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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!

  1. Training

    1. 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.)

      1. 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!)

      2. 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.)

    2. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

      3. What happens if we do not get our body in line? (Since the prize is heaven, Paul is saying our salvation is at stake!)

    3. 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 original letter.)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. Did these people have a goal? (Yes. The promised land.)

      1. They were baptized, ate spiritual food and drink, and "drank" from Christ. Do these things sound like reasonable actions for self-control? (Yes.)

    5. 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?

    6. 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.)

      1. 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.)

  2. Right Goals

    1. 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.)

      1. 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!")

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 10:8. How would you describe this goal? (Sexual purity.)

      1. 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.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 10:9. What does it mean to "test the Lord?"

      1. 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 things.)

        1. How could this be a training goal? (Give God credit! Do not look at the negative side of things.)

      2. 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?)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 10:10. How would you describe this as a training goal? (Don't complain.)

      1. Is this a goal on which we can engage in "strict training?" (It takes self-control to stop complaining.)

    5. 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.)

  3. Grace and Works

    1. 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 towards righteousness.)

    2. 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 temptation.)

      1. 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).)

    3. 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.)

    4. 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 from idolatry!)

    5. 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!")

    6. 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.)

    7. 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?

  4. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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