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

The Christian Walk: Lesson 13: Walk in Newness of Life

The Christian Walk: Lesson 13: Walk in Newness of Life

  1. Text:  Rom 6:4
  2. Background and context
    1. In Romans chapter six, Paul is arguing against the idea that believers should “continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom 6:1). This antinomian[1] doctrine was leading people astray. One should not conclude that, since grace abounds to cover our sins (cf. 5:20), believers are free to sin so they can experience more grace. Paul’s response to such an argument is, “God forbid!!” Paul asserts that believers have “died to sin” (a point-in-time experience, at salvation, 6:2) and cannot therefore live in habitual, unrepentant sin any more. The availability of God’s super-abundant grace should in no way encourage ongoing sin in the life of one who has experienced such grace.
    2. Paul goes on to argue that believers were “baptized into [Christ’s] death” (6:3), probably referring to the union that believers have with Christ in his death. Christians “die” to their former way of living and cannot remain in that lifestyle.
    3. The spiritual reality Paul spoke of is that by faith believers are “baptized (placed) into Christ” and thereby are united and identified with Him. This spiritual reality is then graphically witnessed to and pictured by believers’ baptism in water. The one baptism (by water) is the visible picture of the spiritual truth of the other baptism (identification with Christ; cf. Gal. 3:27, “baptized into Christ … clothed with Christ”).[2]
    4. Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the majestic power of the Father, so every believer has experienced a spiritual resurrection from the old life to the new by that same power.
    5. To “walk in newness of life” means that one has made a complete break from his former sinful lifestyle and is living as a spiritually resurrected individual. New life is a radical and instantaneous transformation … from one life context to another.[3] No genuine believer could affirm the idea that a continuation of the sinful, pre-conversion lifestyle is appropriate after one’s experience of salvation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). Continuation in sin does not cause grace to abound; it merely verifies that one is still spiritually dead and has not been freed from sin’s tyranny (Eph 2:1).
    6. The word “newness” in this case has nothing to do with time. The emphasis is on the quality of life, not the length of it. The Christian life is “new” in its contrast with the old, pre-conversion lifestyle. The new life is one dedicated no longer to sin but to the glory of God.[4] Sin no longer has dominion over the believer (6:14).
    7. Just as Christ was raised from the dead (physically), so believers are raised from the dead (spiritually) and now enjoy a new quality of life. Believers must conduct themselves (walk) in a way that is consistent with their new spiritual status.
    8. Thus, anyone who continues in sin (6:1) and lives in it (6:2) was apparently not baptized into Christ’s death (i.e., saved, 6:3) and raised to spiritual life (6:4). Believers have died to sin and have risen with Christ (cf. Col 3:1). They must now “walk in newness of life” as evidence that this spiritual transformation has occurred.
    9. This “newness of life” suggests
      1. New spirit (or Spirit) as opposed to the “oldness of the letter” (Rom 7:6)
      2. New principles are defining one’s life; new goals guide one’s behavior (Col 3:10).
      3. New power enables us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13, cf. Phil 3:10).
      4. New fruit becomes evident in one’s life (Gal 5:22).

Quote:  We should rise with Christ to a new life; and having been made dead to sin, as he was dead in the grave, so should we rise to a holy life, as he rose from the grave. … By our very baptism, by our very profession, we have become dead to sin, as Christ became dead; and being devoted to him by that baptism, we are bound to rise as he did to a new life.[5]

  1. Related issues
    1. Conversion is the beginning of “new” life.
      1. A multitude of biblical passages bears witness to the fact that conversion marks the beginning of a new life. Read Ezek 36:26–27; John 3:7;2 Cor 5:17;Gal 6:15;Eph 4:22–24;1 Pet 1:23
      2. The old, pre-conversion lifestyle is not appropriate for one who has experienced conversion to Christ. Read Rom 6:6, 15, 17-18;Gal 5:13;  Col 3:9-10
      3. This “newness of life” will be marked by practical evidence (as found in 1 John)

a)                  Walking in the light (1:6-7). They display Christ-like behaviors and attitudes.

b)                  Sensitivity toward sin. They confess and forsake it (1:8-10).

c)                  Obedience to Christ’s commands (2:3-5, 29). The general trend or pattern in a genuine believer’s life is obedience, not rebellion and unrighteousness.

d)                 Affection for the things of God rather than the things of the world (2:15-17).

e)                  Love other believers (3:10-15, 5:1-2). Genuine believers find true fellowship with other believers rather than with the unsaved crowd.

f)                   Commitment to a doctrinally-sound church (2:19). True believers maintain unity with a group of orthodox believers in a church.

g)                  Affirmation of sound doctrine (2:20-23). They are orthodox in belief and behavior.

h)                  Holiness of life (2:29, 3:6-9). They are not sinless, but they are striving to cease from sin and follow the Lord.

  1. If old things are not passed away and if all things have not become new, then questions arise regarding the legitimacy of one’s faith.
  2. Antinomianism
    1. The NT tells us repeatedly that Christians are not under the OT law (read Rom 6:14, 7:6, 8:2, 10:4; Gal 5:1; Col 2:14). The OT stipulations ended with the death and resurrection of Christ and with the establishment of the NT church. We live under the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2; cf. 1 Cor 9:21), not the Law of Moses.
    2. Some today misunderstand and/or misapply this truth. By equating the OT law with “rules” in general, they conclude that Christians need not concern themselves with rules. They argued that, since the OT law was a list of rules, and since we are not under the OT law, then rule-keeping of any kind must not be a part of NT Christianity. They allege that freedom from the law as a way of salvation brings with it freedom from God’s moral law as a guide to conduct.[6]
    3. Antinomian statements

a)                  Salvation affects the soul only; thus, bodily behavior is irrelevant both to God’s interest and to the soul’s health.

b)                  The Holy Spirit’s inward promptings deny any need to be taught by the law how to live.

c)                  God sees no sin in believers because they are in Christ, who kept the law for them, and therefore what they actually do makes no difference (as long as they keep believing in Jesus).

d)                 Keeping the moral law is no longer necessary because we live in the age of grace, not of law.

e)                  The Bible is little more than one of many channels of God’s revelation to us and has no authority until an existential experience verifies it to us personally.

f)                   Love is all that God now requires of Christians, and the commands of the Scripture are mere rules of thumb for loving, rules that love may at any time disregard.

  1. Obviously, antinomian thinking is dangerous for a number of reasons.

a)                  It wrongly equates the OT law with rule-keeping and implies that the termination of the one demands the termination of the other.

b)                  It fails to apply “the law of Christ,” which is essentially the teachings (including commands) of the NT. Rule-keeping (i.e., obedience) is still required of the Christian even though the OT rules no longer apply (unless affirmed in the NT). Cf. 1 John 2:3-4.

c)                  It fails to recognize the difference between the eternal, unchanging moral law of God and the specific stipulations of the OT Mosaic code.

(1)               In contrast to the Mosaic code, which emphasized rituals and works, the law of Christ emphasizes grace and love (cf. John 1:17, 13:34; 1 Jn 4:10-11). We serve “in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom 7:6). The law of Christ covers all areas of the believer’s life just as the Mosaic code did for the OT believer. It has much in common with the OT law.

(2)               Rule-keeping does not save. However, we demonstrate our love for Christ by obeying his commandments (cf. 1 John 2:3-4). Obedience is the result, not the cause, of salvation.

(3)               Christianity is much more than a list of rules, but we cannot deny that Christianity contains rules and standards of behavior.

  1. Antinomianism ultimately excuses sinful, rebellious, worldly living. It completely undermines the moral imperatives of the Christian life.[7]The only reason anyone would affirm antinomianism would be that he wants to “continue in sin.” Yet Paul argues fervently against this kind of thing: “Use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh” (Gal 5:13). Freedom from the OT law is not a license to sin.



[1] Literally “against law”; the idea that believers in Christ are not under law and thus are free to do whatever they want, including sin with abandon.

[2] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Ro 6:3–4.

[3] John MacArthur, F., Jr, Wayne A. Mack and Master’s College, Introduction to Biblical Counseling: Basic Guide to the Principles and Practice of Counseling, Electronic ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1997), 125.

[4] William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 12-13, Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 196.

[5] Barnes Notes

[6] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993). Much of the following material is from Packer.

[7] Carl R. Trueman, “Reformed Orthodoxy in Britain” in  vol. 14, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 14, ed. Stephen J. Wellum, 4 (Lousville, KY: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010), 10.

The Christian Walk Lesson 12: Walk by Faith

The Christian Walk Lesson 12: Walk by Faith

  1. Texts:  2 Cor. 5:7
  2. Definitions
    1. To walk is to live, behave, conduct ourselves.
    2. Faith, of course, is belief or trust. The biblical words convey the idea of firmness, surety, establishment, belief, or faithfulness.
      1. OT: the basic demand is for a right attitude to God, i.e. for faith (read Ps 37:3-5). For example, “[Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). Sometimes men are urged to trust the Word of God (Ps 119:42), but more usually it is faith in God himself that is advocated (Ps 22:5-6; Pr 3:5).[1] The Lord is the only worthy object of wholehearted confidence.
      2. NT: the concept of faith is exceedingly common in the NT, with the words for “faith” being used about 300 times. Faith means primarily confident trust based on God’s promise as understood through his Word (Luke 24:25).[2] The NT affirms the OT definition of faith and further extends the need for faith to converge on the proper object—Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
    3. When Paul tells us to walk by faith, he is advocating a life committed to God and his Word. This kind of faith has a profound effect on the believer’s life. Walking by faith is believing what God has said and living in the way God has commanded in spite of any obstacles. We look to the eternal things of God, not the temporal things of the world (Col 3:1-3), and allow eternal values to govern our lives. E.g., Caleb and Joshua believed God’s promises in spite of the apparent obstacles and were ready to obey God’s commands (Num 13).
    4. “not by sight” – Paul contrasts walking by faith and walking by sight. Walking “by sight” implies living according to appearances and trusting in one’s own powers instead of in God (cf. Pr 28:26; Jer 17:5; Ezek 33:13; Hos 10:13). E.g., the other ten spies sent into Canaan brought back an “evil” report and did not believe that they could conquer the Promised Land in spite of what God had promised.

