|FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT - TEMPERANCE
T. David Sustar
HIS GLORY REIGNS
March 14, 2008
The fruit or harvest known as temperance comes from the Greek term egkrateia, meaning "to hold oneself in, to have
inner power." Hence, self-control. This is the victory over desire. Where this fruit abounds, desire will not be the
dictator of your actions or your life.
Self-control implies the rational restraint of all natural impulses. It may, therefore, crown the list of virtues mentioned in
connection with the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. If there is to be a victory, it can only be as the Spirit of
God enables a person to rule his own spirit.
Self-control is the very opposite of the works of the flesh the apostle Paul mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21. This work
of the Spirit of God enables the Christian to control his thoughts, words, impulses, and actions.
Intemperance on the other hand, has brought about the fall of kings and tycoons. History illustrates this. Someone
said, "There are men who can command armies but cannot command themselves." Perhaps that is why the ancient
Greeks said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." Over the Greek temple at Delphi two words were inscribed:
Know thyself. They knew the importance of self-knowledge as the key to all other knowledge.
The man of God, much wiser than men of the world, has always sensed this need. It has echoed throughout the Word
of God, "Examine me, O LORD, and prove me: try my reins and my heart." Psalm 26:2.
"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus
Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" 2 Corinthians 13:5
"For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. but let every man prove his own
work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own
burden." Galatians 6:3-5
There is More
The Christian knows it is necessary to do more than just know oneself. We must also exercise, through God's Holy
Spirit, self-control. Self-examination will bring us only to despair! None of us like to sit in a room and look at our own
lives too long. We know that we not only need the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ to wash us from our sins, we also
need the sanctifying power of His Spirit to keep us from more sins. In this second measure, we are sometimes our own
We are encouraged by the words of the apostle Peter:
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his
divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath
called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye
might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." 2 Peter 1:2-4
Extra Spiritual Protection
God has provided a fruit of the Spirit to take care of "self" will. Our heavenly Father is keenly aware that we are fleshly
and that every good gift He bestows upon us goes into an "earthen vessel." He has, as Scripture declares, provided
all things necessary.
Among those provisions is His convicting power that pricks our conscience and warns us to turn aside from evil. There
is an important principle we must note: Temperance applies only in the area of the legitimate! Or as R. Hollis Gause
says in Living in the Spirit, "An important aspect of this grace is that it stands in control of that which is allowable." In
other words, you cannot be temperate in that which is inherently wrong. No one can be temperate in doing evil.
Complete abstinence is the Christian rule in acts or practices contrary to the known will of God: "Wherefore COME
OUT FROM AMONG THEM, AND BE YE SEPARATE, saith the Lord, AND TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING; AND
I WILL RECEIVE YOU, AND WILL BE A FATHER UNTO YOU, AND YE SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS,
saith the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:17,18.
Keeping Self Under Subjection
This fruit of the Spirit is especially important in this last-day scenario. It almost seems that the whole world has lost its
restraint and is rushing toward hell at a breakneck speed. Out to satisfy the lusts of the flesh, many are devoid of
The frightening results stare us in the face. Drug problems have become a national epidemic. Pornography and
profanity are capturing the minds of many. The New Age movement is rampant, as is the occult, in which men are
becoming gods to themselves. But these are only symptoms of the real problem - sin.
Other Lusts Just as Bad
We are prone to list obvious violations of self-control and allow others to pass. In the apostle Paul's illustration, taken
from the Grecian sporting contests, he says that, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth
the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things..." 1
Corinthians 9:24,25. He made the spiritual comparison, "But I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to
others I myself should be disqualified." (RSV). What he required of others - being "temperate in all things" - he
required of himself.
Too many Christians have an elastic conscience when it comes to their own sins and an ironbound conscience when it
comes to the sins of others (Matthew 7:3). Maybe that's why it is easy for some to condemn a person who takes an
occasional sip of wine but never rebuke themselves for the sin of habitual overeating.
Charles W. Conn, A Balanced Church, says, "Gluttony is obvious sin, as are greed and covetousness, which are
carnal yearnings that are superfluous, inordinate, or downright illegal...But there are other excesses that impair our
effectiveness as well. Uncontrolled emotions - anger or fear, for instance - are not in keeping with the Christian
witness. When we fail in self-control, we also fail in the ability to influence others for Christ."
Not only are there excesses in bad or questionable things, there can also be excesses in good things. French L.
Arrington points this out in Divine Order in the Church: "Even things that are lawful may enslave us. For example,
food and drink are necessary; but if we gorge ourselves, we may become a slave to our appetites. Enslavement
results from abuse. The believer should not be brought under the power of anything, especially not sensuality.
Desires are natural enough, but the Lord enables us not to be controlled by any of them."
Recreation, which may have started out as beneficial, may turn to abuse, making a slave of the participant.
Workaholics can certainly be pointed out as those who abuse their bodies. Sometimes we can even overwork in our
busyness for the Lord. We must remind ourselves that the end of life is not duty but character. Pleasures, too, are
choice gifts of God that must be closely guarded and often limited.
Dr. Billy Graham in The Holy Spirit, concurs;"The need for temperance in every aspect of life has never been greater
than it is today. At a time when violence, selfishness, apathy, and undisciplined living threaten to destroy this planet, it
is imperative that Christians set an example."
The Call for Christian Temperance
When the apostle Paul preached his great sermon to Felix, he did not major on temperance, but he reasoned on
"righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, " a trilogy calculated to bring conviction of sin (Acts 24:25). The
Word declares that Felix trembled!
The Word of God is our greatest defense against becoming intemperate. Good preaching makes good disciples. The
warning of Scripture is clear: "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to
yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so
that day come upon you unawares." Luke 21:33,34.
The hiding of God's Word in the heart will still keep a person from sinning. Knowing God's will, just how He feels about
things we do, will keep us straight. Thus we can know those promises about escaping the corruption in the world.
"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to
knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness
brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For 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." 2 Peter 1:5-8.
A Layman's Guide to the Fruit of the Spirit, by T. David Sustar, Copyright 1990, Pathway Press.
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