top of page


Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law, Galatians 5:23.

Most fundamentalists quickly define temperance as self control. This was no great intellectual feat for them, they merely looked up the definition in Strong's Concordance. For three generations or more, James Strong, Unitarian in doctrine, heretic and enemy of righteousness has dictated to the saints what he wanted them to believe a word meant. In limiting the definition of temperance to "self control", Strong limited the ability of God's people to get the full understanding of that word.

Our King James Bible is a rich book. Part of its richness is the marvel of its choice of words. Greek and Hebrew are like English and every other language, every word has nuances of meanings. The King James translators knew far more than the school boy's quick definition for each word they encountered. They also knew the fullness of meaning that each word could convey in a multitude of contexts. They then translated that word with an equivalent English word which would give the readers that same fullness of meaning. They also sprinkled their work with many variations of most words to give the diligent student a guide as to their meanings.

From where I type I can see the road in front of my house which is frequented by Amish buggies. The horses pulling those buggies and wagons are usually fitted with blinders. For those who don't know what blinders are, they are tough leather squares attached to the horse's bridle to keep them from seeing what is beside them. They can only look straight ahead. Strong's Greek and Hebrew dictionaries in the back of his concordance works that way with preachers. All they see for the definitions of words are the narrow little definitions that Strong has set before them. The richness of the King James Bible's vocabulary is hidden from them.

Temperance means more than self control. The word appears in a few different forms in your bible. Cakes unleavened tempered with oil, Exodus 29:2. And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy, Exodus 30:5. In each of those verses we see temper used to describe getting the right mixture as they mixed the ointment of the apothecary or the cakes for the meat offering. We see that definition again in Ezekiel 46:14, and the third part of an hin of oil, to temper with the fine flour. To make such cakes or to make such ointment took more than just mixing two elements together. They had to be tempered.

It took someone who knew how and when to mix just the right amounts together. The apothecary or the baker needed temperance to temper their products. Yes, that included self control, but that self control needed the wisdom to know when an element should be added, just how long something should be stirred, and just exactly what were the right amounts of each ingredient.

I have known preachers who would never allow a television into their homes. (My wife and I raised 8 children without a television.) That may be a sign of temperance, but it could be fear of their peers or legalism. A temperate man would know what amounts of television is safe and what is not. He would get the mixture right. Every home would be different. I have known good preachers who could keep a television hooked up in their living rooms and keep a perfectly temperate mixture of watching only wholesome or educational shows without introducing the leaven of sexual or disgusting content.

Temperance is part of the fruit of the Spirit. A Spirit filled person does not shun things out of legalism or a fear of man. If a Spirit filled person has taken something out of his or her life it is because they cannot temper their spiritual life in its fullness with that thing in their life. Is self control involved in that? Of course it is, but self control can be involved in cultish abstinences or legalistic fear. Biblical temperance occurs when a person filled with the Spirit of God mixes the ingredients of life together in such a way that the joys of this life can come through without quenching the Spirit of God or wounding the conscience of others.

There are many factors that have dulled the effectiveness of the King James Bible in our churches. Simplistic and misleading definitions from Greek and Hebrew dictionaries have played a large part. If James Strong was alive today he would never be allowed in the pulpit of a bible believing church. Nevertheless, he is a secret advisor whose influence can be heard in countless pulpits as some preacher quotes his definitions. Learn to study the meanings of words from within the text. The translators left us a rich book which you will never exhaust in your lifetime.

Ecc 12:12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecc 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

220 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All


In times past when I've presented myself with the challenge of selecting a single word to represent my understanding of spiritual temperance, the answer that most often takes precedence is "balance".

bottom of page