Reliable Information
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

Reliable Information

Luke 1:1–4  (ID: 2048)

Some have suggested that only a fraction of the history reported in the Gospels is real. How can we respond to such a claim? In this message, Alistair Begg shows us that there is stronger evidence for the veracity of the Gospel accounts than we realize. The transformation of the apostles and the early church can be explained not by wishful thinking but only by the power of their having known the risen Christ.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Luke, Volume 1

God with Us Luke 1:1–2:52 Series ID: 14201

Sermon Transcript: Print

Father, we have sung our prayer. We mean it from our hearts. Our earnest longing is that we might meet you in your written Word. We know that we cannot illumine the page by ourselves and for ourselves; that this is the work of your Spirit; that no mere man can ever add to, in any helpful way, the truth of your Word; that all we can do is unearth, by your Spirit, the immensity of its wonder. And so we pray that you will come to our expectant hearts and meet with us in these moments as we study the Scriptures together and as we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Can I invite you to turn again to Luke’s Gospel and to chapter 1? In turning to these opening verses of Luke’s Gospel, we are placing our feet upon a path which stretches for some way out in front of us. Luke’s Gospel is the longest book in the New Testament, and therefore, we could be here for some considerable time.

When you consider the fact that along with the other book which he wrote—namely, the Acts of the Apostles—Luke is responsible for over a quarter of the total New Testament material… And it therefore is going to demand our attention over some period of time. It moves from the annunciation of John the Baptist all the way through to the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ and covers in its scope a tremendous amount of material. Just how we will proceed as of now I do not know, but proceed we will, and if we ever reach the end, then it will be cause for celebration. Should we not reach the end, then someone coming behind us will perhaps pick it up and draw it to its conclusion. But it seems to me this morning, as I look at these first four verses, a very, very long way to the end of the Gospel of Luke. Yes, a very, very long way. But anyway, we said we would do another Gospel together, and so we shall.

Luke, as you know, was the companion of Paul on his journeys—not the only companion but one of the most significant. He was a gentile, the only gentile writer in the whole of the New Testament. He was also a doctor. He was also an educated man, and he was also an historian. In fact, he was more of a historian than Matthew or Mark or even John. Each of those individuals sets the material of Jesus firmly within the realm of Palestine. It is left to Luke to interact with much of the secular history, in terms of the unfolding of the development of the Roman Empire. And we will see that as we are going through. He also was a traveler, not only with [Paul], but he had traveled quite extensively. And so it’s not difficult to see why it would be that God would lay his hand upon this individual, a man of wide views and of broad sympathies, to be the Gospel writer who, more than any of the other Gospel writers, would be laying emphasis upon the universality of the gospel.

One of the things that we will see in going through Luke’s Gospel is the breadth of the appeal of the gospel, to which Luke is making constant reference. So, whether he is mentioning children or women, the sick, the poor, the rich, the outcasts, the foreigners, in each case, he is always moving centrally to the truth that is expressed at the end of the encounter of Jesus with Zacchaeus—namely, that the Son of Man is seeking to save that which was lost.[1]

Now, given that it is a very long journey before us, we are going to only proceed a short distance this morning and, indeed, deal with only one sentence—that is, one sentence in the Greek New Testament, which is actually four verses in our English translation which we have before us.

I want to say that our study is inevitably introductory, that you will need a measure of patience, and that you will need a measure of alertness if you wish to benefit from what I am about to say and also from your own further study, which must inevitably follow from the somewhat sketchy outline that I am going to provide. I work on the basis that every good teacher that I have ever had did not tell me everything but, in telling me what they told me, stimulated within me a desire to find out more for myself. And that, I hope, will be something true in at least the lives of some.

Now, the reason we’re spending time on this opening sentence is because the introduction to the Gospel is important. When we recognize that it was not a book—namely, with two hard covers, or even two soft covers, and a flyleaf—but rather that it was a scroll, we recognize just how important the opening sentence would be. Because people were not going, as it were, into a bookstore—there were none—and picking out a book and looking on the flyleaf to see what it was about. But the only thing that could be done would be for the scroll to be rolled down just a wee bit, and as they would roll it down ever so slightly, then they would be introduced to the opening sentence, and the opening sentence would provide for the reader the gist of what was to follow.

A Historical Account

And so, this opening sentence is vitally important. In it you will see, if you’re scanning it, that Luke informs us that his purpose is to write an historical account which would provide a solid basis for Christian faith. Some of his readers would already have received previous instruction, some of which would have been incomplete and some of it, frankly, imperfect. And so Luke tells us here in these verses that he determined that it would be best for him to put down an orderly account of his own, presumably correcting any mistakes and filling in any gaps.

