Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

Let us now finish the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit as listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 with “self-control:”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.

The word here translated as “self-control” (some versions “temperance”) is the Greek word egkrateia, defined by Thayer’s as:

self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites)

The term is also used in Acts 24:25 and 2 Peter 1:5-8:

And as he reasoned of righteousness, and self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was terrified, and answered, “Go thy way for this time; and when I have a convenient season, I will call thee unto me.”

Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness brotherly kindness; and in your brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

From these verses we see that the need for self-control is a stumbling-block for many, hindering them from desiring to obey the Gospel, yet that self-control is a part of a Christian’s life. If we are to avoid sin and embrace righteousness, we must take control over our desires, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 1 Corinthians 9:26-27:

All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful for me; but I will not be brought under the power of any.

I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air: but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.

The New Testament is full of specific commandments regarding self-control:

  1. The mind. Paul says the following in Philippians 4:7-8:

    And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    By “thinking on these things,” we keep our minds pure and thus under our control.

  2. The tongue. James helps us understand the tongue in James 3:2-12:

    For in many things we all stumble. If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. Now if we put the horses’ bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also. Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, are yet turned about by a very small rudder, whither the impulse of the steersman willeth. So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire! And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping things and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind. But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield sweet.

    The need for controlling the tongue is made obvious by James. It his hard to be a shining light when our mouths are not under our control.

  3. Our bodily lusts. We are constantly commanded to bring our bodies under control to avoid sin, especially in Romans 6:12-13 and Romans 13:14:

    Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof: neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

    But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

The need for self-control ought to be evident to all, for without it we are prone to sin and unable to properly demonstrate the other manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit. If we do not maintain control over our persons, Satan will, and we are lost. Let us remember the admonishment of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.

If we diligently work to control ourselves, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit while shunning the works of the flesh, we shall be effective lights for Jesus and the temple within us is proven holy and fitting for God.

Paul wraps up the listing of the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit by appealing to their universality in Galatians 5:23:

against such there is no law.

No matter how righteous or iniquitous the nation– ruled by a despotic tyrant or the fairest democracy– no country yet has dared to legislate against the fruit of the Spirit. The godly and the sinner alike must recognize the benefits of a person who exhibits the fruit of the Spirit, and anyone who would dare rule against a person being loving, having joy, peace, patience, etc. would be seen as a buffoon. What, then, hinders us from displaying the fruit of the Spirit, since it is recognized by all as good? Why would we hesitate to show the fruit of the Spirit, all that is good in life, unless we have been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin? Let us then constantly strive to show the fruit of the Spirit in our faith, our works, and our lives.

As a final note on the fruit of the Spirit, I am sure that there are many who are wondering at how I have explained the fruit of the Spirit, notably, that I have described them as manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit and not as “fruits” of the Spirit. The Greek text uses the word karpos, which means “fruit,” in the singular, not the plural. While this distinction may not be appreciated by some, if we begin to think about the various manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit, we see quickly that they are intertwined. The person who truly has love will have patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, etc. A person who displays the fruit of the Spirit will have joy and peace, for he is about doing the good work of the Father in Heaven. We can also see from the other perspective that the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit cannot work separately; can a person be loving but not good, faithful, or gentle? Can a person lack self-control but be gentle, patient, loving, and peaceful? We see, then, that the fruit of the Spirit is one, and it may be defined by the characteristics analyzed in this study. Let us seek to imbibe the fruit of the Spirit, not neglecting any of its characteristics but seeking the whole peace and grace of God.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.