The Inspiration of the Scriptures: 4. the Human Element

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Chapter 4. the Human Element
3. There is a passage which is constantly adduced by those who contend that scripture itself denies its own divine character and claims no more than diligence in using human means to arrive at authentic history. It is the well-known preface to Luke's Gospel. Does it warrant such an inference? Does it in the least contradict 2 Tim. 3:1616All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16)? Is not a Gospel as fully inspired as an Epistle? Are they not alike God's word? And is not the word of God such in reality as in name?
“Forasmuch as many took in hand to set forth a narrative concerning the matters that are fully established (or, believed) among us, according as they who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word delivered to us, it seemed good to me also having accurately followed up all things from the outset to write with order to thee, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest fully know the certainty about things (or, words) in which thou wast instructed” (Luke 1:1-41Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1‑4)).
Can there be a more striking witness of divine design and special character? This Gospel more than any other develops the ways and words of the “man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:66Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:6)): not the Messiah rejected by the Jews, not the Servant of man's need and specially of the gospel, nor yet as the Divine Word become flesh, the Only-begotten Son. Here pre-eminently He is the Son of man among men, and so traced up to Adam, though carefully shown to be the Son of God as no one else. Here have we the beautiful sketch, not only of the Babe just born, but of His youth; here the sabbath in the synagogue at Nazareth where He read the beginning of Isa. 61, closing the book (or, roll) exactly where it was fulfilled that day. On their expression of unbelief, He reminded them of Israel's long famine when God's mercy flowed to the Gentile widow of Zarephath, and of the Syrian cleansed when there were many lepers in Israel.
Here we read more than elsewhere of His praying; here only we find the widow of Nain whose only son He gave, raised from the bier of death, to his mother. Here is given the affecting story of the penitent woman in Simon the Pharisee's house, forgiven, saved, and in peace. Here we read of the many women blessed in various ways whom He allowed to minister to Him of their substance. Here we are told of James and John rebuked for their lack of grace toward certain Samaritans. Here is given the mission of the seventy, and the Lord's call to a joy in heavenly privilege rather than in power over the enemy. Here the Lord teaches Who is my neighbor? by the good Samaritan. Here Mary's good part is declared to anxious and bustling Martha. Here the rich fool is laid bare to rebuke such too as would make Christ a divider of inheritance. Here waiting is shown to-be beyond working for the Lord, though His own are called to both.
Here men who prate of judgments are warned to repent lest they all perish alike. Here the great supper comes before us, and man's contempt for God's inviting goodness. Here are presented the combined parables of the lost sheep, coin, and son, here too the Father's love and joy in saving. Here meet us the prudent that sacrifice the present in view of the future; here the light of the unseen shows us Lazarus exchanging extremist misery on earth for Abraham's bosom, and the rich man his sumptuous ease for torment unspeakable. Here the repentant tax-gatherer is justified rather than the self-trusting Pharisee. Here the Son of man brings salvation to the rich Zacchæus. And here at the end the rejoicing disciples praise God for “peace in heaven and glory in the highest,” as the heavenly host at the beginning ascribed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in men.” So here only we have the touching assurance to denying Simon Peter of his restoration through the Lord's intercession, and of his subsequent confirming his brethren. Here only do we read of an angel strengthening Christ and of His bloody sweat; here of Jerusalem's daughters warned; here of the converted robber to be that day with Him in Paradise. Here lastly have we the walk of the risen Jesus to Emmaus; here the preaching, unto all the nations, of repentance and remission of sins in His name, beginning with Jerusalem; here His ascending from Bethany to heaven, while He blessed His own on earth.
Thus we have distinct facts and words indicating a marked design, and doubtless a design far deeper than Luke's mind, though God wrought in his affections and his understanding powerfully, as He did in each of the inspired men. But it was given to him in particular to trace Christ morally and in His grace to man universally. So his preface savors of that design; and he speaks of the motives that animated his writing to another fellow-disciple, instead of plunging into his task without a word about himself or Theophilus. The human element is therefore at its height here as throughout. This is exactly the special character with which God was pleased to invest the beloved physician whom He employed, (himself distinguished with others from those of circumcision in Col. 4) to write to a young Christian who was a Gentile. Hence this Gospel, though commencing with “the Jew first,” like the great apostle, breaks quickly forth out of Jewish trammels, and reveals in the Savior what God is to man in grace.
Just so is it with the preface and introduction and dedication to Theophilus with his Gentile title. Luke contrasts rather than compares his account of our Lord with the composition of others. If the “many” who undertook the work had done it with the certainty requisite, there had been no need for him. The others had drawn up their reports, in accordance with the tradition of those that from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word. Nor does he censure them or their accounts. But it seemed good to him also, having accurately followed up all from the first, to write in an orderly way that Theophilus might know the certainty respecting what he was instructed in.
How he had had this full and accurate acquaintance with all this history of infinite interest and importance, he does not tell us, as none of the inspired do more than he. But he does open out his mind and heart in a way peculiar to himself, yet in perfect accord with the Gospel throughout, so as to hear the stamp of the Holy Spirit working in him unerringly to that end. “Every scripture is inspired of God “; and Luke's Gospel no less than any other portion. But if the gracious and godly motives of the writer appear in the preface in a way quite unusual; so the absurdity and superficial narrowness of the critics are evident in perverting that fact, beautifully characteristic, to lower the divine authority of this book of scripture he was employed to write. It is on the contrary an additional and powerful evidence, in passing, of God's inspiring him to do the work in a way beyond the power of man, who fails even to see it when done.
It is unfounded too, as may be remarked here, that Luke says he derived his knowledge from what was delivered by other people, as they did who undertook the accounts alluded to, which were evidently not the Gospels we have. He like the other evangelists, wrote his Gospel with full knowledge of its exactitude. But it was not the usual way of inspired men to speak of that divine power which gave them, each and all, to communicate the truth in words which the Holy Spirit teaches. The truth shines in its own light, and needs no taper of man that it may be seen. It is light from God, though the blind may not see: only His gracious power can open their eyes.