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Gospel of Luke Introduction

The Gospel of Luke does not identify its author. From Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3, it is clear that the same person wrote both Luke and Acts, addressing both Books to “most excellent Theophilus,” possibly a Roman dignitary. Tradition from the earliest days of the church has kept that Luke, a physician and a close companion of the Apostle Paul, wrote both Luke and Acts (Col.4:14; 2 Tim.4:11. This would make Luke the only Gentile to write any of the Books of the Bible.

Date of Writing: The Gospel of Luke was probably written between A.D. 58 and 65.

Purpose of Writing: As with the other two synoptic gospels . . . Matthew and Mark . . . this Book’s purpose is to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ and all He “began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:1-2). Luke’s Gospel is unique in that is a thorough history, an “orderly account” (Lk.1:3), consistent with the Luke’s medical mind, often giving details the other Gospels omit. Luke’s history of the life of the Great Physician emphasizes His ministry to, and compassion for, Gentiles, Samaritans, women, children, tax collectors, sinners, and others regarded as outcasts in Israel.

Key Verses:
Luke 2:4-7 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (KJV)
Luke 3:16  John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: (KJV)
Luke 4:18-21 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (KJV)
Luke 18:31-32 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. 32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: (KJV)
Luke 23:33-34 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Luke 24:1-3 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. (KJV)

Brief Summary: Many  call this the most beautiful book ever written.  Luke begins by telling us about Jesus' parents; the birth of His cousin, John the Baptist; Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born in a manger; and the genealogy of Christ through Mary. Jesus' public ministry reveals His perfect compassion and forgiveness through the stories of the prodigal son, the rich man and Lazarus, and the Good Samaritan. While many believe in this impartial love that surpasses all human limits, many others; especially the religious leaders, challenge and oppose the claims of Jesus. Christ Jesus’ followers are encouraged to count the cost of discipleship, while His enemies seek His death on the cross. In the end, Jesus is betrayed, tried, sentenced and crucified. But the grave cannot hold Him! His Resurrection assures the continuation of His ministry of seeking and saving the lost.

Since Luke was a Gentile, his references to the Old Testament are few compared to those in Matthew's Gospel, and most of the Old Testament references he brings are the words spoken by Jesus instead, for instance:
Luke 4:1-13  And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. 3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. 5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. 8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 9 And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: 10 For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: 11 And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. (KJV)
Jesus used the Old Testament to defend against Satan’s attacks, answering him with “It is written”, to identify Himself as the promised Messiah (Lk.4:17-21), to remind the Pharisees of their inability to keep the Law and their need of a Saviour (Lk.10:25-28,18-27), and to confound their learning when they tried to trap and trick Him (Luke 20).

Luke gives us a beautiful portrait of our compassionate Savior. Jesus was not “turned away from” by the poor and the needy; quite the opposite, they were the primary focus of His ministry. Israel at the time of Jesus was a very class-conscious society. The weak and downtrodden were literally powerless to improve their lot in life and were especially open to the message that “the kingdom of God is near you” (Lk.10:9). This is a message we too must carry to those around us who desperately need to hear it, because the spiritual need is bleak. TRUE Christians must follow the example of Jesus and bring the Good News of salvation to the spiritually poor and needy. The Kingdom of God is near and the time grows shorter with each passing day.

What can we learn from the life of Luke?

The men who were called to be part of the “inner circle” that surrounded Jesus were a very varied group of men that came from every type of social background and occupation. These twelve men, except the traitor, Judas, formed the foundation of what is today known as “the church.” One of the men who is not listed as an apostle but had a tremendous effect upon the documenting and spreading of the Gospel was a physician named Luke. He was evidently devoted to science and research before he came to know the Saviour. There is no evidence that Luke ever personally met the Man, Jesus, just as Paul never had the privilege of meeting Him when He walked the Earth in the flesh. Luke’s intellect shows through his writings, and his deep knowledge of things pertaining to the physical make-up of man is evident in his Gospel. The Bible does not record what happened to all of the apostles, but there are many references to their activities.

The original twelve apostles may be considered, with one exception (Judas), to be some of the most fortunate people that ever lived. Often referred to simply as "The Twelve," they were chosen by Christ Jesus Himself, and actually lived and worked with Him during His Ministry. There are NO apostles in today’s world, for an apostle was personally chosen by the Lord Jesus, and they lived, worked and served Jesus, having a physical, personal relationship with Him.

The names of The Twelve are listed in 4 places in the Bible (Mat.10:2-4; Mk.3:16-19; Lk.6:12-19; Acts 1:13). There are some minor differences due to the various uses of first, family, or nicknames at different times.

