“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us… it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” — Luke 1:1,3-4 (ESV)
When I first came to believe in Jesus, it came mostly through talking and listening to God. Because it came that way, for a few short months I came to believe that I discovered something no one else had. And it scared me to death! What a responsibility it was to have such an important message, and to think that the burden was on me alone to try to communicate it to the rest of the world! Fortunately for me, I discovered that other people believed similarly to me, so I didn’t have to bear the burden alone.
What I was soon to discover was that even more important than having others who believed similarly to me, there was an even stronger foundation I would want to lean on. That foundation is that those beliefs that we carry are recorded in a book called The Bible. And within the Bible, perhaps the most important part of all is the four Gospels which focus on the life of Jesus. Can you imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t rely on the accuracy of anything you heard about Jesus?
Here in these few verses we see that we can rely on what we learn about Jesus, because this man who wrote this particular Gospel — Luke — took great pains to record the truth. He was not a newcomer to the scene, but had been learning and collecting facts for years. We know from other books that Luke was a companion of the Apostle Paul, and would likely have had a chance to interview eyewitnesses of Jesus — maybe even his mother and brother and many of the apostles — first-hand. Furthermore, as he mentioned, there were several written accounts already in circulation from which he could build a most accurate account of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection.
He wrote to Theophilus. It is not clear whether that was a particular person’s name, a person’s title, or, as some speculate, whether it is meant as a name for the reader, since Theophilus can mean loved by God, friend of God, or lover of God. Yet since Luke addresses Theophilus as “most excellent”, which is likely a title of respect for a very high-ranking official, this was probably a particular person. It doesn’t matter, except I like to think that Luke took extra special care in this since he was writing to the “beloved by God”… and I like to think that title is for me, too.
The reason he wrote his account, however, was to give Theophilus, and therefore each one of us, extra assurance that we can be sure that what we read in his Gospel about Jesus is something we can put our faith in. There will always be those who try to tear down the reliability of the Bible — even the Gospel of Luke — but it is doubtful that anyone from this far in time from the life of Jesus could report more accurately — or refute the accuracy of — anything that was written by a person who lived during Jesus lifetime and who went to great pains to accurately report what took place.