Note: Christianity does not advocate “blind” faith or a “leap of faith.” Both of these expressions imply belief in something that has little or no evidence, or even in something that is not true or does not exist. Faith, for Christianity, is rational, based on facts, evidence, historical events, eye-witness testimony, and good reason. Living by faith is not being closed-minded or ignorant.


  1. Principles/implications/related ideas
    1. Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” is perhaps the most extensive discussion of living “by faith” in the entire Bible. The author of Hebrews defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). What does that mean?
      1. “Substance” (KJV) means “ground or confidence; basis, foundation, or support.” It may refer to something real as opposed to something imaginary or false.
      2. “Hope” in the biblical sense is not an irrational leap in the dark, but steadfast confidence in God’s word and plan.
      3. “Evidence” means “proof” or “means of proving.” Evidence demonstrates the reality of something under evaluation. Evidence convinces the mind that something is true or worthy of faith.

Note: To a depraved, corrupted, blind, unregenerate sinner, no amount of proof or evidence supporting Christian claims will produce conversion/ salvation. The problem is not lack of evidence; it’s sin. The only means of producing conversions is applying the message of the Gospel, “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16).

  1. Faith resides in “things not seen.” (cf. “not by sight”)

a)                  God is unseen (Jn 1:18).

b)                  The entire spiritual realm is (usually) unseen.

c)                  God’s sovereign plan is unseen (Deut 29:29) and often “unsearchable” (Rom 11:33; cf. Isa 55:9).

d)                 God’s promises are often unseen (until they are fulfilled). We hope for them confidently, but “see” them only with the eyes of faith.

Note the Quote: “We do not see the things of eternity. We do not see God, or heaven, or the angels, or the redeemed in glory, or the crowns of victory, or the harps of praise; but we have faith in them, and this leads us to act as if we saw them.”[3]

  1. Without faith “it is impossible to please him” (Heb 11:6). Faith is required to believe in God and to believe that he rewards those who seek him. We affirm that Christian belief is rational and based on evidence, yet also insist that Christianity is a matter of faith. In many cases, we cannot prove conclusively that biblical claims are true; we believe it by faith.

Note: Virtually every worldview requires an element of faith, even rank atheism. All people hold some of their beliefs “by faith.”

  1. All the patriarchs (e.g., Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, etc.) exercised faith in various ways, yet “received not the promise” (Heb 11:39). Like Abraham, they “looked for a city … whose builder and maker is God (Heb 11:10). They saw the promises “afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13). The patriarchs lived by faith, trusting God’s word and acting on God’s promises (to greater or lesser degrees). These faithful saints serve as models of steadfast endurance for us to follow.
  2. “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3)
    1. “The faith” is that body of truth comprising Christianity; i.e., the “deposit” entrusted to the church. Cf. Rom 10:8; 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14.
    2. “The faith” has limits or boundaries which we might call the fundamentals of the faith, i.e., the most basic and essential teachings of the faith, without which[4] Christianity would not exist. If you deny an essential of the faith, you’ve denied the faith altogether. The fundamentals of the faith include such concepts as the existence of God as revealed in the Bible, the person and work of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Wrong belief regarding one of the fundamentals places one outside the boundaries.
    3. Saving faith: “The just shall live by faith.” (Hab 2:4; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38)[5]
      1. Saving faith is the attitude whereby a man abandons all reliance in his own efforts to obtain salvation, be they deeds of piety, of ethical goodness or anything else. It is the attitude of complete trust in Christ, of reliance on him alone for all that salvation means.[6]
      2. Genuine saving faith is a personal attachment to Christ, best thought of as a combination of two ideas—reliance on Christ and commitment to Him. Saving faith involves personally depending on the finished work of Christ’s sacrifice as the only basis for forgiveness of sin and entrance into heaven. But saving faith is also a personal commitment of one’s life to following Christ in obedience to His commands.[7]

Note: We obviously do not affirm “easy believism.”

  1. Saving faith is the act of the sinner. God certainly draws the sinner to faith and enables him to believe (John 6:44), but the individual must exercise faith himself. Further, it is Christ who saves (not faith itself); faith is the means by which His finished work of redemption is applied to the sinner.
  2. The elements of saving faith

a)                  Knowledge: one must know certain facts about God, Christ, sin, faith and repentance. This is the content of faith, the facts one must believe in or understand. See John 20:30-31.

b)                  Assent/affirmation: one must personally accept the facts as true, understanding that they apply to oneself, and agree to or approve them. This occurs when one hears and understands the Gospel (Matt 13:23). This is comprehension and application.

c)                  Trust: one must rely upon, affirm, and accept the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as the basis of forgiveness and salvation. Jesus Christ is the object of saving faith.  Acts 16:31.

  1. The origin of saving faith

a)                  Saving faith is different than ordinary faith which all people possess and routinely exercise. Saving faith is not the ordinary human trust simply turned to Jesus Christ. I.e., saving faith is not merely a change of objects, from something else to Christ.

b)                  Saving faith does not originate in sense experience or historical investigation. Faith is not simply “resting in the sufficiency of the evidences.” Mt 16:17; 1 Peter 1:23

c)                  Saving faith does not originate in human reason. 1 Cor 1:21, 2:4-5

d)                 Saving faith is the result of an operation of the Holy Spirit on the will of the sinner by which he freely and voluntarily responds to the gospel message.[8] Under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the sinner understands the Gospel message, accepts it personally as true, and rests his faith on the person and work of Christ to be saved from sin and condemnation. While it is the sinner who believes, the capacity and ability to believe come from God. 1 Cor 12:3; Phil 1:29

  1. Synonyms for saving faith: receive (John 1:12), drink (John 4:14), come (John 6:37), eat (John 6:53), take up (Mt 11:28-30), obey (Gal 5:7; Heb 5:9; 1 Pet 1:22).
  2. Is there a difference is saving faith between the OT and NT? Were OT saints saved by works and NT saints saved by faith? No. Salvation has always been based on God’s grace and received by faith. The NT reveals that faith in Jesus Christ as Savior is required, which OT saints did not know specifically (although they were expecting their Messiah). So there is some difference in the content of faith, but not in the means of salvation.
  3. Degrees of faith
    1. The Bible shows us various quantities or degrees of faith. Faith is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Further, faith may wax and wane over time.
    2. Examples: Gen 17:17, 18:12; Jud 6:37; Mt 7:21-23, 17:20; Mk 9:24; Rom 4:20, 14:1; 1 Cor 13:2; James 2:19-20


[1] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 357.

[2] Walter A. Elwell Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, electronic ed., Baker reference library; Logos Library System (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996).

[3] Barnes Notes

[4] Sine Qua Non – “without which not.” The fundamentals comprise the sine qua non of Christian faith.

[5] Much of this material from Rolland McCune, Systematic Theology III notes, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Allen Park, MI.

[6] New Bible Dictionary, 358.

[7] Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995).

[8] Theologians sometimes call this operation “effectual calling” or even “regeneration.”

The Christian Walk Lesson 11: Walk in the Name of the Lord

The Christian Walk Lesson 11: Walk in the Name of the Lord

  1. Texts: Micah 4:5; Zech 10:12 (cf. 1 Sam 17:45; Ezra 5;1; Prov 18:10; Col 3:17)
  2. Definition
    1. As we’ve already discovered (see Lesson 1), when Bible writers tell us how to “walk,” they are telling us how to live or conduct our behavior (thoughts, words, and deeds). What does it mean to walk “in the name of the Lord”?
    2. The “name” of a person in the ancient world represented the person himself and therefore all of his character. God’s name represents his entire being, all of what God is and stands for.
    3. Acting “in the name” of someone implies
      1. doing something under his authority, power, or right (1 Sam 17:45)
      2. living in a way that corresponds to God’s character and reputation (cf.  Prov 22:1; Ecc 7:1)
    4. The “name of the Lord”
      1. “LORD” (in all capital letters) usually represents God’s personal, covenant name, Yahweh (YHWH). This is the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:14-15).

a)                  The Hebrew people would pronounce the four letters (tetragrammaton) of God’s name (YHWH) with the vowels of Adhonay, transliterated as Yehowah, but read aloud as Adhonay. This accounts for the hybrid name Jehovah which uses the consonants of YHWH with the vowels of Adonay. The Jews did this to protect the divine Name so that it would not be used “in vain” (Ex 20:7). Actually, the Bible does not forbid the use of God’s name; the biblical writers use it hundreds of times. One must, however, be careful to use God’s name properly.

b)                  God’s name is very similar to the Hebrew word for “to be” or “to become” or “to live.” Hence, the word implies the self-existent, independent nature of God, the one who exists eternally of his own nature.

c)                  Characteristic of the OT is its insistence on the possible knowledge of God as a person; and Yahweh is His name as a person.

d)                 The name implies the covenant promise of the Divine presence, both at the immediate time and in the Messianic age of the future. And thus it became bound up with the Messianic hope, as in the phrase, “the Day of Yahweh,” and consequently both it and the Septuagint translation Kurios were applied by the NT as titles of Christ.[1]

  1. Other names for God[2]

a)                  Elohim: This word is the first form of the Divine name in the Bible, ordinarily translated “God” (Genesis 1:1). This is the most frequently used name in the OT, as its equivalent theos, is in the NT, occurring in Genesis alone approximately 200 times.

