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Galatians 5:22 – Self control

25-10-2022 - Posted by Hans

Now the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.

Self-control is the last mentioned characteristic of “the fruit of the Spirit”. The King James Version speaks of ‘temperance’. The Greek word is derived from the elements ‘in’ and ‘keep’. It speaks of the ability to ‘hold back’ and ’to control oneself’ or ’to keep pace’. Self-control assumes that our urges, feelings, and desires need to be controlled . The lack of this control is a form of ‘incontinence’.

The idea is not that “the flesh” should be fought , as is often taught in religious (including Christian!) circles (cf. Eph.5:29). Nor is the idea that passions and desires should be suppressed . On the contrary! Paul foretold that one day in Christendom there would be a prohibition against marriage as well as an obligation to abstain from food (1 Timothy 4:1-3). He unceremoniously called this development “teachings of demons.” And indeed, several centuries later, compulsory celibacy for ‘clergy’ and compulsory fasting for the church people manifested itself within the Roman Catholic Church.

Self-control is somewhere between ‘letting go’ and ‘asceticism’ (=abstinence). Whoever keeps this in the middle is in balance. That is no trick but a “fruit of the Spirit” that grows in joy and peace.