"Better ... a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city."(v.32)
We come now to the last of the nine fruits of the Spirit -- self-control. The King James Version uses the word "temperance" but in most translations the Greek word (enkrateia) is rendered as self-control. Underlying the word is the idea of self-restraint, a fine mastery of one's personality, a controlled and disciplined nature. It is noteworthy that Paul puts self-control last. Most systems of thought, both ancient and modern, would put it first. Consider the various philosophies that have fascinated man over past centuries, and what do you find? They all seek to produce a happy and contented person through self-control. Some advocate thought control, some breath control, others will-control. The Christian way is different -- it produces happy and contented people, not primarily by thought control or even will-control, but by Christ-control. The Christian is a self-controlled person, but he becomes that, not by self-effort alone but by the gracious supply of the Holy Spirit who indwells him. You do not gain God, Christ or the Holy Spirit through self-control: you gain self-control through God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.
You see, if you begin with self-control, then you are the center -- you are controlling yourself. But if you begin, as Paul does, with love, then the spring of action is outgoing and you are released from yourself and from self-preoccupation. When you begin with love, you end with self-control. But it is not a nervous, anxious, tied-up self-control; it is a control that is natural and unstrained -- hence beautiful.
Gracious Father, help me grasp the thought that self-control is not really myself in control, but Christ in control of myself. I put You in control and You then put me in control. It is indeed beautiful. Thank You, dear Father. Amen.
For Further Study
1. What are our bodies to be?
2. How can we will control over ourselves?