Summary: Self-control is important for releasing the other fruits to grow in our Spiritual life.

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The Fruit of the Spirit

Part 10 – Self-Control

Rev. Bruce A. Shields

First Baptist Church Tawas City Michigan


We are continuing our Series on The Fruits of the Holy Spirit.


Each of the different characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit focuses on how we respond to God and how we treat other people.

Joy and faithfulness are expressed vertically to God while peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness bear directly on how we interact with others.

And, the juiciest fruit, which is at the center of our other spiritual fruits, is love, which has both a horizontal to others and vertical to God dimension.

Nestled among the Spirit’s produce is the seemingly out-of-place fruit of self-control.

This characteristic of a Christ-follower seems to focus more on me instead of on my relationships with other people or God.

I can exercise self-control when I’m the only person in the house.

In fact, sometimes the hidden, private moments when no one else is looking is precisely when we need self-control the most.

However, if we properly exercise the fruit of self-control, it will benefit those around us.

In some ways, we might consider this virtue the most important because without self-control the works of the flesh cannot be overcome and the other elements of the Fruit of the Spirit will not be evident.

When the Greeks wanted to illustrate self-control, they built a statue of a man or a woman in perfect proportion.

To them, self-control was the proper ordering and balancing of the individual.

Aristotle once said, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self.”

Plato believed that our animal urges must be governed or else they will produce “a feverish state in the soul, a city of pigs” which knows no limits.

When we’re not self-controlled, our life is like a pigsty.

The word translated “self-control” in the NIV is rendered “temperance” in the King James Version.

It comes from the word “strength” and means, “one who holds himself in.”

To be self-controlled is to not live in bondage to the desires, passions and appetites of the flesh.

My body is a good servant but a miserable master.

While “self-control” is a good translation of the Greek word, it’s a bit deceiving because we all know that we can’t control ourselves simply through our own willpower or self-determination.

Self-control is more than just self-help.


Paul speaks of our dilemma in Romans 7:18;

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out.”


We can get a fuller meaning of self-control from Paul’s extended discussion of his ministry in 1 Corinthians 9.

In this passage, Paul contrasts exercising control over his body with running “aimlessly” in verse 26.

He argues that athletes exercise self-control because they have a clearly defined purpose or goal.

They cannot afford to be distracted by every passion or desire that comes along.

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