The Lordship of Jesus Christ means the submission and surrender and obedience of all. And this is good news because He died and rose again for our sins, and He knows what He’s doing – He is a gracious Lord. He rules for our happiness. But this may be one of the most hated Christian doctrines.
The lies of our flesh, the world, and the Devil say that God is withholding something from us, He has forgotten us, He would help but He can’t, or else that He isn’t really good. And these lies tempt us to panic, grasp, demand, get angry, and in various ways assert our own lordship which only makes us less happy. In this passage, Christ confronts the plans and misconceptions of Saul and Ananias, and what Jesus says to them, He says to every one of us: “arise and go.”
The Text: “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem…” (Acts 9:1-22).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Full of animosity, Saul takes his persecution on the road to Damascus, where Jesus confronted him with a bright, blinding light, and gave him radically new orders (Acts 9:1-9). Notice that Jesus addresses Saul personally, by name, and that He takes the persecution of His people personally, reckoning what is done to them as done to Him (Acts 9:4). Three days later, a disciple named Ananias was instructed by the Lord to go find Saul to restore his sight, and to baptize him so that he might receive the Holy Spirit, and despite his concerns, he obeyed (Acts 9:10-18). Saul immediately preached Christ in the synagogues, causing quite a stir, especially as his arguments increased in strength, confounding the Jews (Acts 9:19-22).
Kicking Against the Goads & Obedience to the Lord
When Jesus confronted Saul, He said, “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5). The image Jesus is using is taken from using oxen to plow a field, where a farmer often had a prick or goad that would be used to drive the oxen. Sometimes a goad might even be attached to the plow, such that if the animal kicked, the goad would prick them even more sharply. Sin makes people beastlike, slaves to their lusts, slaves to their passions, slaves to their emotions, slaves to their past. The call of Christ is the call to full and true humanity and freedom.
Jesus graciously confronts Saul by saying that he is in rebellion and his rebellion is only making it more painful for himself. And Saul responds in surrender: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” And the command from the Lord is to “arise and go” (Acts 9:6). The same command is given a few verses later to Ananias, “Arise and go” (Acts 9:11). Who dares order people around like this? The One who made us, the One who suffered and died for our sins. The One who is worthy of all obedience. Jesus is Lord.
THE SORROWS OF THE WICKED
In Psalm 32, a similar warning is given in the context of confession of sin: “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about” (Ps. 32:9-10).
The contrast in this psalm is between the sorrows and pains of our beastly stubbornness and the joy and relief of obedience and confession. If you are not a Christian, then you cannot have peace and joy when you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ, when you are trying to be your own lord. But if you are a Christian, you cannot have peace and joy if you are refusing to obey your Lord, and in particular refusing to confess your sins.
Years later, Saul/Paul wrote to Timothy: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Tim. 1:15-16).
Do not despair. Do not lose hope. If Saul obtained mercy there is mercy for you and there is mercy for anyone.
“For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:9-10).
God’s grace is not a flimsy, weak thing. His grace is fiery and fierce. His grace propels us to great and joyful obedience. In Christ, God’s authority and kindness are married. His will is almighty and all-gracious. He summons us to die, but the summons to die, is an invitation to begin to really live. Your own desires and plans are often not good, right, or healthy. But when you obey the Lord joyfully, you become a force for that good.