Introduction to the Gospel According to Luke

            Following Jesus will turn your life upside-down.  Simply put, that is the heart of the next sermon series at First Southern Baptist Church in Salina, KS.  On January 30th, we will begin the road to Easter by journeying through the Gospel According to Luke.  Notice it is not Luke’s Gospel or Matthew’s Gospel. Instead, it is the Gospel According to Luke. We have only one gospel.  We will be using the Gospel according to Luke.  Luke gives us a unique and interesting insight into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As we journey through Luke, we will see that Jesus changes everything.  He is the promised Messiah and the true Son of God.

Author [1]

            Like all Gospels, Luke is anonymous. The Gospel According to Luke is the first of a two-volume edition attributed to Luke.  Acts is the second volume of Luke’s writings.  The Gospel traces the life of Jesus Christ. Luke follows the life of Jesus from His miraculous birth to His glorifying ascension. The Book of Acts traces the first steps of the Church, her empowerment through the Holy Spirit, and her spread to the ends of the earth.

            Luke was not one of the original twelve.  He was a doctor and a Gentile believer.  In Colossians, Paul calls him, “Luke, the dearly loved physician.”  We know from the “we” passages of Acts (16:10-17; 20:5; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16) that Luke accompanied Paul on his missionary journey.  Therefore, Luke was not only a gentile doctor but also a companion and coworker with Paul. 

            While it is anonymous, we have a firm foundation to accept Dr. Luke as its author.  We have the Muratorian Canon AD170, and the Anti-Marcionite Prologue AD 175 that attest to Luke as the author.  Church father Irenaeus also credits Luke with authorship in AD 185.  Furthermore, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome all support and confirm Luke as the author. While this does not prove Luke wrote this Gospel, it does give us a solid footing on which to place authorship.  

Date[2]

            It is believed that both Matthew and Luke used The Gospel of Mark as a source document.  In Luke 21, there is prophetic language to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, which occurred in AD 70.  If Jesus’ words are predictive, as I believe, the date of Mark and AD 70 set firm bookends for the date of Luke. Furthermore, the last events of the Book of Acts occur in the early to mid AD 60s. Since Luke gives the impression in Acts 1:1  that the Gospel of Luke predates Acts, we can faithfully date the Gospel to the early to mid-60s.  

Purpose

            Luke sets out to give us a well-documented account of the life of Jesus Christ.  In his prologue, Luke shows us the heart of his purpose.  Writing to Theophilus, Luke says he is writing so Theophilus “may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed” (Luke 1:4).  Apparently, Theophilus had been taught of the life of Jesus and this Gospel was written so Theophilus can know for certain that all the things he had learned were true. Jesus is the true Son of God.  Luke makes certain we can know, trust, and believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

            Luke begins his Gospel with one of the richest birth narratives in Scripture.  If not for Luke, we would know very little about Mary’s heart and her obedience to God’s call for her life. The Gospels say very little about Jesus’ childhood.  Again, if it were not for Luke, we would have nothing about Jesus’ childhood.   There is only one story in the Gospels of Jesus’ childhood and Luke provides the story for us.

In a nutshell, Beale and Gladd give a good statement on the purpose of Luke.  They write, “Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah and the fulfillment of Old Testament expectations.  As the Spirit-anointed King, Jesus overthrows Satan and his minions that enslave Israel and the nations in bondage of sin.  Jesus of Nazareth is also the savior and Lord of Israel, who comes to liberate Israel and welcome the nations into the community of Faith.” [3] The Gospel of Luke reaffirms to us exactly who Jesus really is and encourages us to trust Him and believe in him so we too may be welcomed into the body of Christ.

            Read the Gospel according to Luke in one sitting.  As you do, you will see the beauty of Luke’s Gospel as one that encourages all people to trust in Jesus.  Luke gives us a wonderful picture of how salvation is for the Samaritan, tax-collector, the blind, lame, prostitute, and all people. Luke is a story for the outcast, forgotten, broken, overwhelmed, and for those stuck on the fringes of life.  In contrast, Luke presents the Pharisees as leaders who are unwilling to even see the brokenness of people.  Jesus sees people as worthy of his love and death, while the Pharisees see them as an irritant to get rid of. 

            Throughout Luke, you see the Pharisees complaining about the people Jesus hangs out with. Luke notes “Jesus replied to them, it is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32)[4].  Also in chapter 19, in the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus sums up his mission and purpose on the earth as “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). 

            Luke spends the bulk of his Gospel on the road to Jerusalem.  Luke writes in chapter 9, “When the days were coming to a close for him to be taken up, he determined to journey to Jerusalem” (LK 9:51). As you read, remember from the end of Chapter 9, Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem and his impending crucifixion.  At the heart of it all, is a reminder that Jesus came to love, hang out, and redeem sinners. As you read Luke, never miss the heart of Jesus is for all people. 

            At First Southern Baptist Church in Salina, KS, we will use the Gospel According to Luke as our roadmap to Easter.  We will focus on the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.  We will note how Jesus changes everything and will turn your life upside down. If you are a sinner, the hope of this Gospel is for you.  Jesus will turn your life upside-down. He came on a mission of redemption, a journey of reconciliation, and as a sacrifice of atonement so you, a sinner, may find and have eternal life. Luke writes so you can have confidence and be able to completely trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If you are in the area, join us every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and walk to the empty tomb with us. You can also find the recording of the sermon at First Southern Baptist Church – Salina, KS on Facebook. See you soon.


[1]               For information in this introduction, please see most commentaries.  For our purposes, I especially like G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd, The Story Retold: A Biblical Theological Introduction to the New Testament (IVP Academic, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2020.) 99-100.

[2]            Conservative scholars agree in Luke being written before AD 70. In your studies you may find dates as early as the mid to late 50s.  We agree that the Gospel of Mark and the Fall of Jerusalem give us a good range of dates.

[3]               Beale and Gladd, 100.  

[4]            Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the Christian Standard Bible (CBS). Holman Bible Publishers. 2017

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