What would you say? If you had the same opportunity, what would you say? How would you say it? Would it be believable?
The writer of the Gospel of Luke opens with some pretty interesting statements. But let’s not miss the fact that he’s writing to someone about something that’s important. Important not just for Luke, but what may be eternally important to his specific reader Theophilus. So what does he say?
There are times, like Luke, we find ourselves in conversations about faith. Some of them are casual and some more intense. Sometimes in our eagerness to be genuine and sincere, there is a fine line that often gets blurred. It’s the line between what we believe to be true based on faith compared to what is true based on certainty – an absolute fact. Even scripture gives us a hint of where the line is when the writer of Hebrews says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Reading the opening verses of Luke’s Gospel I found myself wondering about two particular issues; one, the difference between faith and certainty and two, how one goes about establishing a credible faith message.
Let’s look at the second issue, credibility, first. Luke posits several interesting points in order to establish credibility:
- He refers to others who have compiled information on the topic he will address – information he has apparently heard or read
- He notes that the information was handed down to him and others
- It was handed down by people who were eye witnesses to the things he’ll address
- Not only were these people eye witnesses, but they were “servants of the word”
- He indicates that he has examined everything, from the beginning, carefully
- He plans to lay it all out, in “consecutive order”
- His goal is that Theophilus may know the “exact truth”
- Truth about the “things he (Theophilus) has been taught”
Luke is not just pulling thoughts off the top of his head and jotting down things he’s heard. He has thoroughly investigated the information that has been compiled by others – others who were eye witnesses – and has established that they are true. Not only true, but “exact truth.” (The word used here could mean “certainty” or “undoubted truth.” It’s used only here in Luke and then just two other times in the NT.) We should all be so thorough in our study of the biblical witness.
This leads to the second point – the fine line between certainty and faith. We have faith in things and thus establish, at least in our own minds, that those things are true and certain. We often speak of them as fact. Not that we can necessarily demonstrate concrete evidence of some things being true, but we believe them to be true. For example, the virgin birth. We can’t establish beyond any doubt that it was fact. Biology tells us it is impossible for a pregnancy to occur in human beings without a sperm and an egg. But we believe the virgin birth to be true by faith because of the witness of scripture.
It’s not a matter of splitting hairs – the ideas of certainty and faith. It’s a matter of being clear that we establish our beliefs based on the testimony of a reliable document, the Bible, and adopting that testimony as true, through faith. Can I prove God created the world in seven days, the flood actually happened, Elijah called down fire from heaven, or any number of Biblical stories – OT or NT? No, but I don’t necessarily need to in order to validate my faith. Certainty – knowing something is absolutely true or an assured fact is not my terra firma . My faith is.
So…what would you say to Theophilus?