The meaning of the word is “might” or “power.” The “…im” ending indicates plurality in Hebrew, which probably expresses majesty or “all-mightiness.” It is a generic, rather than a specific, personal name for Deity, as is indicated by its application to any claimed god, true or false.

b)                  Adhon, Adhonay: “my Lord.” This name for God emphasizes His sovereignty (Psalms 2:4; Isaiah 7:7), and corresponds closely to Kurios (owner, master) of the NT. It is frequently combined with Yahweh (Genesis 15:8; Isaiah 7:7, etc.) and with Elohim (Psalms 86:12).

  1. In Micah 4:5, the prophet contrasts those who walk “in the name of his god” with those who “walk in the name of the Lord our God.” The faithful should be more committed to the true God than the wicked are to their false gods. Unfortunately, idolaters were often far more faithful to their false gods than the Israelites were to the true God. The same is true today.
  2. Thus, to “walk in the name of the Lord” indicates living under the authority of God and in a way in keeping with the character of God, upholding God’s good reputation. It further implies faithful obedience and loyalty to the almighty, self-existent, true and living God of Israel, and to no other.
  3. Principles

Since “walk” covers a wide variety of behaviors, it may be beneficial to examine the various categories of behavior that biblical writers admonish us to carry out “in the name of the Lord.” To “walk” in the name of the Lord may include any or all of these behaviors. To do any of these things “in the name of the Lord” implies doing them in a way that is consistent with God’s character and purposes.

  1. Minister in the name of the Lord (Deut 18:5).
    1. “Minister” simply means “to serve.” All service for God ought to be conducted in a way that preserves God’s great reputation. We must serve God in loyalty and in obedience to his revealed will.
    2. Ministry must be conducted as God’s representative, doing things as we believe God would have us do them. Ministers are not merely doing whatever they want; they work for God.
    3. Our ultimate allegiance is to God, not to people. We serve God by serving God’s people. Successful ministry is accomplishing God’s will and leaving the results with God.
    4. Human opinion must always be secondary. How people respond to ministry is not the proper gauge of success or legitimacy. We must remember that “the fear of man brings a snare” (Prov 29:25).
    5. Speak/prophesy in the name of the Lord (Deut 18:22;Jer 26:16,20;Acts 9:29)
      1. One speaking “in the name of the Lord” is claiming divine inspiration for his words; he is speaking for God, communicating God’s word. The prophets and apostles spoke and wrote under direct inspiration as the Holy Spirit “moved” them (2 Pet 1:21).
      2. Since the canon of Scripture is closed, and since no authorized prophets or apostles remain, we should not expect anyone to be speaking under the direct inspiration of God today (contrary to what Pentecostals claim).
      3. Speakers today must “preach the word” (2 Tim 4:2). They should not claim divine inspiration for their own words. Only to the degree that one’s message comports with the Bible can anyone’s speech be considered “in the name of the Lord.” All unbiblical speech must be rejected. Cf.  Acts 17:11.

1Pe 4:11If anyone speaks, let him speak as the utterances of God … so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

  1. Bless in the name of the Lord (Deut 21:5)
    1. The OT priests, as God’s representatives, blessed the people in the Lord’s name (cf.  Num 6:23-27). Since God had chosen the priests to serve in the temple and to convey his word to the people, they also had authority to judge controversies and set appropriate punishments.
    2. Today, since every believer is a priest (1 Pet 2:5, 9), the blessings that we convey are more in the terms of encouragement, exhortation, and even warning. We bless one another by fulfilling all the “one another” expectations of the NT—edify, comfort, encourage, warn, teach, etc.
    3. Fight/conquer in the name of the Lord (1 Sam 17:45)
      1. The nation of Israel, as God’s chosen people, had a relationship with the true God that no other nation could claim. God’s will for Israel often included physical warfare against God’s enemies.
      2. Goliath entered the battle against Israel with sword, spear, and shield; but David confronted the giant “in the name of the Lord, the God of the armies of Israel.” David claimed to be fighting under God’s authority or command. God used David and the armies of Israel to defeat the Philistines.
      3. The NT tells us that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds” (2 Cor 10:4). Christian warfare has no physical dimensions. Our enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil. We fight these enemies using spiritual warfare; our weapons are truth, faith, salvation, the Word of God, prayer (Eph 6:10f) along with all the other resources available to the child of God.
    4. Make oaths in the name of the Lord (1 Sam 20:42;2 Kings 2:24)
      1. David and Jonathan swore an oath of allegiance to one another “in the name of the Lord.” To swear an oath in God’s name is to call God as a witness to the agreement and to call down his wrath on anyone breaking the stipulations of the vow.
      2. Elisha invoked the Lord’s name as a curse against some scornful young people, resulting in “two she bears” wreaking havoc on forty-two of them.
      3. The Pharisees corrupted the practice of making oaths/vows in God’s name (cf.  Mt 23:16-22). Jesus advises us to tell the truth without taking an oath (Mt 5:37). We should not need an oath to guarantee the veracity of our words.
    5. Worship in the name of the Lord (1 Kings 18:32)
      1. Elijah built an altar “in the name of the Lord.” That is, the altar was dedicated to the true and living God of Israel, not some other foreign god or idol.
      2. Worship conducted under the name of the Lord must conform to God’s revealed word and be consistent with God’s character and purpose. Worship must uphold God’s great reputation—his majesty, glory, and honor. Hence it must be reverent, decent, and orderly (cf.  1 Cor 14:40).
    6. Trust in the name of the Lord (Ps 124:8; Prov 18:10; Isa 50:10)

Trusting in God’s name is to trust in God’s person, which results in fearing and obeying him.

  1. Baptize in the name of the Lord (Acts 8:16, 10:48, 19:5)

On three occasions, the writer of Acts mentions people who were baptized “in the name of the Lord (Jesus).” We know from the commission recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 that baptisms were to be done in the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Did the early church disregard the Trinitarian formula and baptize in Jesus’ name only? That seems unlikely. All Christians ought to be baptized as a public testimony to their faith in Christ.

  1. Anoint the sick with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14).
  2. Do all in the name of the Lord (Col 3:17).

Every action a Christian does should conform to biblical principles and to the character of God (as much as is humanly possible). Acting as God’s representatives in the world, we should seek to uphold God’s great reputation in our perverted culture by living in a way that brings honor and glory to God.


[1] ISBE, “God, names of.”

[2] ISBE

The Christian Walk Lesson 10: Walk in the Fear of God

The Christian Walk Lesson 10:  Walk in the Fear of God

  1. Texts: Deut 8:6, 13:4; Neh 5:9; Acts 9:31
  2. Definitions
    1. The fear of God is “an inward attitude of humble reverence toward God, in light of His self-revelation, that results in outward expression of Christlikeness.”[1]
    2. The fear of God entails [submission] to God’s purposes through both adversity and prosperity. The one who fears God comes forth with both the wisdom and the righteousness needed to exploit wisdom’s advantage and bring success as a chosen steward of God’s purposes.[2]
    3. The word “fear” can express emotions like dread, terror, or panic. This is not the usual sense in which the phrase “the fear of the Lord” is meant. However, we should recognize that a certain amount of dread or even terror may be associated with a personal encounter with God. Cf. Isa 6:5; Mt 27:54. See also 1 Sam 11:7
    4. Usually, “the fear of the Lord/God” indicates awe or reverence. Reverence is that sacred respect for God based on his majesty, power, and glory.
      1. The inward attitude: humble submission. God alone is worthy of honor and devotion. We fear God’s displeasure and seek to avoid chastisement and discipline. God is the righteous Judge, and we tremble before him.
      2. The outward attitude: obedience to God’s word and a desire to please him.

Note the Quote: Today, when there is so much emphasis on God’s love, grace, and mercy, is it possible that we have forgotten that God is to be feared? He takes our sin very seriously; therefore we need to take His holiness very seriously. We need not cringe in horror, as though God were a tyrant who delights in punishing us. But neither should we wink at sin as though He were a kindly grandfather who laughs at a little mischief.[3]

  1. Walking in the fear of God obviously implies living in a way that is appropriate for one who claims to fear God. It suggests a regular lifestyle reflecting attitudes and behaviors that could be described as God-fearing.


  1. Principles[4]
    1. Reverence/fear is a response to God’s holiness (Ex 3:5–6; Ps 111:9; Isa 8:13).

The term “reverend” (Ps 111:9; KJV often renders it as “terrible,” newer versions have “awesome”) translates a word meaning, “to fear.” The fear of God is also related to God’s greatness (Ex 20:18-20; Psa 99:3); people fear God because of His mighty deeds (Ex 15:11). For example, the Israelites respond to God’s saving power in bringing them out of Egypt by fearing Him (Ex 14:30–31).

  1. Reverence/fear results in obedience, righteous living, and service.

God intends that the revelation of who he is and what he does elicit within us a desire to obey him. In Gen 22:12, God recognizes Abraham’s obedience to sacrifice Isaac as fear of Him. Fearing God and keeping His commandments are closely linked (Deut 5:29; 8:6; 10:12–13). In the OT, people demonstrate fear of God by obeying the Law (Deut 6:2). Likewise, obedience to the Law teaches people to fear God (Deut 4:10; 14:23; 17:19; 31:12–13). The author of Hebrews asserts that we should serve God “with reverence and godly fear” (Heb 12:28-29). Cf. also Neh 5:9, Acts 10:34-35; 2 Cor 7:1.

