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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the BibleSpurgeon's Verse Expositions

Book Overview - Luke

by Arend Remmers

1. Author and Time of Writing

The last of the three synoptic gospels does not bear any direct indication as to its author. The name of the recipient though is mentioned straight at the beginning: it is an otherwise unknown well-to-do man called Theophilus. To this very Theophilus the Acts of the Apostles are dedicated as well. Both these Bible books were ascribed to Luke in the 2nd century already. Luke, "the beloved physician" was no apostle and probably no Jew either (compare Colossians 4:11; Colossians 4:14; the Jewish-Christian brothers are mentioned especially in verse 11 and we may conclude, therefore, that Luke and Demas, the co-workers mentioned in verse 14 , were heathen-Christians).

Luke was a faithful companion and co-worker of the apostle Paul for years: At first Luke accompanied Paul during his second journey from Troas to Philippi (Acts 16:10) and during his third journey from Philippi to Jerusalem (Acts 20:6. Note the word "we"). Finally Luke accompanied Paul (when he was a prisoner) to Rome (Acts 27:1). There he was in immediate company of the apostle Paul when he wrote the letters to the Colossians and to Philemon and at last he was the only one to remain with the apostle when he wrote his second letter to Timothy.

Based on this close relationship between Luke and Paul the thought has been mentioned in the 2nd century already that Paul was hinting at Luke's Gospel when repeatedly mentioning the expression "my gospel" (compare Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25). This opinion is not tenable however. The Gospel of Luke and the writings of the apostle Paul do bear the same universal character; they are directed not to Jews only but to everybody in the whole world. We do not find anything of the special vocation of Paul in the Gospel of Luke, neither of the believer's position in Christ nor of the mystery about Christ and his assembly which had been revealed especially to Paul.

Being a physician Luke had a high education which is manifest from the presentation and style of his work. He was not an eyewitness of the facts he described and therefore examined thoroughly the reports of the eyewitnesses. Whether or not Luke knew the Gospel of Mark and whether or not he used other sources known to him only, these are all speculations. As a matter of fact the Gospel of Luke contains to over one third material which the other gospel writers do not mention. This applies especially to the introductory chapters and to the Lord Jesus' journey to Jerusalem (chapters 9 to 19).

In the introductory verses in chapter 1:1 - 4 , we see - very distinctly - the unity between the writer's motive and the divine inspiration. What Luke had learned from the eyewitnesses he wrote down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of Luke was probably written during the years 55 to 60 AC. Many scientists suppose that Luke wrote it during the 2 year-imprisonment of the apostle Paul in Caesarea (compare Peculiarities).

2. Subject and purpose of writing

Luke was probably the only non-Jew called of God to write a Bible book. The Gospel bearing his name is the longest of all. If we include the Acts of the Apostles Luke has written the greatest part of the NT after the Apostle Paul.

A special characteristic of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles is the general validity of the gospel of salvation for all men in the whole world (compare Luke 2:14; Luke 2:32; Luke 3:6; Luke 4:25-27; Luke 24:47). As the twelve apostles are sent out in Luke 9 the restriction mentioned by Matthew is not mentioned. In Matthew the disciples were to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The sending out of the seventy is reported by Luke only (chapter 10).

More than any other evangelist Luke mentions the care of the Lord Jesus for special groups of people and individuals:

  • the despised ones (chap. 7:37ff; 19:1ff; 23:40ff),

  • the Samaritans (chapter 9:52ff; 10:33ff; 17:16),

  • women and children (Luke mentions over 10 women who are not mentioned anywhere else).

The universality of Christ's service is most apparent in the key verse in Luke 19:10 : "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." The words saviour, salvation and to save are mentioned especially frequently with Luke.

