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.
light (v.3) — brighter than the noon sun (Acts 26:13)
shone (v.3) = flashed, like lightning
The Son of God in the Glory of the Father was revealed unto Saul. Though the record here is silent about the actual vision, it is clearly seen from other Scriptures that such was the case. Ananias later addressed Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way” (Acts 9:17). From another verse in our chapter (verse 27), we learn that Barnabas said “that he had seen the Lord in the way and that He had spoken to him.” Then in Acts 26:16, the Lord Himself spoke to Saul: “I have appeared unto thee.” A more direct testimony is found from the apostle in 1 Corinthians 15, where, after mentioning the different witnesses of the resurrection, Paul says, “and last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, butcause I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). He saw the Lord in all His resurrection Glory and this, besides the direct call, constituted him an apostle, for he was not a fit witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1). — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, page 171
voice (v.4) — The Lord spoke in Hebrew (Acts 26:13).
Saul, Saul (v.4) — In Luke’s writings, the repetition of a name implies rebuke or warning.
Why are you persecuting Me? (v.4) — persecuting a believer is persecuting the Lord
and he said, “Who are You, Lord? (v.5) — Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Jesus (v.5) — That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).
I am Jesus whom you are persecuting (v.5) — the pronouns are emphatic, pointing out the Lord’s greatness and Saul’s folly
kick against the goads (v.5) — The words which follow in the authorized version “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?” must be omitted here. They do not belong into the historical account as given by Luke. They were inserted later from chapters 22 and 26, where they are in the right place. No Greek manuscript contains them. — Gaebelein, page 172
speechless (v.7) = struck dumb with astonishment
voice (v.7) — words to Paul, noise to the others
We remember years ago how a poor, blinded Jew attended our Gospel meetings and among his claims that the New Testament contradicted itself, he would cite the statement here about the companions of Saul and Paul’s statement that “they heard not the voice of Him that spoke with me (Acts 22:9). He called this a disagreement. The far more blinded higher critics make the same assertion. But there is no disagreement. Luke in his brief account tells us that the men heard a voice. But Paul tells us that they heard not “the voice of Him that spake with me.” They did not hear the conversation, they heard the sound of a voice but the voice itself was unintelligible to them. John 12:28-29 explains it perfectly. The Son of God heard the Father’s voice. The people who stood by heard the sound waves and some declared that it was thunder, others that an angel had spoken. Only the Son heard what the the Father had said. So here. The men heard the sound of the voice, but what was said they did not hear; Saul alone understood the words of the heavenly speaker. — Gaebelein, page 175
led him by the hand (v.8) — in contrast with Paul’s intended entry into the city bringing threats and murder
We doubt that Paul’s mind was very much occupied with his own safety at this time. There were more important things to think about during these days without sight, food or drink. These letters of death; what did he want with them now? The past; the fathers mothers and loved ones he had hunted to their deaths; those he had scourged to make them blaspheme Christ; his recent intense hatred of Christ. How could he ever begin to set all this right? And yet here he was saved, and chose to bear Christ’s name before the world! But how would they receive his testimony? Or, would his testimony, perhaps, bear great weight than the testimonies of others? Ah, but how utterly undeserving was he to speak one word in Christ’s behalf!
What mingled feelings of sorrow and joy, remorse and gratitude, shame and glory must have surged within Saul’s breast as he contemplated what he had just seen and heart! — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 35
Israel, through whom God had promised to send salvation and blessing to the Gentiles, had now joined the Gentiles in their rebellion against God and Saul of Tarsus was leading that rebellion.
But when Saul pressed the persecution into Gentile territory, divine intervention was immediate and direct. If the people of Israel would not accept salvation through Christ they were not, at least, to be permitted to keep it from the Gentiles. Thus God now proceeds to show them that He did not choose them because He needed them, but because of His sovereign grace, and that He can justly offer salvation to all, entirely apart from the covenant promises, entirely apart from Israel — wholly and solely through the merits of the Crucified. And for this purpose, yea, on these grounds, He saves Saul, His chief enemy on earth, sending him forth with “the gospel of the grace of God!” (Acts 20:24; Ephesians 3:2). — Stam, page 26
Paul constantly returned to this event in his preaching and writing.
Acts 22:5-16 — As also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished. Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 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. So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’ 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. Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
Acts 26:12-18 — While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 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.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’
1 Corinthians 15:8 — Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
Galatians 1:15-16 — But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles …
1 Timothy 1:12-13 — And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
What happened on the road to Damascus was unique. Saul’s conversion is unlike any other conversion. Nor has such an event taken place since then. That it will be repeated on a larger scale in a future day is assured by the Word of Prophecy. The heavens will be opened once more. Out of the opened heavens there will again shine forth the Glory of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. In His Glory, He will appear the second time. And when He comes in the clouds of heaven there will be still His blinded people on earth, a remnant of them, and like Saul they will behold the glorious vision. Then will be fulfilled what is written in Zechariah 12:10: “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for His only son.” — Gaebelein, page 167
Paul’s Roman, as well as his Hebrew citizenship is strongly emphasized in the book of Acts. This is significant, for here at the outset, as a representative of both Jew and Gentile, he is sent to both Jews and Gentiles to turn them from darkness to light and to give them an inheritance among the sanctified.
Saul was not sent out to work under the commission given to the twelve. Indeed, the Lord had raised him up as another apostle, entirely apart from the twelve, that though him “He might reconcile both [Jews and Gentiles] unto God in one body by the cross” (Ephesians 2:16). — Stam, pages 28-29