SELF-CONTROL; AGAINST SUCH THINGS THERE IS NO LAW: prautes, egkrateia;
kata ton toiouton ouk estin (3SPAI) nomos: (Self control - Acts
24:25; 1Co 9:25; Titus 1:8; 2:2)
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Gentle Spirit, dwell with me,
I myself would gentle be;
And with words that help and heal,
Would Thy life in mine reveal.
describes the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of
one’s self-importance. Prautes
is a quality of gentle friendliness - gentleness, meekness (as strength
that accommodates to another's weakness), consideration, restrained
patience, patient trust in the midst of difficult circumstances.
As Ryrie says gentleness could
be rendered "gentlemanliness"!
C Norman Bartlett says that
gentleness (or meekness)...
cannot be too strongly insisted upon
that meekness is not weakness. It is strength held under control, power
kept in reserve. Steam does the most work when it makes the least noise.
Not a few of us need less noise and more poise. Things need not shatter
to matter. There is more might in the sunlight falling silently upon a
small patch of earth than in the crashing of thunder and flashing of
lightning in a terrific storm. We do well to store up the capital of
quietude against the day of need.
Norman Bartlett: Galatians and You: Studies in the Epistle of Paul to
the Galatians, 1948)
Prautes - 11 times in the NT in the NAS - 1Co. 4:21; 2Co. 10:1; Gal. 5:23;
6:1; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 2Ti 2:25; Titus 3:2; James. 1:21; 3:13; 1Pet.
and is translated: consideration, 1; gentleness, 8; humility, 1;
Click for an in depth discussion of the
closely related word
Used 4x in Lxx - Esther 5:1; Ps 45:4; 90:10; 132:1;
This Christian grace
is universal in its operation—submission Godward, meekness manward,
which seems to be its special reference.
John: Epistle of St Paul to the Galatians)
literature prautes was sometimes used of a
feigned, hypocritical concern for others that is motivated by
self-interest. But in the New Testament it is always used of genuine
consideration for others.
denotes the humble and gentle attitude which expresses itself, in
particular, in a patient submissiveness to offense, free from malice and
desire for revenge...controlled strength, the ability to bear reproaches
and slights without bitterness and resentment; the ability to provide a
soothing influence on someone who is in a state of anger, bitterness and
resentment against life...the word indicates an obedient submissiveness
to God and His will, with unwavering faith and enduring patience
displaying itself in a gentle attitude and kind acts toward others, and
this often in the face of opposition. It is the restrained and obedient
powers of the personality brought into subjection and submission to
God’s will by the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:23)....the opposite of arrogance...the word stands in
contrast to the term orge (wrath, anger as a state of mind)...It denotes
the humble and gentle attitude which expresses itself, in particular, in
a patient submissiveness to offense, a freedom from malice and desire
for revenge...mildness, patient trust in the midst of difficult
circumstances. (2Co 10:1) (Compiled from the Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the
was used in secular Greek writings to describe a soothing wind, a
healing medicine, and a colt that had been broken. In each instance,
there is power for a wind can become a storm, too much medicine can kill
and a horse can break loose.
The Greeks used
prautes to describe strong animals that were brought under control,
Xenophon writing that horses that work together are more likely to “stand
quietly” together. Aristotle wrote of the “easy-tempered and easily
domesticated” elephant. Plato described a mighty and strong beast which
could be tamed and fed by a man who learned how to handle it.
Thus prautes describes power
under control. Just as wisdom is the right use of knowledge, so
gentleness is the right use of authority and power.
is an interesting word. Aristotle defined it as the correct mean between
being too angry and being never angry at all. It is the quality of the
man whose anger is so controlled that he is always angry at the right
time and never at the wrong time. It describes the man who is never
angry at any personal wrong he may receive, but who is capable of
righteous anger when he sees others wronged.
The meek person
does not have to fly off the handle because he has everything under
control. A perfect picture is found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Quoting
from the Septuagint (LXX = Greek of the Hebrew Old Testament) rendering
of Zechariah 9:9, which predicts the Lord’s triumphal entry into
Jerusalem, Matthew uses the adjective form of prautes (praus) to
describe Jesus as
“gentle (praus) and mounted
on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Mt
In a gracious
appeal to His followers, Jesus used the same adjective of Himself,
“Take My yoke upon you, and learn
from Me, for I am gentle ((praus) and humble in heart; and you
shall find rest for your souls” (Mt
prautes in his discussion of a teachable spirit instructing his
Therefore (to "achieve the
righteousness of God" and manifest ourselves as "the firstfruits among
His creatures") putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of
wickedness, in humility (praǘtēs) receive the word
implanted, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21-note)
comments on this verse writing that this man
will receive the word with
gentleness. (humility = praǘtēs). Gentleness is an
attempt to translate the untranslatable word praǘtēs. This is a great
Greek word which has no precise English equivalent. Aristotle defined it
as the mean between excessive anger and excessive angerlessness; it is
the quality of the man whose feelings and emotions are under perfect
control. Andronicus Rhodius, commenting on Aristotle, writes, “Praǘtēs
is moderation in regard to anger … You might define praǘtēs as serenity
and the power, not to be lead away by emotion, but to control emotion as
right reason dictates.” The Platonic definitions say that praǘtēs
is the regulation of the movement of the soul caused by anger. It is the
temperament (krasis) of a soul in which everything is mixed in the right
proportions. No one can ever find one English word to translate what is
a one word summary of the truly teachable spirit. The teachable
spirit is docile and tractable, and therefore humble enough to learn.
