Continency

CONTINENCY (έγκρατεύομαι, to have self control or restraint).

Continency is a word appearing in the KJV to tr. the terms temperate and temperance (Acts 24:25; 1 Cor 7:9; 9:25; Gal 5:23; Titus 1:8; 2 Pet 1:6). Modern trs. employ the term “self-control.”

This term was taken over from the Stoic philosophers by Paul and becomes descriptive of one facet of the Christian life. It appears in three different kinds of contexts.

First, έγκρατεύομαι is used by Paul in drawing an analogy between the Christian life and that of an athlete (1 Cor 9:25), and the emphasis is upon the seriousness of the Christian life. Paul believed that one’s commitment to God should be the great motivating passion of his life. To maintain this commitment in the face of competing values called for the exercise of self-control. Paul cited the example of the single-minded purpose of the athlete as an example of this kind of self-control.

Secondly, the term appears in substantival form in the lists of the “fruits of the spirit” (Gal 5:23). Self-control is the final one listed, love the first. If love is the overarching virtue, then self-control is the foundation virtue upon which the others are built. Unlike the Stoic philosophers from whom the term is borrowed, Paul did not see self-control as something one achieved through his own effort; rather, it is a quality which God produced in the life of the believer.

Thirdly, Paul was not always the theologian setting forth ethical “oughts”; he was also the practical pastor. Paul realized (1 Cor 7:9) that all Christians would not have the same level of sexual self-control which he possessed. Consequently he counseled them to marry if they found sexual abstinence unbearable.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(egkrateuomai "to have self-control" or "continency" the Revised Version (British and American), "to contain" the King James Version): Paul, although he would that all men were like himself unmarried, yet advises that they should marry if they cannot control their sexual passions, and hold them in complete subjection to Christian motives (1Co 7:9). The same Greek verb is used in 1Co 9:25, and translated "is temperate" (the King James Version and the English Revised Version) of the athlete who during the period of training abstains from all indulgence in food, ’drink, and sexual passion. For the general principle as expressed in substantive egkrateia (Ac 24:25; Ga 5:23; 2Pe 1:6) and adjective egkrates (Tit 1:8) see Temperance, Temperate.