By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
We have come to the final fruit of the Spirit and it is self-control. As I have been meditating on it, I have asked myself the following questions: “why is self-control the last of the fruit?” “Is there any significance in the order that they are listed?” Well, while I cannot give a definitive answer to these questions, there does seem to be a strong argument at least for the “bookends” (first and last) being in their respective positions.
Love comes first. That is true in every aspect of the Christian experience. In the Gospel, John 3:16 reads, “For God so LOVED the world that He gave…. His Son…” and in the Christian’s interaction with the lost, as found in Luke 10:27, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, (i.e. love God first – spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually) and your neighbor as yourself.” The truth is that without love, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, I am NOTHING! So, love makes all the other fruits possible, because without love nothing else is genuine.
Likewise, I believe that self-control is the perfect other side of the bank of the fruit of the Spirit “river” that (hopefully) freely flows in our lives as Believers. A river with only one bank (i.e. “love” in this case) is not a river at all but rather just a swamp or marsh. Another bank is required in a river to keep the waters flowing, to keep them contained and effective. Self-control is that “river bank” of the fruits of the Spirit. Without it, the other fruits lose their effectiveness, and even identity. Self-control is required to show true Godly love, necessary to define genuine joy, essential to recognizing peace, a prerequisite for patience, and the absolute boundary that gives kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness credibility. Without self-control, the other fruits, regardless of how much they mean to you, are wasted. Loss of self-control makes the other fruits unbelievable, simply running off into the “swamp” of just another hypocrite.
The truth is that lack of control is what is in the natural man. Take, for instance, a temper tantrum: frustrating but acceptable in a small child, but ridiculous and damaging in a grown adult in the workplace! Paul outlines in painful detail the frightening results of a total lack of self-control in the previous three verses to our passage found in Galatians 5. To navigate the “river” of this life, I submit that if you follow the path that is defined by the “riverbanks” of LOVE and SELF-CONTROL, then the other fruit of the sweet Holy Spirit will be both evident and revealed in our lives!!