Self-Control – One of 9 Fruits of the Spirit


Self-Control Defined

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that develops and grows as we spend time with God and surrender to His Holy Spirit.

Self-Control is defined as the ability to manage our actions, feelings and emotions. [D] Self-Control is for us to be restrained by our own power or will and not controlled by external force or authority. [W]

Foundational Thoughts on Self-Control

In giving the Galatians a character portrait of the godly life, the apostle Paul was also giving the Galatians a portrait of the Holy Spirit! The character traits produced in the Christian are the traits of the Spirit. These are the same character traits of Christ Jesus, and of God the Father.

God’s nature is what is being replicated in the person who believes in Jesus and seeks to be led by the Spirit. The fruit that is born in the believer’s life is fruit that the Spirit produces. It is not fruit that can be manufactured by the believer’s will, intellect, desire, or effort. It is fruit that is produced as a person ‘walks in the Spirit’ and seeks to be led by the Spirit.

This fruit is spiritual in nature. It truly is fruit of the Spirit. In other words, circumstances do not affect the heart that is controlled by the Spirit. As an example, the love produced by the Spirit is God’s love, not brotherly love or sexual love. The self-control is not man-mustered self-control, but self-control enabled by the Spirit—God giving the power as man yields his will, which produces genuine godly willpower. Very specifically: Self-Control – mastery, with God’s help, over compulsive desires for pleasure and self-gratification. [Blackaby 58-59]

The spirit produces fruit which consists of nine characteristics or attitudes that are inextricably linked with each other and are commanded of believers throughout the New Testament. Self-Control refers to restraining passions and appetites. [MacArthur 1676]

Paul exhorts us to not use our liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but by love to serve one another. Self-Control or temperance, in meat and drink, and other enjoyments of life, so as not to be excessive and immoderate in the use of them. [Henry]

To live by the Spirit is to have new life- the equivalent of salvation. We could paraphrase 25a this way: ‘Since the Spirit has made us alive…’ It naturally follows that if the Spirit gave life, we should follow (walk by) Him. To follow Him entails forsaking fleshly habits (i.e. being boastful, envying). [Moody 1840]

In contrast to the works of the flesh, like drunkenness, those who walk by the Spirit live restrained lives. The Spirit enables believers to have mastery over their passions. In our flesh we are out of control, but by the Spirit we live self-controlled lives. [Platt 2274]

Eleven Scriptures on Self-Control

Like a city that is broken down and without walls is a man whose spirit is without restraint. (Proverbs 25:28 WEB)

A fool vents all of his anger, but a wise man brings himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11 WEB)

He who guards his mouth guards his soul. One who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Proverbs 13:3 WEB)

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, for its lusts. (Romans 13:14 WEB)

Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. (1 Corinthians 9:25 WEB)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 WEB)

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander by put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 WEB)

For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 WEB)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14 WEB)

The end of all things is near. Therefore be of sound mind, self-controlled, and sober in prayer. (1 Peter 4:7 WEB)

MacDonald Clarifies Self-Control

It is significant that the apostle distinguishes between the works of the flesh, and the fruit of the Spirit. Works are produced by human energy. Fruit it grown as a branch abides in the vine (John 15:5). Note that fruit is singular, not plural. The Holy Spirit produces one kind of fruit, that is, Christlikeness.

All the virtues now listed describe the life of the child of God. Self-Control means literally holding one-self in, especially regarding sex. Our lives [need to] be disciplined. Lust, passions, appetites, and temper [need to] be ruled. We [need to] practice moderation. [MD 1924]

Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh. The verb tense here indicates something that happened in the past. It actually occurred at the time of our conversion. When we repented, there was a sense in which we nailed the old, evil, corrupt nature to the cross with all its affections and lusts. We determined that we would no longer live to cater to our fallen nature, that it would no longer dominate it. Of course, this decision has to be renewed continually in our lives. We must constantly keep the flesh in the place of death (5:24). [MD 1925]

Christian liberty does not permit sin; it rather encourages loving service. Love is seen as the motive of all Christian behavior, whereas under the law, the motive is fear of punishment. The Christian’s freedom is in Christ Jesus (2:4), and this excludes any possible thought that it might ever mean freedom to sin. We must never turn our freedom into a base of operations for the flesh (5:13). [MD 1922]

The believer [is to] walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. To walk in (or by) the Spirit is to allow Him to have His way. It is to remain in communion with Him. It is to make decisions in the light of His holiness. It is to be occupied with Christ, because the Spirit’s ministry is to engage the believer with the Lord Jesus. When we walk in the Spirit, the flesh, or self-life, is treated as dead. We cannot be occupied at the same time with Christ and sin (5:16). [MD 1922-23]

The Spirit and the flesh are in constant conflict. God gave us His own Holy Spirit to indwell us. God’s Spirit and our flesh are perpetually at war, and will continue to be at war until we are taken home to heaven. The believer’s part in the conflict is to yield to the Spirit (5:17). [MD 1923]

Since we have eternal life by the work of the Holy Spirit in us, let us live out the new life by the power of the same Spirit. The law never could give life, and was never intended to be the Christian’s rule of life (5:25). [MD 1925]

