Acts 9:5

Artwork by Doug Kallerson.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

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.” Acts 9:5

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

Note: The text of verses 9:5 and 9:6 is different based on original manuscripts, and so your Bible may not match what is presented here:

*And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (ESV)

* 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.” (NKJV)


Paul was just shown to have fallen to the ground, and he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?” With that, Luke now records Paul’s response, “And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’”

In the use of “Lord” (Greek: kurios), it is probably not yet to be understood as referring to the Lord, Yehovah, the God of Israel, although by now that may not be out of the question. The same word can be translated in various ways based on the context. For example, in John 4:19, it says, “The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.’” There, the word “Sir” is the same as what Paul now uses.

Paul may, at this time, be thinking it is an angel. Whatever was on his mind, he uses this title to indicate someone in a highly respectful position. With the question asked, the narrative continues, saying, “Then the Lord said.”

The same word, kurios, is used again. This time, it is from Luke’s understanding of who it actually is, and thus it should mentally be considered as “Lord God,” meaning the Lord Jesus. This is seen in the divine response, “I am Jesus.”

The words would have pierced right into Saul’s soul. Here he is, trying to eradicate this very name. He had surely believed the lie of the council that Jesus’ body was stolen –

“Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, ‘Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.’ 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” Matthew 28:11-15

Suddenly, this voice accompanied by the brilliant light has called out that He is alive. The enormity of the moment would never have left Paul’s mind. This was the great transformative event that would change him forever. With this stated, Jesus continues, saying, “whom you are persecuting.”

As with the previous verse, Jesus relays the thought that an attack against His people is an attack against Him. It is personal and it will be reckoned as such on the day of judgment. But Paul is given a mark of grace that will lead to mercy upon him and his previous actions (1 Timothy 1:13). With this stated, Jesus continues, saying, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

Here, the word translated as “goads,” kentron, is introduced. It is from kenteo (to prick) and thus it signifies “center,” as in the sharp part of a sting, a thorn, a sharp weapon, and so on. It is used in reference to the sting of bees, scorpions, and so on (see Revelation 9:10). It is also used figuratively as something that stings in the emotions, as in “the sting of death” referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55.

Jesus’ words certainly came from a proverbial expression of the time. It is seen in various ancient Greek writings. The meaning for Paul is that he is acting like a dumb ox that kicks against the goads that are intended to prod him along. Instead of responding positively, he kicks back into the goad itself. A common saying that gives a similar sense is, “You’re only hurting yourself.”

Life application: The Bible has been given as a guide for our lives if we will simply utilize it as such. There are many who simply reject it, and they reject the One who is proclaimed in it. They have no understanding, and they will die apart from God. Others hear the gospel and they come to a saving knowledge of the Lord. But then, they never apply the precepts of the Bible to their lives.

Imagine the state! These people are immature, and they are unwilling to grow in the knowledge of the Lord. Their lives are unproductive, unhappy, and without a sense of direction or purpose. In essence, they spend their lives kicking against the goads (see Ecclesiastes 12:11). God is prodding them to grow up and become responsible members of His church. But they just keep plodding along without faithfully doing as they should. Every time someone says to them, “You really should attend church and start reading your Bible,” they kick against the advice, and their week is miserable.

Or maybe they attend a church that doesn’t properly feed them with the word of God. Instead of being grounded in the hope of Christ, they are told that God wants them to prosper materially. And yet, only the pastor seems to be getting rich. The money that is supposed to be a “seed offering” that will magically multiply in their pockets never does, because it has multiplied in the pockets of these false teachers.

What kind of a follower of Christ will you be? Don’t kick against the goads. God is prodding you to follow Him, to get to know Him, and to act in accord with His expectations for you. These things cannot occur unless you are willing to put Him and His word first in your life. Be wise and study this precious word. Avoid the pains of kicking against His divine will for you!

Lord God, surely things will be a lot better off for us if we will simply apply Your will to our lives. Help us to do so by learning what that will is through a careful study of Your word. May we seek it out all the days of our lives. To Your glory, we pray! Amen.