  • Simon. Better known as Peter. He was the brother of Andrew. A fisherman from the Sea of Galilee. Considered to be the most impulsive of the group, always more than ready to speak up, and swing a sword on occasion (the cutting off of a man's ear at the time of Jesus' arrest, Mat.26:51). Some say that he was eventually crucified, upside down, by the Romans. There is NO Biblical evidence that Peter was the first pope, so I say he was NOT a pope. Neither is it ever taught in Scripture that the bishop of Rome, or any other bishop, was to have preeminence over the church. Scripture does NOT even record Peter even being in Rome. Scripture instead shows that Peter’s authority was shared by the other apostles (Eph.2:19-20). Was Peter the first pope? The answer, according to Scripture, is a clear and definite “NO.” NOWHERE does Peter ever claim supremacy over the other apostles. NOWHERE in his writings (1 and 2 Peter) did the Apostle Peter claim any special role, authority, or power over the church. NOWHERE in Scripture does Peter, or any other apostle, state that their apostolic authority would be passed on to successors.      
  • Andrew. He was active in bringing people to Jesus, including his brother Peter.
  • James. James was the older brother of John. He was the first of the twelve to be martyred.
  • John. John the apostle had the distinction of being a beloved friend of Jesus. He was the writer of five books of the New Testament, and a pillar in the early Christian church. John and his brother James were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus called them to follow Him. They later became part of Christ's close inner circle, along with Peter. These three were privileged to be with Jesus at the raising of Jairus' daughter from the dead, at the Transfiguration, and during Jesus' agony in Gethsamane. On one occasion, when a Samaritan village rejected Jesus, James and John asked if they should call down fire from heaven to destroy the place, thus earning them the nickname Boanerges, or "sons of thunder." A previous relationship with Joseph Caiaphas allowed John to be present in the high priest's house during Jesus' trial. On the cross, Jesus entrusted the care of his mother, Mary, to an unnamed disciple, probably John, who took her into his home (John 19:27). John served the church in Jerusalem for many years, then moved to work in the church at Ephesus. An unconfirmed folklore holds that John was taken to Rome during a persecution and thrown into boiling oil but emerged unhurt. He was then exiled to the island of Patmos. John supposedly outlived all of the apostles, dying of old age at Ephesus, perhaps about A.D. 98. John’s Gospel is strikingly different from Matthew, Mark and Luke, the three synoptic gospels, which means "seen with the same eye" or from the same viewpoint. John continually emphasizes that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, sent by the Father to take away the sins of the world. He uses many symbolic titles for Jesus, such as the Lamb of God, Resurrection, and the Vine. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus uses the phrase "I am," unmistakably identifying Himself with Almighty God, the Great "I AM" or eternal God. Although John does not mention himself by name in his own Gospel, he refers to himself four times as "the disciple Jesus loved."  
  • Philip. From Bethsaida, as were Andrew and Peter. Eventually martyred, possibly at Hierapolis.
  • Bartholomew. He was one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Tiberias after His resurrection. He was also a witness of the Ascension.
  • Thomas. He was also called Didymus which is the Greek version of his name. Not easily convinced, he has the nickname "Doubting Thomas" because he wanted to actually see and touch Jesus after His Resurrection. Certainly a good witness for us today, because he wanted indisputable proof of what he was expected to report about, and he got it.
  • Matthew. Formerly a tax-collector at Capernaum, he became one of the more prominent apostles.
  • James. Known as James the Younger, or James the Less, he supposedly wrote the epistle which bears his name.
  • Thaddaeus. Also known as "Judas the brother of James;" while John probably referring to the same person, speaks of "Judas, not Iscariot."
  • Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were a nationalistic sect with very strong political views. There seemed to be a very wide variety of personalities among the apostles.
  • Judas Iscariot. The traitor.

Matthias. To bring the number back up to twelve after Judas fell away, Matthias was chosen by the remaining eleven apostles, but very little is said about him after he was selected.
Paul. Saul or Paul was a great enemy of the Lord Jesus until that day on the road to Damascus when Jesus strikingly approached him. Acts 9:3-5 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (KJV) . . . After that day, Paul made a complete turn-around,  and became a bold and obedient servant to the Lord Jesus.

Luke was a companion of Paul, who called him “the beloved physician” (Col.4:14). Col.4:10-11 indicate that Luke was not “of the circumcision,” which means that he was a Gentile. It appears that he hailed from Antioch, which may be the reason Antioch seems to be at the center of the book of Acts. This means that Luke is the only writer in the New Testament who is not an Israelite (Jewish). Not only did Luke write the Gospel that bears his name, but he also was privileged and inspired by God to write the book of Acts.

