Something amazing happened to Saul of Tarsus to turn him from an enemy of Christ to a “bondservant” of Christ. How long did it take? Less than a minute.
“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. 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 9:1-6
Depending on what version of the Bible you use, you may not find the words “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?” The reason is that some of the old Greek manuscripts of the Book of Acts don’t contain the words, so the Majority Text (MT) doesn’t include them. However, the Received Text (TR – Textus Receptus) does include them. So, what do we do with that? Look a little more deeply into the Book of Acts and we discover more evidence.
“Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ ‘And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.” Acts 22:6-10
Here is the same portion from one of the MT translations (NIV).
“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.” Acts 22:6-10
Looking ahead four chapters, we see Paul speaking to King Agrippa.
“While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” Acts 26:12-18
Here is the same portion from one of the MT translations (NIV).
“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:12-18
By reading all of the accounts of Paul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, even in various translations, we have as complete a picture as we can get from Divine revelation. We also learn that the Lord’s comment about it being hard for Paul to kick against the goads and Paul’s question “Who are You, Lord?” are definitely part of what happened between them.
Paul knew something astonishing had happened to him. He didn’t know what, but he knew it was not just another day at the office. Saul saw a light that was brighter than the sun. He fell to the ground and heard a Voice speaking to him in Hebrew asking why he was persecuting Him. Paul asked who was speaking to him and he heard the Voice say, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Paul said Jesus then told him to rise and stand on his feet because He had appeared to him to make him (Saul) a minister and a witness both of the things which he had seen and of the things Jesus would reveal to him. Jesus promised Saul that He would deliver him from Jews and Gentiles, to whom He was sending him, for the purpose of turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who would be sanctified by faith in Christ.
What did Saul do with what Jesus told him? He spent three days without sight and didn’t eat or drink. When Ananias came to Saul with a Message from Christ, it was confirmation of what he had heard personally from Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Saul believed, was filled with the Holy Spirit, received his sight, arose, was baptized, ate some food, was strengthened, spent some days with the disciples at Damascus (the ones Saul planned to arrest and take back to Jerusalem), and “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:17-20). Saul was never the same again. He became a “bondservant” of Jesus Christ that day.
Did that have an impact on people around Saul? Yes, it did.
“Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’ But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 9:21-22)
Paul (Saul) used the Greek word doulos (in bondage, bondservant, slave) often to describe his relationship to Jesus Christ. How interesting that Paul would choose the term for a “slave” with no rights of their own to describe himself. Doulos was the lowest form of servitude in Greek culture and people who were slaves would not have thought highly of their lowly position. So, what did Paul think about being a doulos of Christ? Paul’s concept of being a doulos of Christ came from Christ’s own example of serving His Father.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God Who is Equal with God, voluntarily took the form (morphen) of a bondservant (doulos), came to earth in the likeness (homoiomati) of men, and being found in appearance (schemati) as a man, humbled Himself and became obedient to death on the Cross. That is our Example of being a “bondservant.” No wonder it was a statement of great joy for Paul to say that he was a bondservant of Jesus Christ. Jesus had saved his eternal soul on that dusty road to Damascus. Jesus had purchased Paul’s salvation at the price of His Own Life. Paul knew, understood, and gloried in that and was always excited to tell everyone that he was a doulos – a bondservant – of Jesus Christ.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”