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This introductory course is designed to provide key insights into the book of Luke by pulling together a number of key resources: overview videos from The Bible Project, helpful contextual information from The ESV Study Bible, commentary recommendations from The Gospel Coalition, a single sermon that sums up the book from beginning to end by Mark Dever, and much more. By watching, listening to, and reading these resources, you’ll be better prepared to read, study, teach, or preach the book of Luke.
The narrative of Luke as a whole follows the chronology of Christ’s life and death. No Gospel encompasses such a complete range of subgenres as Luke: annunciation stories, birth narratives, lyric praise psalms, Christmas carols, prophecies, genealogies, preparation stories, temptation stories, calling stories, recognition stories, conflict stories, encounter stories, miracle stories, pronouncement stories, parables, beatitudes, sermons, proverbs, passion stories, trial narratives, and resurrection accounts. Stylistically, Luke is known for his vivid descriptive details and ability to make scenes come alive in the imagination.
The Gospel of Luke finds its fundamental unity in the person of Jesus Christ and in his mission to seek and to save the lost. From the first announcement of his coming to his ascension into heaven, Jesus is at the center of everything: the songs are for his praise, the miracles are by his power, the teaching is from his wisdom, the conflict is over his claims, and the cross is that which only he could bear. Luke gives his account further literary unity by intertwining the stories of Jesus and John the Baptist; by beginning and ending his story at the temple; by presenting the life of Jesus as a journey toward Jerusalem; and by following the progress of the disciples as they learn to count the cost of discipleship. The unity of the Gospel is also expressed in Jesus’ pronouncement to Zacchaeus: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Luke wrote his Gospel so that his readers would understand that the gospel is for all, both Jews and Gentiles alike, since Jesus is the promised one of God as prophesied in the OT and as attested through God’s saving activity in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In addition to this, Luke emphasized the truthfulness of the Christian traditions his readers had been taught, so that by believing in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, they would receive the promised Holy Spirit whom he gives to all who follow him.
The promises God made through the prophets are already being fulfilled.
Luke 13:33; 22:22, 42; Acts 1:16–17; 2:23; 4:28; etc.
Nevertheless, the consummation of the kingdom is still a future event, a blessed hope for which the church prays.
Luke 11:2, 20; 16:16; 17:20–21; 18:1–8; 21:27–28, 34–36; cf. Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 16:22; Rev. 22:20
The Spirit is present in the Gospel of Luke, from the births of John the Baptist and Jesus to the end. The Spirit is present at Jesus’ dedication in the temple, his baptism, temptation, early ministry, and first sermon. The Holy Spirit is central to the message of John the Baptist, and Jesus at his ascension promises the Spirit’s future coming in power.
Luke 1:15–17, 35; 2:25–27; 3:16, 22; 4:1, 14, 18; 5:17; 24:49
Luke places great emphasis on God’s love for the poor, tax collectors, outcasts, sinners, women, Samaritans, and Gentiles. In keeping with this concern, many of the episodes that appear only in Luke’s Gospel feature the welcome of an outcast (the Christmas shepherds, the Prodigal Son, the persistent widow, Zacchaeus, etc.).
Luke 1:48, 52–53; 6:20–26; 13:30; 14:11; 18:14
In Luke’s narrative, prayer occurs at every major point in Jesus’ life: at his baptism; at his selection of the Twelve; at Peter’s confession; at Jesus’ transfiguration; in his teaching the Lord’s Prayer; before Peter’s denial; etc.
Luke 3:21; 6:12; 9:18, 28–29; 11:1–4; 12:33–34; 16:9; 18:1; 22:32, 40, 46
This danger is so great that Jesus often warns his readers not to set their hearts upon riches and to give generously to the poor. The woes pronounced upon haughty rich people stand in sharp contrast to the blessings pronounced upon the humble poor.
Luke 6:20–26; 8:14; 12:13–21; 16:10–13, 19–31; 18:22 (cf. Luke 5:11; 14:33; Acts 2:44–45; 4:32); Luke 21:3–4
Both Luke (Luke 1:3) and Acts (Acts 1:1) are addressed to “Theophilus,” and there is no reason to deny that he was a real person, although attempts to identify him have been unsuccessful. Luke uses the same description “most excellent” (Luke 1:3) in the book of Acts to describe the Roman governors Felix (Acts 23:26; 24:2) and Festus (Acts 26:25). Theophilus was probably a man of wealth and social standing, and “most excellent” served as a respectful form of address.
Luke’s broader intended audience consisted primarily of Gentile Christians like Theophilus who had already “been taught” (Luke 1:4) about Jesus. But Luke no doubt realized that his recounting of Jesus’ life and message would also be useful for evangelism among non-Christians. Luke probably had several goals in writing:
Jesus comes as the messianic King to deliver the poor and needy and downcast (Luke 4:18–19). He fulfills the whole OT (Luke 24:44–47), especially its promises of everlasting salvation. The fulfillment of his mission comes with his crucifixion and resurrection.
The following recommendations are from D. A. Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey. 7th ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2013.