Luke’s writings focus on the preaching of the good news, or glad tidings which indicates his joy over the plan of salvation. He uses these terms many times his Gospel and in the Book of Acts, while it is rarely used in the other Gospels. I think that Luke was given the awesome privilege of explaining the process of salvation and how God controls the mind and the heart, in both his Gospel and in Acts. Luke 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, (KJV) Acts 16:14 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. (KJV)
When Luke died is not known, but the fact that he did not mention the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or the persecution of believers under Nero that began in A.D. 64 or the martyrdom of James in A.D. 62, seems to lead us to believe that he passed away sometime before these events. From the life of Luke it is clear that no matter what course we set for ourselves in life, when God has other plans, He changes our direction. Luke is an example of an open-minded man, which was unusual for an educated Gentile in his day, but he is an example for all who are so very focused on their own personal plans and positions that they want not to leave their comfort zone. Luke probably was well known in his community as a physician, but when confronted with Truth, he not only recognized it, but he realized that nothing is more important than pursuing it, no matter what the consequences. Luke recognized that Jesus IS Truth, and his life was forever changed.

Why did God give us FOUR Gospels?

There are some definite and good reasons:
. . . #1. To give us a better and more complete picture of Christ Jesus. Although the whole Bible is inspired by God (2 Tim.3:16), God used human authors with different backgrounds and personalities to accomplish His purposes through their writing. Each one of the Gospel writers had a separate purpose behind his Gospel and in carrying out those purposes, each one stressed different aspects of the Person and ministry of Christ Jesus.

MATTHEW wrote to a Hebrew audience, and one of his purposes was to show from Jesus' genealogy and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that He was the long-expected Messiah, and so should be believed in. Matthew's emphasis is that Jesus is the promised King, the “Son of David,” who would forever sit upon the throne of Israel (Mat.9:27; 21:9).

MARK, a cousin of Barnabas (Col.4:10), was an eyewitness to the events in the life of Christ as well as being a friend of the apostle Peter. Mark wrote for a Gentile audience, as is brought out by his not including things important to Jewish readers (genealogies, Christ's controversies with Jewish leaders of His day, frequent references to the Old Testament, etc.). Mark emphasizes Christ as the suffering Servant, the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mk.10:45).

LUKE, the “beloved physician” (Col.4:14), was an evangelist, and companion of the apostle Paul, wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Luke is the only Gentile author of the New Testament. He has long been accepted as a hardworking master historian by those who have used his writings in genealogical and historical studies. As a historian, he states that it is his intent to write down an orderly account of the life of Christ based on the reports of those who were eyewitnesses (Lk.1:1-4). Because he specifically wrote for the benefit of Theophilus, apparently a Gentile of some stature, his Gospel was composed with a Gentile audience in mind, and his intent is to show that a Christian's faith is based upon historically dependable and provable events. Luke often refers to Christ as the “Son of Man,” emphasizing His humanity, and he shares many details that are not found in the other gospel accounts.

JOHN . . . John’s Gospel was written by John the apostle, and is different from the other three Gospels and contains much scriptural content in regard to the Person of Christ and the meaning of faith. Matthew, Mark and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels” because of their similar styles and content and because they give a outline of the life of Christ. The Gospel of John does NOT begin with Jesus' birth or earthly ministry, but instead, with the activity and characteristics of the Son of God before He became Man (Jn.1:14). The Gospel of John emphasizes the deity of Christ, as is seen in his use of such phrases as “the Word was God” (Jn.1:1), “the Savior of the World” (Jn.4:42), the “Son of God” (very often used), and “Lord and...God” (Jn.20:28). In John's Gospel, Jesus also affirms His deity with several “I Am” statements; most prominent among them is in (Jn.8:58), where He states that “...before Abraham was, I Am” (Ex.3:13-14). John also emphasizes the fact of Jesus' humanity, wanting to show the error of a religious sect of his day, the Gnostics, who did not believe in Christ’s humanity. John's Gospel spells out his overall purpose for writing: John 20:30-31  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (KJV)

So, in our being blessed in having four different and still equally accurate accounts of Christ, different aspects of His Person and ministry are revealed. Each account becomes like a different-colored thread in a bright tapestry woven together to form a more complete picture of this One who is beyond description. And while we will never fully understand everything about Christ Jesus (Jn.20:30), through the four Gospels we can know enough about Him to appreciate WHO He is and WHAT He has done for us so that we may have eternal life through faith in Him.

