Union University R.G. Lee Society of Fellows

"Who Is Your Theophilus"
Acts 1:1-2, Luke 1:1-4

by Dr. Ernest E. James
Pastor, First Baptist Church
Bolivar, TN

Dr. Ernest E. James
In "The Acts of the Apostles." Dr. Luke writes about the activity and actions of the apostles as they take the message and ministry of Jesus to the First Century world. Beginning in verse one and through the ending verse of the book, Dr. Luke gave to his friend, Theophilus, an ongoing account of how the followers of Christ continued the witness and work of Christ under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Luke invested all of his effort and energy in this one man to bear witness to him and to disciple him.

The church has relied too heavily on programs, personalities, organizations, and events instead of the one thing God has guaranteed for success. He has instructed His followers to invest themselves in the lives of individuals as a vital avenue for witnessing and making disciples. It is easy to overlook the significance and value of investing yourself in the life of just one individual when there is a world out there that needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet in the beginning verse of Acts, Dr. Luke uses this strategy as he addresses the Book of Acts and previously the Gospel of Luke to one individual named Theophilus. When you stop to think how God used this personal relationship throughout the world and down through the years, one can see the need to lead and assist the followers of Christ to establish and use personal relationships as a vital avenue for telling others about Christ. Who is your Theophilus? Where is he?

 

I. Every Follower of Christ Must Take the Initiative to Tell People About Christ.

A. The identity of the one who tells begins with "I." In verse one the "I " indicates that Luke had taken the initiative to tell his friend Theophilus all about Jesus. Please note that Luke was a medical doctor who joined the Apostle Paul and his band of missionaries in Troas (Acts 16:10) and accompanied Paul on much of his third missionary journey, his trip to Jerusalem, and is known to have been with him in Rome. As Luke undertakes the opportunity to witness, he does so as the "least likely" in many people's opinion. He writes as the only Gentile writer in the New Testament and from the position of a layman. We need to help our people recognize that as laymen they have a vital witness in their world.

Everyone knows of Heinz, of the "fifty-seven varieties," but few know of his zeal as a soul winner. At a revival meeting one day, the minister turned to him and said: "You are a Christian man; why aren't you up and at it?" He went home in anger, and went to bed, but could not sleep. At four o'clock in the morning he prayed that God would make him a power in His work, and then went to sleep. At the next meeting of bank presidents, which he attended shortly afterward, he turned to the man next to him and spoke to him of the Christian life. His friend looked at him in amazement and said, "I've wondered many times why you never spoke to me about it if you really believed in Christ." That was the first of 267 souls

which Heinz won to Christ after that time. Who in your world might turn to you and remark, "I've wondered many times why you never spoke to me about it if you really believed in Christ?"

 

B. The information shared is of immense worth. In verse one, Luke refers to the "first account I composed" which is the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. The Gospel contains ten basic historical facts about Jesus: the Virgin Birth of Christ, the Sinless Life of Christ, the Marvelous Teachings of Christ, the Mighty Miracles of Christ, the Betrayal/Arrest/ and Illegal Trial and Condemnation of Christ, the Crucifixion and Death of Christ, the Burial of Christ, the Resurrection of Christ, the Appearances of Resurrected Christ, and the Ascension of Christ. These ten historic facts form the backbone of Luke's gospel. The rest of the book is an amplification of those ten historic facts.

A remarkable story is told about an exceedingly costly jewel that for many years was considered of no more value than a mere pebble. Gustaf Gillman, a Chicago lapidary, was at work in his shop when John Mihok of Omaha entered. Mihok, who was a laborer, drew out of his pocket a rough red stone and handed it to Gillman. "I want you to cut and polish this" said Mihok. "Where did you get it?" gasped Gillman, as his eyes almost popped out of his head. "My father picked it up in Hungary fifty years ago," replied Mihok. "He thought it was a pretty pebble. When I landed in this country, I found it in my valise. It has been lying around the house ever since. The children played with it. My last baby cut his teeth on it. One night I dreamed it was a diamond and worth a lot of money, but it's not a diamond, it's red." "No, it's a pigeon's blood ruby" said Gillman. "What might it be worth?" was the question of Mihok. "I'd say from one hundred thousand to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars," answered Gillman, and Mihok leaned against the door. The big rough stone, we are told, was cut to a flawless ruby of 23 and 9/10ths carats. It is believed to be the largest ruby in this country and possibly the largest in the world. How sad it is in many homes the Book that is worth more than gems is neglected and considered of little value.

Some people will never know the worth of a thing unless someone tells them. It was the same for Theophilus - Luke had to tell him the value of the historical authenticity of the Gospel. Many people need to know the worth of these facts in history because they have eternal worth for every individual.

 

II. Every Follower of Christ Needs to Involve Himself Personally With Individuals Outside the Faith.

A. Interaction with unbelievers needs to be intentional. The Gospel of Luke was written with the intention of leading Theophilus, a lost man, to faith in Christ. Luke knew his relationship with Theophilus was an opportunity for helping him to place his faith in Christ. He became intentional by presenting the claims of Christ to him in written form so that Theophilus could have a clear understanding of all he needed to know about Jesus. We need to take advantage of those opportunities by being intentional.