Isaiah 66:2But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.

  1. Reverence/fear results in concern for others.

Leviticus states that, instead of wronging others (Lev 25:17) by doing things like cursing the deaf and blind (Lev 19:14), people should fear God. The Bible often associates the fear of God with honoring the elderly (Lev 19:32), forgoing the charging of interest (Lev 25:36), and treating servants kindly (Lev 25:43).

  1. Reverence/fear leads to loyalty and faithfulness (Gen 20:11; 1 Kings 8:43).

The Hebrew midwives were willing to defy Pharaoh’s orders because of their loyalty to God (Ex 1:21). After the people of Israel conquered the land of Canaan, Joshua charged them to faithfully fear God by serving Him alone and putting away other gods (Josh 24:14–15). In 2 Kgs 17:35–39, the fear of God describes loyalty to Him in contrast to worshipping other gods. Essentially, having the fear of God means that one recognizes and serves the true and living God (Isa 8:13) and obeys His commands (Isa 50:10). Genuinely fearing God is virtually equivalent with being saved (Ps 85:9). The designation of “those who fear God” is used to refer to the community of those faithful to Him (Ps 22:25; 66:16). Failure to fear God amounts to being a pagan idol worshipper (Jer 2:19).

  1. Reverence/fear results in trust.

Fearing God is often likened to trusting God (Ps 115:11). Those who fear God enjoy a close relationship with him (Ps 25:14; 33:18). The Psalms likewise equate worship and praise with the fear of God (Ps 5:7; 22:23; 135:20).

  1. Reverence/fear results in wisdom.

The fear of God refers to the beginning of wisdom or knowledge (Job 28:28; Psa 111:10; Prov 1:7; 9:10), and receiving wisdom helps people understand the fear of God (Prov 2:1–5).Those who lack a fear of God hate knowledge (Prov 1:29). Fearing God also leads to blessing and long life (Prov 10:27; 14:26–27; 19:23; 28:14). The book of Ecclesiastes concludes with an exhortation to “fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 12:13). It also notes that God acts in order that people may fear Him (Ecc 3:14).

  1. Other results of the fear of God[5]
    1. God will instruct the one who fears him (Ps 25:12).
    2. The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him (Ps 25:14).
    3. The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him (Ps 33:18).
    4. The angel of the Lord camps round those who fear him (Ps 34:7).
    5. The Lord has compassion on those who fear him (Ps 103:13).
    6. God’s lovingkindness is from everlasting to everlasting to those who fear him (Ps 103:17).
    7. The Lord gives food to those who fear him (Ps 111:5).
    8. God will bless those who fear him (Ps 115:13).
    9. God fulfils the desire of all who fear him (Ps 145:19).
    10. The Lord takes pleasure in all who fear him (Ps 147:11).
    11. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Prov 31:30).
    12. The fear fell on all and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified (Acts 19:17).
    13. “We persuade men” out of the fear of God (2 Cor 5:11).
    14. Characteristics of those who do not fear God
      1. Pagan, false religion (Gen. 20:11, 25:18)
      2. Wickedness (Ps 36:1; Jer 2:19; Mal 3:5)
      3. Shortened length of life (Ecc. 8:13; Prov 10:27)
      4. Evil language, violence, unhappiness, lack of peace (Ps 13:3-5; Rom 3:10f-18).
  2. Growing in the fear of the Lord

Four suggestions:[6]

  1. Immerse yourself in God’s Word (cf. Ps 119:38, 120). The fear of the Lord grows with revelation of how magnificent He is. As we see His character and authority through the events and teaching of Scripture, our hearts will be drawn to have a proper reverence toward God.
  2. Ask the Lord regularly to unite our hearts to fear His name (Psalm 86:11). God desires to reveal Himself to us and to align us with His character.
  3. Live moment by moment in the reality of God’s presence (Psalm 139:7-12). When we forget about God in our daily schedule, we are not living in reality. We must cultivate a mindset that is ever aware of God’s presence.
  4. Model your life on Christ, the ultimate revelation of God to us. Jesus is the best example of how the fear of God should influence our lives.
  5. Other comments regarding the fear of God
    1. Parents must be careful to instill the fear of God in their children (read Deut 4:10, 31:13; Ps 34:11; Prov 1:7).

Note the Quote:  Children need to know, even from the earliest age, that God is angry with the wicked, and He will punish evildoers (Psalm 7:11–13). Material designed for young children too often presents only the gentle, meek, and mild attributes of God. He is portrayed as an always-benign grandfatherly being—an insipid, man-made god, more like Santa than the God of Scripture. This is a very serious mistake, and I believe it accounts for the careless attitude so many in our society have toward God. They mistakenly assume that whatever God’s nature, He will ultimately be harmless and kindly, even toward those who have disobeyed Him. That is the impression many children take away from the typical Sunday school lesson. But it is not the God of Scripture. Take care not to teach your children such a wrong perspective of God.[7]

  1. Christian worship should reflect an attitude of reverential respect for God’s awesome power, holiness, and glory. This attitude protects the congregation from an overly-familiar, disorderly, man-centered approach to God so common in churches today. The author of Hebrews urges us to “serve God acceptably with reverence (modesty, respect) and godly fear” (caution, discretion) (Heb 12:28). Carefulness, conscientiousness, and circumspection ought to describe Christian worship. A healthy fear of God’s displeasure tends to keep a church on the right path.
  2. The fear of God should temper our language. Too often, Christians indulge in slang and humor that comes uncomfortably close to using God’s name in vain. Respect for God, an appreciation for God’ majesty and holiness, and careful discretion should cause us to speak of God only in reverential, cautious ways.


[1] Session 7: The Fear of the Lord. Center for Christian Leardership.

[2] James S. Reitman, “Ecclesiastes, Book of” In , in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. John D. Barry and Lazarus Wentz (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).

[3] What Does the Bible Say About… The Ultimate A to Z Resource Fully Illustrated, Nelson’s A to Z series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 155.

[4]Much of this material from John D. Barry, Michael R. Grigoni, Michael S. Heiser et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).

[5] Colin A. Day, Collins Thesaurus of the Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009).

[6] Source unknown by author.

[7] John F. MacArthur, Jr., What the Bible Says About Parenting: Biblical Principles for Raising Godly Children (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 78-79.

The Christian Walk Lesson 9: Walk Uprightly/Righteously/With Integrity

The Christian Walk Lesson 9: Walk Uprightly/Righteously/With Integrity

  1. Texts: Ps 15:2; 26:1, 11,84:11; Prov 2:7, 10:9; 14:2, 15:21; Isa 33:15; Mal 2:6
  2. Definitions
    1. The word “upright” literally means, “without blemish, perfect, complete, entire, sound, whole, healthy; unimpaired, innocent.”
    2. The word “righteous” refers to what is right, just, or normal.
    3. The word “integrity” describes completeness, fullness, innocence, or perfection.
    4. Each of these words requires a standard of measurement. The only way to evaluate whether something is upright or righteous is to measure it with reference to a standard. Rightness is the quality of a person or thing that reaches the standard. Unrighteousness fails to do so.
      1. The ultimate reference point or standard is the person of God himself. Everything is measured with reference to God’s person and nature. God sets the standard of what is right/upright. The character of God is the ultimate expression of integrity and righteousness. God is not righteous because he conforms to an external standard of righteousness; God sets the standard.
      2. The revelation of God as expressed in Scripture is a further reference point for judging the value of anything. Because God’s Word is a revelation of God’s person/character, it also sets the standard of what is right.
      3. Note, however, that Scripture contains the record of many people and things that are far from righteous/upright. The fact that the Bible records a certain event does not imply that what happened was right or that anyone should do the same (e.g., events in Judges). The record of such events is “right” in the sense that the records are accurate and true, but not in the sense that what happened was morally righteous. Further, the fact that God allows an event to occur does not imply that the event was righteous (e.g., Acts 2:23). God may use the wicked actions of evil men for his own purposes without becoming the author of sin or excusing the sin.
  3. Principles/applications
    1. To walk in righteousness, uprightness, and integrity must refer to living in a way that meets God’s intended standard. This kind of righteous lifestyle is consistent with both God’s character and God’s commands.
    2. Can any human genuinely claim to walk in righteousness and integrity? No. As Solomon asserts, “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecc 7:20). Since all people are sinners, it is impossible for them to keep the absolute standard of God’s holy character and word. Sin by definition is failure to keep the law, and all humans fail to do so.
    3. Fortunately, God has made provision for humans to be sinners and still live in a way that is acceptable to God.
      1. In the OT, before the giving of the Mosaic Law, people could walk uprightly by living in obedience to the revelation they had and by making regular sacrifices to God to atone for their sins (e.g., Gen 8:20, 12:8; Job 1:5). God-fearing individuals did this as necessary.
      2. With the giving of the Law to Moses, God established many more stipulations for properly approaching him to receive atonement from sin. The sinner would bring a suitable sacrificial animal to a priest, who would slaughter the animal, burn parts or all of it, sprinkle the blood, and thus make atonement for the sinner.

a)                  Since no separation existed between religion and state under the Levitical sacrificial system, the sacrifice maintained one’s relationship within both the community and with God. This means that one could perform his sacrificial duties in a way that maintained his place in the community without actually dealing with his sin (cf. Isa 1:11-15).

b)                  However, when offered with genuine repentance and faith, the sacrificial system effectively atoned for the sin of the offerer and maintained his status within the community.