The teachable spirit is without resentment and without anger and is,
therefore, able to face the truth, even when it hurts and condemns. The
teachable spirit is not blinded by its own overmastering prejudices but
is clear-eyed to the truth. The teachable spirit is not seduced by
laziness but is so self-controlled that it can willingly and faithfully
accept the discipline of learning. Praǘtēs describes the perfect
conquest and control of everything in a man’s nature which would be a
hindrance to his seeing, learning and obeying the truth. (Barclay,
W: The Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster
James in the
context of discussion the control of one's tongue again uses praǘtēs
in his answer to the rhetorical question
Who among you is wise and
understanding (mental perception and comprehension)? Let him show
(expose to the eyes, giving evidence or proof of it) by his good
behavior his deeds in the gentleness (praǘtēs) of wisdom
(the ability to view life from God’s perspective). (Js
We can perceive
understanding in others quite easily, but wisdom is more difficult to
identify. James said to look at a person’s behavior if you want to see
if he or she is wise. In other words if a man or woman is wise and
understanding, they will demonstrate it by their good conduct coupled
with the gentle spirit that comes from godly wisdom. The wisdom James
had in mind did not result so much in what one thinks or says but in
what one does. One of the marks of godly wisdom is praǘtēs --
gentleness, meekness or humility.
Knowledge is proud that she has
learned so much. Wisdom is humble that she knows no more.”
in his note on this verse adds that
The Greek word praǘtēs
(“gentleness”) occurs in non-biblical literature to describe a horse
that someone had broken and had trained to submit to a bridle. It
pictures strength under control, specifically the Holy Spirit’s control.
The evidence of this attitude is a deliberate placing of oneself under
divine authority. The only way to control the tongue is to place one’s
mind deliberately under the authority of God and to let Him control it .
(Constable, T .
Thomas Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible)
attitude toward unbelievers should always reflect a spirit of
gentleness, being indulgent toward the infirmities of the unsaved.
Peter writes that even when unbelievers intimidate us we should still
“sanctify Christ as Lord in your
hearts,“always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you
to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness
(prautes) and reverence” (see note
1 Peter 3:15)
and “with gentleness
(prautes) correcting those who are in opposition (could refer to
unbelievers or rebellious unbelievers), if perhaps God may grant them
repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (see note
2 Timothy 2:25).
Those "who are
spiritual" are to deal with disobedient fellow believers “in a spirit
of gentleness (prautes)” (Gal
6:1). How is this possible? Paul had just written that
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness
(prautes), self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal
It follows that
the Spirit filled/controlled believer is the one most suited to "restore
(a man caught in trespass) in a spirit of gentleness."
Meekness is that
unassuming inner spirit of mildness and gentleness which is the opposite
of haughtiness, harshness and self-assertiveness.
Meekness is a
willingness to waive one's rights for a good cause, just as Jesus waived
His rights to His rule as King as he rode into Jerusalem mounted on a
donkey (see above). Set aside your rights! Do not demand that you be
satisfied, but for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ be willing to
suffer loss. Meekness is the opposite of rudeness and abrasiveness.
describes meekness as "strength under control" adding that
It is real strength, but it does not
have to display itself or show off how strong it is. This is what our
Lord beautifully displayed He described himself as "meek and lowly in
heart." The first curriculum of the Holy Spirit is that we must do what
Jesus said, "take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and
lowly of heart."
weakness are not synonymous. Meekness says,
"God, in this situation, You have a
purpose. You're in control, sovereign, and ruling over all."
Meekness is seeing
everything as coming from God and accepting it without murmuring and
without disputing, patiently submitting to any and every offense,
without any desire for revenge or retribution!
Barclay says the best illustration of
prautes is the watchdog
bravely hostile to strangers and gently friendly with familiars whom he
knows and loves.
Trench adds that prautes
“is closely linked with humility, and
follows directly upon it (see Eph 4:2-note;
because it is only the humble heart which is also the meek; and which,
as such, does not fight against God, and more or less struggle and
contend with Him. This meekness, however, being first of all meekness
before God, is also such in the face of men, even of evil men, out of a
sense that these, with the insults and injuries which they may inflict,
are permitted and employed by Him for the chastening and purifying of
His elect. This was the root of David’s (meekness) when Shimei cursed
and flung stones at him—the consideration that the Lord had bidden him
(2Sa 16:11), that it was just for
him to suffer these things, however unjustly the other might inflict
them; and out of like convictions all true Christian (meekness) must
spring. He that is meek indeed will know himself a sinner among
sinners...and this knowledge of his own sin will teach him to endure
meekly the provocations with which they may provoke him, and not
withdraw himself from the burdens which their sin may impose (Ibid)
adds that prautes
"describes the man whose temper is
always under complete control. He knows when to be angry and when not to
be angry. He patiently bears wrongs done to himself but is ever
chivalrously ready to spring to the help of others who are wronged." (Ibid)
F B Meyer has a devotional based on
2 Timothy 2:24 (note)
entitled "The Fruit of the Spirit - Gentleness"
IT IS not easy to cultivate this
fruit of the Spirit because it has many counterfeits. Some people are
naturally easy-going, devoid of energy and ambition, at heart
or in spirit mean. Many of us are characterized by a moral weakness and
decrepitude that make it easy for us to yield rather than contest in the
physical or intellectual arena.