Now, as is always the case in turning to a book of the Bible, we need to remind ourselves that we are long removed from the context in which the Bible was written so that we do not immediately seek to take the Bible and apply it to our lives without understanding the context in which it was set historically. To the extent that we begin to do that, we may make the Bible say all kinds of things and press verses to all kinds of conclusions, and it is very dangerous, and it is in a variety of cases, frankly, wrong to do.

Luke’s purpose is to write an historical account which would provide a solid basis for Christian faith.

Luke was writing at a time when there were, obviously, no printing presses, no word processors, no Microsoft Word, no Windows 98, no fax, and no email. I mean, if you think about it for a little while, Shakespeare wrote his plays without the use of a dictionary. There wasn’t even a dictionary in existence when Shakespeare wrote his plays. It’s hard for us to imagine a time when the phrase “Look it up” didn’t mean anything. Because nobody could say to Shakespeare, “Look it up,” and he would say, “Okay,” because there was nothing to look up.

And we are such dwellers at the end of this millennium, so focused on the rate and vastness of the change, that we have to disengage from that just a moment or two to understand the way in which the Bible was iterated in the first instance. And in these early days, the information about the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus was handed down by word of mouth—or, if you like, in a more technical phrase, by oral tradition. By oral tradition. So in the first instance, the events of the life of Christ—the parables he told, the journeys he took, the messages he proclaimed, the encounters he had—were preserved, in the fledgling days, by oral tradition. People remembered them and told one another about them.

Now, that in itself is quite staggering to us. Because we are familiar with people saying to us on a virtually daily basis, “Excuse me, let me write that down, if I may, because if I don’t write it down, I’m sure that I will forget it immediately.” And so we are aware of the fact that people constantly do that. It actually says something about a number of things which we will leave aside. It says something about our educational system. But the issue is this: that given that that’s the way we think about something that isn’t written down, we then tend to come to an event like this, find out that it wasn’t written down, and then find ourselves susceptible to the idea that somehow, then, the gospel in its infancy was loose and was haphazard and may even have been faulty, because after all, they “didn’t write it down.”

Now, the disciples lived in an era, and they lived among a people, where verbal memory was trained to a degree that is now, upon reflection, absolutely phenomenal. Let us remember that these early individuals, these first Christians, were, the majority of them, first-century Jews. And they had been trained from the very beginning in the memorization of the Old Testament. And indeed, those of you who have come from the background of Judaism know this to be true, and your own childhood training in an orthodox Jewish home would have been in the memorization of significant portions of the Old Testament Scriptures. Indeed, it was impossible for you to prepare for your bar mitzvah without committing to verbal memory vast portions of the Bible. And it was out of their ability to do that that they then began to pass on to one another these facts concerning Jesus.

Gresham Machen, a theologian of an earlier day, says, “Stamped upon the tablets of Jewish minds, the story of Jesus’ words and deeds was for a time at least as safe as though inscribed on stone or bronze.” Because their capacity for retention and their commitment to detail, albeit verbalized detail, was quite unparalleled.

So, what did you have? Well, you had the sayings and the events of the life of Jesus being passed on from one Jewish preacher to another. And eventually, the material would begin to form up into some kind of structured package, whereby people, in finding different preachers in different parts of Palestine, would recognize that different men in different places were conveying the exact same things. Now, they may not have them all in the exact order as the person that they heard in Nazareth had them or when they were over in Caesarea Philippi, but they understood that the exact same material was what was being pressed upon the listening audience. “Here,” they were saying, “is the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And at the risk of boring you, let me say again that we dare not underestimate the tenacity of oral tradition in a preliterate society. The culture of Luke was a culture of memory. And some of us have benefited from that, because we are old enough to have come through that educational system. Certainly in Scotland, I was pressed continually in the realm of memory. I recognize that in contemporary educational thought, it is regarded as fairly bogus. It is regarded as pretty irrelevant and as a poor form of instruction. That’s no surprise to me at all, because existentialists don’t care about yesterday, and they’re not sure that there is a tomorrow. But for those who have a biblical worldview, they know that yesterday mattered, and they know that tomorrow will matter and that today is significant because of yesterday and because of tomorrow. Therefore, it is vital that we bring these things to memory.

