“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.” (Acts 9:4–5).
While the phrase “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” is debated as to its appearance in the original manuscript of Acts 9, it is agreed that it is present at Acts 26:14; therefore, it is a statement that Jesus made to Saul. A goad is an agricultural tool used by herdsmen, especially, those who work with oxen. It resembles a spear and would oftentimes have a hook near the sharp end.
A goad’s primary purpose was for prodding oxen (or other animals) to keep them moving in the owner’s desired direction. Jesus’ appearing to Saul on the road to Damascus was the prod of a goad to get Saul moving in the proper direction.
Now, back to the primary purpose of our study. It is apparent that Saul heard the voice of Jesus. He even conversed with Jesus. Some, today, claim they are saved because they “heard God’s voice” outside of the Bible. It is interesting that many who claim God audibly revealed something to them have messages that contradict Scripture. I do not believe God is audibly speaking to anyone today. Yet, even if He were, in Acts 9, we read an explicit example where hearing God’s audible voice is NOT the earmark of salvation.
We could consider many other Biblical accounts where individuals heard the audible voice of God, or even conversed with God in the flesh (Jesus) while He was upon the earth. In none of these instances was the hearing of God’s audible voice the earmark of salvation.
With that said, and as we have formerly noted, we do need to hear what God has spoken. Furthermore, we cannot be saved without first hearing God’s Word. So many in the world are willingly ignorant of all that God has revealed to us, and then some are just ignorant (do not know).
This same Saul of Acts 9 (more commonly known as Paul) would later write: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? … So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:13–14, 17). James even says that God’s Word “is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
God’s Word saves our souls by telling us our origin, revealing to us our Creator, teaching us of sin (cf. 1 John 3:4; Romans 6:33), showing us our Savior, and giving God’s plan of salvation (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).