In our last study, we learned about the importance of what Stephen claimed about Jesus being the “Son of Man” and how angry it made the leaders of Israel – angry enough to kill Stephen. We also met a young man named Saul who consented to Stephen’s death.
We learn from Acts 8 that a great persecution arose from the believers assembled at Jerusalem. It was so great that it scattered all of them throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles who remained in Jerusalem. Saul became a leading persecutor of believers and “made havoc” with them, “entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” (Acts 8:3)
This persecution did not deter the disciples of Christ from preaching about Jesus. What it did was spread God’s Message throughout the land. So, Saul went looking for followers of the Way.
“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2
Jesus had other plans for Saul and revealed Himself to the chief persecutor in a unique way.
“As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:3-6
Saul had a heart for God, but it was misguided. Nothing Saul had seen so far had influenced him to change his mind about Jesus – not the faith of the believers, not their testimony of believing that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel, not even their personal sacrifice. Jesus had a plan for Saul’s life and knew how to reach him. Saul immediately recognized that he was in the presence of a superior power – “Who are You, Lord?” – Saul said. Jesus revealed Himself in the clearest terms Saul would understand – “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
A quick note about “the goads.” A goad was a long rod with a pointed end (often a sharp piece of metal attached to a wooden rod) used to control oxen. The sharp end of the goad was placed on the flesh of the oxen to control and guide them. If the oxen didn’t go where they were supposed to go, the farmer would push a little harder on the goad to move the oxen in the right direction. Oxen would often kick against the goad because of the pain, but the farmer would just push harder until the oxen finally submitted to the farmer’s will. Jesus used that terminology in showing Saul that what he was doing was misguided and he needed to submit to God’s Will.
God’s Will for Saul was something the Lord determined for him before Creation. That’s an amazing thing to consider, but it was Paul (Saul) who said -“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4) Paul included himself in that “us.” God chose Paul and other believers in the sphere of Christ before He Created the world to be “holy and blameless in his sight.” The Lord’s calling to Saul on the road to Damascus had been determined long before – thousands of years before. Here’s what happened next:
“The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” Acts 9:7-19
Did you see that? Jesus told Ananias that Saul was His “chosen instrument” to carry His Name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. Fascinating! Saul was a “chosen instrument.” The Greek words are skeuos ekloges – “a vessel of choice.” The word skeuos was used for vessels or implements of various kinds – often used to carry out household duties. As we will see later, God was going to change the way He managed His household and would use Saul (Paul) as His vessel for that change. The word was also a common Greek metaphor for the human body because people in the 1st Century viewed souls as living temporarily in the body. Paul was a vessel of God’s choice. The word ekloges means “to pick out, choose for ones self.”
In the next part of our study, we’ll look at how God used Saul (Paul) to reach the Gentile world and what he told them about the Deity of Jesus Christ.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”