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What the Bible says about Moderation
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Self-mastery ("soberly" in NKJV) is self-government or self-control, the foundation of a strong godly life, growth, and producing fruit. If a person cannot govern himself, if he cannot master his passions, he will certainly not have a good relationship with his fellowman or God. His life will likely be marked by major excesses.

The biblical writers use this word in various ways: to behave in an orderly manner, to be sober, serious, sane, sound-minded, discreet, self-disciplined, prudent, and moderate. In context of a person controlling himself, Paul writes, "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3; see Titus 2:6; I Peter 4:7).

A person who has self-mastery is even-handed, and his passions are under control. He makes proper use of his drives and desires, and his manner of life is not one of extremes. A person reflecting this quality will be making steady progress in growing into the perfectly balanced character of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace

Proverbs 16:16-19

Regarding pride, God gives some strong warnings. It must definitely be eradicated from our character. Pride has many manifestations, but it almost always starts when a person makes perverted comparisons, elevating one thing above another, making the self feel better or more deserving than another, and so forth. Pride may well be the father of other sins. God says that pride leads the way to destruction (Proverbs 11:2; 17:19; 18:12), which a product of sin.

The natural corollary of pride is prejudice, which is all about perverse comparisons. Jane Austen wrote a popular novel a couple of centuries ago entitled Pride and Open-mindedness. I jest. The title is Pride and Prejudice. Prejudice falls on the heels of pride because of the perverted judgment that is a part of it.

Pride begets numerous emotional disorders because it brings people into conflict either openly or internally. Whenever mental discord is held within, its outbreak will likely manifest as some sort of emotional disorder. We call the people unbalanced or even mentally ill, but churning away inside this person is a perverted comparison. Pride is present, bringing them into conflict with another, and they never resolve the conflict. Most frequently, the conflict occurs within the home, usually with someone close. Sometimes, it can be on the job. Wherever it may occur, good personal relationships are almost impossible where pride and its firstborn, prejudice, exist.

Another of the more damaging children of pride is intellectual arrogance. It produces an inability to learn either from one's own experiences or those of others. It also spawns a hatred of criticism and disdain for others.

The greater the pride, the more dangerous the consequences to the relationship, whether in a marriage, a partnership, or politics. It is a major cause of war between couples, within companies, or between nations.

Have we ever considered that America offers few rewards for modesty and moderation? The big rewards in the United States go to the arrogant, and we have thus produced a competitive and violent society that rides on the coattails of this proud attitude.

This is illustrated in no better place than in entertainment, especially in the movies. At one time, the heroes in the movies were almost always valiant and modest men or women. The actors like Jimmy Stewart, Alan Ladd, Spencer Tracy, or Gary Cooper usually portrayed them with an understated strength. It is difficult to remember them ever playing somebody arrogant. Today, the heroes are often proud and vain, reflecting the general attitude that has changed in that direction over the decades. Now the icons of the entertainment world are the arrogant, the smug, the aggressive, the abusers.

Pride has its roots in a sense or feeling of strength, wealth, prosperity, or accomplishment. Sometimes these things are imagined, and sometimes they are real, but whatever the case, misplaced confidence in self arises, producing a "better than" feeling. The perverted comparison emerges.

There is nothing wrong with having confidence in one's ability to perform something. However, an ability to do something does not make a person intrinsically better than another. All the individual has done is to develop a skill that he already had a latent ability to perform. In the eyes of God, that talent does not make one better than another. Skill is good, even great. We should strive to develop them but always understanding that they do not intrinsically equate with "better than." If we fail to understand this, our comparisons are on their way to becoming perverted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Seven)

Romans 14:22-23

If we doubt that we are eating as a Christian should, which includes both the quantity and the quality of the food, then it is not of faith. Therefore it is sin.

Martin G. Collins
Gluttony: A Lack of Self-Control (Part Two)

1 Corinthians 9:27

In the New Testament, the most common Greek word for self-control (temperance, KJV) is enkrateia. Its root meaning is "power over oneself" or "self-mastery." Self-control, in its widest sense, is mastery over our passions. It is the virtue that holds our appetites in check, controlling our rational will or regulating our conduct without being duly swayed by sensuous desires. Moderation is a key element in self-control.

Martin G. Collins
Self-Control

Galatians 5:23

In Galatians 5:23, "self-control" (temperance, KJV) is the translation of the Greek word enkrateia, which means "possessing power, strong, having mastery or possession of, continent, self-controlled" (Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, "Galatians," p. 160). Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament adds that it means "holding in hand the passions and desires" (vol. IV, p. 168). The word thus refers to the mastery of one's desires and impulses, and does not in itself refer to the control of any specific desire or impulse. If a particular desire or impulse is meant, the context will indicate it.

Self-control is comprehensive in practical application to life, but the Bible does not use the word extensively. It is implied, however, in many exhortations to obedience, submission, and sinless living. The noun form is used only three times, the verb form twice (I Corinthians 7:9; 9:25), and the adjective form once (Titus 1:8). The negative form of the adjective is used three times. In II Timothy 3:3, it is translated "without self-control [incontinent, KJV]"; in Matthew 23:25, "self-indulgent [excess, KJV]"; and in I Corinthians 7:5, "lack of self-control [incontinency, KJV]."

Another Greek word, nephalios, has the same general meaning, but it generally covers a more specific area of self-control. It is often translated as "temperate" or "sober." Even though its root condemns self-indulgence in all forms, the Bible's writers use it to refer to avoiding drunkenness.

Despite self-control's obvious importance, we should not limit our understanding of these words to merely the stringent discipline of the individual's passions and appetites. These words also include the notions of having good sense, sober wisdom, moderation, and soundness of mind as contrasted to insanity.

We see a good example of self-control implied in Proverbs 25:28: "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls." No specific Hebrew word in this sentence means "self-control," but "rule" certainly implies it. In its comments on this verse, the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible states:

The picture is that of a city whose walls have been so nearly destroyed as to be without defense against an enemy; so is the man who has no restraint over his spirit, the source of man's passionate energies. He has no defense against anger, lust, and the other unbridled emotions that destroy the personality. (vol. 4, p. 267)

Proverbs 16:32 shows a more positive side of self-control: "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." Here Solomon uses an entirely different word for "rule," but the sense of self-control remains. A comparison of the two proverbs reveals the great importance of self-control as both an offensive and defensive attribute.

Undoubtedly, self-denial, self-sacrifice, and self-control are inextricably linked in Christian life; each is part of our duty to God. Yet human nature exerts a persistent and sometimes very strong force away from God, as Romans 8:7 clearly shows: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." It is this force that each Christian must overcome. Controlling ourselves, denying human nature its impulse to satisfy its desire, and even sacrificing ourselves are necessary if we are to stop sinning as a way of life. When we add the concepts of self-denial and self-sacrifice to our understanding of self-control, we can see more easily how large a role self-control plays in the Bible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 




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