“Dear Theophilus …”
So begins the opening lines to the books of Luke and Acts, as rendered in several translations of the Bible. Even those versions that don’t begin with this endearing phrase do note that these works are for Theophilus. The name Theophilus means “lover of God.”
Though we can only speculate who Theophilus was, it’s likely he was a serious seeker of spiritual truth who may have commissioned the work. To do so, he tapped Dr. Luke to research and report on the life of Jesus and the work of his followers after Jesus rose from the dead and returned to heaven.
As a medical doctor, Luke was no doubt trained in the art of observation and excelled in a dispassionate examination of the truth. This would have made him an ideal investigative reporter to dig into the history-changing work of Jesus.
Luke was also the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament. As such, his words are that of an outsider and may more readily connect with those on the outside, looking in. As a result his words are for us as much as for dear Theophilus.
The Book of Luke
The book of Luke, named after its author, is one of the four Gospels: biographies that focus on the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The book of Luke contains details and information not included by Matthew, Mark, and John (the other three biographies of Jesus) serving to nicely round out and fill in our understanding of Jesus.
There are many passages in Luke that parallel the gospels of Matthew and Mark. But Luke doesn’t share too many similar sections with the Gospel of John.
A favorite Gospel among many Christians, Luke writes with straight-forward, yet engaging language. He also includes the familiar and oft-read Christmas account of the birth of Jesus, in chapter 2.
The book of Luke is part one of a two-book combination. Acts, also written by Luke, is part two. It picks up with the story of the early church.
The Book of Acts
A subsequent work for dear Theophilus is the book of Acts or “the Acts of the Apostles.” It’s the story of the early church. Also written by Dr Luke, Acts continues the story where the book of Luke, a biography of Jesus, left off.
Acts begins with Jesus’s ascension into heaven and his followers’ (the twelve disciples) efforts to continue without their leader. They wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to send to them. The Holy Spirit will provide them guidance, direction, and counsel.
The Holy Spirit’s arrival is both mysterious and powerful. He produces extraordinary results in Jesus’s followers and causes the church to grow quickly.
Noteworthy in Acts is the frequent mention of the Holy Spirit. With about 100 references, Acts provides an up-close look into the work of the Holy Spirit and the function of the early church of Jesus.
Many people look to Acts for a model for how the church can (or perhaps, should) function. If you ever heard of an “Acts chapter two church,” it’s a reference to the early church as exemplified in Acts 2. Another such section appears in Acts 4.
Luke and Acts work together to make a powerful two-book combo, with a captivating story.
Upcoming Dear Theophilus Books by Peter DeHaan
Look for upcoming books by Peter DeHaan, PhD, a lifelong student of the Bible, about the works of Dr. Luke.
In his books, Peter will explore these ancient works. He’ll share fresh ways we can apply these two-millennia-old writings to today’s postmodern culture and a people more open to spirituality then prior generations. The working titles for these books are:
- Dear Theophilus: Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke
- Dear Theophilus: 40 Insights from the Book of Acts for Today’s Church
Then look for more books in the Dear Theophilus series.
Check back here for news, updates, and publication dates.