The last attribute of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 is self-control. The Greek word for peace used in the text is enkrateia. It is formed from the adjective enkratês which means “possession, power over something or someone else.” While enkratês focuses on one’s control over something other than oneself, enkrateia was first used by Plato to describe having control over your own self. (There’s an entire publication documented to this concept called Akrasia in Greek Philosophy. ) One interesting thing I found about this term is the assertion that it is best defined as self-governance rather than self-control. This is based on the idea of ego and sub-ego. Psychologists believe that we are all subject to a variety of sub-egos based on different roles we play (mother, sister, employee, etc…). The goal is to have all of these sub-egos work together harmoniously, rather than create chaos and discord within oneself. That is where enkrateia comes into play. Much as a government seeks to create order amongst its variety of peoples, self-governance seeks to make all of the sub-egos that make up a person work together. [source]
From a Christian perspective, it seems like no surprise that self-control/governance is listed last in terms of attributes. The implication, in my mind, is that having governance over oneself is the key to allowing the Holy Spirit to work harmoniously in your life, producing Fruit.
1 | Think about the roles you inhabit in your day to day life (sub-egos). How do those roles sometimes contradict one another and create chaos in how you are expected to act for each one?
2 | Choose 2 of the roles from above that cause discord in your life. How do you implement self-governance to create a balance between them?
3 | Moving beyond roles, let’s think about our own desires. How can your desires, if acted upon, result in chaos? How could acting on one desire have a specific negative impact on another of your desires?
4 | Choose 2 of your desires from above. How can/do you implement self-governance to create a balance between them?
5 | How does self-governance play a role in abiding in the Holy Spirit and thus producing fruit? How would a lack of self-governance make it easier to fall away from the Spirit, resulting in a lack of fruit being produced?
In the Scriptures
Self-control, using the term enkrateia, is not a frequently used term in the scriptures. However, the concept of self-governance is communicated in both the Old and New Testaments.
Proverbs 16:32 | Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s emotions, than capturing a city.
Proverbs 25:28 | A person who does not control his temper is like a city whose wall is broken down.
Matthew 23:25 | “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”
Acts 24:25 | Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.”
1 Corinthians 7:5 | Do not deprive one another–except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
1 Corinthians 9:27 | Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
2 Timothy 3:3 | But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.
Titus 1:8 | As an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless: not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.
2 Peter 1:1-8 | His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 | In Proverbs, we are warned against not having control over our emotions, including our tempers. How does self-governance, as specifically communicated by Greek philosophers and psychologists, better enable us to handle our emotions?
2 | Jesus speaks of Pharisees being self-indulgent in Matthew, but refers to this as an inner condition rather than an outward one. This supports the philosophies of self-governance as an internal process that guides our outward behavior. How can a lack of self-governance lead to hypocrisy, as it did in the Pharisees? What examples do scriptures provide?
3 | Titus 1 discusses the qualities needed for church leadership, including self-control. How does appropriate self-governance improve your ability to govern over others? How does a lack of self-governance lessen your ability to govern over others?
4 | In 2 Peter, we are advised to supplement self-control with both knowledge and endurance. Why do you think those 3 characteristics are connected? How do the 3 working together create order?
5 | 2 Timothy advises us to avoid people who lack self-control. Why would it be best not to closely associate with people who are unable to govern themselves well?