and he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?Acts 9:4 ASV
From Paul’s later references to this event (Acts 22:14), it is clear that this was an objective vision in which he not only heard but saw the Lord.
Why persecutest thou me? …
In this appears one of the profoundest doctrines of Christianity, namely, that Christ is still upon earth in the person of his followers who compose his spiritual body; and that whatever is done to Christ’s church is done to himself!
If Paul had not instantly discerned this, he might have said, “Look, Jesus, I have never even met you before this; I have not harmed you; I am only engaged in killing your disciples!”
The deductions from the truth in evidence here are far-reaching and comprehensive:
What is done to the church of Christ, is done to Christ.
Hatred of the church is hatred of Christ.
Persecution of the church is persecution of Christ.
Membership in the church is membership “in Christ.”
Liberality toward the church is the same toward Christ.
Neglect of the church is the neglect of Christ.
Refusal to belong to the church is a refusal to belong to Christ.
Regarding the futility and ineffectiveness of persecution as an instrument of opposing the truth, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 5:10-12.