Walking By The Spirit!
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Gal. 5:26
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Gal. 5:25
Dear Reader, the phrase “walk by the Spirit” occurs not only in Gal. 5:25 but also in verse 16, that is, “But I say, walk by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” So here we see what the opposite of walking by the Spirit is, namely, giving in to the desires of the flesh. Remember, “flesh” is the old, ordinary human nature that does not relish the things of God and prefers to get satisfaction from independence, power, prestige, and worldly pleasures.
When we “walk by the Spirit,” we are not controlled by those drives. This is what Gal.5:17 means: the flesh produces one kind of desires, and the Spirit produces another kind, and they are opposed to each other. Walking by the Spirit is what we do when the desires produced by the Spirit are stronger than the desires produced by the flesh. This means that “walking by the Spirit” is not something we do in order to get the Spirit’s help, but rather, just as the phrase implies, it is something we do by the enablement of the Spirit.
Ultimately, all the good inclinations or preferences or desires that we have are given by the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit we are mere flesh. And Paul said in Rom. 7:18 “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” Apart from the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, none of our inclinations or desires is holy or good, “for the mind of the flesh is hostile to God’s law and does not submit to it because it cannot” Rom. 8:7.
The new birth is the Holy Spirit coming in to our lives to create a whole new desires, love, yearnings and longings. And when these desires are stronger than the opposing desires of the flesh, then we are “walking by the Spirit.” For we always act according to our strongest desires.
Therefore, “walking by the Spirit” is something the Holy Spirit enables us to do by producing in us strong desires that accord with God’s will. This is what God said He would do in Ezek. 36:26-27. “A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you . . . I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statute”
Thus when we “walk by the Spirit,” we experience the fulfillment of this prophecy. The Holy Spirit produces in us desires for God’s way that are stronger than our fleshly desires, and thus He causes us to walk in God’s statutes.
Led By The Spirit And Not Under Law – Gal. 5:18
This, then, explains the two parts of the next verse in Gal. 5:18, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” . “Walking by the Spirit” and “being led by the Spirit” refer to the same thing. “Being led by the Spirit” stresses the Spirit’s initiative and enablement. “Walking by the Spirit” stresses our resulting behavior. The Spirit leads us by creating desires to obey God, and we walk by fulfilling those desires in action. This explains, then, why we are not “under the law,” as verse 18 says. “If you are led by the Spirit (i.e., led by Him to obey the law), then you are not under law.” You are not “under law” in two senses.
First, you are not under the law’s condemnation because you are fulfilling the just requirement of the law. That’s what Paul meant in Rom. 8:4 where he said that Christ died “in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit.” When you walk by the Spirit, you fulfill the basic requirement of the law and so you are not under its condemnation.
The second sense in which we are not under law when we “walk by the Spirit” or are “led by the Spirit” is that then we don’t feel the burden of the law demanding of us what we have no desire to do. When the Spirit is leading us by producing godly desires, then the commands of God are not a burden but a joy. So in that sense too, walking by the Spirit frees us from being under the law. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” 2Cor. 3:17.
Works Of The Flesh And Fruit Of The Spirit – Gal. 5:19-24
Now, if we look at Gal. 5:19-24, which follow, we will find one more expression about the Spirit which confirms and expands what we have seen so far about “walking by the Spirit.” In these verses Paul contrasts the “works of the flesh” (19–21) with the “fruit of the Spirit” (22–23). The opposite of doing the “works of the flesh” is “bearing the fruit of the Spirit.”
My friend, this is exactly the same contrast we saw in Gal. 5:16: “Walk by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The “works of the flesh” are what you do when you “gratify the desires of the flesh.” The “fruit of the Spirit” is what appears in your life when you “walk by the Spirit.” Therefore what we have in these verses are the images of the Spirit’s work in our life: “walking by the Spirit” in verse 16, “being led by the Spirit” in verse 18, and bearing “the fruit of the Spirit” in verse 22.
Why does Paul refer to the “fruit of the Spirit” instead of the “works of the Spirit” to match “works of the flesh”? In view of what we have seen so far, I think the reason is that Paul wants to avoid giving any impression that what the Spirit produces is our work. It is not our work; it is His fruit. What we do when we walk by the Spirit is simply fulfill the desires produced by the Spirit. Therefore, just like the phrase “led by the Spirit,” so also the phrase “fruit of the Spirit” stresses the Spirit’s initiative and enablement to fulfill God’s law.
In view of the sovereignty of the Spirit who leads us where He wills by the stronger desires He creates within us, what should we do? What practical things are involved in obeying the command, “Walk by the Spirit”?
Five Steps Toward Walking By the Spirit
Let me conclude by mentioning five things that I think we must do so that it can be truly said that we are walking by the Spirit.
- Acknowledge – First, we must acknowledge from our hearts that we are helpless to do good apart from the enablement of the Holy Spirit. As Paul says in Rom. 7:18, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” What did Jesus mean when He said in John 15:5, “Without me you can do nothing”? Of course we can do something without Jesus: we can sin! But that’s all we can do. So, the first step of walking by the Spirit is: admit this fact and let it have its devastating effect on our pride. We cannot do anything pleasing to God without the constant enablement of the Spirit.
- Pray – Second, since it is promised in Ezek. 36:27 that God will put His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His statutes, pray that He do it to you by His almighty power. Therefore, let us pray like Paul did in 1 Thes. 3:12 for that chief fruit of the Spirit: “Now may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men.” And let’s pray like the writer to the Hebrews did in Heb.13:21: “And now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ. Above all, we must pray. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” Psa. 51:10.
- Trust – The third step involved in walking by the Spirit is faith. We must believe that since we have come under the gracious sway of God’s Spirit, “sin will no longer have dominion over us” Rom. 6:14. This confidence is what Paul meant by “reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to God” Rom. 6:11. We simply count on it that the Spirit who made us alive when we were dead in sin wills our holiness and has the power to achieve what He wills.
Caution: do not prejudge the timing of the Holy Spirit’s work. Why He liberates one person overnight but brings another to freedom through months of struggle is a mystery concealed for now from our eyes.
- Act – The fourth step in walking by the Spirit after you have acknowledged your helplessness without Him, prayed for His enablement, and trusted in His deliverance is to act the way you know is right. Notice: this is not step number one. If this were step number one, all our actions would be works of the flesh, not fruit of the Spirit. Paul says in Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. A person who has acknowledged his helplessness, prayed for God’s enablement to do right, and yielded himself confidently to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit has this astonishing incentive to do righteousness, namely, the confidence that, whatever righteous act he does, it is God almighty who is at work in him giving him the will and the power to do it – Phil. 2:12 -13
- Thank – The final step in walking by the Spirit is to thank God for any virtue attained or any good deed performed. If without the Spirit we can do no right, then we must not only ask His enablement for it but also thank Him whenever we do it. For example, in 2 Cor. 8:16, Paul says, “Thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.” Titus loved the Corinthians. Where did that come from? God puts it in his heart. It was the fruit of the Spirit. So what does Paul do? He thanks God. And should Titus do as well? “Thanks be to God who puts love in our hearts!” Do the same always!
My friend, in conclusion, “If we live by the Spirit, then let us also walk by the Spirit.” Let us acknowledge from our hearts that we are unable to please God without the Spirit’s constant enablement. Let us pray for that enablement. Let us trust confidently in the Spirit’s power and promise to give that enablement. Then let us do what we know is right. And having done it, let us turn and say with all the saints, “Not I, but the Spirit of Christ within me.” Thanks be to God! To Him be glory forever and ever! Amen. By so doing, we are walking in the Spirit. Remain blessed!
Jesus is Lord!
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