  1. The final sacrifice of Christ on the cross ended the OT sacrificial system and initiated a change in the way people could experience forgiveness of sin. Since Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), those who look to him for salvation receive complete forgiveness (John 3:14-15; 2 Cor 5:21). Christ is the “end of the law for righteousness” for believers (Rom 10:4). Righteousness now comes “by faith” (Rom 5:1) and not through the “works of the law” (Rom 3:28).
  2. Walking uprightly/righteously/with integrity means living in obedience and applying the means that God established to deal with sin when it occurs.

a)                  The goal is still holiness (1 Pet 1:15-16; 1 John 2:1). God is holy, and he calls believers to live holily. Every believer ought to strive to “walk worthy of the Lord” (Col 1:10; 1 Thes 2:12) by living “soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12).

b)                  The standards for Christian behavior are found in the NT, not the OT. While the OT contains many valuable principles and examples, the church is currently God’s primary program on earth, and the NT is the guidebook for Christian living. Walking righteously/uprightly is a matter of obeying NT principles, i.e., living according to the standards that apply to us.

c)                  However, we must acknowledge that no matter how hard we strive to be pure and holy, we always fall short (cf. Rom 7:14f). As James admits, “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2).

d)                 The imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer’s account gives him a perfect/righteous standing before God (Rom 5:1; 2 Cor 5:21). Christ fulfilled the stipulations of the Law for us, and in our union with Christ, we are counted as righteous.

e)                  The fact that Christians are absolutely righteous in their standing or position before God does not reduce the necessity for Christian to live a righteous life. Walking righteously/uprightly describes one’s behavior, not his spiritual standing. A righteous status with God should result in righteous living (Col 2:6; Titus 2:11-14). A good tree (via regeneration) brings forth good fruit (sanctification). Failure to do so casts one’s faith into question (1 John 2:3-5).

f)                   Thus, a righteous/upright walk is one in which the believer is striving after holiness, living obediently, and dealing with his sin appropriately. Walking righteously does not imply sinless perfection but working out what God has already worked in (Phil 2:13).

  1. What is the proper NT means of dealing with sin?

a)                  Quit sinning; stop the sinful behavior. Christians must intentionally put off pre-conversion patterns (the “old man”) and put on godly post-conversion patterns (the “new man”) (Eph 4:22-24).

b)                  Confess your sin to God (Prov 28:13; 1 John 1:8-10).

(1)               The word “confess” means to admit, acknowledge, or agree with. The Greek word literally means “to say the same thing.” When you confess your sin, you admit to God that you have sinned, acknowledge that you are guilty and ask for forgiveness.

(2)               Note that the texts imply that believers still sin. In fact, if someone thinks he is sinless, he is deceiving himself and denying God’s word.

(3)               The fact that God forgives sin should not produce within us a presumptuous attitude regarding sin, as if we can freely sin because God always forgives anyway (cf. Rom 6:1). God’s grace should lead us to live holy, righteous lives (Titus 2:11-12), not encourage us to sin.

From the Westminster Confession: “God continues to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and, although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.”

c)                  Forsake your sin (Prov 28:13). “Renounce” or “forsake” means to leave behind or to turn your back on. After confessing your sin, you must determine not to sin in that way again. This doesn’t guarantee that you won’t, but this should be your attitude.

d)                 Make amends for your sin.

(1)               Your sin often affects others. Therefore, you must make things right with those touched by your sin. Don’t pretend the sin never happened. Ask others to forgive you if necessary.

(2)               Repair, replace, or repay for what you did. Make restitution.

e)                  Be sensitive about sin (Ps 19:12, 139:23-24).

(1)               Sin grieves God; it should grieve believing sinners, too. We should be asking God to show us our sin so we can confess it and forsake it.

(2)               Those who are sensitive to sin are concerned about sin in the lives of others. They don’t talk or joke about sinful behavior or enjoy it when others sin.

The Christian Walk Lesson 8: Walk in the Old Paths/the Way of Good Men

The Christian Walk Lesson 8: Walk in the Old Paths/the Way of Good Men 

  1. Texts:  Ps 119:63; Prov 2:20, 13:20, 22:28; 1 Kings 8:36; Jer. 6:16, 18:15; 1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17, 4:9; 2 Thes 2:15, 3:6; Heb 6:12
  2. Principles
    1. Walk in the “old paths” and respect valuable historical traditions.
      1. Our culture values what is new, “improved,” and modern, while at the same time paying little attention to the “old paths” of the previous generations. So-called “progress” demands that we constantly question the former, conventional ways and pursue new ways of doing things. God’s advice to us through the writers of the Bible is that we “ask for the old paths” and the “good way” that previous generations have discovered. The fact that something is old does not necessarily mean that it is obsolete. We must avoid any custom or pattern that departs from the good and right path no matter whether it’s new or old.
      2. We must admit that in the history of Israel, good people walking the right path were rare. More often than not, flawed, inconsistent, and downright wicked people followed a bad “path” and set a poor example. Nevertheless, at various stages in the history of the nation, godly people followed the right path and left a good example (e.g., Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, Samuel). They walked in the “good way” and established the “ancient paths” of faithfulness and obedience to God’s commands. Yet the succeeding generations stubbornly refused to “walk therein” (cf. Judges 2:7-13). They stumbled along a path “not built up” (Jer 18:15), i.e., without direction or destination. The result of God’s people forsaking the old, good ways was always discipline—God delivered them into the hands of their enemies (cf. Jud 2:14; Jer 6:21-23). We should expect the same results whenever we depart from the good ways established by former generations.
      3. Proverbs admonishes us not to remove the “ancient landmark” set up by the “fathers” (Prov 22:28).

a)                  In the literal sense, the ancient landmark was a stone marker establishing the border of one’s land. Removing landmarks would be a way of encroaching upon someone else’s property, a form of theft that God prohibited (Deut 19:14).

b)                  In the figurative sense, a landmark is a tradition or custom held by a person or group. Although the Bible does not use the word figuratively, we might still affirm the idea that the “ancient landmarks” have value and should be respected (within reason). Although some traditions/customs deserve to be put to rest, others warrant continuing recognition.

  1. The word “tradition” as used in the NT means, “that which is handed over or delivered.”

a)                  “Tradition” often carries negative overtones in the NT (e.g., Mk 7:8-9, 13; Col 2:8). Human traditions often run contrary to God’s commands. Holding human traditions may make the word of God “of none effect” (Mk 7:13). Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees for neglecting divine commands and substituting their own man-made traditions. Human traditions and philosophies are dangerous in that they may “capture” (KJV “spoil”) unwary believers. Thus, the wise believer remains skeptical regarding man-made religious traditions.

A common criticism of churches is that they tend to retain long-standing tradition well past the time of their effectiveness. The oft-heard expressions, “We haven’t done it that way before,” or “We always do it this way” may reflect the fact that a church has not evaluated the merits of its traditions. Churches should value and continue those traditions that serve their purposes, but be willing to discard traditions or modify them when necessary. Being tradition-bound is not a good thing (unless the tradition is biblical).

Note: The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) has historically held that church tradition is as authoritative as the Bible. They have been guilty of adding various traditions to their form of Christianity to the extent that the RCC is no longer a legitimate expression of the faith. We must beware of exalting unbiblical tradition to a point where it becomes authoritative.

b)                  However, “tradition” is used in a positive sense in the NT as well (cf. 2 Thes 2:15, 3:6). Paul exhorts us to “hold the traditions” which the apostles taught and to withdraw from professing believers who “walk disorderly,” i.e., disregarding those traditions. “Tradition” in this sense amounts to “the faith,” i.e., authoritative apostolic teaching (cf. Acts 2:42). Any tradition that squares with biblical teaching is legitimate and should be respected. Any failure to walk consistently with apostolic teaching amounts to disorderly living.

c)                  A few other thoughts regarding traditions

(1)               Young people often fail to appreciate family or cultural traditions, but as we get older, we tend to attach sentimental value to the “old ways.” We fondly recall how the previous generation did things and look with skepticism on some of the newer ways. Of course, the “new” ways eventually become well-established traditions that succeeding generations in turn look upon skeptically.

(2)               Families should maintain historical connections with the previous generations. Respect for one’s elders ought to be strongly engrained in the new generations as they arise. Long-standing family and cultural traditions give a sense of stability and of belonging, and are thus valuable.

(3)               Families should establish their own set of traditions, especially those associated with worship and the Christian life. E.g., family devotions.

(4)               A church must evaluate its traditions to see if they are helping or hindering the work of the ministry. Traditional ways of doing things may in fact be the most effective, productive, and sensible; but not necessarily. A church need not continue a practice simply because it’s “traditional.” On the other hand, a church need not retire a practice merely because it’s “traditional.” Traditions are valuable to the degree that they aid a church in accomplishing its goals.

  1. Walk in the way of good men, i.e., follow their example; emulate their pattern of life.
    1. One of the values of OT stories is that they provide examples for us to learn from (Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11). We can follow the examples of those who obediently followed the Lord (e.g., Joseph, Daniel, Ruth), and we can avoid the pitfalls and problems resulting from disobedience (e.g., Samson, David). Children in particular learn valuable lessons from the lives of OT saints and sinners.
    2. The Bible presents very few individuals who are not beset with common human weaknesses, failures, and faults. Almost all of the main characters in the Bible disappoint us in various ways, yet God chose to use them, warts and all. “Good” people are not necessarily perfect people.
    3. How do we walk in the way of good men? We walk with those who are wise (Prov 13:20) and with those who fear God (Ps 119:63). We keep to the paths of the righteous (Prov 2:20). This entails observing how people are living, evaluating whether their walk is good and righteous, and following the example of those whose walk is upright.

Note: Even the most scrupulous Christian occasionally fails to be a consistently good example. This is why our ultimate allegiance is to Christ, not to human leaders or examples (cf. Heb 12:2).