But in gentleness there must be the consciousness of a considerable
reserve of force. The gentleness of God is combined with omnipotence.
The movements of creation, in which there is neither voice nor language,
prove the infinite forces which are at work. When a boy is trying to
lift or carry a heavy beam, as likely as not there will be a great crash
when he reaches the end of his task, and puts it on the ground. His
strength is so nearly exhausted that he is only too glad to get rid of
his burden, anyhow, and at any cost. But if a strong man shoulders the
same burden, and carries it for the same distance, he puts it down
gently, because he has not taxed his strength and has plenty left.
It is the prerogative of great strength to be gentle. Always remember
that you are linked with the Infinite God, and that all things are
possible to you. There must also be infinite pity. We must be tolerant
and pitiful to those who abuse us, or have been embittered by
disappointment, or have been ill-used. It must be our aim to make
allowances for such, and always to be sweetly reasonable towards any
brusqueness, rudeness and bad manners of their behaviour. Let us be
willing to admit that much is due to congenital moroseness. Therefore,
we bear gently with the erring, and with those who are out of the way,
because we also are encompassed with infirmity.
It is necessary also that there should be a deep humility. Thomas a
Kempis says: "If thou wilt be borne with, bear also with another.
Endeavour to be patient in bearing with the defects and infirmities of
others, what sort soever they be: for that thyself also hast many
failings which must be borne by others." Our resentment against others
should be always tempered by our remembrance of our own sins. So shall
we be God's own gentlefolk.
PRAYER - O God, our behaviour has not manifested all the fruits of the
Spirit, or been full of the graciousness and gentleness of Christ.
Forgive us, and enable us so to live that His beauty may be on our
faces, the tone of His voice in our speech, the gentleness of His tread
in our steps, the unselfishness of His deeds in our hands. AMEN. (F B
Meyer. Our Daily Walk)
See related study:
Exercising self-control so you can run to win!
(KJV = temperance)
or enkrateia from en = in + kratos = power to rule <> the stem
krat- speaks of power or lordship) means literally a holding
oneself in or the ability to take a grip of oneself. This meaning
reminds one of our modern slang expression "Get a grip"!
Egkrateia refers to the restraining
of passions and appetites that originate from the
Egkrateia - 4x in 3v - Acts
24:25; Gal 5:23; 2 Pet 1:6 (Not in the Septuagint)
To be self-controlled is to not live
in bondage to the desires, passions and appetites of the
The physical human body is a good servant but a miserable master!
In short egkrateia/enkrateia describes
the personal rule or mastery over fleshly (see
impulses that would be impossible without the Holy Spirit’s control.
Notice that it is easily to fall into the trap of emphasizing the "self"
prefix of self-control. Yes, the "en" in enkrateia
does mean "in" and speaks of believers being controlled by an inward
strength. This inward strength ultimately however is the power of the
Holy Spirit in us, not our own intrinsic power. We absolutely cannot
control the flesh in our own power...not now and not ever! Don't fall
into this trap. The only One Who can control the fallen, anti-God energy
of the flesh is the Holy Spirit! Our part is to walk by the Spirit (Gal
5:16) - acknowledging we don't have the power, crying out to Him in the
time of urgent need (when our fleshly impulses feel like they will
overwhelm us...which they will without the Spirit's help), trusting in
God's provision of power to walk (for what God commands, He always
enables), submitting or yielding to the Spirit's leading, guiding and
empowering and in the end experiencing the victory of Spirit enabled
Norman Harrison writes...
One confesses sadly, "I don't know
why I act this way; I just lost control of myself." Fine confession! You
are on the wrong side of the cross. Get over onto His Side and the
Spirit will operate on your self-life that causes this lack of control;
He will take you in hand. Spirit-controlled, you will be genuinely,
inwardly self-controlled. (Galatians 5:16-23 Spirit versus Flesh)
To the ancient Greeks,
self-control was in essence the proper ordering and balancing of the
individual. For example, Aristotle said
I count him braver who overcomes his
desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is
the victory over self. (Not bad theology from an erudite pagan!)
Plato believed that our animal urges
must be governed or else they will produce “a feverish state in the
soul, a city of pigs” which knows no limits. When we’re not
self-controlled, our life is like a pigsty. That’s quite a word picture.
Plato in another place wrote that egkrateia
is the ordering or controlling of certain pleasures and desires …
implied in the saying of ‘a man being his own master.’
Plato thus used egkrateia to
refer to self-mastery meaning that it was the spirit which has mastered its desires
and its love of pleasure.
