Self Control/Temperance

Definition: To exercise authority over oneself by submitting one’s own emotions, desires, thoughts, and actions to the Word of God. This includes being sober, clear-minded, serious, watchful, alert, and vigilant.

God is the source of self-control; God’s grace teaches us to live soberly.

Galatians 5:22- 23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age…

We glorify God by bearing such fruit.

Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

John 15:8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be my disciples.

Self-control is central in the Christian life.

Acts 24:25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid…

A lack of self-control is antithetical to godliness and faith.

2 Timothy 3:3-4 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despises of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty….

2 Peter 1:6-11 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 25:28 Whoever has no rule over is own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.

We must be self-controlled in everything, not just in some things.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize: Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Sexual self-control:

1 Corinthians 7:9 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Elders must be temperate.1 Timothy 3:2-5 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence…

Deacons’ wives must be temperate.

1 Timothy 3:11 Likewise, their [deacons’] wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.

Areas where self-control is needed:

Emotions: Anger, resentment, self-pity, receiving correction, listening, being submissive and respectful, etc. Though a woman can “blame” hormones for monthly outbursts, that does not excuse the outbursts. This means preventative prayer is needed. In other words, if you know you are more vulnerable certain times of the month, then pray the rest of the month that God will prepare you for that time when you are easily tempted.

Desires/Thoughts: Sexual, physical appetites; covetousness, worldliness. Self-control is also needed for a lack of desire as well.

Actions: The tongue, shopping and spending habits, nervous habits, food and drink, music and film, Bible reading and prayer, rising early, doing our duties.


Women often really don’t want self-control, or they want it on their own terms. Of course, like all the other fruit of the Spirit, we should not try to do it ourselves. Self-control is fruit, like the kind that grows on a tree; it is not efficiency, like what we have from a machine. Some women can run a very tight ship, but they do it at the expense of everyone’s joy and peace. This comes from being works oriented rather than fruit oriented. We must work out what God works in, and not become distracted by trying to control everyone else. We need to control ourselves first.

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7 thoughts on “Self Control/Temperance

  1. When I first saw this, ooo- I decided to come back to it later. When I started reading later, I thought, ouch, I’ll come back to it later. Now that I’ve finished it, can I ask if the medicine can have some of that cheap cherry flavoring to go down easier? Thanks for the tough encouragement.

  2. Valerie, if you could come up with a more specific question, I would be happy to try to answer it with another post. And I’ll dust around for some of that cheap cherry flavoring.

  3. I started to write a big, long comment, but decided it was TMI, so I’ll cut to the vaguer bottom line: how does one grow and develop self-control? The answer always seems to be, “Just do it,” which I find singularly unhelpful. God designed things so parents would train up their children to be self-controlled. Of course if that didn’t happen, that’s no excuse for sin. But how does one train oneself in self-control…pull oneself up by the bootstraps? I have made so little progress in 20 years of praying and striving in this area. What am I doing wrong? What have I missed?

  4. Hi
    I cannot say thank you enough for these posts on the fruit of the Spirit. They are helping me in my Christian life as a wife and mother of 6.
    I have been challenged, soooo challenged, recently about two things – my attitude to my husband and the use of my tongue. Basically, I thought I was a respectful, reverent, submissive wife. But I wasn’t. I was sometimes disrespectful, unfaithful in my thought life, and kidding myself about being submissive.
    And my tongue was not bridled.
    I was using the excuse that my life is so difficult being the mother of so many, I would simply run out of self-control. The truth is, I wasn’t dying.
    And here is the answer to your question I think Valerie – you have to choose to die. That is, you acknowledge the lack of self-control and then you decide to put it to death. You do not allow it to rule you.
    You put your emotion/desire under your will and you do not let it rule you. You confess your sin to God and you pray for the help and strength of the Holy Spirit to live the life you know God wants you to live.
    I have made a conscious decision to say only what I have to say. I have made a conscious decision to think about my attitude towards my husband before I speak to him and to choose words that are respectful.
    Thank you for your encouragement as I seek to do this Nancy.
    May God bless you – and you too Valerie.

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