  1. Biblical models to follow

a)                  Spiritual leaders

Paul repeatedly urges his readers to follow his example and that of others that “walk” in the same manner (1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17, 4:9). Paul urged Timothy to set a good example in every aspect of life—”in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). The author of Hebrews exhorts believers to imitate “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12) and to follow the faith of their teachers (Heb 13:7). Every pastor and teacher should recognize his responsibility to set a good example for others. Example often communicates more effectively than speech. Every believer ought to be looking for good examples to follow. Set a good example and follow good examples.

b)                  The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is an ideal that the writer holds up as a model to which every godly woman should aspire.

c)                  Wisdom personified (Prov 1:20, 8:14, 9:1)

d)                 Animals

(1)               “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Prov 6:6). Characteristic to emulate: wise foresight in planning for the future.

(2)               Conies (Syrian hyrax, “cliff badger,” a rabbit-sized animal) (Prov 30:26). Characteristic to emulate: living successfully in inhospitable places; making a living on little (?)

(3)               Locust (Prov 30:27). Characteristic to emulate: cooperation, initiative

(4)               Lizard/Gecko (Prov 30:28 “spider” KJV). Characteristic to emulate: skill, initiative/industry (?)

  1. Models to avoid (“he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them” Prov 22:5)

a)                  The simple: the Heb. word literally means “open.” In a positive sense, one might be “open-minded.” But more often, the sense is that of open to influence, i.e., easily influenced, morally weak. Cf. Prov 14:15, 18, 22:3.

b)                  The fool: the Bible describes many varieties of fools. Foolishness implies wickedness, immorality, corruption, and/or stupidity. Cf. Prov 17:21, 18:7, 23:9.

c)                  The “froward” (KJV): the word means “evil, perverse, crooked.” Cf. Prov 2:15, 3:32

d)                 The strange woman: the word means “foreign, alien” and often describes a prostitute or loose woman. Cf. Prov 2:6, 5:20.


The Christian Walk Lesson 7: Walk in Truth and Sincerity

The Christian Walk Lesson 7: Walk in Truth and Sincerity

Pilate famously asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). This attitude still prevails among many in our culture today. Without a firm commitment to Scripture, we have no sure word of truth. But if we “walk in truth” with Scripture as our infallible authority, we’ll retain a firm foundation for all of life.


  1. Texts:1 Kings 2:4, 3:6,8:23, 9:4; 2 Kings 20:3; 2 Chron 6:14; Ps 26:3; Ps 86:11; Isa 38:3; Gal 2:14; 3 John 3, 4
  2. Principles
    1. The word “truth” as used in the OT means “firmness, faithfulness, assuredness” and suggests virtues like reliability, stability, and continuance.
      1. Truth is anything that conforms to reality; the actual state of a matter; conformity with fact.
      2. Truth is an attribute of God (Ex 34:6; Deut 32:4; John 3:33; Heb 6:18).

a)                  God is real; his existence has actuality.

b)                  God is the true God or genuine God in that He alone in His being, attributes, activities, etc., conforms to all that God ought to be. He alone fully answers the idea of God. He alone is veritably and authentically God. He actually is what He appears and claims to be. To say that God is true is to say that “He is consistent with Himself, that He is all that He should be, and that He has revealed Himself as He really is, and that He and His revelation are completely reliable” (Ryrie, Basic Theology).

c)                  All God’s actions conform to reality. He does not lie (Titus 1:2—lit. “the unlying (apseudes) God…” God is truthful in that the knowledge, declarations, and representations of God eternally conform to His being. He is the veracious God. He represents things as they actually are.

d)                 God is the source of truth in that all truth has its foundation in His being and nature. Ultimately speaking, God does not conform to reality; reality conforms to God. God is the basis of reality; God’s existence gives rise to all other reality.

  1. “Truth” in many biblical contexts is virtually synonymous with God’s revealed will (i.e., Scripture). Truth is not limited to Scripture, but truth is an attribute of Scripture.
    1. Lead me in thy [God’s] truth (Ps 25:5)
    2. The truth of the Lord endures forever (Ps 117:2)
    3. The truth of God (Rom 1:25)
    4. The truth of the gospel (Gal 2:5, 14; Col 1:5)
    5. To “walk in truth” amounts to obedience to God’s commands as revealed in Scripture. God’s way and his truth are virtually identical.

Walking in truth means having an authentic relationship with God. Our walk with the Lord if genuine must be based upon His Word.[1]

Note: The fact that God revealed the truth about himself in words is profound. People may sense God in various ways and have a range of religious experiences, but God’s communication to man comes through words. “In the spiritual realm God addresses His message to the hearing ear. In fact, it is only by withdrawing our physical eyes from looking at visible things that we learn to fasten the eyes of our heart upon God, while we reverently listen to His spoken Word.”[2]

  1. Virtues like righteousness and uprightness of heart often are associated with walking in truth.
  2. Another concept associated with walking in truth is walking before God “with all [your] heart” or walking “in integrity of heart.” The concepts of truth and sincerity go together (2 Kings 20:3—read).
    1. The word for “perfect” (shalem) or “loyal” means “complete, safe, peaceful, whole, full.”
    2. To be whole-hearted implies sincerity. Walking in truth and sincerity describes a life of genuine faith that produces godly behavior.
    3. Those who walk before the Lord in truth and sincerity can expect to receive God’s blessing.
    4. We expect genuine disciples of Christ to persevere in the truth.  Doing so produces great joy in spiritual leaders.
  3. Associated concepts
    1. Biblical writers describe failure to walk in truth in various ways.
      1. Satan “abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).
      2. Unbelievers “do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness” (Rom 2:8; cf. Gal 3:1, 5:7).
      3. Some walk in craftiness and deceit, mishandling the word of God (2 Cor 4:2).
      4. Some fail to walk uprightly according to the truth of the gospel (Gal 2:14).
      5. The unsaved “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thes 2:10).
      6. The unsaved “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes 2:12).
      7. Some “turn from the truth” and accept fables (Titus 1:14).
      8. Those with bitter envying and strife in their hearts “lie against the truth” (James 3:14).
      9. Those walking in darkness “do not the truth” (1 John 1:6).
      10. Those claiming to have no sin or who fail to keep Jesus’ commandments do not have the truth in them (1 John 1:8, 2:4).
    2. Biblical writers describe lack of sincerity in various ways.
      1. Hypocrisy (lit. “play acting”)—pretending to be something you are not. Hypocrites make an outward show of faith without internal sincerity. Cf. Isa 29:13; Hos 6:4-6; Mt 6:2, 5, 16, 15:7-9; Eph 6:6; Col 3:22
      2. Hardness of heart (Mt 16:14)
      3. Double-mindedness (James 1:8, 4:8)
      4. Believing in vain (1 Cor 15:2)
    3. The challenge of post-modernism: truth does not exist.[3]

Isa 59:14And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

  1. Post-modernism is a reaction against modernism, the assertion that humans know facts objectively. Post-modernists are skeptical that people really know anything for sure. All we have is our personal perceptions and experiences, not genuine knowledge of what is.

a)                  Premodernism: God, creation, the Bible, the spiritual realm, truth, faith, obedience, norms, ethics/morality, certainty, conformity. E.g., Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, “classic” art and literature

b)                  Modernism/modernity: truth, education, science, mathematics, facts, rationalism, reason, deduction, argument, persuasion, meaning, optimism, certainty, progress, perfection. E.g., Star Trek, modern art, science fiction literature

c)                  Post-modernism: lack of the above; in fact, the annihilation of the above. No universal/absolute truth (esp. Christianity), no authority, no ethical/moral rules, total freedom, irrationality, absurdity. E.g., The Matrix, MTV, Harry Potter (?)

  1. Post-modernism asserts that there is no truth, only biased opinion. Since each of us perceives things differently, none of us has access to “truth.” We see things only according to our biases and through our personal lenses. What we think and perceive is different from what actually exists.
  2. Post-modernists hold that “truth” is a weapon used by capitalistic, imperialistic nations to oppress the masses.  Likewise, logic is a patriarchal, Christian, Caucasian tool of oppression, which forces women, non-Christians, and minorities into a sexist, bigoted, and racist system contrary to their natural thought patterns. Western culture, as the primary supporter of truth and logic, must be destroyed and be replaced by cultures that do not claim objective truth.
  3. Results of post-modern thought

a)                  Radical individualism: One cannot genuinely know anything or anyone beyond himself. Life dissolves into a constant struggle to satisfy oneself.

b)                  Radical relativism and pluralism: One cannot know the truth, so all he has is opinion. Every opinion is of equal value, so one should not try to persuade anyone else to change his opinion. No one has access to absolute truth, so any exclusive claims to truth (like those of Christianity) must be rejected. The primary factor in deciding what group to join is personal benefit—what’s in it for me?

c)                  Radical freedom: One cannot know true from false or bad from good, so one’s primary concern becomes “Do your own thing.” Ethic and moral considerations have very limited influence.

  1.  The Christian response to post-modernism

a)                  Some Christians advocate adopting a more post-modern theology where we downplay the absolute claims of the Bible and focus on meeting individual needs. The church facilitates personal experiences of religion rather than providing doctrinal instruction. The churches offering the most personally meaningful religious experiences in an inclusive, non-judgmental, non-doctrinal atmosphere will capture the attention of post-modernists (thus, the “emerging/emergent” church movement). Obviously, we reject this model as contrary to the tenor of the Bible.

b)                  The proper Christian response to post-modernism is the same response it has to all cultures: preach the Gospel, exhort people to repent and trust Christ, and train converts in the truth of the Bible. The Gospel message “is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16). We need not adopt every shift in culture that occurs. We “preach the word” (2 Tim 4:2), exhort people to accept it, and leave the results with God.

c)                  Part of the apologetic task of Christianity is to provide an answer and refutation of those philosophies hostile to Christian claims. One of the primary fallacies of post-modernism is that, by its own definition, it cannot be “true.” It is internally inconsistent and irrational.


