Living by Grace

Dedicated to providing guidance in daily living through the power of God's grace as experienced in our union with Christ.

Strengthened for Restraint

… the fruit of the Spirit is … self-control.     Galatians 5:22-23

According to a number of translations of the New Testament, one fruit of the Spirit is “self-control.” Several other translations use the word “temperance” rather than “self-control.

There are several times in secular Greek writings where “self-control” or “temperance” would be an excellent translation of the word. There is one such usage by Paul. In 1 Corinthians 9:25 he writes of athletes being temperate while training for the races.

Paul’s fruit-of-the Spirit passage of Galatians 5:22-23, though, is not addressed to the secular world about human will power. He is writing to believers. In this passage he lists nine things God will do in the life of a believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word translated “self-control” in the “fruit-of-the-Spirit” passage comes from a combination of two words. One is translated “in” and the other is translated “strength.” The idea is that the Holy Spirit provides inner strength.

In Ephesians 3:16 Paul prays for his readers “… to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man …” The word translated “strengthened” is a verb form of the word translated “self-control” in Galatians 5:23.

With help from the Ephesian passage, we understand that the idea of the word translated “self-control” does not refer to human will power. It refers to a divine work in the life of the Spirit-filled person, resulting in that person resisting temptation.

In secular Greek the word translated “self-control” in the Galatians passage is used to speak of restraint in bodily desires such as wine, adultery, and food. Paul must have had the same restraints in mind in the “fruit-of-the-Spirit” passage in Galatians. He also could have had in mind such things as anger, resentment, jealousy, and fear.

For many people today, temptations have become addictions which are destroying lives. In addition to the age-old addictions to alcohol, food, and adultery, we now hear of addictions to such things as drugs and pornography.

There is good news for the person tempted—and even addicted—to some damaging activity. When a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit, he will receive from God strength that restrains.