In more than three decades of my Christian life, I have been blest by 2 types of Daily devos'
(matter not exceeding 500 words) in universal Christian literature. Not only those Devos'
which have a different theme everyday but also the ones which revolve around a certain
theme over a period of time, say a fortnight, have richly edified me. In fact, both
styles have their own inherent advantages. If the former style caters to the varying
spiritual needs of a christian from day-to-day, the latter aims 'to ground'
a child of God in a certain subject in order he derives the full benefits of the
deep insightful study of a certain topic, spread over a fixed span of time.
In my Daily devo page, I have consciously tried to go in for 'a blend of both the
styles' whereby within a constant theme, I would be aiming to focus on different
facets of it which admittedly is a closer imitation of the 'Constant theme' style
than the 'Varying topics' one.
Having dwelt on the topics
- “The Christian journey”
- “ The Conquest of Canaan” and the
- “Lent season”.
in the previous months, now in the months of April and May, considering that
post resurrection of Christ (one of our concluding themes’ you would remember
in the meditations of March, was Resurrection), birth of the Church was a
landmark event in Biblical history, I want to cast the spotlight on the Book of
Acts (which records the birth and growth of the Church). This would ensure to a large
extent continuity of thought albeit under the ambit of new subject.
Once again, let me wish you a happy and an edifying read…
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach”–
For any first-time reader of the Bible, an immediate question, which would spring into his or her mind on reading
the opening verses of either the Luke’s Gospel or the Book of Acts, is “who is this Theophilus”, whose name
is prominently mentioned?
The Gospel of Luke is addressed to Theophilus with the expression: “most excellent Theophilus”
This phrasing indicates that Theophilus was a Roman official, and not merely a friend or associate of Luke.
Both the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles are addressed to this Theophilus. Yet he could not have been
very high up in the Roman government because nothing is known about him from other historical evidence.
Why then would Luke address two works of such length and importance (both the Gospel and Acts were fairly
lengthy works for that time period) to Theophilus?
This Roman official must have expressed an interest in learning about Christ and about the Apostles.
He may have been in the process of converting to the Faith. Where would Theophilus have received his
initial information and instruction about the Christian faith? The most likely answer is that a group
of Christians living nearby had influenced and taught Theophilus. Luke was writing, not only to Theophilus,
but also to those Christians who had given Theophilus his initial interest in Christianity.
Even so, Luke would only address both of these important works to a minor Roman official, if
Luke were living in the area ruled by that official when he was writing. Since Acts of the Apostles was
most likely written sometime during the two years after Paul arrived for his appeal to the emperor (see below),
the Gospel of Luke was also written about that same time. At other times, Luke had been traveling with Paul
and would not have been in one place, where Theophilus held office, for the length of time needed to write
his Gospel. Thus the Gospel of Luke was written early in that two-year period of time and Acts of the Apostles
was written in the latter part of those two years.
Luke's Gospel and Acts are both addressed to the same Roman official, Theophilus. Luke uses the formal
term “most excellent” to address Theophilus in his Gospel
(Lk 1:3). This language was commonly used in
addressing Roman officials. Examples of this same expression are found in Acts, where it is used to address
both Felix and Festus
26:25). But, at the beginning of Acts, Luke no longer calls Theophilus
“most excellent Theophilus,” instead he calls him “O Theophilus”
Acts 1:1). This indicates that
Theophilus was no longer in office by the time that Luke was writing, or had completed writing, Acts.
Yet Luke still addresses Acts to Theophilus. Luke must still have been living in the same area, where
Theophilus still had continued respect and some unofficial authority. Minor Roman officials often
held office for only a year. Theophilus could have been proconsul of Achaia, the region in which Saint
Jerome tells us Luke was living when he wrote the Gospel, or he could have held some other office within
the region of Achaia or Boeotia, (but there is no direct historical evidence as to where Theophilus held office).
Why would Almighty God allow two inspired works of Sacred Scripture to be addressed to a minor Roman
official named Theophilus? From a spiritual point of view, the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles
were both addressed to the name 'Theophilus' because of the meaning of that name, not because of the
individual with that name. The name Theophilus means “one who loves God;” 'Theo' refers to God
(as in 'Theology'), and 'philus' is from the Greek word 'philos' meaning 'to love.' So, Luke's Gospel is
addressed, in the spiritual sense, not to one Roman official, but to all those who love God. Luke's
Gospel was not written only or primarily for the Hebrews, who converted to Christ, but for all who love God,
including the Gentiles.
Dear readers, with this background information on the Book of Acts we have culled in the last 4 days of
our meditation, from tomorrow onwards we can begin an earnest study of it.
Father, with our finite abilities, as we attempt to study Your Word, illumine our minds
to grasp its rare treasures, thereof. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.