When I was eleven years old, just as an indication of this, in a secular school, my teacher, Miss Bone, would put on the blackboard the work of the day upon our arrival. And at the head of all of the work of the day was a portion of the Bible. And one could not begin the English or the math or proceed to the art until one had gone to the front of the class and recited the portion of material which was up there on the blackboard.

And it is there at the age of eleven that I learned to say,

A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, [divide unto] me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son [took all that he had,] and [made] his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he [began to be in want], there arose a … famine in the land.[2]

And so on. That was all committed to memory at the age of eleven. That’s thirty-five and a half years ago. That’s oral tradition!

Now, I can verify it by showing it to you, or you can take my word for it as a report. That’s exactly what was going on. We need to understand that, and I want to tell you why: because those who challenge the truthfulness of the Bible, and particularly the truthfulness of the Gospels, like to do so by suggesting that there are discrepancies—mainly chronological discrepancies—on account of the fact that the oral tradition could never be a time of security and that God somehow or another could not mastermind the control of the oral tradition so that we might then have this Bible left to us in its sanctity. I don’t want to get into this—it is a major point of discussion—except to say this: that a lack of chronological arrangement is exactly what we would expect from oral tradition; that people would recall these various events. They may not be able to recall them in the exact order in which they unfolded. The issue was not that they all reported them in the exact order. The issue is that they all reported them.

So, you see, when we go to heaven and we say to Luke, “Luke, couldn’t you have put it down a bit more, you know, ‘Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday’ for us?” Luke would say, “Of course I could! But that wasn’t my purpose! I wasn’t setting out simply to write a chronology. I was setting out in order to give to you the very truths about Jesus, and chronology, as important as it was to me, was secondary to my ultimate purpose.” In the same way that people write biography today: you pick up a biography, and it starts when the guy’s forty-five, and then it goes back to his great-grandfather, and then it goes over to when he was in high school, and sometimes you have the hardest difficulty figuring out what’s going on. And that’s what we have in the Gospels.

Now, contemporary unbelief, epitomized in the Jesus Seminar, with which some of you will be familiar… I just spoke to a lady after our first worship hour. She is a ministry student at Ursuline College. She’s a Roman Catholic, attended the first hour of worship, and was this week, in the course of her studies of Christology, dealing with the issue of the Jesus Seminar. So at least I feel there was one person in the first hour who knew what I was on about. Since I don’t anticipate she’s here in the second hour, that may be the only person that knows what I was on about the whole day.

But most of you will have been familiar with a group of scholars who sat down to take the New Testament apart and to use colored pencils and color in the bits that Jesus really said. As of right now, they have reduced it by 82 percent. Of the material that we have in the Gospels, they have determined that only 18 percent of what is here as the recorded events of the life and words of Jesus is actually the life and words of Jesus.

How do they arrive at that? Well, this is the way they work it. They say since there was a period of time of oral tradition when these things were not written down, and since there was, in their minds, a much longer gap before the Gospels were penned, what we have in the New Testament is not the historical truths concerning Jesus—his works and his word—but what we have in the New Testament is a combination of little bits of that (which they’ve set out to find, of which there’s only 18 percent that is valid, according to their estimate); what we have are little bits of history, but they are completely impregnated with the views and ideas and mythologies and thought forms of people now living some two hundred years after the time of Christ’s walking in Palestine. In other words, the factuality of the New Testament is suspect, and that what we have here is an expression of the faith of individuals, who then made up the facts.

A lack of chronological arrangement is exactly what we would expect from oral tradition.

So it goes like this: “There is no literal resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” That is not a fact of history, according to the Jesus Seminar. Well, then, why is it in the Bible that there was an empty tomb and Jesus wasn’t there? “Oh,” says the Jesus Seminar, “that’s because these people, as time passed, thought it was a nice idea to believe that Jesus was still around, and that there was reason for them to think that that might be the case. Oh, they knew he wasn’t literally risen from the dead. They just had an experience of him in their minds, or they had a feeling of him in their hearts. And so what they did was they then went back, and when they penned the Bible, they took their faith, and they imposed it on history, so that what we have is not history, but we have the faith of these second-century dwellers imposed upon little sketchy bits and pieces of who Jesus is and what he said.”

Now, the average eighth grader would be quick to hear that stuff and pronounce it absolute humbug, hogwash, silliness. It certainly flies in the face of the clear statement of Doctor Luke, who says, verse 3, “I … have carefully investigated everything from the beginning.”

