Luke’s gospel opens with an explicit statement of the evangelist’s purpose — to provide certainty to one Theophilus through an orderly account of the life of Christ (1:1–4). Apparently, several stories about Jesus were circulating at the time, probably records of individual episodes in His life, and Luke wanted to offer a more complete history of the Savior’s ministry to Theophilus and other readers. Using these fragmentary records, the other gospels, interviews with eyewitnesses, and so on, Luke sat down, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, to give Theophilus a written document that would address his concerns.
As we would expect, our Father’s providence uniquely equipped Luke to record an orderly account of our Savior’s life and ministry. As Paul’s most faithful traveling companion (2 Tim. 4:11), Luke must have received a great deal of information about Jesus not only from Paul himself but also from the apostles with whom Paul had contact. We also know that Luke was a trained physician (Col. 4:14) whose education would have been an invaluable asset for helping him do the research and writing necessary to compose his gospel. Furthermore, God was the one who provided Luke a friend in Theophilus, a man whose concerns about Jesus needed to be addressed. This circumstance gave Luke the motivation necessary to write a gospel to deal with Theophilus’ questions and give us a glimpse at the purposes of God that we might not otherwise have received.
For instance, Luke demonstrates that the God of Israel, Yahweh, is Lord also of the Gentiles and deeply concerned with their plight. Matthew, Mark, and John make this point as well, but it is particularly evident in Luke’s work. The Greek of his gospel is refined and of a literary quality, which we would expect from someone of Gentile descent, though Luke may have converted to Judaism before hearing of the Christ. Is there a better way for God to demonstrate His love for the Gentiles than to inspire one to record the life of His Son? Luke also brings out Yahweh’s concern for the nations in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23–38. The evangelist traces the ancestry of Jesus according to the flesh all the way back to Adam, revealing that the Jewish Messiah is also of Gentile stock, for everyone between Adam and Abraham was a Gentile.
The third evangelist also shows the Father’s love for the nations through his special concern for world history. Of course, all four gospels, along with all the books of Scripture, are historically accurate and concerned with God’s work in recorded time. Yet the historical structure of Luke’s gospel gives us a unique look at our Creator’s intent to redeem people from every nation. Structurally speaking, a three-stage progression of God’s work in world history is discernible in Luke’s writings, which includes his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke 1:1–3:22 emphasizes the work of the Almighty in Israel; thus, the first stage of world history is the era of the Jewish nation in which God prepared a holy people to give birth to the Savior. Luke 3:23–Acts 1:26 represents the era of Christ’s earthly ministry, the second stage of world history in which Jesus defeated the power of sin, death, and Satan and witnessed to God’s glory before the Jews and Gentiles such as Pontius Pilate. Acts 2–28 and all of church history until the return of Jesus (implied in Acts 28:28) is the time for the salvation of all peoples, which God accomplishes through the work of the Spirit-empowered church. During this third stage of human history, the gospel goes forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth as the Holy Spirit moves the church to proclaim God’s grace in Christ to all the nations.