Last night we had the first meeting of our Wednesday night community group. It is my intent to follow up our community group studies with a blog post highlighting our discussion. This will serve the purpose of helping myself and our group to reflect on the past study as we look forward to the next study. It will also serve the purpose of keeping those who are not able to attend each week up to speed with our discussion. Last night was a small gathering…Tres, my wife and me. However, we had a very nice time together. While sharing a meal together we caught up on things going on in our lives.
To begin our time of study together, we opened by sharing our testimonies. A Christian testimony is simply a story of how an individual came to know Christ and the difference that has made to their life. Each story is unique and the character of God is demonstrated as people share how God pursued them with His love. After sharing our testimonies, we discussed together what the purpose of a community group is.
In my opinion, community group is vital for anyone who desires to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Community group is a time where we have the chance to fellowship with one another, study the Bible together and pray for one another. There are a couple of schools of thought about how community groups should be organized. Often community groups are organized by people’s similarities (IE: singles group, couples group, couples with children group, seniors group, etc). I believe that community groups should be an expression of the community in which they exist. To me there is a great advantage, especially with regard to interpreting and applying the Scriptures to life, when you have a diverse group of people from varying ages, backgrounds and stages of life. A single man is going to be challenged differently than a married woman. Someone in their twenties is going to have a different perspective than someone approaching retirement. As a result, we are going to gain a better understanding of the Word and how it applies to life. And the truth is that we naturally will spend more time with those most similar to us, so a diverse community group gives us an opportunity to stretch ourselves.
I will let Tres and Kristy share by commenting on this post if they so desire, but it was clear from our discussion that each of us highly valued this time of fellowship, study and prayer.
Next we walked through an overview of the Gospel of Luke asking some of the following questions…
- What do you know about Luke’s Gospel? Who was Luke?
- What Genre of writing is the Gospel of Luke?
- What is a Synoptic Gospel? Which Gospels are Synoptic?
- Did Luke write any other books in the Bible?
Through this we learned it is widely held that Luke was a doctor. We talked about some of the theories concerning why Luke was written and to whom exactly. From my study I had learned that some believe Theophilus, who is mentioned in Luke 1:3, to be the sponsor of Luke’s gospel. That is that Theophilus actually helped pay for Luke to write this book as well as the book of Acts. Tres mentioned that he believed it was likely that Luke was officially submitting this gospel and the book of Acts as testimony for Paul’s trial in Rome and that Theophilus was perhaps a court official.
We also spoke about how the book of Luke is a “synoptic gospel.” Synoptic means a general summary. There are three “synoptic gospels,” Matthew, Mark & Luke. All three are written in a similar manner and actually have significant overlap in material. The gospel of John is written with a very different style than these three, and shares much less in common with Matthew, Mark & Luke. While we were talking about this topic we discussed some of the various theories that attempt to explain the sharing of information between the synoptic gospels. In theological circles this is called the “Synoptic Problem.” We know that the book of Matthew contains 90% of the material from Mark and that the book of Luke shares 53% of the material in the book of Mark. So, the question is which came first. There are a few major theories about this including: The Griesbach Hypothesis, the Augustinian Hypothesis (Traditional), the Oxford Hypothesis and the Farrer Hypothesis. (Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels – Scot McKnight). The most widely held by scholars today is the Oxford Hypothesis which says Mark was first, Matthew was second and Luke was Third. I think the greatest strength of this view is that Mark is the shortest of all three synoptics. It makes more sense that Matthew and Luke would wish to add to the record rather than duplicate or take away from it which is why we see that Matthew and Luke are much longer than Mark.
Then we finally got to this week’s very short passage, Luke 1:1-4…
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (New International Version)
Personal discovery is very important as we study the Bible together. I always prepare questions in advance to ask during a group, but rather than always checking off these questions I think it is best to start by reading through the Scripture, meditating on it personally for a few minutes and begin with this simple question…what sticks out to you about this passage? I believe this method gives the Holy Spirit freedom to direct our study of the Scripture. Most of the time we will cover at least some of the questions from my list, and often we will identify questions I had not thought of…that’s when things get interesting. 🙂
We started off our discussion of Luke 1:1-4 by talking about what stood out to us. Kristy was impressed by the fact that the “eyewitness and servants of the word” were faithful to communicate the events and implications of Jesus’ life to the disciples they were making throughout the world. I did not mention this earlier, but we mentioned in our overview of Luke that Luke was likely a second generation Christian. He was a companion of Paul, but he was not an eyewitness of Jesus’ life. Rather, it is clear from his gospel that he took detailed notes from the teaching of the Apostles. As Luke puts it in this passage he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning…”
We also talked about the fact that Luke says “many have undertaken to draw up an account…” I do not believe that Luke was just referring to the other three gospels. It is likely that there were various records the events of Jesus’ life circulating, both oral accounts and written records. Luke likely did not believe these accounts to be adequate, not to mention that he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to put together his “orderly account.”
Finally we discussed Luke’s purpose in writing this gospel as he records it in verses 3-4. He simply states “it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Whether Theophilus was an official of the court in Rome, a financial sponsor of Luke’s writing or even a pseudonym for a group of people who love God, Luke writes so that his readers may be certain of the things they have been taught.
To wrap up our time together we spent some time thinking through the following questions:
- What Questions do you have about Luke’s Gospel?
- What do you hope to learn more about in this study of Luke’s Gospel?
Personally, I am excited to learn more about a number of emphases within Luke’s gospel that I discovered while preparing for the study. First I am looking forward to learn more about Luke’s description of Jesus’ use of Table Fellowship. Apparently Luke records more about Table Fellowship than any of the other gospels, and Jesus has a radical use of Table Fellowship. So, I am excited about that. I am also excited about examining the connections between the Old Testament and Luke. One of the things I was most impressed by during my time in seminary was seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. Kristy has also been excited about this because she has been spending a lot of her Scripture reading in the Old Testament over the last year. I also am excited to be challenged about how to live according to the “Kingdom of God” which Jesus speaks of often in His teaching. Tres shared that he was excited to study through Luke chapter nine and ten and the implications that has for the way we do ministry today.
After completing the study, we moved into a time of prayer. Acts 1:8 says “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” On the basis of this verse, I believe it is very important that we pray for the Church in our city, in our nation and around the world. So, we prayed for the following
- Experience Church in Clearwater
- City on a Hill Church in Boston MA
- The Islands & countries of the Pacific Rim
- For the Kingdom of God to advance in Clearwater
I am looking forward to meeting again next week, and I hope you will join us. If you need more information or directions, always feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.