The books of Luke and Acts, together, comprise the largest single body of literature in the New Testament. In other words, while Paul penned more of the books than anyone else, the writer of Luke and Acts penned more of the New Testament than anyone else. Ancient scrolls ran about 30-35 feet in length. Both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are long enough to have taken one scroll each, and that is likely why Luke divided them into two books.
Luke himself was a medical doctor. He had been living in Troas when he teamed up with Paul on Paul’s second missionary journey. From that point on, he was Paul’s occasional traveling companion accompanying him to Jerusalem at the end of his third mission trip and later to Rome. He was with Paul during both his Roman imprisonments and both these books were likely written near the end of the first one.
The books are addressed to a man named Theophilus who, because of the title Luke gave him (“most excellent”), may have been a high Roman official. Luke’s stated purpose for writing (often overlooked in Bible classes) is that Theophilus might know the certainty of the things he had been taught. There are actually two issues here no one should miss when reading these books.
First, Luke and Acts were written to provide proof that the story of Christianity was true. Luke claims to have “carefully researched” his presentation, providing names and often addresses of important people who were involved in the story. Luke mentions the names of witnesses who would be both favorable to the Christian story, and the names of those who would not, but all are mentioned to verify the account. Though Luke himself was not an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, he repeatedly mentions the abundance (crowds) of witnesses who were there. He provides dates and gives locations for the events that occur. He mentions a number of trials for which there would be court records. All of this is presented so that his first reader could “check it out” and know: this is not fiction. The events really happened. Luke and Acts should be read with pencil and paper in hand, noting the evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian story. Until evidence, contemporary with either the events or Luke’s account, arises to challenge the veracity of the story he presents, Luke and Acts remain irrefutable evidence of the trustworthiness of the New Testament story.
Second, and equally important, Luke wrote that his first reader might know the certainty of what he had been taught. So what had Theophilus been taught? In reading Luke and Acts, we should be looking for the teaching Luke was seeking to verify. As we see the repeated emphases, we learn the subject matter early Christians conveyed when they talked to others about Jesus and his people.