[This article was taken from our book Sex and Scripture: A Biblical Study of Proper Sexual Behavior.]


God expects the Christian to exercise moral restraint. “Self control” is mentioned many times in Scripture. One of the Greek words used to communicate the idea that Christians are to be controlled and to exercise godly behavior is egkrateia, and it and its related words mean “power over oneself.” Egkrateia is translated “self control” in verses such as the following:

Galatians 5:22 and 23
(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
(23) gentleness and self-control [egkrateia]. Against such things there is no law.

In contrast to maintaining godly self control, there are words that refer to a lack of self control. Akrasia means “lack of self control” or “failure to control oneself.” 1 Corinthians 7:5 says people need to be careful lest Satan tempt them because of their “lack of self control,” and 2 Timothy 3:3 uses a closely related word when it says that in the last times people will be “without self control.” When people do not exercise godly self control or restraint, they engage in what the Greek text calls aselgeia, behavior that is completely lacking in moral restraint, and this commonly refers to or includes ungodly sexual behavior.

A number of verses mention aselgeia, and the sexual connotation is usually obvious in the context. Romans 13:13 says, “Let us behave decently…not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery (aselgeia). 2 Corinthians 12:21 says, “…I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin (porneia) and debauchery (aselgeia) in which they have indulged.” The NIV uses the word “debauchery” to translate the Greek word aselgeia, which is a good choice because the definition of debauchery is “extreme indulgence in sensual pleasure, intemperance.” The Lord knows that people have sexual desires, and becoming a Christian does not rid a person of his or her sexuality or desires. However, Christians are to exercise self control and not be “controlled” by the desire.

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