God’s power changes Paul’s heart radically
12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 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. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘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. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 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.’
I think the transformation of Paul is one of the most stunning examples of God’s power in the Bible. He was possibly Christianity’s most passionate and active enemy and persecutor in his day, and then he became Christianity’s most passionate and active advocate and evangelist. And this event here is the start of his transformation.
Paul is retelling his conversion here, where he’s on the way to Damascus to arrest any Christians there, ‘still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (Acts 9:1), when Jesus steps in and shows His power.
It stands out to me that Jesus here makes such a close association between himself and his church, his people. He says in verse 14 and 15 that, when Saul is persecuting Christians and the church, he is in fact persecuting Him. Perhaps this shows how close we are to Him.
I looked up the meaning of the phrase in verse 14, ‘It is hard for you to kick against the goads’. I read that it means one cannot ultimately resist God’s power – goads were sharp sticks used to keep oxen in line when they were kicking in resistance. If that’s true, it’s a bit of an interesting insight into where God is coming from.
And then Jesus gives Paul his charge. I love verse 18. God is sending Paul to open the people’s eyes (a key phrase in our Ephesians series), so that they may turn from the power of Satan, to the power of God, on display in this story.
And that power of God forgives people of their boundless sins, and sanctifies (sets apart and makes holy) those with faith in Him.
As I was reflecting on this passage, I was reflecting on God’s power to change people. The conversion of Paul has to be one of the biggest examples of that. Perhaps you have been praying for a family member or a friend to become a Christian, or to repent from a harmful way of life, but they show no signs of being interested or changing. Perhaps you’ve been praying for yourself, to finally conquer some sin that has been persistently plaguing your life for years, or to finally change in an area you’d like to change in.
This passage can encourage you – don’t lose hope. The same power that so radically changed Paul’s life, from Christianity’s main persecutor to its main evangelist, can change you and your loved one.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for changing Paul’s heart to spread your gospel among the world. Thank you that you forgive people of their sin and brokenness, and sanctify them out of love. Lord, I pray that by that same power, you would be working in my heart and the hearts of those around me, to change us to be more like You. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
A song to listen to How Great Thou Art – Ascend the HIll
Living Church – Creek Road