Paul’s Testimony Related to the Case (to Agrippa)
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.Acts 26:9-15
- What does kicking against the goad / pricks / prod / spurs mean?
- Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the spurs. [ABP]
- Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? it is hard for you to kick against the goad.[ASV, ESV, Murdock, RV, TLV]
- ‘Sha’ul! Sha’ul! Why do you keep persecuting me? It’s hard on you to be kicking against the ox-goads!'[CJB, MKJV,]
- Saul! Why are you persecuting me? It is hurting you to keep on kicking against the cattle prods.'[ISV, LITV, TS2009]
- Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.[JUB, KJV, ]
- ‘Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me? You are hurting yourself by hitting back, like an ox kicking against its owner’s stick. [GNB]
- “Saul, Saul, why are you so cruel to me? It’s foolish to fight against me!”[CEV]
- ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? You are only hurting yourself by fighting me. [ERV, TLB]
- ‘Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me? It’s hard for a mortal like you to resist God.'[GW]
- ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?'[MSG]
- ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’[NLT]
- ‘Saul, Saul, why are you attacking me so cruelly? It is hard for you to go against the impulse which is driving you.[BBE]
I have taken 12 translations in English that I have loaded on E-Sword and lined them up for you. Essentially they say the same things but in different words. However, there are some subtle differences. The literal Greek reads “it is [skleros] for you against the [kentron] to [laktizo]”.[skleros] – “hard, “rough”, “painful” – You hurt yourself, punish yourself, make it hard or difficult for yourself [kentron] – “goad”, “pricks”, “spur” – sharp stick used to guide a draught animal, it is likely the ox is in focus here. [laktizo] – “kick” or the resistance of an animal against the guidance or prodding given to it.
or at least a resistant animal known for its stubbornness.
The instrument in focus, be it a goad, sharp stick, prod or spur are all used to speed the animal up or change its direction. The use of spur suggests the animal is being ridden.
In all cases with the exception of the BBE (Bible in Basic English) the sense is that it is God who is doing the guiding. In fact that is what Jesus in the encounter appears to be telling Paul. “I (Jesus) am behind the guidance you are receiving. In fact Jesus is the one Paul is persecuting by persecuting His followers, therefore the inference being I am the one guiding or leading you to move according to My will. In the case of the BBE the idea has changed to the impulses within Paul being the guiding factor, i.e. leading him astray.[laktizo] has been placed at the end of the sentence in the place of emphasis. Paul, your resistance is what is in focus here, the main thing concerning Me. By resisting you are only hurting yourself. I like both the Message version [MSG] and the [NLT] for the different nuances they bring out of the text before before us.
- “going against the grain”
- “useless to fight against God’s will”
God’s laws and principles are not to constrain us but to help us fit in with the universe He has created for us. When we learn to fit with His will or His direction then life goes more smoothly for us. We fit in with the way God designed life to be lived. You can resist if you wish but you are only hurting yourself or causing yourself pain. I like Eugene Peterson’s “going against the grain” for that reason. We are trying to do things or work against the natural order of things or the natural flow. We are trying to swim upstream in a downstream universe.
I learned that when I was a young Christian and attempt to continue living according to my old ways. I was playing tournament tennis and representing my region as well. But all of those matches were played on a Sunday. I reasoned that I could play tennis in the mornings and go to church for the night service. I would constantly receive message or pricks or guidance to lead me to conclusion that I needed to give God the highest priority. Make my allegiance to God the first order of priority and all the other things would fall into place. If I chose to resist which I could do (and was doing) then I was not fitting with my new life in Christ. I resisted for a couple of years during which time I felt like I was swimming upstream. I know that is bad mixed metaphor for tennis, but I am sure you get my point. I was only giving myself aggravation. I resisted Tania’s prodding, my best friend’s advice and more importantly God’s leading in numerous ways. Finally, I concluded I needed to obey my creator. As soon as I did and withdrew from the Waikato rep team they changed their fixtures to Saturday’s so I could play. It was a major lesson to me to follow God’s will first and foremost and all the other things will align. (Matt 6:33)
The New Living Translation [NLT] gives the perspective that it is of no use (useless) to resist God’s will once he makes it clear. Indeed you are only hurting yourself and settling for second best. Think of it this way, God knows how He has made you and what gives you the ultimate pleasure. When you fit in with the creative plan God had in mind when He made you, you achieve your ultimate purpose. Michael Chang (top ten tennis player in the 1970’s) used to say when he played tennis he felt like he was worshipping God with his body. It was what he was made for. The idea of the statement in the NLT is not that you are of no earthly use; useless. More that you are not being the you God created you to be to give Him and you ultimate supreme pleasure.
To lead you to that point of finding who you are and how you fit into the universe God designed for you, He gently prods, pokes and points you in right direction. We can resist. That is one of the designs of God that amazes me the most. That He gave man free will to choose His way. He will not force you to do it His way; rather you get to choose. But when you yield to His pressure and leading, you step out into a world that was made for you and in which you fit. You are no longer attempting to swim upstream in a downstream world or going against the grain.
Learn to fit in with universe God created; when you do, life is a whole lot easier.Ian Vail
The Paradoxes of the Bible are Pregnant with the Purpose of God’s Plan.Ian Vail
The way up is the way down.
If you want to truly live; be willing to die to self.
If you want honour; learn humility.
If you want to receive, learn to give.
There truly is glory in suffering.Ian Vail
Let go and let God.Ian Vail