Week commencing 27 January 2019

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Luke 1:1-4 – How?

With a PDF found here

Next Sunday will be the first in our Term 1 series: “Luke – you can be certain…”

Here is the series outline:

03 Feb How? Luke 1:1-4
10 Feb …that John the Baptist was a gift from God Luke 1:5-25
17 Feb …that Jesus was miraculously conceived Luke 1:26-38
24 Feb …that God’s eternal promises were being fulfilled Part I Luke 1:39-56
03 Mar …that God’s eternal promises were being fulfilled Part II Luke 1:57-80
10 Mar …that a Saviour was born who is both Messiah and Lord Luke 2:1-21
17 Mar …that Jesus brought God’s salvation Luke 2:22-40
24 Mar …that Jesus grew in wisdom and favour Luke 2:41-52
31 Mar …that John preached a baptism of repentance Luke 3:1-20
07 Apr …that Jesus was God’s Son whom he loved Luke 3:31-37
14 Apr …that Jesus was tempted as we are, yet was without sin Luke 4:1-13

DAY 1: Read 2 Timothy 3:10-17

Welcome back to our weekly reading notes. Please let me know if you’re still making good use of these because as you’ll appreciate, quite a lot of time goes into their preparation.

We nearly always study a gospel in Term 1 as it is appropriate in the lead up to Easter. In choosing the opening chapters of Luke’s Gospel, I want us to see that Luke wants to make abundantly clear, that we can be certain that what he has written is the truth about Jesus. We’ll come back to that point a few times.

But first, the reading I asked you to read today is not a misprint! The Apostle Paul also tells us (via his letter to Timothy) that we can be people who are convinced of the truth of what we read in the Scriptures. Our detractors love to talk about the Bible as fiction and about what we believe as a fairy tale. But Luke and Paul and John (read 1 John 1:1-4) remind us that we are reading historical, reliable, eye-witness testimony!

Furthermore, Paul reminds Timothy, not only are convinced what we have learned, we also know that the Scriptures we read, have come to us from God! God didn’t inspire the words of the Bible (as some older versions used to translate 2 Timothy 3:16), he expired them! Yes he used human beings in the process, but in the end, the words of the Bible are God’s words!!

So as we begin work on Luke’s Gospel, remind yourself again, that what we read is God’s word and as such, what we read is able to make us wise for salvation through Jesus Christ and will teach us, rebuke us, correct us and train us in righteousness so that we might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. May the Lord mightily use our study of these opening chapters of Luke, to that great end!

DAY 2: Read Luke 1:1-4

The first thing I want us to note from these opening verses, is that Christianity is first and foremost biographical. It rests on the birth, life, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Read again Luke 1:1-2. This is an account of Jesus’ life. Jesus is the main figure of every chapter. Christianity is most unusual in revolving around a person and this is why we call it Christianity: it’s about the Christ (Messiah) and it begins and ends with him.

Compare it to other religions. Take Hinduism – which by the way no Hindu calls Hinduism, that’s just a western term for what Indians call Sanatana Dharma which means “eternal wisdom”. It’s called “eternal wisdom” because that is what Hindus believe their faith is all about. It’s not about a person, it’s about eternal wisdom.

Or Islam, the religion of a huge number of people in the world today: the word Islam means submission because it’s not about a person, it’s about the proper way to submit to God, as Muslims believe it.

What about Buddhism? Buddhism has the word Buddha in it so it sounds like it might be about a person but the Buddha himself said you must not attach yourself to him. In a very famous parable the Buddha said “I am just like a raft to help you get to the other side of the river and once you’re over the other side of the river you can let go of me because if you try and hold onto me, I will hold you back for the rest of the journey”.

So, unlike any other religion on the planet, our founding texts are not books of laws, books of philosophy, books of mystery and ritual, they are biographies, all about Jesus. This is what I want us to realise – that Christianity is not wisdom for living, or a philosophy of life. It is first and foremost about a person: Jesus Christ. In my first few weeks as minister here, someone asked at a public meeting “Mark, are you telling me Jesus was a real person?” I answered, “absolutely!”

DAY 3: Read again Luke 1:1-4

The second thing I want us to note this week from Luke’s gospel is that Christianity is historical. Luke says (in the verses we began with yesterday) that he has carefully investigated everything from the beginning and has written up an orderly account of the person of Jesus. Note that Luke admits up front he wasn’t an eye witness (which had he been making this up would have been easy to claim) but has drawn from the eye-witness accounts of others. Christianity is not based on a lone spiritual insight or a mystical story or a mere divine dictation. It is based on historical events, in real time, recorded by a multiplicity of witnesses, close in time to the events.

The third thing I want us to note, is that what he is about to tell us concerning Jesus, is not just an interesting series of historical events, but the fulfilment of the previous story of Israel and God’s law and prophets in the Old Testament. This is so crucial to understanding Christianity and you will find it all the way through Luke’s Gospel. If you don’t get the back story you won’t fully understand the story of Jesus – you won’t get the complete significance of what he came to do. For example, you won’t fully understand the death of Jesus if you don’t know your Old Testament which again and again and again, says sacrifice for sin is how we are forgiven. The Old Testament sacrificial system points forward to the glorious death of Jesus on our behalf so we can be forgiven. Knowing the background helps us to understand the significance of what Jesus came to do.

The word of God himself, biographical, historical, fulfilment of previous prophetic writings – this is what we are encountering as we open Luke’s Gospel.

DAY 4: Read Luke 1:1-4

Luke’s purpose is not just to tell us a random biography, or to give us a good bit of history. No, Luke’s Gospel is written for us to connect personally with Jesus Christ. I too decided to write an orderly account for you most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Sadly, we don’t know who Theophilus is. It was a fairly common name in the ancient world; it was also pretty common to dedicate historical works to some honoured reader. But note that Luke wants him (Theophilus) to know the certainty of the things he has been taught – hence the title of our series.

The word used for certainty in the Greek here means security, dependability, certainty, stability, that idea of something that is really solid. (We actually get the word asphalt from this word!) Luke’s point is that he wants you personally to know the security, the stability, the dependability, the certainty of Jesus Christ in your life. Luke wants you to know how Jesus’ teaching is an anchor amidst all the changing fads of our day. He wants you to know the assurance of sins forgiven and he wants you to have the sure hope of the coming Kingdom. Above all Luke wants us to personally depend on Jesus, the asphalt under our feet – the foundation of our faith.

There are many people today who have had various associations with Christian things, yet without recognizing Jesus for who He is. Please pray that many will come next Sunday and be wonderfully helped to realise that the Gospel is biographical, historical, in fulfilment of the larger story of God’s purposes and is personal – so that we all may know the certainty and reality of a personal connection with Jesus.

Resources: A talk by the Reverend Doctor John Dickson at KYCK at Katoomba in April 2015.