In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. Acts 1:1–3
Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, is described by John Piper in a sermon, “What Jesus Did After the Beginning”
I am glad that God puts it in the heart of some doctors to do more than medicine. Every doctor I know in this church has dreams bigger than mending bodies and making bucks. I thank God for that. But the doctor I am most thankful for in all the world is the doctor called Luke. In Colossians 4:14 Paul calls him “the beloved physician.” We meet him for the first time in Troas where he joins Paul and Silas and Timothy on the second missionary journey (Acts 16:10, note the “we”). He may have been converted there and joined the missionary team as a kind of staff doctor.
But O how much more than a doctor he became! He traveled with Paul for years and went with him finally to Rome where Paul died. I find one of Paul’s most moving sentences in his last letter (2 Timothy 4:11) during his final imprisonment in Rome. He says simply, “Luke alone is with me.”
All these years in all these travels, including two years in Palestine, Luke is taking notes about the works and words of Jesus and the progress of the church. Finally God moves him to write a two-volume work that makes up more of the New Testament than what any other New Testament writer wrote, including the apostle Paul.
Luke’s Aim in Writing
He wrote the Gospel According to Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles. And his immediate purpose in writing them was to help a man named Theophilus see the truth about what Jesus did and taught and how the church spread throughout the Roman world. It may help to see this first-hand. In Luke 1:3–4 he writes:
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 know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.
Then in Acts 1:1 Luke refers back to the gospel and says:
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.
Theophilus is probably some kind of Roman official because of the title “most excellent” which Luke uses only for Roman officials like Felix (Acts 23:26) and Festus (Acts 26:25), the governors of Judea. Theophilus had some knowledge of Jesus and the church, but it was not clear and certain and complete. Luke’s aim was to give him a faithful account of what Jesus did and said and then of the progress of the church in the world.