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Acts 1:1 - Letters to Theophilus

Letters To Theophilus (1:1)

INTRODUCTION

1. The New Testament is a collection of 27 books...
   a. Containing gospels, history, epistles, and prophecy
   b. Some written to people at large, others to individual Christians
      and churches

2. It may surprise some that over one fourth of the NT was written to
   one individual...
   a. Luke and Acts contains more than 27% of the total words in the NT
   b. Both were addressed to a man named Theophilus - Lk 1:1-4; Ac
      1:1-3

[With much of the New Testament written to just one man, it may be of
interest to further examine the relationship between the author and his
recipient, and the two letters between them...]

I. THE AUTHOR OF THE LETTERS

   A. THE GOSPEL OF LUKE...
      1. Though unnamed, church tradition supporting Luke as the author
         is both early and unanimous - ESV Study Bible
      2. Luke was a physician, thought to have been a Gentile, possibly
         from Antioch - Co 4:14; cf. Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History,
         3.4.7

   B. THE BOOK OF ACTS...
      1. Also unnamed, but obviously the same author as Luke's gospel 
         - cf. Ac 1:1 with Lk 2:1-4
      2. The "we" sections require a companion of Paul, and Luke is
         mentioned in Paul's epistles - Col 4:14; 2Ti 4:11; Phm 24 

[The "beloved physician" who often accompanied Paul in his travels had
ample opportunity to collect the information shared in the gospel of Luke
and the book of Acts.  As for...]

II. THE RECIPIENT OF THE LETTERS

   A. THE GOSPEL OF LUKE...
      1. Was written to "most excellent Theophilus" - Lk 1:3
      2. Theophilus means "loved of God"
      3. The appellation "most excellent" suggests a government
         official - cf. Ac 23:26; 24:3; 26:25
      
   B. THE BOOK OF ACTS...
      1. Was written to "O Theophilus" - Ac 1:1
      2. Note that the honorific title "most excellent" was dropped,
         about which we will comment later

[Not much more is known about the identity of Theophilus, but what is
said about him has led to some interesting possibilities about...]

III. THE PURPOSE OF THE LETTERS

   A. THE GOSPEL OF LUKE...
      1. "that you may know the certainty of those things in which you
         were instructed" - Lk 1:4
      2. Theophilus had undoubted heard many things about Jesus and his
         followers - Lk 1:1; cf. Ac 17:6-7; 28:22
      3. There is evidence that Luke composed his work partially to
         prove that neither Jesus nor his followers were politically 
         dangerous to the Roman government - ISBE, "Theophilus"

   B. THE BOOK OF ACTS...
      1. To continue the story begun in the gospel of Luke - Ac 1:4
      2. Some have concluded that Theophilus was the magistrate who
         heard Paul's case in Rome and that Acts (and Luke) was a legal 
         brief in Paul's defense - ISBE, "Theophilus"
      3. The abrupt ending of Acts prior to Paul's trial before Caesar
         lends support to the idea that it may have initially served as a
         "legal brief" in Paul's behalf - cf. Ac 28:30-31

[Luke's purpose in writing these two letters to Theophilus was to inform
him about the life of Christ and the growth of the early church.  How
were these letters received by Theophilus...?] 

IV. THE EFFECT OF THE LETTERS

   A. THEOPHILUS' CONVERSION...
      1. We noted that Luke dropped the honorific title "most
         excellent" in his second letter - Ac 1:1
      2. This has led many to conclude that Luke's relation to
         Theophilus had changed, that receiving Luke's gospel resulted in
         Theophilus' conversion
      3. For Christians did not use honorific titles to address one
         another - cf. Mt 23:8-12

   B. PAUL'S RELEASE...
      1. There is evidence that Paul's first appearance before Caesar
         led to his release
      2. After which he had time to travel, according to his plans
         written in his prison epistles - Php 2:24; Phm 22
      3. During which he wrote his first epistle to Timothy, and the
         one to Titus

[Even if the letters were originally intended for Theophilus, may have
even served as a "legal brief", their inspiration by the Spirit of God
has long been acknowledged.  Leading one to inquire about...]

V. THE VALUE OF THE LETTERS

   A. FOR CREATING FAITH IN CHRIST...
      1. Many have used Luke's gospel to introduce people to Jesus
         Christ
      2. It is the most extensive of the four gospels, written in
         chronological order - Lk 1:3
      3. Penned by a professional man (physician), with a view toward
         historical accuracy - Lk 1:4; 2:1-2; 3:1-2

   B. FOR OBEYING THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST...
      1. Luke records many examples of conversion in the book of Acts 
         - e.g., Ac 2:36-41; 8:30-38
      2. We read of the evangelistic methods and message of the early
         apostles and preachers
      3. For assurance of our own salvation, we can compare our own
         conversion experience with those in Acts; were we told the same
         gospel, did we respond in the same way?

   C. FOR UNDERSTANDING THE CHURCH OF CHRIST...
      1. Acts contains the only record of the first thirty years of the
         early church
      2. It describes establishment, growth, organization, and worship
         of the church - e.g., Ac 2:42; 14:23
      3. Comparing Luke's record in Acts with the religious world
         today, we can see how far people have drifted from following 
         Jesus as the Way

CONCLUSION

1. Two letters, written to one man, sometime in the early 60s A.D....
   a. Who would have thought a simple correspondence would have the
      impact it did
   b. Of course it is due to their inspiration and preservation by the
      Spirit of God!

2. Have you given yourself the opportunity to read these two letters? 
   Do so, and you...
   a. Already have read one fourth of the New Testament!
   b. Will have the opportunity to learn much about Jesus, His
      salvation, and His church!

Along with the rest of the New Testament, you can "know the certainty of
those things in which you were instructed"...

Acts 1:1

[Act 1:1 NASB] 1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,

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