It seemed good also to me, having traced out all things accurately from the first, to write in order to you, most excellent Theophilus,Luke 1:3
Indeed, O Theophilus, I made the first report concerning all things which Jesus began both to do and to teach,Acts 1:1
There is a difference of opinion among the “experts” as to who or what this name refers to.
The name means “friend of God” or more literally “God lover” or as David Pawson likes to say “Mr God Friendly” or even “Mr Sincere Inquirer”. Is this person, Theophilus, a real person or a non de plume to depict all God Inquirers or God Lovers. Was Luke’s Gospel written for one man who then shared it with the masses or written for all God lovers?
Many have supposed that Luke did not refer to any particular “individual,” but to all people that loved God. Others feel there is no reason for this opinion. Significant names were very common, and there is no good reason to doubt that this was some individual known to Luke. They feel the application of the title “most excellent “proves it further. It would not be given to an unknown man. The title “most excellent” has by some been supposed to be given to express his “character,” but it is rather to be considered as denoting rank or office. It occurs only in three other places in the New Testament, and is there given to men “in office” – to Felix and Festus. (Acts 23:26; 24:3; 26:25) These titles express no quality of the “men,” but belong to the “office;” and we may hence learn that it is not improper for Christians, in giving honour to whom honour is due, to address men in office by their customary titles, even if their moral character be altogether unworthy of it. Who “Theophilus” was is unknown. It is probable that he was some distinguished Roman or Greek who had been converted, who was a friend of Luke, and who had requested an account of these things. It is possible that this preface might have been sent to him as a private letter with the gospel, and Theophilus chose to have them published together. Theophylact says, he was of the order of the senators, and perhaps a nobleman, or prince. Salvianhowever, this name was not a general name but the name of a particular man, who believed in Christ, and was an acquaintance of Luke’s. Webster and Wilkinson suppose that “Theophilus” was the chief magistrate of some city in Greece or Asia Minor.
David Pawson in his excellent overview of the Bible [Unlocking the Bible] suggests it would be strange for Luke to spend four years researching in order to write for just one person. Hence the conclusion that Luke has written for all believers or lovers of God. The Theophilus becomes an imaginary representative for all God lovers – “Mr Sincere Inquirer”. Or that Theophilus was a real person and Luke did indeed write for him but then the “letter” was so good and was recognized as such and was published for all. Others have put forward the theory that Theophilus was a high official in some way connected with Paul’s case before Festus and Felix.
David Pawson picks up on this thought and suggests that Theophilus was Paul’s defence lawyer. Such a defence lawyer would need to have all the facts in an ordered concise way. The thought is then that Luke researched the facts related to the life and death of Jesus and the reason why Paul was linked to this new religion. Luke was not one of the 12 Apostles and so he had to interview the eye witnesses as to the facts of the case. Pawson argues the content of Luke and Acts fits with what a lawyer would require – accurate dates of the events, and the repeated suggestions that Roman authorities found both Jesus and Paul innocent of the charges. Pawson maintains it explains why Paul is the focus of the Book of Acts to the exclusion of Peter, why Paul’s testimony is given three times in Acts and why the Book of Acts ends so abruptly with Paul awaiting trial. In point of fact it was not just Paul who was on trial but Christianity itself.
Interesting. I will leave you to ponder these things and figure out for yourself what you believe about Theophilus and who the book was written to – a single particular man or all God lovers everywhere. I know what I believe about it but I am not telling you, you have to come to your own conclusion before I will say anymore. We will pick up some of these thoughts again when we look at the Book of Acts. Hold on to these thoughts and “treasure them in your heart” like Mary did with the things of Jesus.
The key to friendship with God is not changing what you do, but changing your attitude towards what you do.Brother Lawrence
God is either God of all or not God at all. Semi-sovereignty is not an option.Max Lucado
A man without decision of character can never be said to belong to himself. He belongs to whatever can make a captive of him.John Foster