Truth, Understanding, Insight

How do we know the Bible is true?

16th December 2012, hej


4) Witness three: Luke

Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Luke begins his gospel record,

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto you in order, most excellent Theophilus, That you might know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)

Here Luke is saying that his history, for history it is, is the account of eyewitnesses and that Luke himself knew, and whom he trusted.

Luke knew Saul (Paul) very well as he travelled with him and saw him work. In the book of Acts Luke is himself an eyewitness. In his record he uses “we”. Sometimes Luke reports others witness, but here he is a an eyewitness.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. (Acts 16:9-15)

Luke believes that Paul had indeed seen a vision. And the result is confirmed in the conversion of Lydia who was a Hebrew proselyte (that is worshipped God). This is evidence to Luke that Paul is speaking the truth on other matters. In addition Luke witnesses the healing by Paul of a girl.

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. (Acts 16:16-18)

This healing Luke and others witnessed was done in the name of Jesus Christ. In this name only they had power. Luke witnessed that Paul had power from God in the Name of Jesus Christ. Therefore Luke is witness who believed that Paul spoke the truth, as he witnesses to us that Paul had the power of God, so we can know Paul spoke always truth as the God of the Bible hates liars and false witnesses.

These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Luke tells us of Paul's formal public witness giving evidence in his trial before King Agrippa, which would have been part of the Scribes writings as a historical event. It is rather long but worth considering in the evidence we consider as to whether we think Paul is reliable or not. We note the eyewitness of the actions.

Agrippa formally asks Paul to give his evidence,

“Thou art permitted to speak for thyself.”

Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: “I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” (Acts 26:1-5)

Paul appeals to common knowledge and tells us of his past character. Paul is saying that he was a servant of God, and abided by the laws.

Unlike the trial of Stephen there are no people here that hate Paul. Agrippa was a neutral politician. He is allowed to continue.

And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. (Acts 26:6-11)

Paul confesses things he did to put others in prison, confessing that he now speaks for the very thing he persecuted other people for doing. This also is fact and well known history as others can be consulted such as the Chief Priests.

The crux of Paul's argument to Agrippa is the question:

Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

Paul continues his witness.

“Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecut. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:12-18)

Paul refers to other people to confirm the veracity of his experience. Then he recounts what he heard Jesus say. We may ask now again is Paul likely to be telling the truth, the whole truth? If Paul is telling the truth, then what Jesus says to him was really said, and, what Jesus says to him is true. Paul continues,

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:19-23)

Paul says lastly that he only did what he had done- and throughout the known world some of his fellow Jews wanted to kill him for it! - in obedience to Jesus. Was Paul mad? Luke says, Festus, (who was with Agrippa at the trial of Paul), thought this

And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” (Acts 26:24)

Does Paul sound to us mad? Do we know enough about the prophets to confirm they spoke of Messiah suffering for our sins ?(We can go to Isaiah 41, etc.) For Paul answers,

“I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knows of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believe thou the prophets? I know that thou believe.” (Acts 26:25-27)

Paul appeals to two things, one that Agrippa knows of the events in the city and was a witness himself and secondly that he knew Jewish belief. Here then we are given the witness of Agrippa, a man expert in the Jewish religion and who knew of the faith in God.

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuade me to be a Christian. (Acts 26:28)

Agrippa knows Paul has a valid point. He tells us that Paul is not mad. Why might King Agrippa not want to be a Christian? Would it not affect his power? Agrippa is not a faithful servant of God, only an expert on what faithful people believe – and he sees Paul's point. Do we think Paul is a good witness and honest? Can we believe what he says?

Luke has one last eyewitness account of Paul's witness. This is Luke's record as he follows Paul who is bound in manacles for speaking out about Christ on his way to Rome.

Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them,

“Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.

And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what you think: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. (Acts 28:14-24)

This is the end of Luke's witness or evidence regarding Saul (Paul). Is Luke reliable?

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