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

      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

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

      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

    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

      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.