Can I really have self-control?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
I have had this verse memorized for decades, but two parts of this verse seem to have a megaphone on them lately. I can’t get them off my mind.
1. Fruit, not fruits.
Usually I hear people say “fruits” of the Spirit, but I can’t find that in any bible translation. It’s always “fruit.” The fruit of one’s labor can produce many results. I have been thinking about how I am prone to dividing the list into separate parts to make myself feel better but I am not sure that is biblical. I don’t think I can justify being impatient with my son and sooth my conscience with the thought that I still love him as a son and am kind. I can rationalize my impatience by thinking that I am still feeding him and taking him to school every day. That’s kind! Um, not sure that works.
I wonder if to exhibit one means to exhibit all.
The Greek word for “fruit” is karpos, which results from two life-streams – the Lord living His life through ours – to yield what is eternal (cf. 1 Jn 4:17) (Strong’s Concordance 2590). If the Spirit of God is in control of my life, then all of Him is on display in those moments. To be impatient means I am not allowing the Lord to live through me, and I am also not being the rest of the list in those moments either: loving, joyful, peaceful, good, faithful, gentle or exercising self-control.
In addition, those moments don’t yield any eternal results, meaning results that will last beyond this lifetime and travel with me to heaven and live forever. No eternal fruit is produced when I am operating in my own strength. That is what is meant by, to yield what is eternal. Anything we do by faith in the power of His Spirit produces results that last forever. Otherwise, it’s only good for the moment. God’s grace may produce eternal results from my self effort but those results will never be linked to me.
For some reason, the last fruit listed has taken a back seat for a long while now. I just forget about it: self-control. I have a new level of conviction lately when I want to eat 6 chocolate chip cookies or drown my emotions in a movie, for instance. I justify such desires because neither of these examples cancels my ability to be loving, joyful, peaceful, good, faithful and gentle. For example, I can still be a loving person and eat too many cookies, right? But I have been thinking about self-control being in the list of fruit. And I have been wondering if I can divide the list up into pieces.
It’s fruit, not fruits.
The Greek word for self-control is egkrateia, which means mastery, or self-control. Properly, “it means properly, dominion within, i.e. “self-control” – proceeding out from within oneself, but not by oneself” (Strong’s Concordance 1466). When we roll out of bed in the morning, we don’t pray, “Lord, help me to love everyone in my life well today.” Instead, we pray, “Lord, I can’t love everyone in my life well today. You love through me instead.”
We die to self-control to gain self-control from the Spirit of God.
Christians, we have the fruit of the Spirit inside of us, so we have no excuses when it comes to bearing fruit. All of it, not some of it. The Spirit is either in control or He is not.
Thanks for listening as I think something through.
Picture Explanation: The daughter featured this week now has a nursing degree! We are so proud of how she exhibits the fruit of the Spirit to all around her. She is great at loving people. But what got her through this accelerated program was the grit of self-control. She studied. She worked. She made it.
Click HERE for our cuteness.
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