However, where we as Christians tend to fail in our faith is in the little annoyances, which occur daily. Interruptions in our carefully made plans. Aggravations which seem to have absolutely no redeeming value.
Such would have been the experience of the Apostle Paul, had it not been for redeeming value brought to his difficulties by one Doctor Luke.
The Luke about whom we are studying this morning is the same Luke who wrote the book of the Bible which bears his name, the Gospel According to Luke. He also wrote another book of the Bible, which we see in a moment. We know of his medical practice only by a passing reference Paul makes in the letter to Colossians.
7 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me.
8 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts,
9 with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him),
11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.
14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.
These greetings that Paul tacks on to the close of his letters are like the hooks on the sides of jig saw puzzle pieces. The seem to have little significance to the content of the letter, but very often those obscure names are the very key to understanding how, where, and when that letter of Paul fits together with his other letters.
Eight names are listed here:
1st is Tychicus, the courier of this letter.
2nd is Onesimus, whose story we will study another day.
3rd is Aristarchus. You will see his name pop up again.
4th is Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, about whom we studied last week.
5th is Jesus Justus, and 6th is Epaphras. Each of them have a story to tell, but I will not be doing a sermon about either of them.
7th is "Luke the beloved physician" or as the New International Version translates it "our dear friend, Luke, the doctor."
8th is Demas, whose name you will also see again.
In the middle of this list names Paul makes this comment in verse 11: "These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision." This comment alerts us that only Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus are Jews. Epaphras, Luke, and Demas were gentiles.
Doctor Luke, who wrote about Jesus' conception, birth, life, miracles and teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension, was not an eye witness to any of those events. Luke has the distinction of being the only non-Jewish author who contributed to the text of the New Testament.
The next reference you see on our outline is in Paul's letter to Philemon. You will see there the same list of names which we have just read. It is fairly evident that Paul sent two letters to the same place, carried by the same courier. One letter was to be read to the whole church at Colossae. The other was a private letter to Philemon. Lucky for us, both letters made it into the Bible.
Luke was not only a physician, he was an historian, whose accuracy in detail can be amply substantiated by Roman, Greek, and Jewish historians from that period of time. Turn with me to Luke's own writing, The Gospel according to Luke, the first chapter, the first verse:
1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us,
2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us,
3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,
4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
Luke, here states his purpose in writing the story of our Lord's life. He acknowledges that he is not the first to do this. But as an historian, he is able to provide further information than we can glean from Matthew, Mark, and John.
Verse 3, Luke names the intended reader of this history is someone named Theophilus. Do we know of someone with that name? No, I am afraid we don't. And since meaning of this name can actually be translated from the Greek to English, we know that the name Theophilus, means "Friend of God," or "one who loves God." So is Luke sending his work to one person who is actually named Theophilus? Or is he writing for... you, O most excellent Friend of God?
Luke's attention to historical detail in evident in the next verse:
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
First verse of Chapter 2 is similar:
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out
from Caesar Augustus that all the
world should be registered.
2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.
3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
We have quoted this passage at Christmas time, year after year, wondering why Luke plagues us with difficult names and boring details. We can be thankful he did, because this information enables us to accurately date the year of our Lord's birth, at 3 BC.
Not only does Luke give us information to date our Lord's birth, but he then gives us information with which to date the beginning of our Lord's public ministry, and to set his work in historical context:
1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,
2 while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
Luke's attention to historical detail was not limited only to the events in Jesus' life.
1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,
Luke's name appears nowhere in the Book of Acts. But this introduction alerts us right away as to who wrote it.
While Luke carefully avoided citing his own name in this book, he was equally careful to alert us to events in which he was an eye witness and an active participant.
ACTS 16.... Paul is on his second missionary journey.
In the previous chapter Paul and Barnabas had their “no small disagreement” over John Mark, and the two parted company. Barnabas went to Cyprus, and Paul to southeast Turkey. As I alluded two weeks ago, Paul had intended to travel counterclockwise around the coastal areas of Turkey, but God directed otherwise. The story picks up in Chapter 16, verse 7.