Is it not inconceivable that a community whose faith focused so exclusively on a single historical figure could have been, according to liberal scholarship, so blithely unconcerned about the historical facts of the life of this Jesus? Look at verse 2. Those who handed down the material were those who were intimately acquainted with the facts. They “were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”

This is not something that is unique to Luke’s Gospel. For example, when John writes his first epistle, in 1 John, listen to the way he puts it:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard.[3]

So our friends—and you will be confronted by this, trust me, in the next four weeks—our friends who come to us with Life magazine and Time magazine and Newsweek magazine, and they’re there to say to us again and again, “You know, I read in Time magazine a fascinating idea. Jesus wasn’t really in the Bible. You know that? The resurrection wasn’t really true. There was no Nazareth. There was really no Bethlehem. The whole thing is bogus, you know. Makes it much more believable,” they say. “Now I can believe it! Now we’ve removed all the very difficult parts. Now we have it easy!” Yeah, so easy it’s totally facile! It’s so believable, it’s unbelievable! The thing that makes the Bible so believable is the fact that it is so unbelievable!

These individuals who preserved this oral tradition, these eyewitnesses, were not concocting a gospel; they were declaring the gospel. They were not making it up; they were making it plain.

If you examine, for example, the postcrucifixion events—just think about that for a moment. Where were the disciples when Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross? Preaching? No. Witnessing? No. On the streets declaring the reality of Christ? No. They were hidden in a room with the doors locked for fear that they would go the same way that Jesus had gone.[4] When the women come from the tomb with the news of its emptiness and with a variety of stories about an encounter with Christ, these same committed followers of Jesus declare the women out of their minds.[5] When ten of them have a direct encounter with this risen Christ, one of them—namely, Thomas—refuses to take at face value the testimony of these ten men with whom he has lived the last three years of his life and says, “I will not believe that he is alive unless I can put my fingers in his hands, unless I can place my hand in his side.”[6]

Now, I ask you: Does that sound like a group of people who are just waiting to go out and tell the world about the reality of the risen Lord Jesus Christ? Not for a moment! It describes a group of people who were disillusioned, who were defeated, who were disappointed, who were fearful, who were faithless. Peter says, “I’m going fishing.”[7]

So then, how do we arrive, within such a few days, with this same Peter who had gone fishing, who had denied Christ through his curses, who had ended up defeated and in despair and in his tears—how do we find him out on the Jerusalem streets saying, “And I want you to know that this Jesus whom you crucified, God has made him both Lord and King”?[8] What produced that? Now, the Jesus Seminar says, “Just the feelings and the faith of the people two hundred years later who concocted it and wrote it back into the story.” Get serious! I would love to go against anybody in a court of law on the basis of that kind of argument. I wouldn’t find that very difficult at all to deal with.

The reason that Peter was on the Jerusalem street is not because his faith produced a fact. It’s because the fact produced his faith. He’s out on his boat. He’s not catching a thing. A stranger comes on the shore and says, “Hey, put your thing down on the other side.” He puts it down on the other side. They can’t contain the fish. Someone says, “It’s the Lord!” Peter dives off the side of the boat, goes walking on the beach, meets Jesus. He makes breakfast for him. He weeps before him. He is restored. And as a result of an eyewitness encounter with Jesus, he says, “Okay, Lord, I will go out now, and I will live for you, and I will die for you.”[9]

The eyewitnesses were not concocting a gospel; they were declaring the gospel. They were not making it up; they were making it plain.

Now, that is what the Gospel writer is saying. He’s saying, “That’s where we got the material to write down these Gospels. We got it from individuals who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”

I daren’t delay on the phrase “servants of the word” but simply say this: that they were not out on the streets propagating their view of the events. They were declaring the testimony about Jesus. These individuals were writing the very Gospels when the knowledge of the life of Christ was challengeable—when the news of the Lord Jesus was still flowing in the minds of people, fresh and pure. And it is in that context that Luke then says, “I conducted an investigation, and on the strength of that, I provided this information.”

Now, let me draw your attention to these two thoughts, and I will close. “Therefore,” verse 3, “since I myself have carefully investigated everything…” The word there is akribōs. It means, “Since I have gone into this with a realm of painstaking thoroughness, since I have examined the light of the evidence available, I have been very careful.”

You would expect a doctor to be careful, wouldn’t you? Doctors are to show meticulous care. They may be struck off the register if they fail to, and justifiably so, because we place our lives in their hands. If you have listened to doctors taking case histories of people, you know the extent of their thoroughness. If you’ve been on the receiving end of one of those things, you want to know, “Why do you have to ask me all these things? Why do you take such care? Why do you have to poke your nose into everything?”

