by Tom Wacaster
I have started in earnest my next volume of New Testament commentaries. This one is going to be a study of the Gospel of Luke. Having titled my two-volume work on Matthew, “The Majesty of Jesus,” and my two-volume set on John, “The Magnificence of Jesus,” it is my intention to title this work, “The Manhood of Jesus.” The very title should give some indication of the focus of Luke’s biography of the life of Christ. In this article I want to focus on some words in Luke’s prologue. The first four verses in our English translations contain a remarkable literary and theological sentence. All four verses in our English translate one single Greek sentence. Written in ‘koine’ Greek, Luke’s prologue incorporates much of the language of the Greek historians and physicians. There are four things Luke tells us in this prologue: (1) He names his subject - those things of which Theophilus had been instructed; (2) he gives the sources of his information - the “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”; (3) he describes the method of his work - to trace those things accurately and in order; and (4) he reveals the purpose of his writing - that Theophilus might “know the certainty concerning the things wherein” he was instructed. It is this last point that is the focus of this article.
The word “certainty” (v. 4) is derived from the Greek word ‘sphallo,’ meaning “to totter” or “to fall.” In this verse the verb has the prefix ‘a’ which negates the action of the word. The full knowledge contained in Luke’s account will prevent Theophilus from tottering. That same truth is echoed throughout the New Testament. Take, as an example, Paul’s words to Timothy: “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The power to save the souls of men, and to keep them saved, resides in the inspired word of God. Peter expressed the same truth with these words: “For if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble” (2 Pet. 1:10b). Luke was writing this first volume of his two-volume work, with the marked intention of providing Theophilus full knowledge of the life of Christ. Others had evidently attempted to write about the life of Christ, but they were lacking in orderliness and factual accuracy. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Luke would present to Theophilus an orderly discourse that rings with “certainty.”
The books of the New Testament, from the Gospels to the final revelation to John on Patmos, though differing in style, are marked by this characteristic of certainty. I submit to you that this is one of the things that separates God’s word from all the literary works of Rome, Greece, Europe, the “age of enlightenment,” right up to our day and age. The writers of the Old and New Testaments believed that what they wrote was the word of God. Of this they were certain. Without a single exception, those inspired authors wrote, not from mere probabilities, speculation, or educated guesses, but from a firm belief in what they wrote, and from Whom that message originated. The Bible is not folklore or romance. Such writings do not have that ring of certainty of which I now speak. C.S. Lewis addressed this very point. So far as the writings of men, he noted:
I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading...If he tells me that something in the Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read...I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like the Gospels (Christian Reflections, 154-55).
Sir William Ramsey sought to disprove this “certainty” in Luke’s Gospel, but in his research he discovered that Luke was a “first-rate historian, not making a single error in the numerous details he was able to check” (Geisler, Answering Islam, 245). It is this certainty in their writings that gives us hope. For if the writers of the New Testament had expressed any doubt, any hesitation, or hint of disbelief, it would not produce the courage, faith, and determination in those who imbibe their writings. It is the divine principle that a tree is known by the fruit it bears. Now consider the fruit of God’s word. Alexis de Tocqueville, after carefully observing American life in 1830, wrote:
There is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation on earth.
The concepts of life, liberty, and justice stem from the principles contained in the Bible, which principles were the foundation of Western civilization. Our society’s present fetish with “cancel culture” mentality is seeking to remove not only our rich heritage historically, but spiritually as well. They do not realize the Pandora’s Box they now attempt to open. For well over half a century forces have done all within their power to eliminate God and the Bible from our society. Little do they realize that the Bible has done more for good than any other book in the history of man. This is because of that certainty held forth in God’s word. If the devil can succeed in getting men to doubt the authenticity of the Bible, all hope will be vanquished, and the end result is too horrible to imagine. What is playing out on the streets of Chicago, Portland, and New York City (to name but a few of the places) is the fruit of uncertainty, hopelessness, and despair that has filled the void left by the absence of God’s word in the lives of those of whom we speak. What will happen if forces now underway to cancel our Christian heritage succeed on a broad scale across this nation?
In their book, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born,” James Kennedy and Jerry Newcomb list some of the contributions the Bible and Christianity have made to civilization: Hospitals, universities, literacy and education for the masses, capitalism and free-enterprise, representative government (particularly as it is has been seen in the great American experiment), separation of political powers, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, modern science, discovery of the New World, elevation of women, benevolence and charity, the “Good Samaritan” ethic, higher standards of justice, condemnation of adultery and homosexuality and other sexual perversions, high regard for life (both born and unborn), the civilization of barbarian and primitive cultures, codifying and setting to writing many of the world’s languages, greater development of art and music, countless changed lives morally speaking, and the eternal salvation of countless souls.
I ask you: “Why have men embraced the words contained in the New Testament?” It is not because they believed the Bible was a myth, or folklore. They embraced the teachings of the Bible because of this ring of certainty that runs through its pages like a fine thread. And because they were certain of what they wrote, we can be certain of the hope that is held out in its pages, and march onward with the Sword of the Spirit in hand, and tell others of the certainty of the promises it holds out to all those who will follow and obey its precepts.