Enlightened by the Holy Spirit

(Acts 23:1-11)

Here we see that the Roman authorities had been puzzled as to the negative and violent reaction of the Jews against Paul on his return to Jerusalem. They had intended to flog Paul with whips to find the truth of the matter, but stopped short on discovering he was a Roman citizen.

A light in the dark. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit
A light in the dark. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit

Their next attempt to discover why Paul had caused such a stir was to bring him before the council of the Jews so they could make their accusations and he could defend himself.

But we see this too backfires as Paul recognising the make up of the council thwarts their attempts by preaching the basic message of the resurrection and thus turning one side of the council against the other. This I am sure is an example of The Lord giving him the right words to speak at the right time as Jesus said in Matthew 10:17-20.

17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Paul's Conscience

As Paul began his defence he said these words in verse 1.

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”

There is no doubt that Paul did indeed mean and believe these words. Even in his pre-conversion days when he was harassing the early Christians, there is no doubt in my mind that he believed he was doing the right thing before God by trying to rid the world of these trouble making Christians. In his mind the Christians were preaching a message that was undermining the old Covenant and the laws that had been sacrosanct to the Jews since the days of Moses.

That is until Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road to show him the error of his ways and to lead him to the better path to The Lord through Jesus Christ, which fulfilled all of the promises to the Jews and Israelites that were written in the Old Testament law and prophets.

Paul just didn't recognise the new way until the appearance of The Lord to show him the way forward. He was and had always been extremely zealous for the ways of God, but in his enthusiasm for the law he had been misguided and misdirected to oppose what was right for lack of understanding.


Paul recognised this issue in the Jewish nation much later when he wrote in Romans 10:1-4 speaking of the Jews,

1 Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Like them, Paul had been full of zeal for the ways of God, but it was unenlightened. Enlightenment came to Paul when Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road, and it is the same for everyone who comes to The Lord.

Regardless of what we think or believe, it is not until The Lord reveals himself to us that we become enlightened to understand and see the truth of the new covenant. Only when the new covenant and the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ are opened up to us can we then see and accept what The Lord is doing for us and in us.

The Grace Of God

Underpinning this enlightenment is the grace of God. God's grace can best be described as the undeserved kindness and favour of God.

We do not deserve his kindness or his favour, but He chooses to give it to us when we do as He commands, which is to believe in His son Jesus Christ. It is that simple. By faith in Christ we receive the grace of God.

But there is more to this grace than just that for it is also by the grace of God that we are enlightened to see more, to learn, to grow and to become mature in the ways of The Lord.

You see all of the gifts that God gives us rest upon these two things, his grace and our faith. The two work hand in hand and they begin with His grace.

Once enlightened as Paul was on the road to Damascus, we need to also follow the path that he took. Paul was struck blind on the road and we too begin our Christian journey blind to the truth. We cannot see until we are shown and taught the truth of the gospel just as Paul was shown and taught.

On reaching Damascus and seeking The Lord, Ananias came to him, sent by The Lord to baptise Paul and lay hands on him to receive the Holy Spirit and to regain his sight. This is an interesting allegory for it is in receiving the Holy Spirit that we gain the ability to see and gain insight into the kingdom of God. Without the Holy Spirit in us we cannot gain this insight.

Look at the words of Jesus in John 3:3-6.

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Here Jesus tells us we must be born again (Note: in the Greek text it says “born from above.”) we need to be born again of the spirit. Why? Note the words of verse 3, we need to be born again to be able to SEE the kingdom of God. Then in verse 5 we are shown that we need to also be born again of both water and spirit, that is baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit, in order to be able to “enter the kingdom of God.”

The Holy Spirit

So Paul had the scales of blindness fall from his eyes so that he could see when he received the Holy Spirit. Likewise we too gain the ability to be able to see when we receive the Holy Spirit. The convers of this is that if you do not receive the Holy Spirit, then like Paul said of the Jews, they were zealous but unenlightened.

Many Christians today fall into that same category. Zealous for The Lord but they do not see the fulness of the message of freedom because they cannot until they receive the Holy Spirit.

Nor can they achieve the fulness of the transforming power of Jesus Christ's message to transform their lives into the image of Christ for this too comes from the Holy Spirit.

