teach women. Jesus did. He refers to ten women the other gospels do not mention.
We read of Elizabeth, the mother of John; Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary and her sister Martha; of Mary Magdalene and Johanna and Susanna. There are women he does not name, but Jesus knows them: the widow of Nain, the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair, the daughters of Jerusalem, the woman who lost the coin and the widow who kept coming to the judge. The fact is, Jesus elevated women in a culture which devalued them.
Luke had a concern for children as seen in the infancy narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus. We find the only story of Jesus’ boyhood in Luke. Jesus welcomed the children as they came to Him, and forbid them not. Jesus does love the little children, all the children of the world.
Further, Luke records how Jesus came to preach the gospel to the poor. From time of His birth with the shepherds – only Luke records that. Even the family of Jesus was poor, as seen in their offering at the birth of Jesus, two turtledoves. In Nazareth, He quoted Isaiah, that God sent Him to preach the gospel to the poor. Or course, Jesus also cared about the disreputable: as already mentioned, the despised class of shepherds; tax collectors and sinners drew near to Jesus. Luke tells the story of Levi or Matthew, the tax collector, who threw a party for Jesus, and sinners were there. He later called Zacchaeus who shared the same profession. On and on it will go – Jesus chooses people for His gospel that we would often overlook.
Very quickly – three more themes we find in Luke. One is the Holy Spirit – not only in the gospel, but in volume 2, the Acts of the Apostles, perhaps more rightly named, the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Luke mentions the Spirit more than Matthew and Mark combined. The Spirit is prominent from the beginning of this gospel:
- John the Baptist would be filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb.
- Both Elizabeth and Zachariah are said to be filled with the Spirit.
- At her prophesied conception, Mary is told the Spirit would come upon her.
- The Spirit revealed to Simeon who Jesus was.
- John said Jesus would baptize with Spirit and with fire.
- The Spirit came upon Jesus when He was baptized.
- The Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.
- After the temptation, Jesus returned to Galilee filled with the Spirit.
- When He preached in Nazareth, Jesus said the Spirit was upon Him.
- Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is considered the unforgiveable sin.
- Jesus told His followers the Father would give the Spirit to those who ask Him.
- After the resurrection, Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit.
And that’s all in the gospel of Luke – we’ll save the book of Acts for later, but the church is empowered when the Holy Spirit came upon them on the Day of Pentecost. Clearly, the Holy Spirit is important to Luke, and should be to us. When is the last time you thought of this indispensable third person of the Trinity?
The last two themes I’ll simply mention briefly. The importance of prayer is seen in the book – Luke records nine times that Jesus prayed, seven of them only found here. Further, Jesus taught on prayer in either Lord’s Prayer or in the parables about prayer, some only found in Luke.
And finally, we see that joy is an important theme in the book of Luke. The words rejoice and joy are used more in the Gospel of Luke than any other NT book. The book begins with joy at the births of John and Jesus; the book ends with joy at Jesus’ ascension as the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy. There are a number of songs in the book, to include the praise of the angels at the birth of Jesus, the Magnificat and the Benedictus. There is joy over lost things found – the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. There is joy in the presence of the angels over every sinner that repents. In addition to being convinced of Jesus and His gospel, I want us to find joy in knowing Jesus. We shouldn’t have to leave the faith to be happy – Christians should be the most happy people around. We know Jesus.
The last thing I want to give you is a simple outline of the book. Most had outlines that went for pages – I want to give you a short one that breaks the book into its major parts:
- The Prologue (1:1-4)
- The Birth Narratives (1:5-2:52)
- The Preparation for Ministry (3:1-4:13)
- The Galilean Ministry (4:14-9:50)
- The Travel Narratives (9:51-19:48)
- The Passion of Jesus (20:1-23:56)
- The Exaltation of Jesus (24:1-53)
Okay, let me finish with this. As I said last week and again this morning – the gospel of Luke is meant to strengthen your faith, because Jesus is the antidote to doubt. So my goal in this study is found in Luke 24. I want us to have the same response as the two on the road to Emmaus, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us.” I want your hearts to burn with passion for Christ as we learn once more about Him.