Self-Control - The Crowning Glory


Self-control is stated last by the apostle Paul who deliberately emphasizes it as the capstone of the graces of the Spirit. This is the crowning glory of life in the Spirit. To the renewed image of God in the redeemed is added the renewed prerogative of dominion. Since, on the human level, all legitimate control begins with self-control, it is the basis for trustworthy service. It should be noted that grace does not take away the controls from us and make us controlled puppets, but rather we are restored by the Holy Spirit to a redeemed people, and the self-control they lost in the fall is regained. The fruits reflect the maturing work of the Spirit in an individual’s life; they also become apparent in relationships with other people.

In Galatians 5:23, “self-control” (temperance, KJV) is the translation of the Greek word enkrateia, which means “possessing power, strong, having mastery or possession of, continent, self-controlled.” (Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament). Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament also adds that it means “holding in hand the passions and desires.”

Self-control refers to the mastery of one’s desires and impulses, and does not in itself refer to the control of any specific desire or impulse. The term requires crucifixion of the sinful or lower nature by divine grace as we surrender ourselves to the Lord. In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul contrasts the sanctified life with characteristics of the old life. All these categories reflect behaviors that are out of control and were common in New Testament times. Self-control, however, which derives from the presence of the Spirit in our thoughts and emotions, is under-girded by the power of God as believers yield themselves to the Lord in obedience to His will.

Self-control is comprehensive in practical application to life, but the Bible does not use the word extensively. It is implied, however, in many exhortations to obedience, submission and sinless living. The noun form is used only three times, the verb form twice (I Corinthians 7:9; 9:25) and the adjective form once (Titus 1:8). The negative form of the adjective is used three times. In II Timothy 3:3, it is translated “without self-control (incontinent;)” in Matthew 23:25, “self-indulgent (excess;)” and in I Corinthians 7:5, “Lack of self-control (incontinency). Despite self-control’s importance, we should not limit our understanding of these words to merely the stringent discipline of the individual’s passions and appetites. These words also include the notions of having good sense, sober wisdom, moderation and soundness of mind as contrasted to insanity.

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