Socrates regarded egkrateia as a cardinal
virtue and Philo described it as superiority expressed in
secular Greek writers used egkrateia to describe the
virtue of an Emperor who never lets his private interests influence the
government of his people. It is the virtue which makes a man so master
of himself that he is fit to be the servant of others.
The rendering of egkrateia
as self-control can be misleading if one places the emphasis on "self",
deceptively thinking he can control the body through will power and self
determination. As most believers have discovered, self control is far
from the world's concept of self-help. Paul in fact alludes to this
dilemma in Romans 7 writing...
I know that nothing good dwells in
me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the
doing of the good is not. (see note
Greeks used this term especially to describe one who had his
sexual passions under control, but the NT extends the meaning to all
areas of life where the discernment between good and evil is important
(cf 1Th 5:21, 22-note).
In his first epistle to the Corinthians (who lived in a "sex crazed"
society) Paul uses the related verb egkrateuomai writing that...
if (the unmarried) do
not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry
than to burn (to seethe inwardly with destructive lusts). (1Corinthians
Paul implies that one needs to exercise self control in regard
to sexual behavior, which is quite applicable to believers in America,
where even the commercials have become "R rated" and filled with sexual
innuendos! In the present context however the self control is not just
in the area of sexuality but in any area where one needs to exercise
restraint (e.g., drunkenness, carousing and things like these...)
C Norman Bartlett writes
By temperance is meant self-control
in the broadest and fullest sense of the term. We need to go into
training for CHRIST and to keep ourselves spiritually fit at all times,
for we never know when a critical test may come or a golden opportunity
arise that will call upon our spiritual reserves. To this end we should
be prepared to give up whatever mars our witness and hinders usefulness
in the Master’s service. Attaining to the best may necessitate
abstaining from the rest. The lesser must sometimes be sacrificed to the
Norman Bartlett: Galatians and You: Studies in the Epistle of Paul to
the Galatians, 1948)
Brian Bill writes that...
Nestled among the
Spirit’s produce is the seemingly out-of-place fruit of self-control.
This characteristic of a Christ-follower seems to focus more on me
instead of on my relationships with other people. I can exercise
self-control when I’m the only person in the house. In fact, sometimes
the hidden, private moments when no one else is looking is precisely
when I need self-control the most. However, if we properly exercise the
fruit of self-control, it will benefit those around us. In some ways, we
might consider this virtue the most important because without
self-control the works of the flesh cannot be overcome and the other
elements of the Fruit of the Spirit will not be evident.
When the Greeks wanted
to illustrate self-control, they built a statue of a man or a woman in
perfect proportion. To them, self-control was the proper ordering and
balancing of the individual. (Galatians 5:23 Seizing Self-Control)
In the ancient world, self-control
characterized athletes who sought to be self-restrained and self-disciplined,
qualities which were crucial in their quest for victory in the intense competition of the
In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul used the cognate verb
egkrateuomai to describe the attitude believers need in order to
win the prize, comparing them to Olympic athletes explaining that...
everyone who competes
in the games exercises self-control (egkrateuomai) in all things
(How many things? Why do they do this?). They then do
it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable
("Chew the cud of this contrast for a moment." - in other words
Meditate). Therefore (after
thinking about the contrast and remembering that believers are destined
for eternity, let your mind come to the same conclusion and
determination that Paul came to...) I run in such a way, as not without
aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air but I buffet my
body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to
others, I myself should be disqualified. (1Corinthians 9:25-27) (But be careful... remember Paul's
running and boxing and buffeting were not a reflection of self effort
but were grace based, Spirit empowered effort, for as he said
elsewhere "by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward
me did not prove vain; but I labored [see meaning of
kopiao] [this was Paul's and is
every believer's responsibility] even more than all of them, yet not
I, but the grace of God [God's "responsibility" - His
sovereignly bestowed unmerited favor] with me [and also available
to each and every believer]." 1Corinthians 15:10)
Paul argues that athletes
exercise self-control because they are motivated by a clearly defined
understand that in order to achieve
that goal, they must (at least for a time) resist the distractions that
originate from their bodily passions and desires.
In a similar way, believers are charged to control their
(not the physical body but the evil disposition that still lives in our
mortal bodies), with its corrupt, deceptive passions and desires, rather than allowing themselves to be controlled by them.
However, what is referred to as self-control is actually (and only) the
result of letting the Spirit take control (Spirit enabled "self"
control), so that one is walking in Him, walking by the Spirit, keeping
in step with the Spirit.
In a parallel thought Paul wrote to the Colossian saints who were
being tempted to try all manner of methods and mysticism to "corral the
flesh" (see summation in Col 2:23 -note)
As you therefore have
received Christ Jesus the Lord (How? By faith. By believing the Biblical
truth about Him.), so
- make it your habit to seek to conduct you life in the atmosphere of
Christ, His teachings, His example, His Spirit) in Him (see note
Vincent adds this historical note on self control in
The candidate for the races
was required to be ten months in training, and to practice in the
gymnasium immediately before the games, under the direction of judges
who had themselves been instructed for ten months in the details of the
games. The training was largely dietary. Epictetus says: “Thou must
be orderly, living on spare food; abstain from confections; make a point
of exercising at the appointed time, in heat and in cold; nor drink cold
water nor wine at hazard.” Horace says: “The youth who would win
in the race hath borne and done much; he hath sweat and been cold; he
hath abstained from love and wine” (“Ars Poetica,” 412). Tertullian,
commending the example of the athletes to persecuted Christians, says:
“Coguntur, cruciantur, fatigantur.” “They are constrained, harassed,
wearied” (“Ad Martyres,” 3). Compare 2Ti 2:5
Paul's point is that each believer should be like a highly trained
athlete who exercises control over his or her body (the seat of the strong
desires) during the period in which they are training for the Olympics.
