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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, November 19, 2023

“It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks”
(Acts 9:5; p. 1160 Scofield).

Saul of Tarsus was one of the most brilliant men of his time. He was undoubtedly a graduate of the University of Tarsus, the greatest Greek university of that day. He was also a student in the school of Gamaliel, the great Hebrew scholar. He was trained in the details of the Jewish religion. But he did not know Jesus Christ personally. In fact he was so inwardly rebellious against Christ that he did all he could to persecute, defame and destroy the early Christians.

Then one day he travelled to Damascus to obtain letters from the authorities that would allow him to persecute those Christians with even greater zeal. As he travelled toward Damascus to get those letters, a light from heaven shined around him and he fell to the earth. Then he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him,

“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks”
     (Acts 9:4-5).

This is the beginning of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. I say, the “beginning,” because he was not converted yet. He would go into the town, pray, and then have an interview with a godly Christian leader named Ananias, much like the interviews we give in the inquiry room at our church. It was in this situation, in an environment like our inquiry room, that “he received sight,” was converted, and became the Apostle Paul, the greatest preacher and defender of Christianity of all the ages.

But let us go back to that time, three days before his conversion, when Jesus spoke to his heart, saying,

“It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).

Dr. John Gill tells us what these words meant. Dr. Gill said this concerning Christ’s words to Saul,

It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks; or to resist me… it is a proverbial expression, taken from beasts that are goaded, who kick against the goads or pricks, and hurt themselves the more thereby; and Christ uses it, suggesting thereby, that should Paul go on and persecute Him and His people, to oppose His Gospel…he would find himself…greatly hurt by it (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume II, p. 224).

There are some of you here today who are doing exactly what Paul did before he was converted. You are kicking at the goads, like an ox that doesn’t want to plow kicks at the pricks, the sharp goads used by a farmer to get the animal to move and do its work. And Jesus says to you as well,

“It is hard for thee to kick against the [goads]” (Acts 9:5).

I. First, what the goads are that you kick against.

You kick against these goads of God because you want to remain unconverted. No matter what you may say or feel, you are actually kicking against the goads that God is using to get you to move, to come to Christ for full salvation in Him.

The first goad you kick against is the preaching of God’s law. You have heard some very hard “law” sermons in the last few days, sermons that showed you that you are in great danger of committing the unpardonable sin, in danger of being given up to reprobation through your stubbornness. You have also heard several strong sermons on Hell, and the great danger you are in of going there for all eternity. These have not been easy or pleasant sermons. That’s why we call them “law” sermons. They are meant to awaken you to the danger you are in.

But you have kicked against the pricks of those sermons. You have refused to be goaded by them into an awakened state. You have kicked against these sermons because you did not want the sharp pricks of God’s law to awaken you and move you to come to Christ.

The second goad you kicked against these past few weeks was the pricking and goading of the Holy Spirit, as He came again and again to convict you

“Of sin, because [you] believe not on [Christ]”
     (John 16:9; p. 1138).

These are the two main goads God has used to move you to see that you are a great sinner, a great sinner in great danger. But you have inwardly kicked against the preaching of God’s law, which condemns you as a sinner. And you have kicked against the conviction of the Holy Spirit, as He has come to you to convince you of your sin. You have scorned and driven away the Holy Spirit’s conviction by kicking against Him, as He goads your conscience, to show you the depths of your rebellion against Christ. But I say that Jesus was right when He said,

“It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).

II. Second, how you kick against the goads of God.

Some of you kick against these goads sent by God by not paying attention to the sermon and the counselling. You let your mind wander, and by doing so, you give the Devil the opportunity to take

“away the word out of [your] hearts, lest [you] should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12; p. 1083).

Others among you argue with the preacher in your mind as he goads you with the pricks of God’s law. Instead of yielding to the preaching, and agreeing with what the preacher says about your sinful heart, you think of one excuse after the other to relieve yourself from the painful pricking of the sermons. Some of you even neglect to listen to the words of the deacon as he counsels you. You don’t like what he says about your sin, and so you kick against the goads of God, refusing to let the deacon’s words prick you and move you to faith in Christ.

There are even a few who missed important meetings last week to avoid being pricked in their hearts by the sin in their lives.

And there are some who are trying their best to avoid the pricks altogether. You feel frustrated. You want to get the whole thing over with because it bothers you and upsets you. But you are not convinced of sin. Oh, no! You are only disappointed that the deacon doesn’t pronounce you saved, and let you go back the way you were, to a life of selfishness and sin. But such frustration and disappointment, even though you shed tears, are not by any means a sign that you are ready to surrender your heart to Jesus Christ. Oh, no! Your disappointment is like that of Cain. When Cain was confronted by his sin, the Bible says,

“His countenance fell” (Genesis 4:5; p. 10).

That means his face showed that he was frustrated and disappointed. But Cain refused the Blood. Cain refused to admit his sin and come to Christ for cleansing in the Blood

“of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”
     (Revelation 13:8; p. 1342).

And, just so, your face shows frustration and disappointment – but, like Cain, you refuse to come under conviction, repent, and turn to Christ Jesus. But I say that this keeps you in a very unhappy state of mind. It is hard to kick against the prodding of the law and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It makes you feel depressed, confused and hopeless. How horrible it is to live in that unhappy and fearful state of mind! I say, with Jesus,

“It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).

III. Third, how to stop kicking against the goads of God.

First, settle it in you heart and say to Christ, “Lord, I have kicked against you long enough. I now surrender to you.” Say that to Jesus honestly and He will help you.

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (I Peter 5:6; p. 1315).

Surrender your heart to Christ and He will “exalt you in due time,” and He will cleanse your sins by His Blood and clothe you in His perfect righteousness.

Second, stop kicking against the goads of God by actively obeying what you are told by the deacon in the inquiry room. Isn’t that exactly what Paul did after Jesus told him how hard it was for him to go on kicking against the goads? Do you remember what Paul said next? He said,

“Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6).

And that is exactly what you are being told today; Arise, and go into the inquiry room, and you will be told what you must do.

When you give up kicking against the goads of God, you will go into that inquiry room and do exactly what the deacon tells you. And before long, perhaps this very day, you will

“have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
     (Romans 5:1; p. 1197).