Online Bible Commentary
Acts 9:1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 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. 3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 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.” 6 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.” 7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (NKJV)
This passage details a major development in the history of Christianity. It marks the conversion of Paul to Christianity. There are two other accounts of Saul’s conversion; in Acts 22:6-11 and Acts 26:12-18.
The Apostle Paul was known as Saul before his conversion. As Saul he was a devoted Jew. His father was of the tribe of Benjamin and was a Pharisee.
Saul was born in Taurus, Cilicia probably about A.D. 2 or 3. As a young man, probably about thirteen, he moved to Jerusalem and studied under the renown Jewish religious leader Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).
The year is now about A.D. 35. Saul has become a devout Pharisee and is one of the main persecutors of Christians.
Saul is travelling from Jerusalem to Damascus. The time is noon (Acts 22:6 and 26:13). He has obtained letters from the high priest to allow him to go into the synagogues of Damascus and arrest Christians, members of the Way, for the purpose of bringing them back to Jerusalem for trial (vv. 1-2).
As he and his companions were approaching Damascus a bright light from Heaven knocked Saul to the ground (vv. 3-4a). Then came a voice from Heaven saying: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (v. 4b).
The voice is that of Jesus and He is saying that when Saul persecutes Christians he is also persecuting Jesus (5a). Jesus tells him that his efforts are useless, like stubborn animals kicking against goads, the sticks with sharp metal points that were used to herd animals (v. 5b).
“Trembling and astonished” Saul asks Jesus what he should do (v. 6a). He was instructed to “arise and go into the city” where he would be told the specifics of what he should do (v. 6b). Jesus did, however, tell Saul at this time of His general plans for him take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-18).
Saul’s companions “stood speechless”, having heard the voice but not seeing anyone (v. 7). Although they had heard the voice they did not understand the words, as did Saul (Acts 22:9). Saul heard the words in a Hebrew language, likely Aramaic the common dialect of the first century Jews (Acts 26:14).
Saul then arose from the ground and opened his eyes, but he could not see (v. 8a). His companions had to lead him by hand into Damascus (v. 8b). Paul would not regain his eyesight for three days, during such time he did not eat or drink (v. 9).
Saul’s conversion to Christianity was dramatic. Ours generally is not so dramatic, but the message is the same. The purpose of conversion is for us to become Jesus followers and live to please Him and do His will for our lives.
Sometimes we forget that and need to be reminded. This passage is a reminder. May God bless you on your journey.