While the athlete says "No" to these bodily desires in their own strength,
in contrast, Spirit controlled believers are enabled
to exercise supernatural self control in the strength of the Holy
Spirit. When we say "Yes" to the Spirit, we cannot say "Yes"
for these are in opposition to one another (Gal 5:17-note).
In His incarnation Christ was the epitome of
self-control. He was never tempted or tricked into doing or saying
anything that was not consistent with His Father’s will and His own
divine nature. He left us an example for us to follow in His steps
Egkrateia points to a
power to control one's old desires and cravings inherited from Adam (Ro
Sometimes we as saints forget that even though we have been crucified with
Christ (Gal 2:20-note;
Ro 6:6-note) and are dead to the
domination and/or power of
6:11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 --see
18), the old desires
are still latent and are able to be activated in our mortal bodies. Paul
alluded to this spiritual dynamic earlier writing...
But I say,
= not a suggestion but a command to
make it your lifestyle or your habitual practice to conduct all of the
aspects of you life) by the Spirit and
(here is the conditional promise - conditioned on choosing to walk by
the Spirit) you will (absolutely) not carry out (not that you won't
still experience them but that you won't act on them!) the (strong) desire of the flesh (see
The highly respected nineteenth
century Scottish theologian John Eadie wrote that self control
holding in of passions and appetites, distinguished by Diogenes Laertius
from sophrosune (see study of related word
sophronos) in that it bridles the stronger desires....The word is
to be taken in its widest significance, and not principally in reference
to sexual sin—as Origen (so interpreted it)...This virtue guards against all sins of
personal excess, and is specially opposed to drunkenness and revellings
as works of the flesh.
John: Epistle of St Paul to the Galatians - 702 Page Pdf)
Adam Clark writes that
Continence (Webster = exercising self
restraint, especially a refraining from sexual intercourse),
self-government, or moderation, principally with regard to sensual or
animal appetites. Moderation in eating, drinking, sleeping, etc.
The Greek word egkrateia
has the idea of to get a grip on one's self, on one's passions! Many of
the early Christian heresies taught that since the (physical) body was evil
(which it is not - it is morally neutral and is solely an instrument
either of the Spirit or of
it was not necessary to curb evil lusts, but that one only had to think
correctly. In contrast, Paul teaches that self-control is not a result
of self-effort but a fruit wrought by the Spirit as we rest in Him,
trust in Him and walk by Him. Then God receives the praise and
the glory for the victory instead of self (flesh),
which ever seeks to usurp God's rightful place and receive the glory due
only to Him!
The writer of Proverbs alludes
to the subject of self control
He who is slow to anger is better
than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a
Comment: Have you ever tried
in your own strength (self effort) to control your temper or
restrain the desire follow through with a sudden outburst of anger? I
have and it might work for a moment, but
remains crouching at the door of my mind and heart just waiting for the
opportunity to "pounce", and unfortunately it often does. How difficult
is it for us to achieve victory in this area? The writer says that it is
easier to gain a victory over a city (and in ancient times these were
walled, well fortified cities, totally unlike our modern cities!) then
to conquer one's temper! In my own strength I cannot control the
overwhelming, powerful, compelling urge to lash out, but the Spirit of
the Gentle Shepherd can control it as I yield my "rights" to Him and
rest in His sufficiency to enable me to work out my salvation in the
area of "Anger Management 101" (recall Paul's power in 1Corinthians
15:10 quoted above).
adds that "Peter the Great, although one of the mightiest of the
Czars of Russia, failed here. In a fit of temper he struck his gardener,
and a few days afterwards the gardener died. “Alas,” said Peter, sadly,
“I have conquered other nations, but I have not been able to conquer
myself! Woe! There,
beloved, is a picture of all of us apart from the grace of God (1Cor
15:10) and the controlling fruit of the Spirit of God!
Paul uses egkrateia in his
appearance before Felix, and in this context apparently referring to
self–control in the area of sex. It is indeed fascinating that Paul's
presentation of the gospel emphasized self control. As Paul spoke before
the Roman governor Felix and his wife Drusilla, he spoke of...
self–control and the judgment to come, (and) Felix became frightened and said,
‘Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you’ ”
Felix had stolen Drusilla from her
former husband and was therefore living with her in an adulterous
relationship. The sexual self–control of which Paul spoke pertained to
lustful passion, and Felix clearly understood Paul's warning. The
message to the governor was that he was living contrary to God’s
righteousness by refusing to discipline his sexual desire, and for that
he was subject to God’s judgment.
