There is a relation among these 9 spiritual traits suggested in their generally accepted meanings by scholars. There is a sense in which one trait supports the next from temperance to love—more so, than love to temperance—by seeing each trait as a necessary nuance descriptive of the next. This is to say that without temperance, meekness is hindered in its efforts and, in turn, faith (faithfulness) requires a proper meekness to be real in the believer’s life.
Temperance, in the dictionary, is defined everywhere in a secular sense, “self-control, to force one’s self to do something, to exercise control over, be master of, with a strong hand.” With the possible exception of Paul’s use of the word in Acts 24:251 in conversation with Felix, this definition would contradict grace which is here God’s gift of temperance in order than by His empowering grace we can live for Him. “The life which I now live in the flesh,”2 Paul testified, “I live by the faith[fulness]3 of the Son of God” [Galatians 2:20].
It is important to understand why this word, here. Peter saw temperance as a link in another chain connecting a true knowledge of Christ with a Christian life lived victoriously over sin leading to godliness.
“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness” [2 Peter 1:6].
So even here Paul speaks of a conscious and determined resolve to support a passion for Christ. As Paul said it to the Corinthian church, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” [1 Corinthians 9:27]. There is a sense in which, first things first, we, as persons of faith, must recognize in some fundamental way the efficacy, the empowerment, of the grace of God to enable us to live for Him.
“For I know that in me,” Paul argued, “(that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing” [Romans 7:18].
So, Paul urged us, because of Calvary,
“Reckon .. also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:11].
He could unconditionally encourage us to
“Put on the new man, .. renewed … after the image of him that created him” [Colossians 3:10]. And then 2 verse later “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;” [Colossians 3:12]. Three of these traits are “Fruit of the Spirit.”
Temperance at War Against Carnality
Putting on Christ is a euphemism, how-be-it most real, for temperance. The commentaries correctly see this word used in contrast to the sins listed in the works of the flesh. All spiritually destructive activity, thoughts, and abusive speaking, Paul lists under the general heading of “The flesh” as carnality. Elsewhere in my commentary on Romans I do a deep dive into this word, carnality, but in brief, carnality is a selfishness void of love of others. I distinguish between “need” and “want” in this regard, for, as humans, the body [which is the flesh] needs satisfaction and fulfillment [needs to be fed], but this is given in some level of community or in a relationship: marriage, family, fellowship, God. But carnality takes what it wants and is never satisfied, Carnality seeks only gratification. Carnality is always and only selfish and a lover of self. Christ enlightens us to note the difference and to honor the body but not carnality [even though the Bible, like most languages used one word for both}.
Temperance is the Spirit’s work in us, not to destroy human desire [the flesh]4 but to control it. What Jesus destroyed on Calvary was the devil’s work. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil”[1 John 3:8]. A study of carnality links it with selfish want or desires and not human or physical need, else, it would be a sin to eat! Carnality must be understood and addressed first and foremost before we can begin to build Christian character that is ultimately capable of a supreme and all inclusive godly love.We begin with the Fruit of Temperance, a little appreciated gift of Grace. This is grace at work.
We have only begun to appreciate this beautiful grace. Temperance is more than “self-control” Temperance is not willpower but “grace-power.” Temperance becomes a natural expression in Christian community void of all carnality or selfishness.
The Fruit of The Spirit: Part 1
The fruit of the Spirit Part 3: Meekness to Love
2 Is is significant that Paul added these words, though they are redundant (Paul having used the word “now”). The flesh is the seat of all selfishness and carnality outside of Christ. This truth is significant in our study of temperance.
3 Faith in Christ is trust in His trustworthiness. Both translations: faith or faithfulness are allowed. Since faith is faithfulness, that is, is a term of relation for which we use the word trust, we cannot view one meaning here without the other.
4 The phrase destroy the flesh is a Stoic idea not supported in Scripture.