Editor’s Note: This week welcome guest blogger, David Hundert. David is a current Master of Divinity student at Evangelical Seminary.
Self-control is so important to Paul, that several times, in several letters, Paul includes it in his list of requirements for Church leadership. Paul states in Titus 1:7-8, “Since a leader manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”
When phrases and words are repeated in Scripture or in a message, we should pay attention. Next we turn to Titus 2:1-15, where Paul continues instructing Titus on who and what to preach regarding what he calls “sound doctrine.” Have you ever wondered what doctrine is sound and what isn’t? Paul explains it. He also repeats something from the earlier passage in Titus.
Here’s how Paul explains sound doctrine. Also look for the repeated concepts. Paul states, “You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.”
Four times, the apostle Paul mentions the word “self-controlled.” Four times referencing four separate groups of people. Paul must think that the soundness of this particular doctrine of self-control is pretty important. That’s Paul, though. Was it his concern alone? Do any of the other apostles mention it?
In 2 Peter 1:3-11, we read the following:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
Why you ask? Peter explains,
“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.“
Peter gives us the key right in this passage! First, he tells us that we CAN participate in the Lord’s divine nature because He has given us His very great and precious promises! We can and should be participating in them! Not by participating in the corruption of this world through evil desires, but we should be making every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. Why does he push this line of thinking?
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the whole reason pastors preach every Sunday. This is the goal of every Sunday School teacher. They want to see you grow in increasing measure and to keep from being ineffective and unproductive in your walks with the Lord, and self-control is foundational to that kind of growth in Christ. They want you to learn to walk in step with the Holy Spirit so that His fruit, as it’s made manifest in all of our lives, would bear all of the characteristics mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Self-control can and should be applied to growing all the characteristics.
In the last post in this series, we’ll take a final look at how and why those characteristics called “Fruit of the Spirit” are so important in our lives.