Pastor Brian Bill adds
Felix was no different
than many others in the Roman Empire. Scholars tell us that when ancient
Rome was disciplined and controlled, it was a great nation, but when it
became saturated in its own sin it lost its glory. Drunkenness, orgies,
and an “anything goes” mindset caused Rome to cave inward and implode
upon itself. The decline of the Roman Empire went hand-in-hand with
self-indulgence. I wonder if America is going down that same road? (Galatians 5:23 Seizing Self-Control)
that great quality which comes to a man when Christ is in his heart,
that quality which makes him able to live and to walk in the world, and
yet to keep his garments unspotted from the world.
means mastering one’s emotions rather
than being mastered by them. Lack of self control played a
significant role in abominable deeds of the false teachers Peter exposed in chapter 2
of his second epistle.
For speaking out
arrogant words of vanity they (the false teachers) entice by fleshly
desires (What manner of "desires"? Those that originate in the fallen
flesh), by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live
in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of
corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (perfect
tense - speaks of the permanence of this bondage). (See
2 Peter 2:18;
Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny!
The false teachers in 2 Peter
claimed that "liberty" was a warrant for
licentiousness rather than life as it should be lived in the Spirit. These men instead
of self control were "sensuality controlled", enslaved to greed and fleshly
desires. They believed and taught that knowledge freed
people from the need to control their passions. Peter countered their false
doctrine that claimed that knowledge
emancipates men from the obligations of morality.
In another pithy proverb, Solomon
gives a vivid picture of the danger of the lack of
Like a city that is broken into and
without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit. (Proverbs
As alluded to earlier, the city states of those days were
walled for protection from marauders. No wall around a city meant no protection. No
self control by analogy means one is wide open to attack from the
Evil One and the old sinful flesh nature (flesh)!
Without self control, they are not able to resist those things that can destroy their lives
and the lives of others. Such a man or woman is an easy
victim when attacked by tempting desires and impulses. The Bible offers
numerous illustrations of those who failed to "build a wall around the
city" of their heart and mind, but instead kept the "opened wide the
gates" to the wisdom of the world, the flesh and the devil. Woe! Take
for example, the sad saga of Samson and his self
destruction and defeat at the hands of a seductive temptress. (see
Like Samson, we all have the deceptive flesh
lurking and waiting for a moment of weakness (we are tired, frustrated
with others, disappointed with our circumstances, we have just been
successful in some venture be it secular or spiritual, etc) and would do
well to heed Solomon's advice (which sadly and paradoxically he himself
did not heed, miserably failing to exercise self
control, especially in 1 Kings 11:1-13 - read the last half of the
chapter for the wide ranging consequences!)...
(command to) over your heart
with all diligence, (Why is this discipline so critically important?), for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs
4:23-note) (The NLT poignantly paraphrases it "Above all else, guard your
heart, for it affects everything you do.") (See also
Puritan John Flavel's
the Heart" acclaimed
by some as one of the best Christian books ever written!)
Remember that when we take time off from
disciplining ourselves for
godliness we don't remain "static" spiritually, but we begin to
drift back toward the subtle, seductive lures of the world, the flesh
and/or the devil. Do not be deceived thinking you are "okay" if you are
taking a "spiritual hiatus"! In fact, you are in grave danger, for
fleshly lusts continually wage war against your soul (1Pe 2:11-note).
Paul understood the critical importance of the necessity of maintaining
a program of spiritual discipline (under grace of course, not under law
- an easy trap to fall into in the area of the spiritual disciplines -
read Ray Stedman's excellent admonition to be alert to
Legalism or better yet
listen to his
exhorting his young disciple Timothy (and all disciples of all ages)...
- not a suggestion but a command to make it your habit gymnazo [the
Greek verb for discipline] yourself - working out in "God's gym" of His
Word, prayer, fellowship, breaking of bread, etc) yourself for the
for bodily discipline is only of little
for all things, since it holds promise for the present life (literally
"the now life") and also for the life to come (literally "the coming
life" = it's already on its way for believers). It is a
full acceptance. For it is for this (the
promise which godliness holds forth -- that it may be fulfilled) we
toiling to the point of utter exhaustion!) and strive (agonizomai
= an intensely
struggling for victory or more accurately for believers "from victory",
the Victory having been procured for us at Calvary by Christ), because
we have fixed our hope (our certainty) on the living God, Who is the
Savior of all men, especially of believers.
(1Ti 4:7, 8, 9, 10-see notes
Just as ceasing to exercise physically
results in loss of
muscle and bone mass, decreased strength and endurance, etc, so too, the same dynamic
occurs in the spiritual realm when we cease to discipline ourselves for
Pastor Steve Cole observes that...
There is a paradox here: to be
Spirit-controlled results in being self-controlled. As we walk by the
Spirit (Gal 5:16-note), He produces in us the ability to control every area
of our lives in line with His holy purposes. This implies active
responsibility on your part. Sometimes, speakers on the spiritual life
state that you are to be completely passive
“Just let go and let God.”
“If you’re striving,
you’re not trusting.”
