My favorite part of the Bible is the Luke-Acts compendium of Luke, the travel companion of Paul. As a skeptic some years back (1967-1970) I was intrigued by the statement of the great apologist and Fuller Theological Seminary President, Dr. Edward John Carnell, who stated that “Faith is trusting in the sufficiency of the evidence.” I think this is correct, but the definition of what counts as evidence has to be broad including the witness of the Spirit to the heart. Israel was to trust in that evidence after the Exodus and failed to do so. When I returned to faith, I was very moved by the beginning verses of Luke, that he sought to present an ordered account of the events of the ministry years of Yeshua and his life, death and resurrection based on the “eyewitnesses.” Luke and Acts is powerful testimony. I ask people to just read these books and allow the credibility of these writings to sink in. They are hard to explain away, and the best explanation is that they describe what really happened. Dr. Richard Bauckham of St. Andrews University, wrote his great work, The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimonies, based on the words of Luke. Bauckham is considered by many to be one of the very top New Testament scholars in the world. Our friend Dr. Craig Keener wrote his magisterial commentary on Acts in 3 volumes! He is also one of the world’s top New Testament scholars.
In my reading cycle when I get to Luke, after reading it, I skip John and then read Acts. After I am done with Acts, I read Luke and Acts again. Then I go on and read the rest of the Bible. When I came back to faith in the Spring of 1970, the writings of Luke played a major role. I live in Luke and Acts more than anywhere else in the Bible. What do I see in Luke-Acts.
- All of the Gospels portray the love of Yeshua. However, in my view, Luke is the most loving portrayal. Think of his healing love for the crowds. Yes, this is in the other Gospels but there is a special touch here. Then think of the parable of the Prodigal Son, the 100 sheep with the one gone astray and the Good Samaritan. Yet, Yeshua is not just a tame grandfather but his anger at religious hypocrisy comes through loud and clear. There is no compromise with sin, but forgiveness is offered to all who will turn, repent and give allegiance to Him.
- The descriptions of the miracles of Yeshua are the most clear and believable; parallel to Mark but again with a special Lukan aspect. Special love is also revealed in the miracles. The matter of the signs and wonders done by Yeshua is most wonderful. This continues in the most marvelous way in Acts.
- Then there is the account of the outpouring of the Spirit without which the progress of the Gospel cannot be explained.
- The Jewishness of the Gospel is sometimes not emphasized since Matthew is written to Messianic Jews and noted at the most Jewish Gospel. However, Luke’s narratives of the birth of John the Immerser, and the birth stories of Yeshua are so very Jewish. The prophetic words of Zechariah, Miriam and Simeon, are very Jewish and enshrine the ultimate hope of Israel’s national salvation. The account of the Last Supper Passover Seder alone among the Gospels shows the authenticity of the Seder in two cups of wine. Yeshua says the first blessing over the wine at the beginning of the meal, and then the bread is broken and made to symbolize his Body given for us. However, only after the meal is the cup taken again and made to stand for his shed blood.
- The book of Acts continues the amazing story with Shavuot/Pentecost and then the miracles continue. Signs and wonders were a key to the great expansion in Israel and then again in the ministries of Barnabas and Saul and then in Paul and Silas to the Gentiles. The miracles in Ephesus are a key window into the expansion. Note as well that the synagogue is so prominent in the book of Acts and the expansion of the Gospel. Or how about the amazing story of Paul and Silas in prison in Philippi, and the story of the earthquake and the conversion of the jailer.
- The theology of Acts is totally Messianic Jewish. Jews are shown as continuing in loyalty to their Jewish calling while Gentiles are not called to live a Jewish life. Paul makes his profession of Jewish calling, loyalty and observance throughout the last chapters of the book.
Luke and Acts accent the evidence of the supernatural and the miraculous in page after page, but are given with Luke’s amazing and accurate description. Two generations ago, Sir William Ramsay in St. Paul, Traveler and Roman Citizen, catalogued he historical accuracy of Luke, well beyond any previous or contemporary historians. Some doubted, but I. Howard Marshall in our generation re-presented and updated the convincing evidence in his Luke, Historian and Theologian.
Luke presents massively sufficient evidence for faith, enabling us as Carnell said, to “Trust in the sufficiency of the evidence.” I love the faith boost that comes from reading these books. Now as we progress from Passover to Shavuot/Pentecost, why not read the books of Luke and Acts in preparation for the next Feast.