Dr. fruit of the SpiritJohn Piper posted this to his Twitter page recently:  “Filled with the HOLY SPIRIT Paul said, “You son of the devil, enemy of righteousness, full of villainy” (Acts 13:9). Which fruit is that?

It caught my eye for two reasons: 1)  I’ve wondered the same thing many times and 2) it’s a crucial question in the Paphos Paradigm found in Acts 13:1-12.  If you want a little more background on the quote above check out the entry on this blog from June 1, 2009 (“Lessons from Wichita and Paphos – Appropriate Confrontation of  Evil”).

So here are the two seemingly contradictory concepts Piper is asking us to reconcile:  1)  Paul was full of the Holy Spirit, the evidence of which is found in Galatians 5:22, 23a: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” yet 2) Paul verbally rips into the false prophet and magician Bar-Jesus with the words quoted in Piper’s tweet.

There are several layers to the answer, I think.  The first is Paul’s motivation for addressing Bar-Jesus so firmly.  It’s the same motivation that drove him to be the greatest missionary as well as endure suffering, hardship and loss.  Paul’s primary goal was to proclaim the gospel and Bar-Jesus was keeping that from happening.  Hence the reproof and judgement of temporary blindness (Acts 13 :10, 11).

Another consideration, as I wrote on June 1, is that these words we read in Acts 13 probably weren’t the only ones Bar-Jesus heard from Paul.  Chances are Paul spoke the truth of the gospel in the magician’s hearing, offering to him the same forgiveness and new life as any other hearer in Cyprus.  He just chose to reject it and tried to prevent the governor, Sergius Paulus, from hearing it also.  That sent Paul off.

So, to answer the original question, which fruit of the Spirit did Paul display in his treatment of the false prophet, Bar-Jesus?  A couple come to my mind.  The first is love.  I doubt that in 21st-century America we have a very accurate idea of what love really is.  Our definition is to make much of a person; if we are the recipients, our expectation is to be made much of.  Without getting into a deep theological discussion, God Himself doesn’t always treat people He loves by this definition.  His definition of love is to give people the opportunity to make much of Him, which is our highest good.  What happened to Bar-Jesus showed the greatness of God, pointed others to Him and had a part in the salvation of Sergius Paulus.  It was the loving thing for Paul to do.

Faithfulness would be another fruit seen in Paul’s words and actions here, again based on his goal of getting the gospel out.  How many times do we let obstacles keep us from sharing the truth as we should?  Is faithfulness in shorter supply in today’s churches and if it is, can we trace that back to not being controlled by the Spirit as we ought? 

All followers of Christ should reflect Him and these fruits that show the Spirit indwells.  But we will collide and disagree with our culture.  It will make us mad (which is not necessarily wrong biblically, but can be sinful).  But WHY does it make us mad?  What will our response be?  How does Paul’s example inform our motivation and our treatment of those who are hostile to our message of the gospel? 

It’s an interesting question.  How would you answer it?