UT at A.
Friday, 22 July 2022
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Acts 9:7
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).
The Lord Jesus just said to Paul, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Luke continues the narrative now with the words, “And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless.”
The word translated as “speechless,” enneos, is found only here in the Bible. It comes from another unique word, enneuó, which means to nod at or make a sign by nodding. As such this word signifies mute, as in a person making signs. In this case, the men are silent from a state of complete astonishment. As this is the case, it tells us that they have been captured by the vision as well as Paul has. However, there is a difference. Here, Luke records that they were “hearing a voice but seeing no one.”
A literal rendering of the Greek is, “hearing indeed the voice but seeing no one.” This is a verse that naysayers and those who attack the Bible will point to when claiming there are contradictions in Scripture. The reason for this is that it says later in Acts –
“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.” Acts 22:9
The supposed contradiction is eliminated through understanding the intent of what has been said. The same word, akouó, is used in both passages. It means physically hearing, but it also means to understand. In the case of Acts 9, the men indeed heard the voice. However, in Acts 22, Paul notes to those he is speaking to in Jerusalem (to those who speak the same language as he did) that the men with him did not understand what was being said.
Again, the same word carries both connotations. We might say, “You aren’t hearing me” to someone who hears but does not understand or pay heed. We may knock on someone’s head and say, “Hellloooo, did you hear me?” when we know perfectly well that he did, even though he may not have grasped or paid attention to what was said.
The reason for the specificity is because Paul, in his defense before King Agrippa in Acts 26, says –
“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.’” Acts 26:14
There Paul identifies the language as Hebrew (the word also covers Aramaic). But those he spoke to in Jerusalem in Acts 22 (his crazed audience), would have understood Hebrew. As this is so, it is telling us that either those with Paul in Acts 9 did not speak Hebrew, or they were purposefully withheld from understanding what Paul could readily understand. This would be a miracle like in Acts 2 then. It is comparable to the fact that Paul saw the Lord while these men did not. Their hearing/understanding and vision were hindered from what Paul clearly heard, understood, and saw.
Two (of the many) examples of hearing physically while not understanding are –
“And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it [akouó].” Mark 4:33
“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands [akouó] him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” 1 Corinthians 14:2
One more example shows the intent of what is now said in Acts quite clearly –
“Therefore the people who stood by and heard [akouó] it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’” John 12:29
In the example from John, some “heard” what they thought was thunder. Others clearly heard words because they refer to it as having been spoken. Thus, we can see that those in Acts 9 heard but they did not hear. There is no contradiction.
The Pulpit Commentary on Acts 22:9 correctly notes, “To see and hear the risen Christ was a privilege given to St. Paul alone.” This is the intent and point of what is seen here. The Lord purposefully revealed Himself only to Paul. The others were given enough information to know that something took place, but not enough to allow them to be converted apart from faith in what they were then told by Paul.
Life application: Jesus withheld understanding His voice and seeing His form from those with Paul for His own reasons. He appeared to Israel at a particular point in time for His own reasons. If you are saved, it happened at a point in your life that was marked out according to God’s plans. Nothing occurs apart from the knowledge of God, and when He wants something to occur at a specific time, it is going to come about.
Trust in this and know that He is in complete control over what is happening. And yet, He does it while factoring in free will. He knows those who will believe or not believe. But more, He knows when those who may not believe at one time will believe at another. He is working out things so that the most glory will come to Him – either in salvation or in judgment. He is God. He is sovereign. His purposes will come to pass.
At the same time, He is using us to effect those purposes at times. So be ready to act. Hand out those tracts, open your mouth and speak, and be sure to talk about your hope in the Lord Jesus often. He already knows if you will or not, and that has been factored in too. So be on the rewards side of the equation and do what you can while you can.
Glorious God Almighty, help us to be active participants in the unfolding plan of redemption that You have going on in the world. May we be responsible with our time and may we be willing to put our best foot forward and act. Help us in this, O God. Amen.