Ten Quotes on Self-Control

Self-control is not control of oneself through one’s own willpower but rather control on of oneself through the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Jerry Bridges

Anything under God’s control is never out of control. ~Anonymous

I am a spiritual being…after this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control. ~Max Lucado

Control yourself or someone else will control you. ~Anonymous

Self-control is strength. Calmness is mastery. You have to get to a point where your mood doesn’t shift based on the insignificant actions of someone else. Don’t allow others to control the direction of your life. Don’t allow your emotions to overpower your intelligence. ~Morgan Freeman

It is so often self who tries to live the Christian life. No wonder we need breaking. As long as self is in control, God can do little with us. ~Roy Hession

I cannot trust a man to control others if he cannot control himself. ~Robert E. Lee

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self. ~Aristotle

Self-control is a key factor in achieving success. We can’t control everything in life, but we can definitely control ourselves. ~Jan McKingley Hilado

Self-Control is the exercise of inner strength under the direction of sound judgement that enables us to do, think, and say the things that are pleasing to God. ~Deborah Ann

Blessings and Prayers for Self-Control

Thank you, Lord, that “No temptation has taken us except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that we may be able to endure it.”

You say, “Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings.”

And “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before Him in love.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 1:3-4 WEB)

Thank you for strengthening and empowering us to: refuse the temptations of the enemy, deny our fleshly lusts, live in Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit.

Summarizing the Fruit of the Spirit

When we began our study of the Fruit of the Spirit, we contrasted the fruit of the flesh to the fruit of the Spirit. When we yield to our flesh and give in to the temptations of the world, we end up in the bondage of sin. When we yield to the Holy Spirit, we produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we can become who He designed us to be as we are transformed into Christ’s image and bear the fruit of the Spirit.

This brings the fruit of freedom, liberty and Christlikeness because of God’s love through Jesus to us and God’s love through us to others. Not only can we can experience freedom in Christ, but we can help others find this freedom. The Holy Spirit helps us transition from fleshly fruit to spiritual fruit. Thankfully, He sets us free from the law of fleshly works and the fear of punishment and releases us to be renewed in the Spirit of Jesus Christ and bear good fruit by the power of His Holy Spirit.

I appreciate how Wiersbe summarizes our ability to bear the fruit of the Spirit. He says, “In short, the secret is the Holy Spirit. He alone can give us freedom from sin and self. He enables us to fulfill the law of love, to overcome the flesh, and to bear fruit.” [WBC 576]

This life, therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being, but becoming, not rest, but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified. ~Martin Luther


For the Introduction to the Fruit of the Spirit:

For practical illustrations in walking in self-control, read:


Blackaby, Henry, Richard, Thomas, Melvin and Norman. Encounters with God – The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians. Thomas Nelson, 2008. [Kindle Edition]

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Published by Thomas Nelson, 2005, page 1676.

MacDonald, William. The Believer’s Bible Commentary. [MD] Thomas Nelson, 2016, pages 1920-1927.

Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible. [MH] Originally written in 1706. Kindle Edition published November 7, 2010.

Platt, David and Tony Merida. Christ-Centered Exposition – Exalting Jesus in Galatians. Published by B&H Publishing Group, 2014. [Kindle Edition]

The Moody Bible Commentary. Published by The Moody Bible Institute. General Editors: Michael Rydelnik and Michael Van Laningham. Moody Publishers, 2014, page 1840.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from

Wiersbe, Warren B. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete New Testament. [WBC] Published by David C. Cook, 2007, pages 575-576.

World English Bible (WEB) by Public Domain. The name “World English Bible” is trademarked.

Your Dictionary. [D] Self-control definition retrieved September 11, 2021 from

Bible Scriptures were retrieved September 3, 2021 from #bgbg2 #BibleGateway #BibleStudy

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16 thoughts on “Self-Control – One of 9 Fruits of the Spirit”

  1. Lisa, self control is something Paul mentions a lot and is so important to our Christian walk. Great descriptions given about it here. Never thought about all 9 are the fruit and not fruits of the spirit.

    1. I so appreciated that insight by MacDonald too, Theresa. It brings a whole new perspective, “The Holy Spirit produces one kind of fruit, that is, Christlikeness.”

  2. In some ways this is the hardest aspect of the fruit of the Spirit for me. It’s self-control–yet not generated or enabled by self. It’s not self-effort–yet it involves obedience. May God give us grace to yield to His lordship over ourselves.

    1. Amen, Barbara. It is only by yielding to His Holy Spirit that our ‘self man’ can be controlled and guided, so that we walk in a life-giving manner.

  3. “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” This quote from Aristotle stands out to me because conquering the self is often the most difficult thing I have to do every day.

  4. There are indeed many desires in life that only Holy Spirit can do for us, things like addictions, negativity, harmful behaviours n thoughts. We must acknowledge we can’t quit them on our own.

  5. “It is so often self who tries to live the Christian life. No wonder we need breaking. As long as self is in control, God can do little with us.” This quote by Roy Hession grabbed my attention. This post was very timely for me. Thank you for sharing!

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