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Brad's Blog

What Does It Mean To Walk By The Spirit?

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by Spirit.
Galatians 5:25

As Christians, we often hear we should live or walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. Many times this is called the Spirit-filled life. But what does it mean to live or walk by the Spirit? What is the Spirit-filled life?

To understand what it means to walk by the Spirit, we need to stay in context of where the verse is located that tells us to walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 says:

If we live by the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit.

Since this verse is found in Galatians, let's see what the letter to the Galatians is about. Once we discover the purpose of the letter to the Galatians, we then can begin to understand the meaning of walking by the Spirit.

The author of the letter to the Galatian people was Paul. Paul had established several churches in cities of the Galatian region. These Galatian churches were established on the foundation of God's grace. 

When Paul went into cities to start churches, the message these churches were established on was grace. Paul says in Acts 20:23-24:

I only know that in every city (I go into to start churches), the Holy spirit warns me that prisons and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel (good news)of God's grace (all that God has done for us through Jesus).

Paul was a missionary. His assignment from Jesus himself was to go into cities and tell others about the gospel or good news about grace. As people responded to the message of grace (all that God has done for us through Jesus), he then would start churches in the houses of those who had received God's grace through faith. 

Another name for grace in the Bible that Paul used was the new covenant. When referencing the new covenant of grace, Paul used it in contrast to the old covenant of law. In 2 Corinthians 3:6, Paul says the following about the new covenant of grace compared to the old covenant of law.

He (God) has made us competent as ministers of the new covenant (grace) - not of the letter (old covenant of law, 10 Commandments), but of the Spirit (new covenant of grace, all of our sins counted against Jesus leaving none to be counted against us as seen is 2 Corinthians 5:18-21); for the letter kills (old covenant of law, 10 Commandments), but the Spirit gives life (new covenant of grace). Now if the ministry that brought death (old covenant of law, 10 Commandments) which was engraved in letters on stone (10 Commandments), came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses (when he came down off the mountain with the 10 Commandments) because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious (the new covenant of grace)? If the ministry that condemns me is glorious (old covenant of law, 10 Commandments), how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness (new covenant of grace)? If that which is fading away came with glory (old covenant of law), how much greater is the glory which lasts (new covenant of grace)!

Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old (old covenant of law) is gone and the new (new covenant of grace) has come.

Paul was saying when people come to faith in Jesus they are to no longer live under the old covenant, which is the Mosaic Law with is commandments, rules, curses, rituals, sacrifices, etc... To do so would be to commit spiritual adultery (Romans 7:1-6). They now live under the new covenant of grace, which is Jesus completely paying our sin penalty on the cross, redeeming us from the law, and sending his Spirit to live in us enabling us to call God Abba Father. More on this a little later...

The following verses reveal to us what Paul taught about law and grace. (Remember, Paul received the revelation of grace directly from the ascended Jesus as seen in Acts 20:24.)

Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.
Acts 13:39 

Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
Romans 3:20

This righteousness comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption (full payment for our sins through his blood)
 that came by Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:22-24

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
Romans 3:28

Therefore, since we have been justified through through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
Romans 5:1-2

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:14

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you may belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God...But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we may serve (relate to God) in the new way of the Spirit (new covenant of grace) and not in the old way of the written code (old covenant of law).
Romans 7:4-6

*Remember the verse above. It is essential to understanding what it means to live by or walk in the Spirit. 

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Romans 10:4

So, what does all this have to do with walking in the Spirit? Everything! But we will get there soon. First, let's take a look at the context of Galatians.

As stated earlier, Paul was given the task by the ascended Jesus to start grace-based churches in cities. This message of grace, as seen in the above verses, teaches us that being justified before God, or forgiven, righteous, accepted and innocent before him, does not come through obedience to the law of Moses, but through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, when Paul started the churches in the Galatian cities, they were established on the foundation of grace, not law.

Grace is everything God has done for us out of his unconditional love and unmerited kindness through Jesus to save us, leaving us nothing to do to achieve salvation, but to only receive by faith what he has done. Read what the following verses say about grace: the praise of his glorious grace which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:6-8 the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:7-9

God...who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel (grace) I was appointed a herald, and an apostle and a teacher.
2 Timothy 1:8-11

So, it was on the foundation of grace, meaning God has done everything through Jesus to bring salvation to us apart from the law, that Paul established churches, including the churches in Galatia. 

Paul opens the letter to the Galatians by stating he had been sent out by Jesus to start churches in Galatia with the message of grace given to him by Jesus (Galatians 1:1, 11-12). The reason Paul was writing the letter was to explain to those in Galatia that justification, which is being declared righteous or innocent before God, was through faith in Jesus and not through obedience to the law of Moses. However, the very people he had so clearly shared the message of grace with when starting the churches were now deserting the message of grace, and were turning back to the Mosaic law, the old covenant, to be justified before God or, as Paul says, they were falling from grace. Galatians 5:4 says:

You who are trying to be justified by law (obeying the old covenant of law or Mosaic Law) have alienated yourselves from Christ (no longer depending upon Jesus by faith to be declared innocent, righteous, forgiven, and accepted by God)
you have fallen from grace (have turned back to the works of the law to be justified before God).

