CERTAINTY: THE GOSPEL OF LUKE
In reading the divinely inspired historian Luke—both his account of the life of Christ (the Gospel of Luke) and his account of the history of the early church (the Book of Acts)—it is interesting to note how often he uses the words “certain” and “certainty.” One would have to read these great portions of scripture with a blind eye to miss the emphasis that Luke places on the concept conveyed by these two words. (Luke, incidentally, was second only to the apostle Paul [by a mere .5%!] in the written amount of the New Testament).
The word “certainty” is defined as “firm conviction that something is the case.” “Certain” has two meanings: “1) know for sure; established beyond doubt; 2) specific but not explicitly named or stated.” This second definition denotes a definite person, place, event, thing, or time, as opposed to something imprecise, vague, or foggy. While some may find it boring and repetitious, a tracing of these words in Luke’s writings can be a profitable and reassuring venture for those who want to be certain of their faith and of their relationship with God. Follow along with me this week on this somewhat different kind of journey through the Gospel of Luke. (Next week, D.V., we will make a similar journey through the Book of Acts).
The original recipient and reader of the Gospel of Luke was a man by the name of Theophilus (Luke 1:3). The name Theophilus means “lover of God. Luke’s gospel account was addressed to Theophilus in order “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you have been instructed” (l:4). In the first chapter Luke references “a certain priest named Zacharias” who would become the father of John the Baptist (1:5). In “a certain city” Jesus cleansed a leper (5:12), and on “a certain day” He healed many people (5:17). In 6:2 “certain of the Pharisees” questioned Christ about His treatment of the Sabbath. Reference is made to “a certain centurion’s servant” (7:2) and “a certain creditor who had two debtors” (7:41).
In chapter 8 we read of “certain women” (2), “a certain day” (22), and “a certain man from the city who had demons” (27). Chapter 9 tells of “a certain man” who said that he would follow the Lord wherever He went and Jesus’ follow-up teaching concerning the cost of doing so (57-58). In chapter 10 “a certain lawyer stood up and tested” Christ (25). Jesus related a parable involving “a certain man,” “a certain priest,” and “a certain Samaritan” (30-33)—the beautiful parable of “The Good Samaritan.” At the end of the chapter Jesus enters “a certain village” where “a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house” (38). Marvelous lessons are learned from these people and events. Great certainty is established by them.
In Luke 11:1 Jesus “was praying in a certain place.” “A certain woman from the crowd raised her voice” and blessed the Lord (11:27). “A certain Pharisee” invited Jesus to dine with him (11:37ff). “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully” (12:16). “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard” (13:6). “Certain of the Pharisees” came to Jesus and warned Him of Herod’s intention to kill Jesus (13:31). “A certain man” who had the dropsy was in the presence of Jesus (14:2). “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many” (14:16). “A certain man had two sons,” leading Christ to relate the tender and touching parable of the prodigal son (15:11ff).
“There was a certain rich man who had a steward” (16:1). “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day” (16:19). Every day there was laid at his gate “a certain beggar named Lazarus” who was in need of help from the rich man (16:20). In “a certain village” Jesus was met by ten lepers (17:12). Jesus spoke a parable about “certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (18:9). “A certain ruler” asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (18:18). “A certain blind man sat by the road begging” as Jesus entered Jericho (18:35). If we fail to take note of these people, places, and events and the lessons that arise out of them, the less certainty we will have of our faith.
Christ delivered a parable about “a certain nobleman [who] went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return” (19:12). “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time” (20:9). “Certain of the Sadducees who deny that there is any resurrection” came to Christ and presented him with a preposterous scenario in an effort to trap Him and “force” Him to admit that there is no resurrection (20:27ff). “Certain of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, You have spoken well.’” (20:39). In 21:2 Jesus saw “a certain widow putting in two mites.” “A certain servant girl” saw the apostle Peter sitting by the fire with the enemies of Jesus (22:56). Barrabas “had been thrown into prison for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder” (23:18-19). At the crucifixion of Christ, a Roman centurion was moved to proclaim, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” (23:47). “Certain other women” came to the tomb of Jesus “bringing spices which they had prepared” (24:1). Two disciples spoke of “certain women of our company, who were at the tomb early” (24:22). “And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said” (24:24).
Far from being mundane and boring, the preceding texts show that from His birth to His death, burial, and resurrection Jesus dealt with real people in real time. He engaged in real acts, was involved in real situations and real events, and taught real truths and real principles. Just as Theophilus, the original recipient of the Gospel of Luke could “know the certainty of those things in which [he had] been instructed,” so Christians today can have that same certainty. As Luke records elsewhere (quoting the apostle Paul), “This thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).
July 13, 2021
For the next several Wednesday evenings, D.V., I will be speaking at the Shackle Island Church of Christ on Long Hollow Pike between Gallatin and Goodlettsville, TN.