Fruits of the Spirit: Self-Control

by: Bill Bratt


The apostle Paul admonished true Christians to "walk in the Spirit" and if we do then we will "not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16.) So how do we walk in the Spirit? Paul continues in the next five verses in telling us what the "works of the flesh" are and then he answers the question of how do we walk in the Spirit when he says: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23.)

Let’s take a look at ‘self-control’ which is the ninth and the last in the list of the fruits of the Spirit.

The Greek word for ‘self-control’ is "egkrateia", eng-krat'-i-ah; from Strong’s Concondance # G1466: "self-control (especially continence):--temperance."

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word "self-control" as: "restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires."

Continence is defined as: "self-restraint; especially: refraining from sexual intercourse."

Temperance is defined as: "moderation in action, thought, or feeling, restraint, habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions, moderation in or abstinence from the use of alcoholic beverages."

Jesus exercised Self-Control

Jesus mastered the self. He suffered for us, He was reviled and yet He never committed any sin. The apostle Peter tells us about the character of our Savior: "who, when He (Jesus) was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:23.)

Jesus’ self-control was extraordinary as He faced His excruciatingly painful death. He exercised restraint over His own human impulses and emotions.

How did Jesus control Himself? Early in Jesus’ ministry in His Sermon on the Mount He said: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). Jesus knew that God’s Laws are righteous (Psalms 119:172) and He who was born to be a king (John 18:37) and whose job as king is to enforce the law, He came to amplify the Law. He was righteous (1 John 12:49) because He kept the Law and He lived the Law, He had it internalized in His character and He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus came in the flesh, lived His life as a man (John 1:1-3, 14), He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8.)

What Would Jesus Do?

As we look at ‘self-control’ and how to apply this fruit of the Spirit in our lives, one of the questions that we should ask is: What Would Jesus Do? In order to know what Jesus would do, we must read the Bible on a regular basis and especially the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and see what Jesus said and what He did and then we should follow His example and walk in His footsteps (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 1 John 2:6.) This would help us to have the mind of Christ in us (Philippians 2:5.)

Jesus kept all of God’s Laws without sinning, so we could ask ourselves another question, how can I apply God’s Law in this situation? God’s Law is holy, just and good (Romans 7:12) and by applying and keeping God’s Law in our lives we will be blessed abundantly (John 10:10) because we will not be reaping the results of sin.

Self-control is associated with Coveting

Self-control is associated with the breaking of the Tenth Commandment of coveting. To covet is to desire or crave something. When we sin, the first Commandment we break is "Thou shall not covet!" We first desire, lust or crave something that is wrong; We lust after another woman and commit adultery, we crave our neighbor’s car and then we steal it, we desire to make ourselves look better so then we bear false witness and stretch the truth by telling a white lie and in reality any lie is a bold face black lie.

If we could exert ‘self-control’ then we could overcome sin. Sin begins with a wrong thought, then we mull it over in our minds, pondering it and then we end up doing it and sinning in the process.

The apostle Paul gave us some very good advice when he said: "casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5.) If we can bring our wrong thoughts under control, then we can overcome sin. One way to do this is to replace a bad thought with a good thought. An example of this is if you had a glass of dirty water, and you continued to pour clean water into the glass, eventually all of the dirty water would be gone.

Let’s notice that ‘self-control’ is part of the divine nature: "through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. {5} But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, {6} to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, {7} to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love" (2 Peter 1:4-7.)

One of the synonyms for self-control is temperance, which is moderation in all things, including our appetites. One area where we can and should apply ‘self-control’ is in our diets. We all have a tendency to over eat and put on weight. We would be much healthier if we applied some ‘self-control’ and controlled our diets. When we think of temperance we may also associate it with alcohol consumption and we must definitely exercise ‘self-control’ in this area. We must remember that the apostle Paul said that "no drunkard ... will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10.) In Conclusion: Self-control is the virtue of controlling our mind, desires, passions, emotions and sensual appetites to the glory of God.

We need to go to God the Father in prayer and ask Him for the fruit of His Spirit: Self-control.