The main subject of Luke's presentation, though, is the person of the Lord Jesus as Son of Man, the true and perfect man who lived as the only just among the unjust and who suffered death for them - on the cross. This is why Luke describes - in great detail - the incarnation of the Son of God, his birth, his childhood, his obedience towards Mary and Joseph and his growth in every respect. In his genealogy of the Lord Jesus Luke goes back to Adam, the first man (this genealogy being Mary's). In no other Gospel do we find the Lord Jesus in prayer and speaking about prayer as often as in this Gospel (Luke 3:21; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:18; Luke 9:28; Luke 11:1; Luke 18:1-8; Luke 22:32; Luke 22:40-46; Luke 23:34; Luke 23:46; Luke 24:30). In this way, his perfect dependence upon his God and Father is expressed. The Holy Spirit's intention in this Gospel is summarised in the centurion's words under the cross: "Certainly this was a righteous man." (chap. 23:47)

3. Peculiarities

a) Joy

The word "joy" is mentioned more frequently in Luke (and similarly in John) than in the two other Gospels. This stresses that the gospel is good or joyful news. It is especially beautiful to see that the gospel begins and ends with this joy (Luke 1:14; Luke 24:52).

b) Reference of Luke's Gospel with Paul

In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul refers to Luke 10:7, where he writes: "The labourer is worthy of his reward." This reference is very remarkable for two reasons. Firstly it shows that Luke's Gospel was already known at the time of writing the First Epistle to Timothy. Secondly it proofs that the Gospel of Luke was immediately respected by the Christians as a canonical book, belonging to the Holy Scriptures. The introductory words of the Apostle Paul "for the scripture says" put both references from Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 upon one level, the level of the inspired Word of God. The fact that a reference of Luke's Gospel is considered as belonging to the Holy Scriptures shows that the Holy Spirit inspires the combination of the individual scriptures as well as the writers at the time of writing.

4. Overview of Contents

I. Luke 1-3; Luke 4:1-13 Introduction: Birth, Childhood and Preparation of the Son of Man





Birth of John the Baptist and Announcement of Jesus' Birth

Birth and Occurrences of Jesus' Childhood


3:1 - 4:13

Baptism, Genealogy and Temptation of Jesus

II. Luke 4:14-44; Luke 5-8; Luke 9:1-50 First Main Part: Jesus' Service in Galilee


4:14 - 44

At Nazareth and Capernaum



Peter's Haul; Healing of a Lame Man and Calling of Levi



The Problem with the Sabbath; Calling and Teaching of the Twelve Apostles



The Centurion at Capernaum ; the Young Man at Nain; John, the Baptist; the Woman who was a Great Sinner



The Fourfold Ground; Jesus in the Tempest; Healing of the Demon-Possessed Man; the Daughter of Jairus; the Woman with the Issue of Blood


9:1 - 50

Sending of the Twelve Apostles; Jesus' Glorification and Announcement of Sufferings

III. Luke 9:51-62; Luke 10-18; Luke 19:1-27 Second Main Part: Jesus' Journey to Jerusalem



9:51 - 62


Imitation of Christ

Sending Out of the Seventy Disciples; the Good Samaritan; Mary and Martha





Prayer; Jesus' Rejection; Six Woes over the Pharisees and the Scribes

The Heavenly Part: Persecution, a Treasure in Heaven, Hope and Faithfulness







Teachings on the Kingdom of God

Grace and Following the Lord Jesus

The Lost Sheep, the Lost Piece of Silver and the Prodigal Son





The Unjust Steward; the Rich Man and Poor Lazarus

Forgiveness and Faith; the Ten Lepers; The Coming of Christ




19:1 - 27

The Unjust Judge; the Pharisee and the Tax Gatherer; the Rich Young Man; the Blind Man near Jericho

Zacchaeus; the Ten Pounds

IV. Luke 19:28-48; Luke 20-22; Luke 23:1-5 Third Main Part: Completion of Jesus' Service



19:28 - 48


Entering Jerusalem and Cleansing of the Temple

Clash with the People's Leaders



Speech on the Times of the End



Passover; Lord's Supper; Gethsemane ; Capture and Denial of Peter



Condemnation, Crucifixion, Death and Burial of Jesus

V. Luke 24 Close: Resurrection and Ascension of the Son of Man


24:1 - 53

Resurrection; the Disciples going to Emmaus; Jesus, the Eleven Apostles, and His Ascension

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