[1] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen and H. Wayne House, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1997), 2 Jn 4.

[2] Cornelis Pronk,”Postmodernism’s Impact on Popular Culture,” The Messenger, Nov 2006.

[3] Some of this material from T.J. Klapperich, “Christianity and Post-Modernism.” For a good overview of the topic, see

The Christian Walk: Lesson 6 Walk in Obedience

The Christian Walk: Lesson 6 Walk in obedience

The biblical authors use a variety of expressions to describe the same idea: obedience. All the below expressions are essentially equal in meaning. God clearly expects his people to obey him.

  1. Expressions
    1. Walk after the Lord (Deut 13:4; 2 Kings 23:3)
    2. Walk in his way/in all his ways (Deut 5:33, 10:12, 11:22, 28:9; Josh 22:5; 1 Kings 2:3, 3:14, 8:36; Ps 119:3; Jer 7:23; Hos 14:9)
    3. Walk in/after/according to the law/statutes/judgments/ordinances/commandments (Exod 16:4;Lev 18:4; Deut 13:4; Ps 119:1; 1 Kings 6:12; 2 Kings 10:31; 2 Chron 6:16; Neh 10:29; Ps 89:30; Jer 26:4; Ezek 37:24; 2 John 6)
    4. Walk as taught by him (1 Kings 8:36; Isa 2:3; 30:21)
    5. Walk according to this rule (Gal 6:16; Phil 3:16)
  2. Definitions
    1. Law (torah) – direction, instruction, code, custom, manner, body of teaching. Law may be defined as “the revealed will of God with respect to human conduct.”[1] The vast majority of the occurrences of the word ‘torah’ in the Bible refer to God’s instructions to Moses at Sinai that were transmitted to Israel. These instructions or commandments became Israelite law and the stipulations of the covenant. They were all-important, since they were the specific manifestations of God’s will. Since they were God-given, they were obviously good, and obedience would result in long life, prosperity, health, and happiness. Disobedience would be punished with harm, barrenness, exile, destruction, and death.[2]
    2. Ordinance (chuqqah) – statute, limit, something prescribed
    3. Commandment
      1. mitsvah – law, ordinance, precept
      2. peh – lit. “mouth,” signifying the source of the command
    4. Statute (choq)  – appointment, allotment, ordinance, limit, something prescribed, due, conditions, decrees
    5. Judgment (mishpat) – decree, justice, ordinance, verdict, decision, privilege, right
    6. Rule (kanon) – lit, a rod or straight piece of wood to which anything is attached to keep it straight; a measuring rod, carpenter’s line, measuring tape; any rule or standard, limit, boundary line, fixed area of influence


  1. Principles
    1. Obedience is very important to God. The sheer number of admonitions to obey and the variety of expressions calling for obedience shows us how vital obedience is to God. Thus, the Christian walk must entail strict obedience to God’s revealed will. Sincerity or good intentions do not justify disobedience. Biblical examples show us this truth repeatedly—e.g., Saul (1 Sam 15), Uzzah (2 Sam 6:6-7), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).
    2. To walk in/after/according to the law/statutes/judgments/ordinances/ commandments signifies doing/keeping/executing/performing/observing/ hearkening to God’s commandments. Just as there are many synonyms for “law,” so there are many synonyms for “obey.”
    3. To “walk after the Lord” seems to refer to the totality of a right relationship with God—reverence, obedience, service, and commitment. The phrase indicates mature, committed faith and the resulting performance of covenant obligations.
    4. Believers are obligated to obey God’s direct commands/laws/statutes/ ordinances—the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” contained in Scripture. Such directives leave little flexibility; one either obeys them or does not. God presents a particular “way” in which he wants his followers to walk. The Christian walk demands that we follow the direct commands that pertain to us.
    5. Obedience, especially in the OT, was directly related to physical prosperity and success (cf. Deut 28:1-14; 1 Kings 8:36). Failure to obey resulted in cursing and removal from the land (cf. Deut 28:15f; Jer 6:19).
    6. The repeated admonition to “walk in all his ways” implies obedience to all God’s commands. However, the “ways” of God would seem to extend beyond the commands and encompass any behavior that would be pleasing to God. Mere obedience is not enough; we should be striving to do that which is well-pleasing to God in every area of life (2 Cor 5:9).
    7. Are NT Christians obligated to obey all the OT commandments? No, Christ “abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph 2:15). Paul repeatedly affirms “…you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14). The author of Hebrews explains how the levitical priesthood and its ordinances were temporary and have been superseded by the work of Jesus.[3]

This does not imply that the OT has no continuing value for the NT believer. The OT contains much we can learn from (cf. 1 Cor 10:11; 1 Tim 3:16). However, NT Christians are not obligated to obey the particular stipulations prescribed for OT Israel. Further, the fact that NT Christians are “not under the law” does not mean that they are lawless. In fact, John defines sin as “lawlessness” (1 Jn 3:4). Some mistakenly teach that, as long as they love others, they are not required to “keep the rules.” They misrepresent any such admonition to obey biblical commands as legalism. The desire to obey is not legalism as long as we recognize that obedience adds nothing to our salvation.

  1. Are NT Christians obligated to obey NT commands? Yes. We are to walk according to the rules and traditions (2 Thes 2:15) established by Jesus and the apostles. The “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2), which is essentially the teachings of the NT, becomes the guidebook for the Christian life. Failure to obey Christ’s commands amounts to repudiation of Christianity (1 John 2:3-4). Failure to obey the apostles’ teachings and traditions likewise verges on apostasy (Rom 16:17; 2 Thes 2:15, 3:6). Thus, obedience to the commands of Christ and the apostles is what we expect of Christians. Habitual, unrepentant disobedience marks one as an unbeliever in spite of whatever claims he may make to the contrary.
  2. OT commands are still part of the Bible and reveal much about God and his will. We may discover great insights by meditating on God’s ordinances, statutes, and judgments from the OT. But the NT supersedes the OT and becomes the standard for the Christian walk.

Note:  We must guard against imposing OT regulations on NT Christians. Some (e.g., Bill Gothard) insist that we must continue to follow the OT as much as possible. That means attempting to apply OT regulations in our current situation as best we can. Such an attitude burdens believers with a “yoke” that the apostles specifically refused to apply (Acts 15:10-19).

  1. The “rules” that Paul mentions
    1. Gal 6:16—Circumcision is insignificant for the Christian life; what’s most important is being a new creature (6:15). To “walk” according to this rule means that Christians do not make circumcision a spiritual issue (cf. 1 Cor 7:19). This was an important distinction to make given the fact that the Jews typically invested that ritual with great significance. Under NT Christianity, circumcision is a matter of indifference (adiaphora).
    2. Phil 3:16—Live in accordance with apostolic teaching (i.e., that which has already been recognized and accepted). Such an attitude develops like-mindedness and unity among mature Christians. Minor differences among believers should not hinder harmony and love in a church when everyone is affirming the same doctrine (cf. Rom 14). Nothing outside of the apostolic tradition (“sound doctrine”) should be integrated into church teaching.
    3. John defines love as walking after/in his commandments (2 John 6). Love for God and obedience to him cannot be separated. Lack of one means lack of the other. Love for God always results in obedience to his word (cf. John 14:15). Justification results in sanctification; the two always go together.

A Final Note:  An ongoing discussion among conservative Christians centers on what place personal effort has in sanctification. Everyone agrees that justification is by grace through faith without obedience to the law (i.e., works). Both sides also agree that sanctification requires effort by the believer but not merely human effort. Both recognize the danger of imposing extra-biblical man-made rules (cf. Col 2:20-23) and agree that grace does not sanction disobedience (Rom 6; Titus 2). But questions remain regarding whether obedience to laws/rules furthers one’s sanctification/growth.

  • One side asserts that sanctification occurs almost automatically as we focus on God’s love for us in salvation. As we increasingly appreciate Jesus’ work, the Gospel, and justification, we will inevitably grow in our sanctification (2 Pet 3:18). We simply need to remember that we’ve been qualified, delivered, redeemed, and forgiven (Col 1:9-14). Christian growth in this model is not measured by behavior but by a deeper grasp of God’s unconditional love for us. Our position “in Christ” means that we can cease striving to please God (Rom 3:24). God is pleased with us because of our union with Christ; we cannot be more pleasing to God by keeping rules. Sanctification occurs as we receive Christ’s work and rest in our justification. Confident that we are not condemned (Rom 8:1), we go on to live in holiness. Thus, an emphasis on obedience to rules verges on legalism. Our emphasis should not be on rule keeping but on the fact that Christ kept the rules for us. Self-effort (“moralistic activism”) amounts to a denial of God’s grace.

Summary of model #1: Don’t worry so much about obeying rules; just love God, remember your salvation, and rest your perfect position in Christ. This will naturally result in holiness.

  • The other side argues that believers must “make every effort” (2 Tim 2:15) to “work out” their salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Simply remembering and appreciating our justification will not automatically result in growth or holiness. We must expend effort; we must obey; we must “put off” the old man and “put on” the new (Eph 4:22f). Growth in godliness is like a fight (1 Tim 6:12), a wrestling match (Eph 6:12), and a race (1 Cor 9:24f; Heb 12:1). We must trust, but we must also obey. We must, by God’s grace and with the Holy Spirit’s enablement, put the flesh to death (Col 3:5). Christian growth occurs as we work hard to stop sinning and start living righteously. Regenerated people do not automatically know what God requires of them. Thus, exhortations to obey biblical commands, rules, and standards of behavior help believers grow in godliness (e.g., 1 Cor 6:18). We glory in the cross, in salvation, and in our union with Christ, but that’s not all we do.