. . .  #2. They enable us to accurately verify the truthfulness of their accounts. The Bible, from earliest times, states that judgment in a court of law was NOT to be made against a person based on the testimony of a single eyewitness but that two or three were required (Deut.19:15).When we have these different accounts of the Person and earthly ministry of Christ Jesus, it enables us to assess the accuracy of the information we have concerning Him. The differences between the Gospels, even the seeming contradictions of details upon our first examination, speak to the independent nature of the writings. The independent nature of the four Gospel accounts, agree in their information but they differ in viewpoint, amount of detail, and which events were recorded, indicate that the record that we have of Christ's life and ministry as presented in the Gospels is accurate and reliable.

. . . #3. To reward those who diligently seek the Lord. There is SO much to be gained by an individual study of each of the Gospels. We should always compare and note the contrast in the different accounts of specific events of Jesus' ministry in order to get the full picture. For instance, in Matthew 14 we are given the account of the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on the water. Matthew 14:22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. (KJV) . . . We may wonder why He did this, because there is no clear reason given in Matthew's account. BUT . . . when we combine it with the account in Mark 6, we see that the disciples had come back from casting out demons and healing people through the authority He had given them when He sent them out two-by-two. But they returned with a “know it all” attitude, forgetting their place and were trying to tell Him what to do (Mat.14:15). So, in sending them off in the evening to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus would reveal two things to them. As they struggle against the wind and waves in their own self-reliance until the early hours of the morning (Mk.6:48-59), they finally began to see: (A) that they can achieve nothing for God in their own ability and power, and (B) but nothing is impossible if they call upon Him and live depending on His power. It is wise to study ALL the Gospels if you are really sincere about Bible study.

Some think that Luke was the only one of all the authors of the Scriptures that was not of the seed of Israel, not a Jew, but he was a Jewish proselyte, and as some guess, he converted to Christianity by the ministry of the apostle Paul at Antioch; and after his coming into Macedonia (Acts 16:10), he was Paul’s constant companion. He is supposed to have written this Gospel when he was associated with Paul in his travels, and by direction from him. Some think that this is the brother whom Paul speaks of (2 Cor.8:18), whose praise was to be had in the Gospel throughout all the churches of Christ.          

Luke’s special interests: Luke was a very skilled writer. He wrote to show that the Gospel is good news for ALL people:
. . . #1. Gentiles (people who were not Jews) Luke tells us how Jesus emphasized the faith of the Gentiles. Jesus did this when He spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth (4:16-30). Luke also records that Jesus praised the faith of a Roman officer (7:1–9).
. . . #2. Samaritans (enemies of the Jews; they came from *Samaria)
The parable of the Good Samaritan is only in Luke’s Gospel (10:30-37). Jesus praised a grateful Samaritan whom he healed (17:11-19).
. . . #3. Sinners Luke describes Jesus’ meeting with Zacchaeus (19:1-10). And he includes three of Jesus’ parables about God’s love for people who are ‘lost’, that is people who have wandered away from God (chapter 15).
. . . #4. Women The stories of the widow of Nain (7:11-16) and of Martha and Mary (10:38-42) are two examples of Luke’s sympathy for women.
. . . # 5. Poor people Luke knew the dangers of wealth and he sympathized with the poor. Only Luke mentions the parables of the rich fool (12:13-21) and the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (16:19-31). Only Luke tells us about the poor shepherds who visited Jesus after his birth.
. . . #6.  People who were sick Luke shows how Jesus, through the power of God, healed people who were ill. Luke, as a doctor, mentions some medical details that are not in the other Gospels. Peter’s wife has a ‘high’ (bad) fever (4:38). The man in the synagogue could not use his ‘right’ hand (6:6).
. . . #7. Prayer and praise There are many references to Jesus’ prayers. There are also three parables about prayer in this Gospel:
#1.   The ‘friend at midnight’ (11:5-10)
#2.   The ‘unfair judge’ (18:1-8)
#3.   The ‘Pharisee and the tax-collector’ (18:9-14)

Luke also includes the songs in which Zechariah (1:68-79), Mary (1:46-55) and Simeon (2:29-32) praised God, because the Messiah had arrived.
The angels appeared to the shepherds (2:14). They sang ‘Glory to God’.

Gospel of Luke

ch.1 . . ch.2 . . ch.3 . . ch.4 . . ch.5 . . ch.6 . . ch.7 . . ch.8 . . ch.9 . . ch.10 . . ch.11 . . ch.12 . . ch.13 . . ch.14 . . ch.15 . . ch.16 . . ch.17 . . ch.18 . .ch.19. . ch.20 . . ch.21 . . ch.22 . . ch.23 . . ch.24

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