The Christian Walk: Lesson 14: Walk in the Spirit Part 1

The Christian Walk: Lesson 14: Walk in the Spirit

  1. Texts: Rom 8:4; Gal 5:16-26
  2. Background and Definitions
    1. The early church quickly came under the influence of the Judaizers, who sought to impose the restrictions of the OT law on NT believers (cf. Acts 15). The entire book of Galatians was written to counter this threat.
    2. Paul teaches very clearly that if one seeks to be justified by the law, he has “fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4). This is the true, biblical definition of legalism: seeking to be saved by obedience to the OT law, or adding works to faith as a requirement for salvation.
    3. Instead of retreating to the OT law, Paul urges believers to “walk in the Spirit.”
      1. God’s Holy Spirit who indwells the Christian will give divine energy to every step that is taken with the eye on Christ, and will give character to our walk if we are led by Him.[1]
      2. To walk in the Spirit is to walk in connection with the Spirit, to live a life energized by the Spirit.[2]
    4. The NT contrasts walking in the Spirit with walking “after/according to the flesh” (Rom 8:4) or fulfilling “the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
      1. To walk in/after/according to the flesh is to depend upon your own powers instead of living in dependence upon God. The “flesh” refers to the whole of our human nature … under the power of sin. In our flesh dwells no good: the mind of the flesh is at enmity against God.[3]
      2. To walk in/after/according to the flesh implies an unsaved condition. The works of the flesh characterize the person who “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (read Gal 5:19-21) and who is hostile toward God (read Rom 8:8). Practicing this kind of lifestyle is an indication that one is not under the Spirit’s control.
      3. Genuine Christians may temporarily live according to the flesh as well.

a)                  Living this way implies a retreat to the OT law (cf. Gal 5:18)

b)                  Living in the way implies a sinful self-reliance and dependence on one’s own will power for making spiritual progress. Read Gal 3:3.

c)                  Living this way implies dominion by the lust of the flesh.

d)                 Living in this way habitually and unrepentantly undermines one’s profession of faith and ultimately demonstrates that one is unsaved.

Christians may produce any or all of the works of the flesh but they do not practice them.[4] Every time we yield to temptation or live sinfully, we are in effect walking according to the flesh, at least in that instant.

Note the Quote: Our greatest danger in religion, the cause of our feebleness and failure, is our having confidence in the flesh, its wisdom and its work. To be pleasing to God, this flesh, with its self-will and self-effort, must entirely be dispossessed, to make way for the willing and the working of the Spirit of God.[5]

  1. The flesh and the Spirit are in a constant state of conflict against one another (Gal 5:17). The result is “you cannot do the things you want to do” (cf. Rom 7). The solution to this problem is to be “led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18) and to “yield yourselves unto God … and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom 6:13).
  2. When we are yielded to, and filled with, the Spirit, we are not doing the things that we would, that is, we are not fulfilling the desires of the flesh.[6] Thus, an evidence of walking in the Spirit is that the works of the flesh are not prominent or dominant our lives.
  3. The ideal of complete, sustained submission to the Spirit in every respect is not a realistic expectation. That is, we should not expect to achieve prolonged sinlessness or perfection this side of Glory. All Christians will continue to experience the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit in this life. Reaching a “higher plane” where we no longer yield to temptation is unrealistic. This does not provide an excuse for sin; it’s merely reality.
  4. Walking in/after/by the Spirit is essentially the same as being “led by the Spirit,” being “filled” with the Spirit, or being spiritual.
    1. Some suggest that the Spirit leads the Christian in a mysterious, mystical way, i.e., through still, small voices, promptings, gut feelings, “peace” or lack thereof, open or closed doors, signs, and the like. The Christian then has to decipher what God is trying to tell him and hopes that he has not misinterpreted these feelings and hints.
    2. A more practical and objective way to think of the filling/leading of the Spirit is to define it as yielding control of one’s life to the Spirit, which amounts to submitting to the Scripture (cf. Eph 5:18). The will of God is revealed in the Bible, which is inspired by the Spirit of God. The Christian’s responsibility is to apply the Bible with wisdom to his particular circumstances, trusting God to guide his steps (cf. Ps 37:23; Prov 16:9).
  5. Walking in the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26).[7]
    1. The fruits listed in the NT are representative rather than exhaustive. But any fruit will be in keeping with the others and consistent with NT teaching.
    2. These fruits are a cluster; “fruit” and not “fruits.” All of them should be present, at least to some degree, in every believer’s life.
    3. These fruits proceed from the Spirit. As a Christian is submitted to the Spirit (through the Word), the Spirit produces them in our lives.
    4. A list of the fruit
      1. Love (agape): unselfish, divine love that seeks the good of the one loved. Love should extend to everyone and to fellow believers in particular.
      2. Joy: the soul’s satisfaction in its union with God, as the greatest and highest good; with an actual rejoicing in Christ, and in what is for his honour and glory, called a rejoicing in the truth (1 Cor 13:6); and in the good of our brethren (Rom 12:15).[8]
      3.  Peace:

a)                  “Peace with God” (Rom 5:1) has to do with positional, external, permanent peace, describing the believer’s unchangeable relationship to God.

b)                  “The peace of God” (Phil 4:7) has to do with experiential, internal feelings of peace, based on the believer’s current relationship to God. This peace refers to the believer’s freedom from disquieting fears, agitating emotions, and distressful anxieties, and to the believer’s feeling of tranquility (quietness, calmness, stillness, and composure).

  1. Longsuffering: patience, perseverance; the ability to bear up under pressure without resorting to sinful reactions
  2. Gentleness: the quality of being quiet, tame, docile, pliable, mild, kind, and tender
  3. Goodness: the quality, not only of wishing others good, but also of doing others good. It is the virtue of bestowing upon others that which builds them up and not tears them down. It is the opposite of doing harm, or evil, to others.
  4. Faith: The Greek word may be translated faith or faithfulness. In Galatians 5:22, the sense seems to be that of “faithfulness” (fidelity, trustworthiness, steadfastness). Faithfulness is the quality of being faithful to God (in believing His truths and in keeping His commandments) and of being faithful to men (in fulfilling our duties toward them and in keeping our promises to them).
  5. Meekness: the quality of accepting our place in life without complaint, of receiving discipline without resentment, of accepting injustice without retaliation, of being willing to yield in non-essential things to prevent strife and division, and of being willing to give up our Christian liberties to win sinners and edify saints. Needless to say, meekness is not weakness.
  6. Temperance: The Greek word means self-control, having mastery over the desires (appetites, passions) of the mind and the body. Temperance includes the dominion over all evil propensities; and may denote continence, chastity, self-government, moderation in regard to all indulgences. The influences of the Holy Spirit on the heart make a person moderate in all indulgences; teaches him to restrain his passions, and to govern himself; to control his evil propensities, and to subdue all inordinate affection.[9]
  7. “against such there is no law” (Gal 5:23). Paul is commending these virtues; they are universally recognized as positive and valuable; no law was ever written condemning them. Those who live in this way have nothing to fear from any law or judicial institution.
  8. Results of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:24-26)
    1. Christians are no longer held captive by their passions and lusts. The lusts of the flesh no longer dominate one’s life.
    2. Christians “walk by the Spirit,” i.e., their conduct conforms to the Spirit’s direction as given through the Word.
    3. Christians get along with one another because they are not conceited, envious, or divisive.


Note: Another aspect of walking in the Spirit concerns the exercise of spiritual gifts. We’ll consider this topic in part 2 of this lesson next week.

[1]Outline of Sound Words. “The Christians’ Walk.”

[2] Roy E. Gingrich, The Walk of a Christian (Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing, 2004), 5.

[3] Andrew Murray, “The Flesh,” in Heritage of Great Evangelical Teaching (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997).

[4] Gingrich, 6.

[5] Murray

[6] Gingrich, 5.

[7] Most of this material from Gingrich, The Walk of a Christian (Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing, 2004), 9–10.

[8] Matthew Poole

[9] Barnes Notes

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