At first glance, the final virtue that the Apostle Paul lists in his Fruit of the Spirit as examples of Transformed Love doesn’t seem to be of the same genre as those listed ahead of it. They were Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, and Gentleness. We are to use those in helping others, but this one we must use on ourselves. 1 The Greek word egkrateia Paul employs defines a virtue that gives a person mental and emotional mastery over their desires and passions, especially those of the flesh. He was not just talking carnal desires of lust because the word is used in describing the need for potty training a child. It means that if a child is not going potty where they should go, they’ll end going potty where they shouldn’t go. When this was translated into Latin, the phrase “modestia continentia was used, which means “self-control.” No doubt the Galatian believers looked at each other when this was read, and suspected that Paul had heard something about how they were conducting themselves with regard to each other.
Paul may have been aware of the writings of oriental philosophers who taught that true peace came from ridding oneself of all fleshly desires. He was no doubt informed of how they defined self-control as having mostly to do with chastity, refraining from violence, and keeping one’s temper in check. If so, perhaps Paul didn’t want his readers to misunderstand that he was teaching the same concepts as the Greeks. Rather, Paul put the emphasis on ridding oneself of any desires that offended God and went against the leading of the Holy Spirit. It was not intended to be a call for them to empty their hearts, minds, and souls of all longings or passions, but instead, to let their spiritual oneness with Christ and the Holy Spirit have full control over their emotions so they could be appropriately channeled into ethical conduct, not unethical. In other words, proper “Control of Self.” Therefore, since self-control is love that is disciplined and discerning, it should help us maintain control of our lives with a tight hand, but an open mind. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 See Galatians 5:22-23