Sitting in a church on a snowy Sunday morning, C.H. Spurgeon listened to a man who wasn't even a preacher. This man noticed Spurgeon and intentionally took the opportunity to point him to faith in Christ as he preached on the text, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." Spurgeon described the interaction that occurred with this man in the following manner: "When he had managed to spin out ten minutes or so he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. He then said, ‘Young man, you look very miserable.’ Well I did, but I had not been accustomed to having remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued, ‘And you will always be miserable---miserable in life and miserable in death-if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment you will be saved.’ Then he shouted as only a Primitive Methodist can, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ!’ I did. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun. I could have risen that moment and sung with the most enthusiastic of them about the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Ah, that somebody had told me that before."3

Because that lay preacher was intentional in his interaction with Spurgeon as a lost man, he provided the spark that caused Spurgeon to see Jesus for the first time. Let the next person you meet be that person God wants you to win to Christ. Begin to ask God how you can interact with people and be intentional in leading them to Christ. How does He want you to interact with the lost people you meet? It might be a tract, a testimony, an act of kindness, or something else. But don't miss the opportunity.

 

III. Making An Investment In The Life of An Unbeliever Can Make More of An Impact Than You Could Ever Anticipate.

Luke invested his time and energy writing the Gospel of Luke on a scroll approximately 25 feet long. Addressed to a man he called "O Most Excellent Theophilus," Luke seems to be writing a 25 foot long tract that would lead this ranking Roman official to faith in Christ. In Acts 1:1, you will notice Luke dropped the official title and addressed Theophilus as if something had changed in their relationship. It may seem like speculation but this change suggests that the purpose of the Gospel of Luke was accomplished and Theophilus was now a brother in Christ to Luke.

Some people argue that the name Theophilus originated from two Greek words that formed a compound word which means "God lovers." Their conjecture is that this refers to a category of people who may be identified as "God lovers." If you read in Luke 1:3, you find this possibility is ruled out because Luke addresses his Gospel to one entitled "most excellent Theophilus." Luke invested himself in the life of this nobleman and could never have guessed the impact upon this man and those to come. We need to be faithful in following Luke's example. It works.

Clarence Hall, a World War II correspondent, gave this remarkable testimony: "I can never think of the boons and benefits that the Bible invariably brings without thinking of Shimmabuke, a tiny village I came upon as a war correspondent in Okinawa. Thirty years before, an American missionary en route to Japan had stopped there just long enough to make two converts-Shosei Kina and his brother Mojon. He left a Bible with them and passed on. For thirty years they had no contact with any other Christian missionary, but they made the Bible come alive! They taught the other villagers until every man, woman, and child in Shimmabuke became a Christian. Shosei Kina became the headman of the village, and Mojon the chief teacher. In the school the Bible was read daily. The precepts of the Bible were law in the village. In those thirty years there developed a Christian democracy in its purest form. When the American army came to the island, an advance patrol swept up to the village compound with guns leveled. The two old men stepped forth, bowed low, and began to speak. An interpreter explained that the old men were welcoming the Americans as fellow Christians! The flabbergasted GIs sent for their chaplain. He came with officers of the Intelligence Service. They toured the village. They were astounded at the spotlessly clean homes and streets and the gentility of the inhabitants. The other Okinawan villages they had seen were filthy, and the people were ignorant and poverty-stricken. Later I strolled through Shimmabuke with a tough army sergeant. He said, "I can't figure it out -this kind of people coming from a Bible and a couple of old guys who wanted to live like Jesus Christ. Maybe we have been using the wrong kind of weapons to make the world over!"4

You might invest yourself in the life of an unbeliever and never see how God blesses that investment. Did you ever stop to think that Luke intended his Gospel for one man, Theophilus? Did you ever stop to think about how God honored Luke's faithfulness? When Theophilus received the Gospel and believed in Christ, I propose that he saw how life-changing and vital this message about Jesus Christ was to him

and he began to share it with anyone who would read it or listen to him read it. As he spread the word, that 25 foot tract was spread down throughout the ages. Have you ever wondered what it will be like when Luke gets to heaven and Jesus says, "Luke let me show you something. These are all of the people throughout history whose lives have been impacted by that little tract you wrote to Theophilus." I wonder how long it would take to count all of those people.

In the Museum of Science in Chicago, there is a very interesting display. It is a checkerboard blown up big and placed on a table. In the lower left-hand square, the first square on the board, there is one wheat seed glued into place. There are two seeds on the second square, 4 on the third, 8 on the fourth, 16 on the fifth, 32 on the sixth, 64 on the seventh, 128 on the eighth square, and then they stop, because they are beginning to spill over the square. Underneath in front of the table there is a bronze plaque that says,

"This is the potential for multiplication from one grain of wheat. We had to stop with the eighth square because the square could not contain the numbers it had multiplied to by the eighth square. Had we continued to the 64th square, there would have been enough wheat seeds to fill the entire subcontinent of India 50 feet deep!"

As you consider the truth of this display you can easily see how the early church brought the salvation of Jesus Christ to its world! Dr. Luke and others found a "Theophilus," whether he was in a position of rank or a ditch digger, it made no difference, because the same potential impact is in every person.

Anybody who is faithful, available, and teachable can get in on this! Anybody! You just have to be willing! God will do the rest! There is somebody upon whom some Theophilus is depending and even now waiting. Every person has a measure of potential to be a Luke. The words you speak, the letters you write, the actions you do, should be full of Jesus. Your Theophilus is waiting and so is the world coming after him.

Written by Dr. Ernest E. James
Pastor, First Baptist Church
Bolivar, TN


Joanna Moore, Campus Ministries & Church Services

R.G. Lee Center for Christian Ministry