What does the phrase “kick against the goads” mean?

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The Book of Acts chapter 9 records that Saul (Paul’s name before conversion) went to the high priest in Jerusalem and asked for letters that he may take it to the synagogues of Damascus. These letters would authorize him to capture those who were of the Way (followers of Jesus Christ). He wanted to bring these believers to Jerusalem for judgement. Upon obtaining these letters, Paul went to Damascus.

Saul’s encounter with Jesus

But on the way suddenly a light shone around Saul from heaven. And he heard a voice saying to him, “Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”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.” 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” (Acts 9:4-6).

Kick against the pricks

The phrase “kick against the goads” seems to have been a well-known Greek proverb, which might well have been common among agricultural people. The proverb is taken from the Eastern farmer’s practice of using an iron poker or a sting to accelerate the slow step of his oxen. Naturally, the oxen will not kick against the sting because it hurts. It could be that the scene was taking place alongside the Damascus road, and that the Lord took it as an example for His message to the persecutor.

The calls of the Holy Spirit

Through the phrase “kick against the goads,” the Lord Jesus was telling Saul that he can’t keep on resisting the pleadings of the Holy Spirit. Saul’s conscience had been strongly refusing the convictions of God’s Spirit especially after the death of Stephen (Acts 8:1) the first martyr of the Christian Church. Stephen was stoned by men who “laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:57).

God was drawing Saul with His Spirit that convicts of sin (John 16:7-8). He pointed to the salvation in Jesus (Romans 10:3–10; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2:13), and warned of the consequences of continuing in sin (Matthew 5:21, 22; 10:15; 12:36).

Paul submits to God

God’s mighty work through the Holy Spirit and Saul’s educational background helped prepare the way to Paul’s conversion. It seemed that Gamaliel the great religious Jewish teacher in Israel, Saul’s teacher (Acts 22:3), was more tolerant than Saul concerning the followers of Christ. In addition, Paul had relatives who were followers of Jesus Christ (Romans 16:7) that might have influenced him. All these factors led to Paul’s spiritual enlightenment and conversion (Acts 9-10).

Finally Paul declared, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” He did not “kick against the goads” (verse 14) but yielded to the call of Christ. So, full was his devotion that he never wavered in the path of duty. He only inquired to know what his Lord asked of him, and then did it (Acts 16:6–12). For the “love of Christ” moved him (2 Corinthians 5:14).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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