The Expository Files

Self Control

2 Peter 1:6a

In the King James Version 2 Peter 1: 6 instructs us to add TEMPERANCE to our knowledge. Through many years of change that word came to be associated almost exclusively with sobriety. While that would certainly be included, Paul had more in mind in Acts 24: 25 when he responded to Felix concerning righteousness and TEMPERANCE and judgment. Later versions of the scripture render our word as SELF-CONTROL. Other references in this article will be taken from the American Standard Version.

In order to practice self-control we will of course learn and use discipline. The very idea of "self" in self-control introduces a difficulty which we all must acknowledge. If we try to accomplish a conduct acceptable to God on our own we will be disappointed. Discipline has to do with the control of our mind and in exercising this we must depend on the help of God. To Timothy Paul said in 2 Timothy 1: 7 that God gave us a spirit "of power and love and discipline." We acknowledge our own deficiency in the singing of the Martin Luther hymn, A MIGHTY FORTRESS, "Did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing... ." We just can't do it alone!

Some students of the scriptures believe that there is a natural progression of these graces leading as it were steps from one to the other. There is logic for this conclusion although others see them as just random. Be that as it may, we know that there are steps in gaining self-control. It doesn't just happen, it is something which we must grow into, and as Paul has said God helps us do so. He grants us the control of our mind by which we can control our actions. Let's look at some steps toward self-control.

Subdue Our Natural Personality.
There are at least two extremes which we observe: the overly aggressive and the overly shy. We are generally more irritated by the former and it is the more unsettling in a congregation. In Matthew 5: 5 Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." Perhaps he had both the extremes in mind and is saying, "your personality needs to be under God's control."

In fashioning one to serve as a leader in a congregation Paul is inspired to write Timothy and Titus concerning these personality traits. "No brawler, no striker, not contentious, but to be temperate, sober-minded, self-controlled" among other qualities. Overcoming that "know-it-all-can't be wrong" attitude seen in some. However, at the same time remember his request that the Ephesians pray that he might speak with "boldness" in 6:19. Just keeping quiet is not always wisdom. It might be an uncontrolled shyness which is also to be overcome. In all ways to put ourselves under God's control.

Submit Ourselves To God.
In Romans 12:1,2 we are instructed to "...present ourselves unto God...and not be conformed to the world..." However, the details of how we do this is not always appreciated by us and it is where we need our self-control the most. We note a few of the details.

Micah 6:8 What Jehovah requires is that we " justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God."

Matthew 22:37-39 Love God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as our self.

While these commands and others like them are quite comprehensive we sometime need something that is more on a day by day nature in order for us to see the real meaning. So often when we speak of submission we are in the areas of child to parent, wife to husband, citizen to government, and may let ourselves overlook Paul's statement in Ephesians 5:21, "subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ." We deceive ourselves if we think we can submit to God, and serve Him, without doing the same to our brethren first and to some degree our fellow man. Which really leads to the next step.

Surrender Our Personal Rights.
For over 30 years now our entire society has been bombarded with something we call our rights. Seminars, sermons, lawsuits, etc. abound in an effort to protect us from their loss. We should note that nothing in God's word is intended to make us feel useless or without value. Let us remember that Jesus died for us and that God gave His dear Son for our sakes. This however brings us to one of the most important realizations of the Christian life. I belong to another as Paul instructs in First Corinthians 6:19,20 "...not your own...bought with a price." Our greatest challenge then is to make the will of God our will. That is what Jesus did in bearing His cross. That is what we are to do in being like Him. This is true self-control and it cannot be accomplished apart from Him.

To maintain self-control we must exercise constant discipline and should always look for any signs of weakness. Things like the wrong motivation, or anger that is not requited, or disappointment with our life in which we see God at fault, or a critical spirit where my brother is involved, and such like.If there is a natural progression of these graces, then when we have let the Spirit help us through the word be in control of our self, it will lead us to the patience by which we can truly "wait on God."

Editor's note: The preceding expository article comes from "Bible Insight" edited by Carey Dillinger and is a part of a series by him and other writers. Carey contacted me several weeks ago and suggested that we might be interested in publishing these articles. The series is quite good and Lord willing, Expository Files will be using these articles in future issues. Carey and the other writers have given their permission.

By H. Scott Owen
From Expository Files 7.8; August 2000