This is clearly unbiblical. Paul wrote,
For this purpose also I labor, striving
agonizomai) according to His
power, which mightily works within me. (Col 1:29-note)
Both are true...
the self-controlled person is submitting
himself to God’s will as revealed in His Word, whereas the self willed
person is acting for his own selfish desires, disregarding what God
wills. Because God has given us new life in Christ and has given His
Holy Spirit to indwell us, we have both the responsibility and the
ability to yield our self-will to His revealed will. (Read full sermon
Learning to Control Yourself
Pastor Cole goes on to
describe how we cultivate the grace of self control, summing it
up noting that...
Walk by means of the Holy Spirit every day. This undergirds the whole
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of
He goes on to talk about
the strong desires of the flesh that war against the Spirit. If you do
not conquer these desires, you will not grow in godliness. You don’t win
wars accidentally! You must devote yourself to the battle, committed to
fight with everything you’ve got. Anything less will result in defeat.
To walk by the Spirit means to depend upon and yield to the indwelling
Holy Spirit moment by moment every day. Walking is not as spectacular as
leaping or flying, but if you keep at it, you’ll get where you’re going.
Also, the picture of fruit implies a slow, deliberate process. There
will be setbacks and difficulties along the way. The question is, are
you actively, purposefully walking by the Spirit, coming back to
dependence on Him when you have fallen, so that over the long haul, the
fruit of the Spirit, including self control, is growing in your life?
(Read full sermon
Learning to Control Yourself
) (Bolding added)
Wayne Barber discusses Peter's
mention of self control
in 2Pe 1:6
("and in your knowledge, self-control..."), reminding us that...
...this self-control arises from and is accompanied by our
knowledge which comes out of obedience to the Word of God. It comes
right out of that faith that God gives us.
The definition of
control means to be able to hold one's self in. 1Co 9:25 Paul is talking
about an athlete and how he has to have self-control (Ed Note: not
egkrateia but the related verb egkrateuomai) ("And everyone who
competes in the games exercises self-control in all things..."
) This would include control over his appetite, his temper, his schedule
(an athlete needs priorities or he will become undisciplined). If you
wanted to play on the basketball team in college, you had to have
discipline or self-control.
Remember that the definite article
("the" in the Greek of 2Pe 1:6-note) is before each godly characteristic so Peter is
talking about the self-control, the very self-control and
self-restraint that Jesus had, even as He Himself was tempted as all men
are. And yet God gives us access to that same self-control! So that's
where the analogy breaks down...it's not human energized self-control
Peter is talking about but that which is available by faith
(obedience) from Christ in us. The Christian ought to have control over
Dr Barber goes on to make the point that when he is in the
Word of God, he is a controlled person. He asks...
How many diets have you been
on? You lose some but then you gain it right back. Remember that
Scripture repeatedly links idolatry and immorality (Nu 25:1,2).
Immorality and a person with an uncontrolled appetite is closely related
all the way through Scripture. Believers because of Christ within them,
possess the potential to control their temper, to exercise control over
their desires, the power to say "no", the power to set godly priorities,
the power within them so that they can turn off the television and go to
bed early so they can arise early to be fresh with God in
the morning, the self control to get out of bed in the morning to be alone
with God, etc. And all of this self-control comes out of our faith.
(2Pe 1:5-note) We don't have to go to a course or read a book on how to become
self-controlled! That control is within us and if we are diligent to
see results, then we will see God work it out in our life and move us
into His victory.
For additional insights on self control,
see John Piper's article entitled
Fierce Fruit of Self-Control.
Are these nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit something we do,
or things the Spirit does for us? Although clearly the Spirit is
the Planter and Producer of the fruit as He alone can initiate and
empower these graces, nevertheless each of these nine grace is also
commanded of believers - Love (John 13:34, Joy (Phil 4:4),
Peace (2 Cor 13:11), Patience (Eph 4:2-note),
Kindness (Eph 4:32-note),
Faithfulness (Rev 2:10-note), Gentleness
Self-control (2Pe 1:5,6 - notes
believer is has great potential for as Paul explained we have...
been filled with the fruit of righteousness
which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Php
Our task on earth as obedient children is to work out now what God
has worked in us. Or as Paul instructed the saints at Philippi...
imperative = command to make this one's lifestyle)
your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in
you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Php 2:12, 13-see notes
Spurgeon is careful to add
again calls for care. If you have a garden you will soon know this. We
had a profusion of flowers upon our pear trees this year, and for a few
weeks the weather was warm beyond the usual heat of April, but nights of
frost followed and cut off nearly all the fruit. Other kinds of fruit
which survived the frost are now in danger from the dry weather which
has developed and endless variety of insect blight, so that we wonder
whether any of it will survive. If we get over this trial an the fruit
grows well we shall yet expect to see many apples fall before autumn,
because the worm has eaten into their hearts and effectually destroyed
them. So is it with Christian life: I have seen a work for the Lord
prospering splendidly like a fruitful vine, when suddenly there has come
a frosty night and fond hopes have been nipped: or else new notions, and
wild ideas have descended like insect blights and the fruit has been
spoiled; or if the work has escaped these causes of damage, some
immorality in a leading member, or a quarrelsome spirit, has appeared
unawares like a worm in the centre of the apple, and down it has fallen
never to flourish again. (The
First Fruit of the Spirit)
AGAINST SUCH THINGS THERE IS NO LAW:
kata ton toiouton ouk estin (3SPAI) nomos: (1Timothy 1:9)
Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].
