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Monday, May 31, 2021

An Introduction to Luke’s Gospel

By Jeff Arnette

     Most scholars will agree that Luke’s gospel account and the book of Acts were written by a disciple named Luke. The Luke found in the New Testament is an interesting character. Truthfully, we do not a whole lot about him. We do not know where he was born nor anything about his death. All we have that hints to Luke’s birthplace and how he and Paul met each other is found in Acts 13:1, where it speaks of Lucian of Cyrene as one of the prophets and teachers at Antioch. If this is Luke, then it seems like they meet each other at Antioch before Paul and Barnabas left on their first missionary journey. From this passage, we can suggest that Luke was a Gentile, like Timothy, and therefore beneficial for Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. He was also important to Paul and his ministry because of his work as a physician. Paul refers to Luke as “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) and this underscores his work with Paul. Several passages suggest to us that Paul suffered from health problems (thorn in his side, etc.) which would be helped by Luke’s presence.
     At some point during the second missionary journey, Luke is with Paul. We can be certain he was with Paul because of the “we” passages found from this point forward (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). We know that his presence with Paul was different from that of Timothy or Mark because he is not listed in the list of his fellow workers in Colossians 4:14 but is listed in Philemon 23-24. I would suggest that this is because Luke began his work with Paul for a medical reason but eventually became that of a fellow worker. One last thing is important to remember about Luke. Near the end of Paul’s life, as recorded in the book of second Timothy, Luke was the only disciple who was still with Paul (2 Tim. 4:11) and was in prison with him.
     Simeon beautifully expresses the redemptive theme of Luke’s account of the gospel as he held Jesus in his arms. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32, ESV)
     Another important aspect of Luke’s gospel is the Holy Spirit. He weaves the work of the Holy Spirit into every part of the life and ministry of Jesus. He does this to emphasize how important the Spirit was to Jesus and His work. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35); descends on Him and remains at His baptism (Luke 3:22); led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4:2), and anointed by the Spirit for His ministry (Luke 4:18). The Holy Spirit is in the background, leading, guiding, empowering Jesus for his work, and is present even when He is not mentioned.
     Another important part of Luke’s gospel is seen in the way Luke points toward the joy experienced by the people when the Messiah is present. The angelic host announced Jesus’ birth with the words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14, ESV). Then, near the end of Luke’s gospel, we see Jesus approaching Jerusalem and the people are praising God. They are singing out, “saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38, ESV)
     All of this suggests that the redemptive theme found in Luke is complex and always points us toward Jesus as the Christ. It includes Gentiles along with the Jews, blends the empowering work into the life of Jesus and His disciples, and strives to bring all of us to a place of joy in Jesus.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


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