In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul speaks of the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a Christian. One of the things that has always stood out to me is what the King James translates as “temperance.” This word has the idea of self-control and the ability to withhold ones appetites. Too often, we sin or we see others around us fall prey to the temptations that they face because they are unable to guard their own hearts and they are unable to temper their own lustful appetites.
In Ephesians 5:3-5, Paul warns believers against living lifestyles that include this boundless fulfillment of fleshly appetites. The Christian who has been transformed and who has been empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a holy life of obedience to God does not have to slavishly return to the tugging and nagging desires of their flesh.
As Paul continues the explanation of “be imitators of God,” he explains that those who follow after God do not give in to the unbridled passions of their carnal minds. Rather, with vigor, they seek to eradicate these things from themselves.
In the pre-Christian context of Ephesus, the sins that these believers faced are the same ones that our culture now hotly pursues in our post-Christian context. In an “anything goes” world, the lines of moral absolute are blurred and many Christian adults and young people convince themselves that although Scripture seems to condemn sexual immorality, since culture condones it, then Scripture must be archaic and irrelevant.
Instead of warring to become more like Christ and imitators of God, these who are self-deceived pursue every curiosity and every possible deviance that their mind can contrive. As culture continues to establish norms in their lives, those Christians with little to no self-control roll along accepting every violation of God’s morality that they possibly can, all the while convincing themselves that they are “normal” because they are acting in ways that are consistent with the world around them.
Christians must realize that culture has lost its sanity. Instead of accepting the sweeping tide of immorality and placating their own fleshly desires, Christians should strive to find victory over the temptations that they face daily. Continuing his indictment against the corruption of culture, and his call for the distinction of the Christian, Paul includes a few more things that many Christians have convinced themselves are acceptable.
Covetousness, filthy speaking, evil joking, and idolatry are all listed in the things that Paul says should “not once be named among you.” It is not ok to admit that it is wrong and still occasionally do it. Paul says rather, that those who are imitators of God, who strive to be holy, who would be called “saints” (v.3, literally “holy ones”), these Christians must not allow any place for these wicked things. Rather, where they see these things in their lives, they must strive to mortify these unbridled sins of the flesh and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to become truly self-controlled in all areas of their lives.
Reflect: What is the difference between being self-controlled and being self-righteous?