We have so far covered our foundation of faith, and started building on that with God’s own goodness, and knowledge. Now, we are to add temperance. This is the Greek word, “egkrateia” which simply means the strength to control your flesh. (I have added a more in-depth look at the distinctions between the NIV and the KJV regarding the word “self-control” at the end for those of you who like a little more meat in your spiritual diet, but in this instance, both versions agree on the translation.)
This word is pretty straight forward. It requires a conscious choice on my part to maintain control of my flesh. The good news is that self-control is a fruit of The Spirit—Gal. 5:22, so although I am responsible for making the choice and effort, I know that I’m not expected to do this by my own power.
Indeed, “The joy of The Lord is my strength.”—Nehemiah 8:10.
And what gives Him joy is my acknowledging that I can’t do it without Him. We all have our weaknesses. Without them we would never recognize our need for our Savior. Some of us have been programmed from a very early age to behave in a certain way or think a certain way (especially about ourselves) because of things people have done to us, or taught us.
It’s funny that the beginning of the verse quoted from Nehemiah above says, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks . . .” because that is exactly what my weakness has been all my life. Losing my appetite, when I was dealing with a tumor and the resulting surgeries, and medications, was torture for me, since food has always been my source of comfort. But it helped me find my ultimate source of comfort in God.
Now I know that I can call on Him when I am tired, hurting, sad, stressed . . . , and He will give me the strength I need. And, when I fall (notice I said when and not IF,) there is no condemnation in my Father. I just reach out to Him, and He pulls me up, and together we begin again.
God is bigger than any addiction, craving, or habit, and as long as we stay focused on Him, He is faithful to deliver us. Like all of the attributes we are to add to our faith, self-control is grounded in and contingent on that faith. And, like any muscle, the more we use it, the stronger it gets. Thank you, Jesus!
Now, for a little T-bone steak.
When I do a serious study of The Word, I sit down with The Holy Spirit, my NIV, King James Companion Bible, Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew/Greek Interlinear Bible, and sometimes my King James Prophecy Bible, depending on what I’m studying.
Don’t be. In the last installment, I wrote about not taking any man’s word on what the scriptures say, and I don’t. The English language may have more words than any other modern language used today, but it still can’t come close to the beauty, complexity, and preciseness of the Hebrew and Greek. These languages don’t merely communicate, they paint vivid pictures.
For me, nothing is more important than knowing the heart of God, so I dig for it like buried treasure. I want to know exactly what He said and how he said it. What was the context? Where did He place the emphasis?
While the NIV may be more readable, to most people today, it falls short of conveying the truth in most cases. There are some that say this was done by design to make the Bible less offensive, which, if true, is hysterical since Jesus himself is “The Rock of Offense”—Isaiah 8:14.
Whatever the reason, some of the interpretation of the NIV changes the meaning of the original text completely, and this word (self-control) is an excellent example. (I must add that there are also verses where the NIV does give a more clear interpretation, which is why I don’t disregard it entirely.)
The word “egkrateia” (temperance or self-control) appears only three times in the original text, yet, if you do a search on the word self-control in the NIV, you will find it much more frequently. Of course since this is Greek, I’m talking about the New Testament, here.
If you cross reference these verses with the KJV, you will find that self-control has been used in place of the word “sober” in some cases. In fact, you will only find “sober” once in the NIV New Testament.
There are three root words in the Greek which are translated “self-control” in the NIV: “sophron” meaning of sound or safe mind; “nepho” meaning literally to abstain from wine, and figuratively to be discreet and watch; and “choros” meaning a ring or round dance, which is where we get our “choir.”
So, you can see how easily but drastically the meaning of scripture can change through translation. Just sayin’.
God’s grace and peace be yours,