Why is it so crucial? ’Cause life depends upon it. Why is it so crucial in the Gospels? Same answer: life depends upon it. Luke’s not playing fast and loose with the material. He’s not monkeying around with this stuff. He says, “The eyewitnesses came. The servants of the word came. This is what I heard from them, and I took it apart,” he says. “I went through it with a dose of salt. I didn’t leave any stone unturned. I examined it all—not just portions of it, but from the beginning right through to the end.” And those who want to suggest that the Gospels emerged from the fertile imaginations of lively souls should recognize that the charge fits best at their own feet.

His investigation was careful, and his investigation was comprehensive. Look at that: “Everything from the beginning.” And then, on the basis of this careful, comprehensive investigation, he provides information.

Now, what is the nature of the information he provides? This will, in a sense, come out as we go through all of these studies that are coming, so let me simply highlight it for you, and we will return to these things as we proceed.

First of all, the information he provides is historical information. Although this is not all that it is, it nevertheless is this.

A Reliable Account

Secondly, it is reliable information, hence verse 4: “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” His concern is for this man Theophilus, about whom we know nothing, which doesn’t stop people from getting PhDs on the strength of his existence, nor does it stop home Bible studies from shutting themselves down for a week and a half in trying to discover who the man was. It’s like the nursery rhyme: the cat went to London to see the queen and chased the mouse under the chair. So many of our Bible studies are just exactly like that: we miss the point that’s actually there while we chase mice underneath all the different chairs. And for those of you who lead those home Bible studies and these small groups, make sure that you’ve got a solid working grasp of the material before you go in there, or it will be like the blind leading the blind. There’s nothing quite as unsatisfying as coming out of one of those events and feeling as though nobody had a clue about what was going on and we chased theological mice underneath the couch and the chair and out into the laundry room and so on. That’s just an aside on small groups, for which I’m thankful, but they need to be led.

The information is reliable. It’s not myths and fancies. It’s not fairy tales. And I want you to be reminded of that so that you can tell that to your friends this week—friends who have expressed a great interest, for example, in books such as The Elves of Lily Hill Farm; individuals who, when you say to them, “We were studying about the Gospels, and how they have been preserved for us in oral tradition, and how the eyewitnesses then conveyed the information to the people who wrote it down,” and they say, “Oh, you don’t believe that stuff, do you? You mean the Mary, Joseph, babe in the Bethlehem, and the Nazareth and all that jazz? You don’t believe that stuff, do you?” “Yeah.” “Oh, I could never believe stuff like that. That’s bogus! How can anybody believe that?”

And then, almost without a pause, they’ll go on to tell you, “But I’ll tell you, I’ve been reading a great book: The Elves of Lily Hill Farm.” “What’s it about?” “Well, the author, Penny Kelly, ‘describes her enduring relationship and regular conversations with a small clan of elves led by Alvey, a 22-inch-tall spirit in baggy pants and feathered hat.’”[10] You say, “Excuse me? You want to throw me out because I suggest that the Gospels are verifiable—they are historical and reliable—and then you want me to listen to your stories about a twenty-two-inch elf that wears a baggy hat?” “Yes, I do.”

And they may say, “And furthermore, did you read those two fabulous books of conversations with God? Do you know that God converses with people?”

“Oh, he does. That’s what I was trying to tell you in the Bible.”

“Oh, I don’t mean like the Bible. No, no, no, no. We don’t accept the Bible. I mean really converses with people.”

“‘Really,’ like what?”

“Really, like Neale Walsch in his two best-selling books on the New York Times best-seller list called Conversations with God. Neale Walsch, he hears from God. He does!”

What did Neale Walsch say about it when he was questioned about the believability of his conversations? This is what he said: “I don’t really care what you believe. I[’m] not trying to convince people of anything, and so what people believe on some level is irrelevant. [I am] simply sharing.”[11]

LA Times writer Russell Chandler reports that “roughly 30 million Americans—about one in four—now believe in reincarnation,” that “14% endorse the work of spirit mediums,” that “10 million Americans” are “engaged in some aspect of Eastern mysticism and 9 million in spiritual healing.”[12] There is an undeniable interest in spiritual matters. In the old days, you had to go and find a hippie with bare feet and beads to have a discussion about Zen Buddhism. Today, your next-door neighbor is just as likely to be into Zen as the barefoot hippie of the ’60s.

