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

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.

We can therefore define this final fruit of the Spirit as the “control of the self by the Spirit for the sake of the gospel.”

What looks like self-control is actually the result of letting someone else take control.

Self-control, biblically speaking, means walking by the Spirit, under the Lordship of Christ.

In order to fully understand this fruit, it’s helpful to describe what the absence of self-control looks like.

Proverbs 25:28 provides a dramatic description of the individual living out of control, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”

When the book of Proverbs was written, one of the main sources of strength and protection for a city consisted in the building and maintaining of walls.

A wiped out wall was considered a breach in security.

A city with walls in disrepair was a city with a shameful reputation.

That’s one of the reasons Nehemiah was so motivated to begin a building campaign in Nehemiah 1:3.

Those who lived in the capital were in “great trouble and disgrace” because the wall of Jerusalem was broken down.

It was open to attack and ultimate destruction.

The man or woman who lacks self-restraint is like a city that has no effective defense. They are not able to resist those things that can destroy their lives and the lives of others.

When occupants of a city for whatever reason neglected their own safety by failing to build and maintain strong walls, they would have been looked upon as a weak and foolish people.

Likewise, when we forfeit the fruit of self-control, we are feeble and not very wise.

The Bible offers several vivid examples of people who lived out-of-control lives.

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