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Sabbath School Lessons on Fruit of the Spirit
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 40 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 10: The Fruit of the Spirit is Self-Control *
Introduction: For just a moment contemplate Galatians 5:22: "But the
fruit of the Spirit is ... self-control." Isn't this a logical
contradiction? The "Spirit" is the Holy Spirit, God's Spirit. If God
is giving me control, how can it be called "SELF-control?" Does the
Spirit give me big muscles and then send me off to control myself?
Clearly, the people who argue that my works are important, are on to
something here. What, I'm not sure. As always, let's dive into our
study of the Bible and try to figure out what this self-control
stuff all about!
- Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-25. What is the crown "that will
last forever?" (Paul is taking about going to Heaven. He
is talking about eternal life.)
- Is going to Heaven really like the Boston Marathon
race - you have one winner? Or, one winner in each
class?(No. Otherwise, Moses crossed the finish line
before we were born!)
- If Paul's analogy is not perfect, what is his point?
(At a minimum, Paul is teaching us that we need to
take seriously our training on the road to heaven.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. Paul gives us two more
analogies: running like you are clueless about the
location of the finish line; and, a boxing contest in
which you don't realize you are supposed to hit the other
guy. Does strength have anything to do with either of
these problems? (No. You can be the fastest runner and
the hardest hitter and still have these problems.)
- What would be the fix for these kinds of problems?
What kind of "training" is Paul suggesting? (Bad
weather has discouraged me from riding my bicycle to
work, so I've started exercising using video games.
One of them involves putting your foot at the
precise moment on the precise point. It took me a
while to figure out what I was supposed to be doing.
I think Paul's point is that we have to understand
the goal of the contest. We have to understand what
moves are needed.)
- Paul talks about being "disqualified" from the
prize. What is the barrier to getting the prize?
(Paul writes about beating his body. It must be that
we need to get our body in line with the goal.)
- What happens if we do not get our body in line?
(Since the prize is heaven, Paul is saying our
salvation is at stake!)
- So far we have seen that Paul teaches us that we need a
goal and we need to get our body in line with that goal.
What is that goal? (I think we need to press on to the
next chapter. A chapter division did not exist in Paul's
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. Did these people have a goal?
(Yes. The promised land.)
- They were baptized, ate spiritual food and drink,
and "drank" from Christ. Do these things sound like
reasonable actions for self-control? (Yes.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:5. Paul tells to go into strict
training to get our body in line with the goal, and now
we see people whose bodies are "scattered over the
desert" even though they did these proper things. Can you
make any sense out of what Paul is saying?
- Let's see if Paul will help us out. Read 1 Corinthians
10:6. What was the problem? (Their hearts were set on
evil things. They had a goal problem.)
- What was the goal of the runner running aimlessly?
The boxer punching in the air?(They did not have any
goals. Or, if they had goals, their goals did not
make any sense. Paul's training is about setting
goals: have some and make sure they are righteous.)
- Right Goals
- Let's further explore the issue of our training goals.
Read 1 Corinthians 10:7. How would you describe this
training goal? (Worship only God.)
- Is this a goal on which we can engage in "strict
training?" (It takes self-control to trust God and
give Him first place, rather than trusting myself
and giving myself first place. We need to say to
self, "Get out of the way!")
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:8. How would you describe this
goal? (Sexual purity.)
- Is this a goal on which we can engage in strict
training? (This is an area in which I can clearly
see goals and training. A recent speaker at Regent
University said the first step towards love is to
spend time with someone. If you are spending lots of
time with someone who is not your spouse, beware!
If you are spending time with porn, you are training
for the wrong goal. Billy Graham has a rule that he
is never alone in a room with a woman who is not his
wife. He had goal-oriented rules.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:9. What does it mean to "test the
- Read Numbers 21:4-6. This is the event to which Paul
is referring. How would you describe this sin? (They
were not trusting God. They were not giving God
credit. They were looking at the negative side of
- How could this be a training goal? (Give God
credit! Do not look at the negative side of
- Is this a goal on which we can engage in "strict
training?" (Isn't this the essence of keeping self
in check: to accept God's plan, to give Him credit
and to trust Him?)
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:10. How would you describe this as
a training goal? (Don't complain.)
- Is this a goal on which we can engage in "strict
training?" (It takes self-control to stop
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:11. Can you see a pattern here in
these warnings? (Except for the sexual immorality issue
(which also had a pagan worship aspect) these all seem to
have to do with our relationship to God. Do we trust God
and give Him first place, do we give Him credit, do we
praise Him rather than grumbling? These are our goals. We
need to beat our body (more likely our brain) into
submission on these topics by strict training.)
- Grace and Works
- If you believe in righteousness by faith, are you getting
a little nervous about the idea that we can beat our
brains into submission? If you are not, I am! Read Romans
5:1-5. Where, in this sequence, do we find beating our
brains into submission? (We are justified by faith in
Jesus, but the life of the Christian is a progression
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:13. What does this suggest about
your role and God's role when it comes to temptation and
self-control in your life? God places a cap on the
temptation so that successful resistance is possible. God
provides a way out of the temptation. My role is to
resist temptation to the extent of my ability. To look
for the door God provides as a way out of the
- What does this teach us about the nature of self-control? (There is a SELF in "self-control." Being
saved by grace is just the beginning of the walk
with God. We are not entitled to lay down and rest
thereafter, instead we are involved in a team effort
with God to live a life reflecting His goals.
Failing to engage in that effort may mean we lose
the prize ( 1 Corinthians 9:27).)
- Read Colossians 3:1-3. What suggestion does this give us
for resisting temptation? What goal are we given? (To
set our hearts on the things that God desires. To explore
what God has in mind.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:14. Remember that our first goal (1
Corinthians 10:7) was to put God first. What additional
advice does Paul give for achieving that goal? (Run away
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:15-17. What does the "loaf" have to
do with running away from idolatry? Do we need
carbohydrates to run? (Paul points to the symbols of
salvation by faith, and in essence says "Idolatry gets in
the way of relying on Jesus' sacrifice on your behalf!")
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:18-22. How are grace and works
described in these verses? (Paul is arguing the very
close connection between grace and works. If your works
are "sacrifices" to Satan, how can you claim to be
accepting grace? Our works should line up, to the best of
our abilities, with the "table" at which we eat. If we
eat at the Lord's table (an analogy to Communion and thus
grace), we need to have goals and training (self control)
that is consistent with eating at that table.)
- Friend, Paul is the strongest advocate in the Bible of
salvation by faith alone, but we can see in these texts
that the Christian life is a team effort in which
righteous goals need to be set and maximum effort applied
to meet those goals. God will not let our sin problems
get out of hand, but we are called to a life of self-control. Will you commit to getting off your spiritual
coach and start training for right living?
- Next week: The Fruit of the Spirit is Righteousness.
* Copr. 2010, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.