by Rob Jensen
Self-control is the last fruit listed in Galatians 5:23 but it is not the least. Webster defines self-control as self-mastery, self-command, self-restraint, willpower, restraint over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires. When we think about a word like this, it brings to mind an athlete and what is required to be at the top their sport. Paul uses this word in 1 Corinthians 9:25:
Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
This example supports what an athlete goes through to compete at the highest level. Their diet, exercise, rest, focus, minds, and lives have one focus to achieve the most with the goal of winning. But it is wrapped up in the word “self” to keep up the regimen as an athlete to succeed. The difference in the world’s idea of self-control and how it is used in Galatians is the world views this self-control as dependent on the person to accomplish, while in Galatians, self-control is dependent on the indwelling Holy Spirit through each of us individually. We have help in getting a grip of ourselves in everything we do.
Paul continues his analogy in 1 Corinthians 9:27:
but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Paul describes the work in learning self-control.
Peter as well describes how self-control is a learned attribute, yet important in our walks as Christians. In 2 Peter 1:5–8 Peter gives this instruction:
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The beauty of God’s plan is that it is not just myself I have to depend on for these and all the biblical characteristics God expects. He has given us His Spirit to help us in attaining to the goal of “being Holy as He is Holy.”