The work of the Holy Spirit is to teach, counsel, guide and help us grow into the image of Christ. Consider these few scriptures for a moment.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:25-26)

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)

These scriptures show us clearly that part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to teach us and guide us into all of the truth. Thus, how far could any person get without the Holy Spirit? As Paul said of the Jews, they were unenlightened to the truth of Jesus Christ and that is primarily because they chose to reject Him and reject the Holy Spirit.

As to the work of transformation into the image of Jesus Christ, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18,

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The transforming work being done in us is happening slowly from one degree to the next, and this is the work of the Spirit. The spirit teaches us what we need to know by opening up the words of the gospel and then teaching us how to apply those words in our life in a practical way to overcome the passions of our human nature, to overcome evil, to stand against the wiles of the devil and men and to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ which is the image of God the Father, which is love.

It's a long road, but through grace and faith The Lord gives us all the things we need to walk that road. We receive the gifts of God to help us as we grow and as we learn we are tested, tried and trained to knock off the rough edges of our human nature.

We fail and fall, but God gives more grace to sustain us and carry us when we do fall. His desire is that no person be lost and so we are given every opportunity and every good gift to enable us to have the victory over the flesh and to receive the promises of God.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by timschell)

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John The Baptist The Friend Of God
One Important Reason To Receive The Holy Spirit
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Ask And It Will Be Given You
Who Is The Ultimate Advocate
You Must Be Born Again
Trinity Troubles
The Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit Convicts
The Spirit Of Truth
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The Promise Of The Holy Spirit
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Baptism And Receiving The Holy Spirit

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2 Replies to “Enlightened by the Holy Spirit”

  1. In which work of ancient literature do we first find this expression: “…kick against the goads”? If you said the Bible, in which Jesus appears to Paul on the Damascus Road, you would be wrong.

    This expression was first used in a book of Greek mythology, “The Bacchae”, written by Euripides in circa 475 BC. The expression occurred in a fictional conversation between the god/man, Dionysus, and the king of Thebes, his persecutor.

    Isn’t it odd that Jesus would borrow an expression from Greek mythology in his appearance to the self-proclaimed “Thirteenth Apostle”?

    1. Hi Gary,
      Thanks for the comment. No I don’t find it odd at all. The expression about “kicking against the goads” was a common expression in the time & to a degree still is today, as a “goad” related to a spiked stick or prod used to drive cattle. I don’t doubt the expression may have been used in many places, but it is the context of the message that is important, not whether it was used in myths, legends or stories.
      In relation to Paul, the Lord was showing him that he was only hurting himself by fighting against the Lord, just as cattle only hurt themselves if they kick back against a goad stick.

      As for Paul being a self-proclaimed thirteenth apostle, this is not quite right. Yes he was an apostle, but he did not proclaim himself to be an apostle.
      An apostle is literally “one who is sent” and Paul was sent out to preach and teach the gospel to the nations. He did not send himself out to this work but he was sent on the direction and command of the Holy Spirit as we see in Acts 13:1-4.

      1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre’ne, Man’a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
      2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
      3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
      4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleu’cia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

      It is evident that Barnabas was also sent with Paul by the Holy Spirit and thus he too was doing the work of an apostle.

      Nowhere is Paul called the thirteenth apostle & he does not proclaim himself to be a thirteenth apostle. He is just another apostle. If we use the same logic we should say that Barnabas was the fourteenth apostle.
      What we do see is that Paul & Barnabas were accepted by the other apostles as the apostles to the Gentiles & were extended the right hand of fellowship by Peter (Cephas), James and John to work in conjunction with them. This was done based not on anything that Paul and Barnabas did or said, but on the other apostles recognizing the insight the Lord had given them to carry the word to the other nations as we see in Galatians 2:6-9,

      6 And from those who were reputed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) –those, I say, who were of repute added nothing to me;
      7 but on the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised
      8 (for he who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles),
      9 and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised

      So Paul did not self-proclaim himself to be an apostle but was ordained into the work of an apostle by the Holy Spirit, along with Barnabas, and they were accepted as apostles by the rest of the apostles. Neither of these actions were instigated by or done by Paul & Barnabas but by others.

      Hope this helps clarify this point & thanks again for the comment.

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