Devo 12/1/20: Luke 1:1
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to 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 1:1-4, ESV
Did the Bible fall out of the sky?…
When I was a young child I did not attend church very often. My family was not particularly active in any church, but that isn’t to suggest that my family was unbelieving. As far back into my life as I can remember, I believed that God was real and the Bible was His book. My great-grandmother Irlbacher was an immigrant from Germany, and I can still remember visiting her in her small apartment next door to her Roman Catholic church. She brought me into her church a few times, teaching me the sign of the cross and directing me along the way so that I would be appropriate. That was probably the height of my childhood catechesis.
As I previously stated, I can not remember a time that I didn’t believe the Bible was God’s book. I’m not exactly sure what influenced my thinking on the issue, but I can remember what I assumed to be true. As a young child, I imagined that God had written a book and it descended from the sky to mankind. I’m smiling right now thinking about it. I eventually grew up and realized that my idea was misguided, but now that leads to an important question. If the Holy Bible is God’s Word, then how did we come into possession of it?
Did men write the Bible?…
Look at this first paragraph in Luke’s gospel. Luke is the author. What does he say his goal is for writing? This book is meant to be an orderly account of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Luke tells his reader, addressed as Theophilus, that he had followed the details of Jesus’ story closely for a long while and was well acquainted with the eyewitnesses of Jesus. Luke will endeavor to report accurately the life of Jesus by compiling those eyewitness accounts into a kind of history that will help the Christian reader to be more assured of all he has been taught.
Yes, men did write the Bible. But, does that truth exclude God from the work? The Christian teaching of inspiration (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Pet 1:21) is that God has mysteriously worked in and through the authors of scripture to produce the Holy Scriptures. The result of this miracle is the production of the written Word of God.
Are there missing Gospels?…
Look again at Luke 1:1-4 and pay attention to the first sentence. What does Luke mean by saying, “…many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us…”. Luke wants us to recognize that he is not the first person to compile a narrative of the person and work of Jesus. He wouldn’t be the last either. How many people attempted to write Jesus’ story? There are several ancient writings that are popularly regarded as “missing gospels”. Could Christians be missing books of the Bible that they ought to have? No. The four gospels we have are the only Gospels given by divine inspiration.
When you hear about “missing” or “lost” gospels you can be assured that just because an ancient book talks about Jesus does not make that writing an authentic gospel. While modern scholarship does debate the origin and antiquity of those so-called “missing gospels”, the evidence seems to suggest that they are all written after the first century. The only gospels written in the first century that we have today are the four gospels contained in our modern Bibles. Furthermore, the four gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were the only gospels recognized by the early church as authoritative. For example, Irenaeus, a brilliant Bishop of the second century wrote an apologetic work known as “Against Heresies” where he denies that there can be any other true gospel than the four we know and love.
“It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal wind, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and the ground” of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breaking out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit.”Iraneaus, Against Heresies book III, 11.8
The task of writing down the life and ministry of Jesus Christ was clearly an undertaking. Luke’s commitment to the reader in his opening paragraph helps us to see his intention isn’t to entertain, to scandalize, or to dramatize the events for the benefit of his audience. Luke’s goal is, to tell the truth. His gospel isn’t an embellishment or mythology. This story is for the education, preservation, and encouragement of the Christian faith. Luke has retraced the steps of the Messiah through interviewing the eyewitnesses in order to uncover the Truth. He writes as a Christian man to Christian people, but his most important audience is the Lord Himself. Luke must tell this story properly because he knows his Lord has commissioned him. The courage to undertake such a task must come from the confidence that whatever our Lord commands to be done, our Lord provides grace for the accomplishment of His command.