Luke Joins the Team: Acts 16:11-13
“11) So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; 12) and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. 13) And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.” Acts‬ ‭16‬:‭11‬-‭13‬
These verses indicate how quickly Paul and his team departed for Macedonia. The team consisted of Paul, Silas and… Luke. Where did he come from? Five times in these three verses Luke included the word “we.” He may have joined the team as “the press core.” It was at this point in the book of Acts that the famed historian suddenly started traveling with Paul.
Philippi was a thriving trade city even though it was located several miles from the nearest sea port. Estimates put the population around 15,000 people in biblical times with up to 40% being slaves or indentured servants. It was a former Greek settlement with an influx of Romans. There is evidence that it was a retirement community for Roman soldiers and had a significant number of Roman citizens. However, Greek remained as the primarily language spoken in the region.
Philippi had a very small Jewish population. Traditionally, it required ten Jewish men to form a synagogue. The presence of a “place of prayer” by the river indicates the absence of a Jewish synagogue. This region had nearly zero knowledge of the God of Creation from the Hebrew tradition. It boasted secular Greek and Roman culture.
Because Paul was multilingual and highly educated, he was the perfect choice to carry the gospel to this region. There is speculation that Luke was also a native Greek speaker and most likely a Roman citizen. The introduction of both the books of Luke and Acts to “Theophilus” points to his Greek heritage. (See Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2)
This raises questions about the background and mission of Luke. He was most likely sent by Theophilus to investigate and document the facts of the ministry of Jesus Christ and the growing story of the early Christian church. He was the only Gospel writer that was not an Apostle and unfortunately the only historian to record the history of the early church.
Luke never focused on himself. There is no record of him ever teaching, preaching, actively engaged in ministry or exercising any spiritual gift. There is no question that he was a believer, but he remained faithful to his mission of being an unbiased researcher and historian.
As such, he seemed to be exempt from direct persecution, beatings, imprisonment and prosecution endured by Paul and Silas or later team members. He endured the rigors of traveling hardships, but was always treated like a bystander who was diligently recording the unfolding story. He was most likely funded by Theophilus and may have carried legal documents explaining his authority and mission. Of course this is mere speculation, but helps explain his consistent exemption from direct ill treatment.
Some believe his mission was to determine whether or not the emerging Christians were a threat to Rome. This might explain why he accompanied the team west to record the spread of Christianity into predominantly Roman colonies and why he eventually accompanied Paul to Rome.
Now let me make a concluding observation; God places people in key places even though they might have secular positions and authority. I will argue that apart from Jesus Christ Himself; Peter, Paul and Luke left the greatest mark on the establishment and spread Christianity around world. Let that sink in for a moment. You do not have to be “in ministry” to have a huge impact for the glory of God. Most Christian’s are called to be a “Luke.”
The same is true in our modern world. Some of the most influential people for the Gospel today are not pastors, evangelists or missionaries. They are consecrated believers serving in secular jobs. Some are military officers. Others are business owners. Many are musicians. Others are sports figures. Some serve in public office. Some work in the medical field. Some are public school teachers or administrators. Some are truck drivers or electricians. All of them fill the sandals of the beloved brother Luke. I take my hat off to all of them!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global