Saturday, 23 July 2022
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. Acts 9:8
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).
Previously, it was seen that the men who were with Paul heard a voice, but they saw no one. The narrative continues with, “Then Saul arose from the ground.” As noted in verses 9:3 & 4, he had fallen to the ground after the bright light shone around him. In the intervening verses where he conversed with the Lord, Paul would have been on the ground before Him and with his eyes closed. That is seen in the next words, saying, “and when his eyes were opened he saw no one.”
The word is different than the previous verse where those with Paul saw no one. Here, it is a neuter adjective, and it should be translated as, “he saw nothing” –
- And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.
- Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw nothing.
Unlike the men who were miraculously prevented from seeing the brilliancy surrounding the Lord, Paul was completely blinded. In this state, it next says, “But they led him by the hand.” The leader of those who were prepared to arrest the Lord’s people had to be led by those who previously followed him. In this state of helpless blindness, it says they “brought him into Damascus.”
Paul did make it to Damascus, but not in the way he expected. In Acts 22, he will attribute his blindness directly to the brilliancy of the light he encountered –
“And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.” Acts 22:11
There are several natural explanations for Paul’s blindness, one is known as conversion disorder or hysterical blindness. This is an affliction where an event that causes severe emotional distress, a psychological factor, and something that certainly was the case with Paul, manifests itself physically. In this case, the physical ailment would be blindness.
Such an explanation cannot be fully dismissed, but it also cannot completely explain what occurred with Paul. First, he clearly attributes his blindness to the glory of the light. Secondly, the effects that occur later in this chapter when he regains his sight are not something that can be explained by conversion disorder. Thirdly, such naturalistic explanations don’t answer why Paul saw the brilliant light while those with him did not.
Therefore, there is possibly a naturalistic explanation for parts of what occurred, something seen with many miracles in the Bible, but there is that which goes beyond the naturalistic as well.
Life application: When we read the Bible, there is nothing wrong with trying to figure out how God performs a miracle. At times, the explanation is given right in the text. For example, in the parting of the Red Sea, the answer as to how it occurred is right in the passage –
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided.” Exodus 14:21
The Lord provided an east wind to part the waters just as he provided an east wind to bring in the locusts (Exodus 10:13). Such explanations show us that God is in control of the elements, and He can and will use them to effect His purposes. However, that is not the only part of the miracles.
When the locusts came upon the land, it was told in advance to Pharaoh that it would occur. When the Red Sea was parted, it was at the exact spot where such a wind could cause the waters to divide, it was at the exact time that it needed to occur for Israel to be saved. And more, the surrounding events – such as the destruction of the Egyptian army – occurred during the same event that brought Israel to safety.
Often, naysayers of the Bible will look so intently at the naturalistic explanations surrounding a miracle that they will overlook the truly miraculous parts of them. Be attentive to the surrounding events concerning such things. It is in these details that an argument for the miraculous is actually available.
But one of the key points of such a defense is that someone took the time to argue for a naturalistic explanation. That means that he has now set the account as both factual and acceptable as recorded history. Otherwise, there would be no reason to try to explain it away as naturalistic. Once a person has taken this position, providing the surrounding points that are truly miraculous will set their arguments off as illogical and without merit.
Lord God, while people try to diminish the truth or accuracy of Your word, we can watch their attempts fail time and time again. But we can only do this if we know it well enough to dismiss their arguments as unacceptable. Otherwise, we have no footing to do so. Please help us to be prepared for the attacks that are made. Help us to be ready to defend what Your word says while having faith that what it conveys is true. Amen.