Christianity 201

October 25, 2014

Getting It From The Source

The Voice: Luke 1:1-3 For those who love God, several other people have already written accounts of what God has been bringing to completion among us, using the reports of the original eyewitnesses, those who were there from the start to witness the fulfillment of prophecy. Like those other servants who have recorded the messages, I present to you my carefully researched, orderly account of these new teachings. I want you to know that you can fully rely on the things you have been taught about Jesus, God’s Anointed One.

The introduction to Luke’s gospel is widely taught and usually the emphasis is on the book’s authority and reliability, based on the author’s declaration that he followed what we would call today the “best practices” of journalism.

Search the ScripturesLuke describes his work as

  • a careful study (CEV)
  • traced the course of all things accurately (ASV)
  • carefully investigated everything (various)

Verse 3 is somewhat paradoxical however, because Luke while he starts the narrative at day one — only Luke and Matthew include Jesus’ birth — it could also be an admission that he’s been tracking the Jesus story from the outset, which is how some translations render it. Why do more research? The facts were widely known and it would have been easy to sit down at the keyboard and start typing (so to speak) but he takes an academic approach to his work, he does the work of a scholarly historian.

So we find the text used in an apologetic sense; used to defend the accuracy of this particular gospel and sometimes of the scriptures in general.

But in so doing, is there an application we miss?

In these times when there are so many voices on the internet, so many Christian radio and television programs, and so many books being written; do we ever take the time to fully weigh and consider and evaluate what we read, see and hear?

In my work, I often encounter the phrase, “[Name of television preacher] says that this means…” or “My pastor said on Sunday that…”

Don’t take me wrong, we want pastors who are set apart to teach us; people who spend time in God’s Word and use reference materials such as commentaries and lexicons and interlinear Bibles to gain the full background context and the full meaning of scripture. There are tools available to us online, but most of us as laypeople lack the four to six years that the average pastor has spent gaining a foundation that qualifies him (or her) to preach.  Likewise the people whose books are issued by major Christian publishers, or television preachers whose ministry has been proven and has the endorsement of others in the field.

But sometimes when I hear, “My pastor said…” there is a sense in which the person is not at all interested in studying the scriptures. They want to be spoon-fed the bullet-points in a weekly 30-minute download, and nothing more; and don’t even think about suggesting that there are other pastors who have a different take on that issue, that verse, or that way of doing things.

It’s a rather myopic way of living.

Luke had every reason to simply write down his own thoughts on Jesus life, teaching and ministry. People would have read his blog post out of respect for his relative proximity to the action. Or, he could have just interviewed Peter to have a second source, or just interviewed Mary, but evidence shows he spoke with both and many others, too. He took it seriously. The IVP New Testament Commentary details his process:

First, he investigated (parekolouthekoti) the story. This appears to refer to the fact he studied his topic. Luke was not himself an eyewitness to the events of Jesus’ life. So only his study could produce such a work. But we should not think of Luke in a library here. He would have traveled through the community gathering information, both from recorded texts and from conversations with others who had seen Jesus.

Second, Luke went back to the beginning (anothen). This is why the story starts with John the Baptist. This Jewish prophet was the starting point of the renewal of God’s activity, as Luke 1—2 will make clear.

Third, his study was thorough: he says he studied everything (pasin). Though what we have in Luke is surely a select collection of material, the Gospel writer wants it known that he did his homework. Luke was very concerned to get the story right, to be accurate in his portrayal of Jesus.

Fourth, Luke did his work carefully (akribos). As the Gospel itself reveals, Luke’s work is thought out and precise in its development of the story.

Luke calls his account an orderly one (kathexes)…

…All the care Luke gives to the task, as noted in his preface, is designed to reassure Theophilus, who has been taught (katechethes) on such matters previously.

Do we continue to carefully study the scriptures or are we content to coast on letting others do the work for us?

I wrote this today to challenge us to develop the same skills your favorite TV preacher or author or pastor uses; to stand on a stronger authority than simply, “My pastor says…;” to move from Christianity 101 to Christianity 201 and then 301 and 401.

Go much, much deeper: The graphic image used in today’s post is from part four of an online instruction to Messianic Christians on how to interpret the scriptures. To read the article, click this link.




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