What Are We to Have Certainty About?


“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:1-4

Why did Luke write his gospel?

“That you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

What things had Theophilus been taught?

There are many pastors, preachers, teachers, and Christians that seem to believe that Theophilus had been taught the law of Moses for this is what they primarily teach. If you just listen carefully to be what is being said, the scriptures being quoted, and the context and reason for quoting these scriptures, then you will see that this is true.

Because many act as if the teaching of the gospels is how to live Moses’ law, they believe that we are to have certainty about the law and the scriptures. We should hold them in reverence because they are completely. Shouldn’t we have certainty about the scriptures since they are inspired, or God-breathed?

Isn’t this so since Luke took to writing an account of all that the things that had been accomplished by Jesus among them? Jesus did come to fulfill the law, right?

In reality, all of this completely misses the point of why Luke wrote his gospel. He wasn’t writing that we would be certain of the law, that scripture was perfect, inerrant and infallible, as it was written.

Luke was writing so Theophilus would be certain of the things he had been. Luke compiled a narrative of the things that had been accomplished, which were the same things that the apostles and other disciples were eyewitnesses and ministers. The things that were accomplished, the things delivered by the eyewitnesses and ministers, the things Theophilus had been taught that he was to be certain of were the, singular, word.

Luke is writing so that we have certainty of the word.

Certainty of the word.

Not certainty of the Bible.

Christians have made the word and the Bible synonymous, but they are not.

We are not to have certainty about every single thing written in the Bible.

But, we are to have certainty about a certain word, a singular word, a word the apostles and disciples were eyewitnesses and ministers of, a word that Theophilus was taught.

Let’s start with the word certainty. It is the Greek word epiginosko.

Ginosko means to know.  Ginosko is to know by experience. While ginosko represents a knowing by experience, it is still somewhat abstract knowledge. The prefix epi means on, upon, above, or superimposed.

The prefix epi takes the knowing by experience to another level. Therefore, it means to be completely certain of what you know by experience. It is to know beyond a shadow of doubt. Epiginosko can even imply a special participation in the knowing of a thing such that the thing is fully a part of you. Epiginosko goes beyond abstract knowledge to real, practical knowledge of the thing.

So, the things that Theophilus had been taught he should know through his experience such that he has real, practical experience of these things such that he participates in these things. Then Theophilus would have certainty.

So, Luke compiled a narrative of these things, the things Theophilus had been taught. Both the Greek word for compile and narrative are used just this one time in the New Testament.

The word for compile means to organize in a series, to go regularly through again, to rehearse, to set in order.

The word for narrative means an orderly account, a statement of the case, a formal statement.

Luke was diligent in seeking out what had been accomplished. He specifically organized it. Luke went through the things accomplished again and again. He rehearsed them and set them in order. All so that we could have certainty of the things accomplished and taught.

The Greek word for accomplished means to fulfill, to convince fully, to be completely certain, to proclaim fully.

Paul uses this Greek word for accomplished, fully convinced, in a way that proves that the things accomplished, the things we are to have certainty about, are not the law.

Romans 14:5-6 says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”

Paul is speak observing a day, the Sabbath. Some keep a day while others do not. Whether one observes the day or one observes all days, both do it to honor the Lord. The two do not have to agree.

There were many dietary laws in the Old Testament, including not eating things sacrificed to idols. But, Paul says the one who eats honors the Lord and so does the one who does not eat. But, the two do not have to agree on what can and can’t be eaten.

Paul explicitly says that we do not have to agree on the laws of the Old Testament. We only need to be fully convinced in our mind of which is better.

Therefore, the law, the literal letter of the Old Testament, is not the things that were accomplished that Luke compiled a narrative of. The law, the literal letter of the Old Testament, is not the things that Theophilus was taught that he should have certainty.

Instead of the law, the literal letter Old Testament, what Christians today deem to be inerrant and infallible, Luke is writing about the word. The word is what the apostles and disciples were eyewitnesses of. The word is what they delivered. The word is what Luke compiled a narrative of. The word is what was accomplished. The word is what Theophilus was taught. The word is what Theophilus should have certainty of.

What is the word?

Luke uses the Greek word logos.

It is Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” John 1:1-2

The word is not some general thing about Jesus as if the scriptures in all their literalness are about Jesus. For, when Jesus said of the scriptures “it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39), he was speaking about a very specific word.

Jesus spoke in parables all the time. No one, including the disciples, knew the meaning of the parables upon hearing them because parables hid the meaning of the story. Only those that earnestly came to Jesus received the understanding.

But, in What Is the One Thing Jesus Spoke Plainly?, I wrote about the word that Luke is compiling a narrative of. What is the thing Jesus spoke plainly about? What is the word delivered by the eyewitnesses and ministers, the apostles and disciples? What is the word that was accomplished? What is the word that Theophilus had been taught?

Mark 8:31-32 says, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.”

The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be crucified, and be resurrected.

This is the word.

This what Luke is compiling a narrative of.

These are the things that were accomplished.

These are the things witnessed and ministered

These are the things Theophilus was taught.

These are the things we are to have certainty about.

We are to have certainty about these things because these things are the gospel.

It’s not the law. It’s the inerrant and infallible scriptures. It’s not every literal word in the Bible. We are not to have certainty of those things.

Jesus was the son of Man.

Jesus suffered.

Jesus was rejected.

Jesus was crucified.

Jesus was resurrected.

These are things we are to have certainty about.

Luke is telling us this in the first four verses of his gospel.

We know this is so because it is these very things that Luke was compiling a narrative of, the things accomplished, the word witnessed and ministered, the things taught to Theophilus, that bring an end to Luke’s gospel.

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing [epiginosko] him. And he said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each as you walk?  And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does know [ginosko] the things that have happened there in these days?’ And he said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that the had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.’ And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:13-27)

The two disciples still did not recognize Jesus. But, “when he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized [epiginosko] him.” (Luke 24:30-31)

When Jesus appeared to the other disciples a similar thing happened.

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me [not everything written] in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.'”

These things:

  • Jesus
  • the son of Man
  • the Christ
  • suffered
  • was rejected
  • was crucified
  • rose from the dead

are what we have certainty about.

These are the things that were witnessed and therefore ministered.

Why should we have certainty of these things, and only these things?

They are the foundation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

They are the gospel.

They are the word that we are to proclaim to all nations.

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