There is no
law which condemns things like that. (Barclay)
There is no law against behaving in any of these ways. (CEV)
There is no law that says these things are wrong. (ICB)
no law can touch such things as these (NJB)
Here there is no conflict with the law. (NLT)
here there is no conflict with Jewish laws. (TLB)
Every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are His alone.
There is no law
- God does not make a law against the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit
for these are the very virtues that God desires believers to
supernaturally manifest in a Christ like walk. And just as there is “no
law” against the fruit of the Spirit, there is likewise no law which
will produce them for they cannot be produced by your self effort,
including attempts to keep the law.
C Norman Bartlett writes that
although there is no law against the aforementioned fruit of the
many Christians live and act as if
there were, if one judges by the meagerness of spiritual fruit bearing
in their lives. Law can neither produce nor prevent the fruit of the
Spirit mentioned in these verses. Legality, however, militates against
the vitality so essential to their production. Memorize Galatians
Norman Bartlett: Galatians and You: Studies in the Epistle of Paul to
the Galatians, 1948)
S Lewis Johnson writes
in the concluding words of Galatians 5:23
there is an important point made by Paul. The Law of Moses finds no flaw
in the fruit of the Spirit. The flesh may imitate, or counterfeit,
certain of the virtues, but it can never produce them. The Spirit alone
can do that, and the result satisfies all the demands of the moral law
in the believer's life. It is sometimes forgotten that life by the
Spirit is not a lower standard than life by the moral law, or the Ten
Commandments. It is, if anything a higher standard. Arthur Way has
caught that in his rendering of Galatians 5:18 "But if you definitely
surrender yourselves to the Spirit's guidance, you are then not under
the law, but ON A HIGHER PLANE."
Vincent explains that...
Against such virtues there is no law to condemn them. The law can bring
no charge against them.
Paul explained to Timothy...
the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are
lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and
profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and
immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and
whatever else is contrary to sound teaching (1 Timothy 1:9-10)
Lightfoot notes that...
Law exists for the purpose of restraint, but in the works of the Spirit
there is nothing to restrain; compare 1Ti 1:9 Thus then the
Apostle substantiates the proposition stated in Gal 5:18, ‘If ye are
led by the Spirit, ye are not under law.’ (St. Paul's Epistle to the
Wuest adds that Paul's words at the end of Galatians
understatement of Paul’s thought in the premises, and are for the
purpose of rhetorical effect. This mild assertion to the effect that
there is no law against such things, has the effect of an emphatic
statement that these things fully meet the demands of the law.
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
Neither God nor man has ever made a
law against these things; the more there is of them, the better will it
be for everybody. Oh, that they prevailed all over the world!
(No law) Neither human nor divine.
Good men make no law against these things, nor does God, for He approves
of them. What a wonderful cluster of the grapes of Eshcol we have here!
“The fruit of the Spirit” — as if all this were but one after all; —
many luscious berries forming one great cluster. Oh, that all these
things may be in us and abound, that we may be neither barren nor
Richards adds that...
passed against sinful acts. No one would think of passing a law against
love, joy, kindness, goodness, or patience. It follows then that Law is
irrelevant to Christians who live by the Spirit. What need is there for
Law in a heart where love, kindness, and goodness reign? Commit yourself
to Jesus, actively love others, and trust the Spirit to express Himself
through you. Do this, and you need not worry about the Law. (Richards,
L.. The 365 Day Devotional Commentary)
Boice writes that this last...
clause is most likely
an understatement used for rhetorical effect. The law, as Paul has said,
was given to restrain evil; but these qualities do not need to be
restrained. Hence, no law opposes them. There may also be a sense,
however, in which Paul is suggesting that the law cannot be against such
as live in this manner because of the very fact that by being so led
they are in principle fulfilling all that the law requires.
William Kelly asks...
When did law ever
produce these? So the law will never condemn those who walk in these
things...If you are producing these fruits of the Spirit, there is no
condemnation against them. (Kelly, W. Lectures On The Epistle Of Paul
The Apostle To The Galatians. page 154)
The UBS Handbook has an interesting explanation of this verse
What does Paul mean by concluding this enumeration with the statement
There is no law against such things as these? What he probably means is
that the law just has no part to play in the realm of the Spirit. The
law exists for restraint, but there is nothing to restrain in these
qualities. This meaning is reflected in NEB: “There is no law dealing
with such things as these.” One may also translate as “The laws
do not even speak about such matters as these,” or “These actions
are not even contained in any of the laws.”
It is possible to understand the statement in another sense, and that is
to read the Greek word for such things as these as masculine, in which
case Paul would be saying “There is no law against such men.”
This is reflected in Knox: “No law can touch lives such as these.”
The law was never meant for people who demonstrate these qualities,
since no law can check or condemn their conduct.
One may also translate
“There are no laws which speak against people who live in this way,”
or “…who do these things.” (The
United Bible Societies' New Testament Handbook Series or