7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia,
but the Spirit did not permit
8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
This is the first of what Bible students refer to as the "we" sections of Acts, where Luke the author identifies himself as a participant. Luke never ever tells what his plan and purpose is. He never reports what role he played in Paul's work. He only identifies himself as a fellow traveler.
So Luke joins the party of traveling missionaries at Troas. They go across to Macedonia, and find an opportunity for ministry at Philippi. Those of you who remember the story about Paul and Silas in jail, the earthquake, and the conversion of the jailer, that's where it happened. And Luke was there.
After his release from prison, Paul went south, eventually to Athens and Corinth, where he met Aquila and Priscilla. Luke however, stayed behind in Philippi, to carry on the work that Paul had started there... just as Aquila and Priscilla stayed behind in Ephesus to carry on the work that Paul later started there.
Yet Luke does not tell his own story. From here on out he tells only Paul's story.
Paul comes back to Philippi and meets Luke briefly on his Third missionary journey. One this trip Paul passed south through Macedonia, spent a brief time in Corinth, and intended to finish his trip by sailing back to Antioch. But when he learned of a plot against his life, he decided to go overland, back north through Macedonia. This detour cost him both time and money, and it was, doubtless a great inconvenience. But we can be extremely thankful that he did go back this route...
3 [Paul] stayed [in Corinth] three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.
4 And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia; also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.
5 These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas.
6 But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days.
Luke goes on to chronicle Paul's return trip to Jerusalem, where he is arrested and imprisoned.
Acts 23 (immediately following Paul's first trial) in a Jerusalem
11 But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."
But Paul didn't get to go right away. He was transported to the Roman garrison at Caesarea...
24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you."
26 Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.
27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.
Two years....! What a waste! Or was it. I am convinced it was during that two years, while Paul's life and ministry was on hold, the good doctor Luke was able to do his historical research about the life of our Lord, and actually meet and interview the people who were eye witnesses to the events Luke then describes in his Gospel.
And for that I am extremely thankful. For Luke is the only one who tells us about the angel Gabriel meeting Mary with the news of the miraculous conception of our Lord in her womb. It is only Luke who tells us that when Mary met Elizabeth while Elizabeth with pregnant with John the Baptist, baby John leaped for joy in his mother's womb at the sound of Mary's voice. It is only Luke who tells us about the manger and the shepherds. It is only Luke who tells us about Simeon and Anna. It is only Luke who tells us the Bible's only story about boyhood. And it is Luke to reports, that “Mary took all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
Paul ministry was on ice, but for Luke this was his opportunity of a life time to actually meet and talk with those people he had only heard about.
It is only Luke who reports the raising of the widow's son at Nain and the healing of the Ten Lepers.
It is only Luke who reports Jesus' parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, the Prodigal Son, the rich man and Lazarus, the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple.
It is only Luke who reports the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha - Mary the listener, and Martha the server.
When Jesus is suffering and dying on the cross, it is only Luke who reports that Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." - which He said on your behalf. "Today you will be with Me in Paradise." - which He also said on your behalf. And "Father, into Your Hand I commit my Spirit."
And after Jesus rose from the dead, it is only Luke to tells us about our Lord's appearance to the two travelers on the road to Emmaus.
Paul's two years in Roman prison at Caesarea no doubt appeared to Paul to be a waste. But I believe it was all part of God's plan to enable Luke to write this precious Gospel.
Things start moving again for Paul in Chapter 27, when he is finally sent off to Rome, and Luke goes with him:
1 And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment.
2 So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us.
Luke is with Paul the whole trip to Rome, chronicling the storm at sea and the ship wreck.
Finally, when they arrive in Rome, and in the last two verses of Acts,
30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him,
31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
Here the books of Acts ends, without reported any details of Paul's release and subsequent travels, leading me to believe that at it was during this time of Paul's first confinement in Rome Luke wrote the book of Acts. And from Luke reports in Acts, we can confidently conclude that Paul's letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were all written during those two years.
But we wish Luke had written more. We can only glean glimpses of Paul's continue ministry from the Apostle's later letters. Paul's last letter, ends this way:
2 TIMOTHY 4
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
9 Be diligent to come to me quickly;
10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica; Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.
11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.