Introduction: Is temperance the right goal for a Christian? My old
Webster’s dictionary tells me that the word temperance comes from
the Latin for “moderation.” The new Merriam-Webster dictionary
defines it as “moderation in action, thought or feeling.” I hear
Christians say that they are “sold-out for Jesus.” Preachers tell
me that I must give my heart 100% to Jesus. This is consistent with
Deuteronomy 10:12 which tells me to serve God with “all” my heart
and soul. It seems to me that 50% of my heart and soul would be more
in accord with the goal of the moderate, temperate person. 100%
seems a little extreme if moderation is the goal! Let’s move
cautiously into our study of the Bible and find out if temperance is
truly God’s goal for our life!
- Christian Leaders
- Read 1 Timothy 3:1. What is the “highest” office in your
church? (Some Bibles translate the word “overseer” as
“bishop,” “elder,” or “pastor.”)
- Would it be sinful to want to hold that highest
office? (The context suggests this is a proper
- Read 1 Timothy 3:2. What do we learn about temperance and
holding the highest office in the church? (Being
“temperate” is a requirement.)
- If someone had, say, ten wives, then that might be a
little extreme. Isn’t it just as extreme to have
only one wife, as opposed to a more moderate three?
(We learn from this that the way the Bible uses the
term “temperate” might not be the same way we use
the term “moderate.” The Bible takes the “extreme”
one wife standard.)
- Read 1 Timothy 3:8-9. Deacons are the next level of
leadership. Are they to be temperate?
- Is there anything temperate about holding the “deep
truths of the faith with a clear conscience?” (This
suggests that the deacon knows the truth and then
obeys it. This does not suggest a moderate approach
- Moderate Christian Followers?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3. What topic is the Bible
discussing? (The end of the world.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7. In this context, if you were
to be moderate, you would be in favor of twilight, right?
- If I told you someone never slept, would you
consider that temperate? (No.)
- Is God telling us not to sleep?
- If you say “no,” then is God also not
discussing getting drunk? (God is not talking
about sleep or drunkenness, He is talking to us
about being alert. A person who is asleep or
drunk is not alert.)
- What, exactly, is God telling us about temperance?
(He is telling us to be alert and self-controlled.
When we think about temperance, we need to think
- Read Revelation 3:14-16. Are these temperate, moderate,
people? (Yes. Luke-warm is the picture of moderation.)
- Before you reach a firm conclusion about moderation, read
1 Corinthians 9:20-23. What does this suggest about
moderation? (Paul seems to change with the crowd – the
- Read Romans 14:19-23. Are standards to be sacrificed for
the sake of peace? Isn’t this the picture of moderation?
(It seems so.)
- We’ve gone through a number of Bible texts, some seem to
promote moderation, others say moderation is terrible.
How can we determine what situation requires moderation
and what situation requires “extremism?” (Read Romans
14:1. We have to decide what matters to God. On
disputable matters we need to be moderate. On matters of
growing faith for others, we need to avoid condemnation.
On things that matter – like promoting the gospel, we
need to be “hot,” we need to be extreme.)
- The Path to Temperance
- Read 2 Peter 1:5-8. What kind of list is this? (It is a
progressive list of Christian attributes.)
- Where do we start? (With faith! The text assumes
that we have faith because it says to “add to” your
- Does it make sense to start with faith? (Read John
11:25-27. Faith in Jesus as God is foundational.)
- Look again at 2 Peter 1:5-8. What is added next?
- Has goodness anything to do with temperance?
(Goodness must refer to actions. Temperance
refers to actions. God is asking us early on in
our Christian experience to have good actions.
To have a positive attitude towards others.
This means moderation in condemnation on
- Does it make sense to you that “knowledge” would be
added after goodness? How can you be good without
knowledge? (This is a call to understand God’s will
with regard to our actions. Just being good is not
sufficient. We need to know how best to act to help
- Why would “self-control” and “perseverance”
logically come next? (Faith is a belief in Jesus.
Goodness is a kind attitude towards those around us.
Knowledge, is an understanding of what God would
have us to do. Self-control and perseverance,
involve putting in place those things taught to us.)
- Do you think that self-control and perseverance
would be included in what the Bible calls
temperance? (Yes. We see that the Bible equates
self-control with temperance. Perseverance is
extended self-control. These calls to persist
in living a temperate life are next to the most
important step in the ladder of life.)
- How do you explain that love is last step in the list?
(This suggests that it is the most difficult to add to
our Christian character. It involves a conversion of the
heart to the greatest extent. This is not seem to be a
- Examples For Christians
- Read Genesis 6:9-10. What kind of man was Noah?
(Righteous and blameless.)
- I’ll assume that you know the story of Noah and the
flood. If not, read Genesis 6:11-9:17.
- Read Genesis 9:20-22. Why would Ham tell his brothers
about the condition of his father? (He wanted them to
laugh at their father. This would decrease the stature of
a man the Bible called righteous and blameless.)
- Read Genesis 9:23. How did Noah’s other sons treat him?
(With love and respect. They took steps to retain the
dignity of their father. They were not like Ham, who took
steps to increase his father’s shame.)
- Read Genesis 9:24-27. Now we get to the hard issues.
Isn’t Noah the one at fault? He got drunk, no one made
him do it. If Noah is at fault, why does the son of Ham
- Let’s think back to our conclusions about the Bible
and moderation. How would you apply those lessons
here? (We must always ask “What is important? What
matters to God? What will promote the gospel? In the
ladder of Christian character, love was at the top.
Ham and his son were not showing love and respect to
Noah, a righteous man of God. This mattered much
more to God than Noah getting drunk.)
- What logic is there to the curse and the blessings?
(Slavery degrades a person. Ham (and apparently
Canaan) were degrading Noah. Thus, the curse imposes
the same type of harm.)
- What lessons should we to learn from this? (It is
important to be able to decide when “moderation” is
required and when “standing firm” is required. We
need to “stand firm” on love and respect. Another
important lesson that we must not miss is that
alcohol opens the door to being humiliated. Finally,
an important motive for love is that God’s system of
justice has a “pay back” aspect to it. See
- Friend, in the past have you stood strong when it
mattered and been moderate when the issues didn’t matter
very much? If you think you might not have gotten it
right in the past, ask the Holy Spirit, right now, to
convict you about God’s priorities.
- Next week: Integrity: Wholeness and Holiness.