Summary of model #2: Obedience and effort are necessary elements of Christian growth. Sanctification comes through Spirit-enabled obedience to God’s revealed will as expressed in commands, principles, and rules.

The first model, although having much to commend it, often results in an anti-rule sentiment that sees exhortations to obedience as legalism. On this view, laws and rules become virtually hostile to the Christian experience. Grace cannot function with law; the two are mutually exclusive. Further, the first model may lead to a passive view of sanctification in which effort plays a diminished role. Model #1 is the more popular/prevalent among evangelicals today.


[1] Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 646.

[2] Paul J. Achtemeier and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 1084.

[3] Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, electronic ed., Baker reference library; Logos Library System (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996).

The Christian Walk: Lesson 5 How to Walk

The Christian Walk: Lesson 5

Part 2: How To Walk

Walk Rooted and Built Up (Col 2:6-7)

The theme passage for this series of lessons gives us some important directives for how we are to live the Christian life. Paul exhorts (i.e., commands; the Greek verb translated “walk” is in the imperative mood) the Colossians to continue (“walk” is in the present tense) living in a manner consistent with this truth.

  1. Walk as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord.
    1. When the Colossians received Christ at the moment of their conversion (the Greek verb translated “received” indicates a past, point-in-time event), they received Him for who He really is, “Christ Jesus the Lord.”
      1. “Christ” – the anointed one of God promised in the OT
      2. “Jesus” – the Savior from sin (“he shall save his people from their sin” Mt 1:21)
      3. “Lord”—the supreme authority, owner, master

Paul wants their present and continuous conduct to conform to the doctrine taught them at the beginning, the doctrine they had committed themselves to at conversion.[1]

  1. How does one receive Christ Jesus the Lord? By faith. This is also how we must live the Christian life—by faith, “not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).
  2. Paul’s concern is that we persevere in the faith we originally received and not become enamored with the philosophies and “vain deceit” (Col 2:8) so prevalent in the world around us. Believers are “complete” in Christ (Col 2:10) and need not partake of worldly foolishness.
  3. A faith that does not recognize the Lordship of Christ is a dubious faith indeed. Some today assert that accepting Christ as Lord is a secondary, optional step one should take at some point after salvation. To be saved, one must simply trust Christ as Savior from sin without any concern about his claims as Lord, they say. But Paul’s words here strongly assert that genuine salvation requires one to recognize that Jesus Christ is Lord at the point of salvation. Salvation entails one receiving “Christ Jesus the Lord.” One’s “walk,” that is, his behavior or conduct, must reflect the fact that Jesus is his Master.



  1. Walk “in him.”
    1. To “walk” in Christ speaks of maintaining the Christian faith, living and acting under the teachings of Christ as taught by the Savior and his apostles. True believers persevere in faith and in good works.
    2. Paul’s frequent assertion that believers are “in” Christ reflects the fact that Christians are united with Christ in his life, death, and resurrection (cf. Rom 6:4-6). We are dependent on our union with Christ to maintain the Christian walk.

Note the Quote: We were in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4); we are in Him as we were in Adam (Romans 5:12, 21; 1 Cor. 15:22); we are in Him as the members of the body are in the head (Eph. 1:23, 16; 1 Cor. 12:12, 27, and often); we are in Him as the branches are in the vine (John 15:1–12). We are in Him in such a sense that his death is our death, we were crucified with Him (Gal. 2:20; Romans 6:1–8); we are so united with Him that we rose with Him, and sit with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:1–6). In virtue of this union, we are (in our measure) what He is. We are the sons of God in Him. And what He did, we did. His righteousness is our righteousness. His life is our life. His exaltation is our exaltation.[2]

  1. Jesus taught that genuine believers are like branches connected to a vine (John 15). Those who “abide” in this connection bear fruit and prove themselves to be genuine disciples. Those who fail to abide in the vine wither, are cast off, and eventually are burned, thus proving themselves to be false brethren.
  2. Walking “in” Christ suggests a life that is directly and permanently connected to Jesus, a life that abides in Christ and is nourished and strengthened by this connection.
  3. Walk “rooted.”
    1. The Greek participle here could be translated “having been firmly rooted.” The form of the word suggests an action which took place at a point-in-time in the past with ongoing effects. The moment a believer is converted, he is, so to speak, planted in the soil of salvation (cf. Ps 1:3; Jer 17:8), remaining permanently rooted therein and growing as a result. Our object is to remain “grounded and settled” in the faith, “not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col 1:23). “Having been firmly rooted” is a good way to describe the permanency of salvation and the stability of the Christian life.
    2. The word is in the passive voice, implying that someone else (God) has done the planting. This reflects the fact that God is the active participant in salvation. God provides for salvation; man merely receives God’s provision.
    3. It might sound a bit odd to “walk” while “rooted” securely in the ground, but Paul’s intent is clear. We live the Christian life from a position of firmness and solidity. Faith in Christ gives us secure ground for living the Christian life.


  1. Walk “built up”
    1. Paul switches from an agricultural metaphor (a plant) to an architectural one (a building). Just as a plant grows higher and stronger, and as a building grows as it is being built, so the believer should be growing and developing in his faith. A growing Christian life (sanctification) is built upon a proper relationship with Christ (salvation). Jesus is the foundation (1 Cor 3:11) and chief cornerstone (Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:6) upon which believers build their lives.
    2. Again, the Greek participle is in the passive voice, suggesting the fact that God is the one who is ultimately doing the building. This is a present tense verb, describing ongoing action—”being built up.” This should be the common experience of all Christians. Further, we should note that the process of being built up—what the NT called “edification”—is most commonly related to participation in the local church. Building up occurs in the context of church life.
    3. The building/edification process is reciprocal—we “edify one another” in the context of the church (1 Thes 5:11). How does this occur?
      1. Love one another (1 Cor 8:1).
      2. Admonish, encourage, warn, and support each other (1 Cor 14:3 and 1 Thes 5:14).
      3. Follow spiritual leaders as they follow Christ (2 Cor 10:8; Eph 4:12)
      4. Use the resources God supplies—the Bible, prayer, the church, etc. (Acts 20:32).
  2. Walk “established in the faith”

The word “established” means, “made firm, confirmed, strengthened.” As the believer grows in the faith, his roots go down deeper and become stronger and more stable (cf. Ps 1:2-3 and Jas 1:21).  Again, the participle is in the passive voice, suggesting that God is the one who establishes the believer in the faith—”being established” is the idea. Paul wanted the Colossians to be well-anchored, lest the winds of heresy uproot them and blow them around like waves of the sea (cf. Eph 4:14).

These three ideas—being rooted, built up and established—strongly imply that believers should be firmly grounded and secure in the faith. The whole book of Colossians is an exhortation for believers to persevere in the faith and in good works, even when confronted by false teaching and worldly philosophy (cf. Col 2:8).

These passive verbs (showing that God is doing the action) do not imply that the believer is careless in his approach to sanctification (e.g., “let go and let God.”). But they do teach that God ultimately initiates and motivates the process. God is the one who works in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).  Believers are still responsible to “labor and strive” (1 Tim 4:10), to make their best efforts (2 Tim 2:15), and to work out their salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). We must cooperate in the sanctification process.

  1. Walk “as you have been taught.”
    1. We must strive to hold fast the traditions the apostles taught (Acts 2:42; 2 Thes 3:6). Churches face the constant temptation to adopt the latest fads and innovation in doctrine or practice in an effort to stay “relevant.” We must staunchly retain our commitment to the fundamentals of the faith without modification. Christianity is a received faith, not one subject to haphazard change. Any significant movement away from the fundamentals is likely a corruption, not an improvement.
    2. Teaching must be a significant element of a church’s ministry. Christ himself commissioned the church to teach (Mt 28:20), and Paul urged Timothy to teach those who could in turn teach others (2 Tim 2:2). Every believer should be committed to learning and spiritual growth.
    3. Teachers are an important part of the growth and stability process. Teachers both convey the content of the faith and provide an example for the congregation to follow (cf. 1 Cor 11:1; Phil 4:9). Thus, congregations must insure that their leaders fulfill the biblical qualifications given for them (1 Tim 3; Titus 1). Too often, churches focus on a preacher’s communication or personal skills and neglect evaluating his moral character.
    4. Those working hard in teaching the Word deserve the respect that accompanies the position (1 Tim 5:17).
  2. Walk “abounding therein with thanksgiving.”
    1. The Greek word translated “thanksgiving” is eucharistia, the root of which is charis, which means, “grace.”  Any recipient of grace should be grateful because he has received something good he does not deserve. Gratitude is an attitude Paul commends several times in Colossians (1:12, 3:15, 16, 17, and 4:2).
    2. In light of God’s work of rooting, building and establishing us, gratitude to God should be abundant in our souls to the point of overflowing.[3] And the present tense of this verb indicates that this attitude of thanks should be a continuing experience in every believer’s life. Those lacking such gratitude may be susceptible to doubt and spiritual delusion (of which Paul warns us in Col 2:8).[4]


[1] Expositor’s Bible Commentary

[2] Charles Hodge, vol. 3, Systematic Theology (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 127.

[3] The word “abounding” often pictures a river overflowing its banks.

[4] Expositor’s Bible Commentary