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Word of the Week- Fruit of the Spirit, Self-Control

By Elizabeth Prata

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).

In past essays, I explored the previous characteristics in the verse, from the first, joy, to gentleness, the second to last. Now we look at self-control.

In a previous essay it was noted that the 9 characteristics Paul outlines in the verse can be grouped by three threes.

Warren Wiersbe notes the triple triad within the verse. The first three characteristics of the fruit are love, joy, and peace. Those reflect the Godward aspect of Christian life.

The next three are patience, kindness, goodness; characteristics reflecting the manward aspect of Christian life.

Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are aspects reflecting the selfward part of the Christian life.

Self-control…what does that mean, exactly? As with everything in the Bible, it’s both simple and clear on the surface, but if you dig deeper, valuable truths come out that prick the conscience and grow the believer.

In Barnes’ Notes we learn

The word used here, (ἐγκράτεια egkrateia), means properly “self-control, continence.” It is derived from ἐν en and κράτος kratos, “strength,” and has reference to the power or ascendancy which we have over exciting and evil passions of all kinds. It denotes the self-rule which a man has over the evil propensities of his nature. … It includes the dominion over all evil propensities, and may denote continence, chastity, self-government, moderation in regard to all indulgences as well as abstinence from intoxicating drinks. See the word explained in the notes at Acts 24:25.

The sense here is, that the influences of the Holy Spirit on the heart make a man moderate in all indulgences; teach him to restrain his passions, and to govern himself; to control his evil propensities, and to subdue all inordinate affection.

A Christian must be a temperate man; and if the effect of his religion is not to produce this, it is false and vain.

We see this is so in the 1Timothy 3:2-3 regarding elder qualifications

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

The man has self-control in demonstrating he won’t drink to excess, thus losing control. He isn’t violent because he controls his anger, and this is an important one because angry situations are full of pressure. Can he control himself when the circumstances become chaotic emotionally or physically? If he is growing in the fruit of the Spirit he will be.

We see self-control again in 2 Timothy 2:24 where again he controls his anger,

And a servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and forbearing.

In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul again remarks about self-control

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

And more, the following verses remark about having self-control, and it’s not exhaustive,

2 Peter 1:6, Acts 24:25, Proverbs 25:28, Proverbs 16:32, 1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Timothy 2:15, 1 Timothy 2:9, Titus 1:8…

Possessing self-control means you are growing in the fruit of the Spirit as the Galatians verses shows. It means one’s sanctification is progressing. It’s proof that we are relying on the Spirit to resist our depraved and evil impulses. Christ died for us so that we may die, to our sins. Having self-control demonstrates Spirit-led mastery over them.



Further Resources

Focus on the Family: Got Self-Control?

GotQuestions: What does the Bible say about self-discipline?

Ligonier Devotional: Self-Control

Head Heart Hands blog: Pumping up the Self-Control in the Age of Temptations


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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