Writing has been a hobby for me since I was very young. I wanted to be an author since I was in elementary school. In college, I majored in journalism, since that would be one career where I could make a living by writing. Although I did not become a reporter, words and writing have been the center of much of what I do: I work as a content editor at a scientific publishing company, and I grab opportunities to write whenever they appear in ministry. When I was in pastoral ministry, I would often write my sermons word-for-word (mainly to avoid that horrible habit of punctuating my main points with such theological mumbo-jumbo as “um,” “like,” and “you know”).
This blog serves as an important outlet for my writer’s itch. It also gives me an incentive to continue studying the Bible so that I can share its insights with anybody who takes the time to read the articles I post. Writers put pen to paper or finger to keyboard for a purpose. Here on Darkened Glass Reflections, one of my goals is to ensure that the purpose and intent of my writing coincide with that of the biblical authors:
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; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Two words jump out in that last verse: orderly and certainty. Luke had a mission as he wrote: He wanted to make sure his reader (or readers) knew the truth about Jesus. He lived before mass media. The Gospel was spread by word of mouth, not by websites or 24-hour cable news channels. It is possible that conflicting accounts about Jesus may already have sprung up. Speculation, fantasy, and myth may have mingled with true accounts about the Messiah. Rather than relying on rumors, Luke wanted to pass on what he learned from eyewitnesses and others who had direct knowledge of Jesus. (The first two chapters strongly suggest that one of those eyewitnesses was Jesus’ mother Mary.)
He wanted his readers to be certain about what they had learned. Scholars disagree about the identity of “Theophilus.” Was he a Christian? Was he a government official who wanted to know whether Christianity was a threat to Roman rule? Could “Theophilus” have been a code name Luke made up for an entire church, to avoid problems with any Roman authorities who might intercept his document? All we know is that his name means “lover of God,” so all true Christians can accept it as our code name. Luke wants the lovers of God to know for certain the truth about Jesus and what He taught. Whether Theophilus was an actual person or not, the Holy Spirit ensured that this Gospel would be preserved in the Bible so that all lovers of God could have certainty about the things we have been taught.
Other New Testament writers agree that they wrote with a similar motive:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31)
Some people wrestle with the fact that John’s Gospel does not overlap much with Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Most of the stories he shares do not appear in the other Gospels. But, he makes it clear that he was very selective about what he wrote. Perhaps he thought, “You have heard those parables and about those miracles. Jesus did and said a lot more than I can fit on this scroll. Here are some important teachings by Him.” The teachings and signs John recorded were gathered for a clear purpose: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Luke and John were not writing history for history’s sake. They wanted to make sure people knew Jesus and received salvation through faith as a result. They wanted their readers to have confidence and certainty in their faith.
Ancient writers always wrote with a purpose. As a writer, I need to remind myself frequently that everything I write—whether on this blog or elsewhere—should pursue a goal (even if that goal is “I am bored and want to write something silly just for laughs”). This post has a purpose. That will be more clear as we follow up in the next article.
Copyright © 2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.