The Character of Luke
Tony Renshaw, Heald Green, Cheshire
A man often reveals most about himself when he least intends it. Luke does this in the first four verses of his Gospel. In explaining to his Christian friend Theophilus why he was writing the book, he subconsciously disclosed at least six exemplary qualities.
1. He was a Man of Sound Discernment. "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand ...". Luke recognized the wisdom of preserving a written record of the life and activities of the Lord Jesus. The generation which had known Him in the flesh was dying out. An increasing number of Christians were in need of reliable and accurate information about the Saviour whom they had never met in person. Many had taken in hand the task of supplying what was required. Luke discerned this and gave them credit for it. It is interesting to reflect that out of the many who took this matter in hand, in only four cases was the work inspired by God and preserved to the Church. The simple fact before us, however, is that here was a man who recognized the pressing need of his fellow-believers, and who willingly gave credit to those who sought to meet it.
2. He was a Man of Straightforward Sincerity. "It
seemed good to me also . . .". These words speak volumes. It is not uncommon today for Christians who decide to undertake some service for the Lord to use somewhat extravagant language in order to describe their reasons for doing so. "The Lord has given me a burden . . ."; "I feel that the Spirit is leading me . . ."; "The Lord has laid the matter upon my heart . . .". Luke makes no such flowery references to his reasons for writing. He makes no swelling claims for himself. He is content with the plain, unadorned and genuine statement that it seemed a good thing to do. Let us resolve to avoid using language beyond our thoughts or experience. In retrospect, we know beyond question that Luke's decision to take up his pen was of God, but he does not assert it for himself.
3. He was a Man of Painstaking Thoroughness. "... having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first", A.V., or more clearly expressed, "having traced the course of all things accurately from the first", R.v. Luke had endeavoured to ensure the reliability of his record by tracing the course of all things accurately from the first. The fact that he was writing under divine inspiration in no way detracts from the industry with which he had collected the data for his treatise. He had spared no effort in ascertaining and bringing together the facts concerning the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Saviour. Do we take similar delight, with the sacred record in our hands, in carefully and thoroughly tracing these same wondrous events?
4. He was a Man of Considerate Kindness. ". . . to
write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus". It bears thinking about that Luke wrote both this lengthy volume and its companion "Acts" with a view to the spiritual advancement of one Christian. It seems never to have occurred to Luke that his work would yield world-wide blessing to many generations of Christians during the long centuries of church history. He was perfectly content to labour assiduously in order that one believer might be established in his faith. Clearly, Luke drank deeply of the spirit of his Master, whose care for the individual emerges repeatedly in the narratives of the beloved physician. Think of the parables of the lost sheep, the lost silver and the lost son; or of the conversions of Lydia, the jailor, Cornelius, Saul of Tarsus and the Ethiopian eunuch.
5. He was a Man of Warm-hearted Love. "Most excellent Theophilus". See how lovingly and graciously he addresses his brother in the Lord. How highly he esteemed him; how dearly he loved him; how affectionately he greeted him. Such an attitude presents a challenge to us today. The warmth and fervour of Christian love is a vital ingredient in assembly life, to which each of us should be making a generous contribution. It is essentially a spiritual quality of course; mere sentiment will not do. True love ever prompts me to see the best in my fellow believer, to ignore such failings as may occasionally appear, and to engage in regular, private prayer on behalf of all with whom I am linked in fellowship and service, without any exceptions. Divine resources are required for this, but they are available.
6. He was a Man of Earnest Desire. "That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed". This was Luke's deep desire for his friend. It follows that this is the effect which a careful study of his Gospel will have upon its readers. The reason which John gave for the writing of his Gospel compares interestingly with this: "these (signs) are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name", John 20. 31. Thus, if John's Gospel was designed primarily to produce faith, Luke's was intended to give assurance and certainty of knowledge.
Such were some of the choice characteristics of this esteemed servant of Christ. We would do well both to covet and to cultivate his discernment, sincerity, thoroughness, kindness, love and desire.