The fruit of the Spirit is temperance: Nine spirit-filled characteristics demonstrated by Jesus
Paul often compared things to one another to show how we should overcome the world, its vices (Galatians 5:19-21), and its broad road that leads to damnation. He encourages us to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-18) and then proceeds to explain what this involves. This is surely one of the most memorable pieces of Scripture, and it is a practical guideline for us as believers:
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
The ninth and last fruit in the series Paul discusses, is temperance. Another word for temperance, and maybe the most important, is self-control. How we often stumble over the last hurdle! Self-control is probably the one aspect that we fail with so often. Let me rephrase this: Self-control is the one aspect in my spiritual life that I sometimes struggle with. I cannot claim to have the fruit of the Spirit in my life and yet one of them I cannot totally come to grips with. It is something that I work on every day of my life!
The Greek word for temperance is ἐγκράτεια and it is transliterated as egkráteia. It means a control that comes from within oneself and not by oneself. We can also use the words self-constraint and self-discipline to explain self-control. The fruit of the Spirit all come from within, but are driven by the Holy Spirit. We cannot attain this by our own power.
We often blame the devil for the things we do wrong. Yet it is not the devil that does this, but we ourselves that allow wrong things to happen because of our lack of self-control. The devil will try to exploit the situation, but only if we allow him to. James explains it this way:
7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7
If we submit to God’s will and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, then resisting the attacks from the devil is possible, so much so that he will not only give up, but flee from us. To flee means to escape by running away, especially because of danger or fear (Cambridge Dictionary). Imagine this: the devil comes to attack you, meets resistance because you are led by the Holy Spirit, and then runs away in fear!
Peter addresses some of the same fruit as Paul. If we have knowledge, we will want to supplement it with self-control, and when we have self-control, we will want to add patience:
5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. – 2 Peter 1:5-9
There is a good reason why temperance and patience are mentioned together. It is often a lack of patience that leads to a lack of self-control. We should be so careful that our lack of patience, in other words wanting everything now, and the way we want it, does not lead to a loss of self-control. Of course, as I am sure we have all experienced, a lack of self-control often takes place in public. Thus we are perceived by those around us as not being able to control our emotions. Many, through prompting by the devil, will throw stones and point out that we are fake Christians. This is a common case of making an already-bad situation even worse. No one is exempt from this. Just look how Paul describes it:
24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Paul knows that he is not immune to a loss of self-control. He explains that if you strive to grow spiritually and win the race, then you will be temperate – display self-control – in all things you do. He ends by saying that he also has to control himself (bring it into subjection) so that he does not create a situation where what he has preached to others, he himself cannot live out, and be judged as a result.
There is something interesting in the order in which the fruit of the Spirit are given. Temperance is the last, but it is preceded by meekness. This should tell us that a person who displays the fruit of meekness (See the previous lesson.), where they have already placed themselves under the full control of God, will also be able to control themselves in a Godly manner when the situation arises and temperance is required.
As we get to the end of the series on the fruit of the Spirit, it may be time to stand back and look at all of them, and why we are given the fruit of the Spirit. It starts with love, and love is the central theme of the Bible. God loved the world (John 3:16). Because He loved us first (1 John 4:19), we must love Him and those around us. When we demonstrate the fruit of love, the rest will follow more easily, even though we must constantly work to perfect them. We cannot be an example for others if we do not display Christian values.
Which of the fruit do you think you need to work on? Make an effort to pray to God and ask Him to help you. How does He help you? He helps by creating situations where you will need to demonstrate mastery (1 Corinthians 9:25). I cannot demonstrate that I am a champion weightlifter if I am not in a situation where I have to lift weights that weigh more than what I have lifted before. Only a test proves if you can master a situation. Be vigilant and pray for wisdom that the situation God sends will not be so unexpected that you are caught unprepared and then falter. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can, and will, overcome. Paul writes this about himself:
13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. – Philippians 4:13