Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 6, 1958

Temperance (Self-Control)

Jack L. Holt, Port Arthur, Texas

". . . . Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Gal. 5:23.) Temperance, in the Bible, means self-control, and is so rendered in this passage by the A.S.V. In Greek philosophy there were four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, justice and temperance. The Word of God teaches that self-control is a virtue that must be possessed by every child of God in order to have an "abundant entrance" into the "everlasting kingdom." Temperance is translated from the Greek "enkrates," which means to "hold oneself in." It carries with it the idea that one is temperate when he is able to govern himself. This power to control oneself is listed by Paul as a part of the fruit of the Spirit, and is created within one by the influence of the Gospel of grace.

Self control to avail and to be complete must be continuous. One adventure into sin may undo the schooling of years of restraint. There is, therefore, the need to ever "watch and pray lest we enter into temptation." The habitual practice of self control is essential to obtaining the result urged by Peter "to make your calling and election sure." (2 Pet. 1:10.) Paul wrote: "And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control . . . . I buffet by body and bring it into bondage lest that by any means after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected." (1 Cor. 9:25-27.) In Paul's reference to the games, the term self-control carries the idea of restraint. As an athlete in order to be physically ready for the race would restrain his appetites and passions, even so must Christians exercise restraint today. This must be done even in the most trying circumstances. For example, when some good matronly Christian woman, at whose home you are a guest, passes again the biscuits or other dainties laden with calories, to an already buxom preacher, he needs to exercise self-control. And instead of "seconds," he should be content with what he has had — or he may be too "wide" for the "narrow way!"

The intensity of the struggle to "hold oneself in," is emphasized by the word "striveth." This is the same word used by our Lord when he spoke of "striving to enter by the strait gate." The root meaning of the word is "agony," and is the very word used in Lk. 22:44, which speaks of Christ's agony in the garden. Self-control is not a mere ideal for which we should wish, but a goal toward which every Christian must run, though the striving be bitter and the agony great. The words of Jesus: "it is better to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched," fittingly illustrates the idea here. It is better to practice self control, and never taste the wages of sin, if it will cost us our soul. Thus for our soul's sake let us "maim" our desires "cast from us" our passions and "hold ourselves in."

In Acts 24 we read of Paul's defense before Felix. In preaching to this profligate he reasoned of "righteousness, self control, and judgment to come." For this preaching and teaching Felix cared little. Like so many of this world the idea of denying himself was absurd. At the time Paul was preaching, Felix was an adulterer, having taken the wife of another. Paul through his preaching still reasons of "self-control" but his preaching all too often falls upon ears deadened by the sins of the flesh.

And, alas, all to often it is ridiculed by those who have been once redeemed by the blood of Christ. Paul practiced what he preached. He "buffeted his body and brought it under control." "He "was crucified with Christ," and "Christ lived in Him. (Gal. 2:20.)

In the long ago some of Gods children were taken captive. Among these were four servants of God, who were determined to serve God regardless of cost. Though the king favored them and offered them the best feed, they resolved not to defile themselves with the "kings dainties. (Dan. 1:8-20.) How wonderful it is when children of God, in the midst of evil companions, will not allow them to corrupt their good morals, but will through the strength of Christ which "liveth in them, hold themselves in, and refuse to eat of the dainties of the god of this world.

In Paul's illustration of the racers he said: "Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible." The "striving" within; the war to control oneself will result in a great victory to the one who overcomes. Paul, "bruised his body black and blue" (Peloubet), but he was able to say: "there is laid up for me a crown of life.' Peter says this crown is an "inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away,' and it is "reserved for you — who are kept by the power of God through faith." (1 Pet. 1:4-5.) The power of faith in the crucified one leads us to sacrifice all that we may be "partakers of the divine nature" and escape the destruction of all who live for the flesh and not the spirit. May all children of God everywhere desire the altogether lovely and essential "fruit of the Spirit," a vital part of which is self-control. And in acquiring this, they may then indeed present their bodies as "living sacrifices," unto Hm that loved us and gave His "only begotten Son for us."