But if we don’t know what we believe, the pagans will eat us for lunch! And you know why people are shouting so loud in the evangelical world? Why, when you listen to so much Christian radio, the guy protesteth too much? At least 50 percent of the time, it’s because they are unsure of their own convictions regarding the truth. And I say to you always, and I say to you again, that it is of imperative importance that you dear folks and your children and grandchildren after you, our children and grandchildren after us, are confronted with the historicity and the reliability of this material.

A Purposeful Account

And finally, his approach to the information is not only historical and reliable; it is also purposeful. Purposeful. What he has provided is a document written by one who was convinced and committed in order to bring others to the same conviction and the same commitment. He marshals his facts to show the unique significance of Jesus. “Aha!” says my friend, “Got ya! There you are: you just admitted it. The Gospels are biased. You said it yourself. You said the gospel writer marshaled his facts and presented them in a certain way.”

That’s exactly right. But what I’m saying is that he marshaled facts that were there. He didn’t marshal facts that were created. And after all, isn’t that the way every biography is written? Biographies are not written like, “James was born on the second of January 1926. James had a very good day. On the fourth of January, James had a bottle of milk around nine o’clock, and his mother put him to sleep for three hours.” And then it would go on painstakingly all the way through the journey. You say, “What in the devil is this thing? That’s not a biography. That’s just a litany of events.”

No, the reason you read a biography and the reason a biography proves compelling is because the biographer takes the material of the individual’s life, and he labors to show the reader why it is we should ever be interested in reading about this character. And that’s exactly what Luke does: he takes the material to show why it is we should be so concerned about this Jesus.

And his desire is that Theophilus and all the Theophiluses that follow him would come to a convinced and assured faith in Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and Savior. He is not, as the Gospel writer, a conserver of tradition. He is not a novelist. He is an evangelist. He is not writing to answer the question “Did this happen?” He is writing to address “What happened, why did it happen, and what does it mean?” He was writing to an audience long removed from the ministry of Jesus and geographically removed from the ministry of Jesus. And he wrote his Gospel to provide such an account of the life of Jesus that they might come to find in it a reliable basis for faith.

And that is why we are studying the Gospel: so that men and women who come to Parkside Church—and I hope you will invite many of them in the course of our studies—that they would come to find in Luke’s Gospel a reliable basis for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; that those who have on their shelves The Elves of Lily Hill Farm and the Conversations with God and Zen and Krishna, because they are concerned about spiritual things, that they might find in the pages of the Bible that along the journey of these studies, lost sheep are found and stragglers are restored. And indeed, there is no good reason as to why the pattern would not begin this morning.

I do not understand the men who stand in pulpits around the place and themselves have embraced the Jesus Seminar. Do you understand that? That there are guys who are in pulpits around us here, and they believe the Jesus Seminar. So they believe that there is only 18 percent of the gospel that is actually factual. “Well,” you say, “they’d get through the Gospel of Luke a lot faster than you’re going to get through it.” Well, that’s about the only good thing I can think of.

My conviction is ultimately irrelevant, but I do want you to know, for those who care, that it is the most inconceivable notion of all that I would give my life to the study of this material, to the proclaiming of the eyewitness accounts that are inscripturated in the Gospels, if there was in my mind the slightest shred of doubt concerning their veracity and their life-changing power. Luke was an evangelist, and I am an evangelist, and together we will labor to see unbelieving people become committed followers of Jesus Christ.

Let us pray:

Father, thank you that you have given us a book, and it’s written in an orderly fashion, and when we can’t understand it, it’s always our fault. Clear up any inconsistencies in our minds. Establish us in the truths that are before us. Bring people from unbelief to faith and doubters to the conviction that we are dealing with reliable information.

Hear our prayer. And may grace, mercy, and peace from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be the abiding portion of all who believe, today and forevermore. Amen.

[1] See Luke 19:10.

[2] Luke 15:11–14 (KJV).

[3] 1 John 1:1–3 (NIV 1984).

[4] See John 7:13.

[5] See Luke 24:11.

[6] John 20:25 (paraphrased).

[7] John 21:3 (paraphrased).

[8] Acts 2:36 (paraphrased).

[9] See John 21:1–19.

[10] Doreen Carvajal, “In Books, It’s Boom Time for Spirits; Angels, Conversations with God, Even Fairies and Elves Sell Well,” New York Times, November 11, 1997,

[11] Quoted in Carvajal.

[12] Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age (Dallas: Word, 1988), 20–21.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.