Acts, Reflection 2: Luke Alone

A little background on the author of the book of Acts, Luke. Luke’s name does not appear in either his gospel or the book of Luke. However, scholars generally agree Luke is the author of both works.

Luke is only mentioned three places in the Bible.

First, he is described by Paul, along with Mark, Aristarchus, and Demas, as one of his “fellow workers” (Phlm 1:24).

It is likely that Luke was a Christian convert of Paul’s while on his second missionary journey. Through the whole book, the travels and actions of the apostles are phrased in the third-person (e.g. “and they went to the Temple…,” “and they set sail to…” etc.). But beginning in Acts 16:10, during Paul’s second missionary journey, the narrative changes to the first-person in many places:

“And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis” (Acts 16:10–11 ESV emphasis mine).

So Luke was a “fellow worker” with Paul and one of his missionary traveling companions. Imagine: Luke likely heard the gospel of Jesus Christ from Paul. The gospel so transformed him that he ended up joining Paul in his ministry to preach Christ. Notice how he includes himself in this task: “…God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (v. 10). So, Luke was a fellow worker in the gospel.

Secondly, we learn from Colossians 4:14 that Luke was a physician. Doctor Luke! Ever stop to think how fortunate it was for Paul to have a doctor on his missionary team? Especially when one thinks of some of the things Paul had to endure. Three times he was shipwrecked and even spent a night and a day adrift at sea. He was beaten with rods on three occasions. On one occasion he was beaten with stones. And this is truly incredible: five times he received at the hands of the Jews thirty-nine lashings with a whip, similar to what Jesus experienced before his crucifixion (cf. 2 Cor 11:24–25). Five times! Can you imagine the damage done to Paul’s back from the whippings alone? The flesh wounds must have been horrific.

And Luke was there to tend to his wounds.

Not only was he a skilled physician, he likely had a very compassionate “bed-side manner.” Perhaps this is why Paul describes Luke as “the beloved physician” (Col 4:14 ESV emphasis mine).

So, Luke was a beloved physician and a fellow worker.

But lastly, we discover that he was also a loyal friend. In what is likely Paul’s last letter (that we have) before his death, he mentions a sad situation in which he is imprisoned and awaiting execution. Many of his companions have even abandoned him. Some were probably busy continuing on in the ministry. Some left for selfish reasons, like one of his fellow workers, Demas, who was “in love with this present world, [and] has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim 4:10 ESV). Imagine Paul, nearing the end of his life. His badly scarred body sitting alone in a Roman prison cell, just waiting to die.

But we find something of the depth of friendship and loyalty of Luke in the very next words:

“Luke alone is with me” (2 Tim 4:11 ESV).

What a moving image of the depth of friendship of Luke as he remains faithful to his imprisoned friend!

The composite picture of Luke that we get, even from only three verses in the New Testament, demonstrates the power of the gospel! Here is a man of likely significant wealth and stature who, when he was transformed by the grace of God, joined Paul in his gospel ministry. Perhaps he even left his medical practice to use his training and gifting and experience in the furthering of the gospel that had so transformed him. And the tender picture of him remaining loyal and faithful to a lonely friend – the friend who in all likelihood was the one who first presented him with the good news of Jesus Christ, the very words of life!

Luke: Fellow worker. Beloved physician. Loyal Friend.

And, as we shall see, a theologically astute historian. 🙂

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