As we launch into the second half of the Summer Bible Reading Challenge, we begin with the Gospel of Luke this week, followed by Acts next week. These should be thought of as a two-volume book. They really are inseparable; where Luke leaves off, Acts picks up. Further, it is likely that both books together are a sort of legal briefing which Paul commissioned Luke to write as they were preparing for Paul’s hearing before Caesar (cf. Acts 28:17-20).
You’ll notice that Luke is far more attentive to detail and tedious than the other Gospel writers are, which makes sense given the fact that part of the purpose of this Gospel and Acts is to precisely proclaim the events of Christ’s ministry. Luke tells us in the preface that he is writing unto Theophilus (more on that in a second) “in order (Lk. 1:3).” Matthew Henry asserts that, “When [Luke] was under that voluntary confinement with Paul [in Rome], he had leisure to compile these two histories (and many excellent writings the church has been indebted to a prison for): if so, it was written about twenty-seven years after Christ’s ascension, and about the fourth year of Nero.”
There are three likely options for who Theophilus is. Either a prominent individual believer, a Civil Magistrate (either in Greece or Rome), or a more metaphorical name for the whole church. Given the context of Paul and Luke’s imprisonment in Rome, awaiting a hearing before Nero, it seems probable that this is written to copiously defend the faith before both the Jewish and Gentile leaders. Thus, this is in some sense the first apologetical book in Christian history. Luke begins by announcing the coming of the King in Luke 1-2, and then ends with Paul and the other believers proclaiming Christ’s Kingdom to all the earth (Acts 28:30-31). Luke’s arc in these two volumes is from Incarnation of the Promised One, to the proclamation and miraculous establishment of His Kingdom. All these details are what “are most surely believed among us. (Lk. 1:1).”