To correct the Galatian churches' problem of returning back to the law to be justified before God, rather than depending solely upon Jesus' finished work on the cross, Paul writes a letter to the Galatians. He quickly addresses the problem in Galatians 1:6-7.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ (the new covenant of grace) and are turning to a different gospel (the old covenant of law) - which is no gospel at all.

Paul goes on to say the following in Galatians: 

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing!
Galatians 2:21

After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Galatians 3:3

All who are trying to obey the law are under a curse, for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law (the law given by God to Moses contained in the books of Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy )." Clearly, no one will be justified before God by the law...Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed (set us free from the law through his death) us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Galatians 2:10-14

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law (the Mosaic law, including the 10 commandments, were given to show us our sin and guilt before God and then to lead us to place our faith in Jesus to  be justified or declared not guilty through his payment for our sin) was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Galatians 3:23-25

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights as sons. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out "Abba Father" .
Galatians 4:4-6

Do you see it? Jesus was born under the old covenant of law for the purpose of setting us free from the law by perfectly obeying it. Then, through his death, he paid for our inability to obey the law, which is sin. He became a curse for us. He took upon himself at the cross the curse caused by our not being able to obey the law. In doing so, he redeemed or set us free from the law.  Once set free from the law, God sent the Spirit of Jesus into our hearts and now we call God "Abba Father" just as Jesus did when he lived on earth. 

So, what does it mean to walk in the Spirit according to Paul in his letter to the Galatians? To walk in the Spirit is to relate to God in a loving relationship, having been freed from the law, by calling him Abba Father through the Spirit of Jesus who lives in our hearts. We no longer relate to God as a judge to fear under the law. Instead, we relate to God in the same way Jesus an intimate loving relationship with God as our Father.

Jesus, during his time on earth, lived and was guided by a love relationship with his Father. He did not relate to God as his judge, but as his loving Father. He daily walked in a loving relationship with his heavenly Father through the Holy Spirit who lived in him. 

Jesus, just before he went to the cross, taught his disciples that they, too, would call God Father and that his Father loved them as much as he loved Jesus. Not only would his disciples call God Father, but all those who would believe in Jesus, you and me, would know God as our loving Father as well.

John, one of Jesus' closest disciples, said in John 3:1:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!

Because we have been set free from the law and God has sent the Spirit of Jesus to live in our hearts, we no longer follow or seek to obey the requirements of the law in the old covenant. To do so would be to fall from grace or commit spiritual adultery as Paul says in Romans 7:1-6. We now, as dearly loved children of God, call God Father. This is the Spirit-filled life. This is what it means to walk by the Spirit.

Paul says in Galatians 5:13-18:

You, my brothers, were called to be free (from the old covenant of law). But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."...So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

So, we see in these verses that to walk in the Spirit, which is a love relationship with God where he calls us his dearly loved children and we call him our loving Father, is to be led by the Spirit so that we live a life of love in service to others. As we do this, we will fulfill everything the law is actually about...LOVE...without even trying! Under grace, the Spirit in us will lead us to live a life of love toward others. 

Paul says in Romans 13:8-10, after he had been teaching in the entire book of Romans that we are not under law but grace, the following:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continual debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Do you see what Paul is saying? The entire law is based upon one word...LOVE. The Bible says we have all sinned and broken God's law. So, at its very root, sin is our inability to love our neighbor. Yet, by the Spirit of Jesus who lives in us, we can love because we are walking in or receiving the love of God our Father who is love. 

God is love. We are in a personal intimate love relationship with God which he initiated by grace through Jesus and we received by faith in Jesus. By receiving or walking in his love, we can now love others.

God says in Deuteronomy 30:6:

The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants so you may love him with all your heart and live.

Romans 2:29 says:

...circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit (new covenant of grace), not by the written code (old covenant of law).

Do you see the heart of God? His heart is for us to love, not obey a law. God gave us laws initially because we could not love. His laws were not given to change (circumcise) our hearts but to reveal our hearts needed to be changed (circumcised). He did this by redeeming us from the law and then sending the Spirit of Jesus into our hearts to change our hearts and then empower us to love. 

Apart from the Spirit of Jesus in us, enabling us to call God our Father and to experience his love, we cannot love. All we can do is sin or break God's law. Yet, God, through Jesus, redeemed us from the law, which we could never obey because of sin, or our inability to love. Also, through Jesus, he redeemed us from the curse of the law resulting from our disobedience to the law. Now that we have been set free from the law, God has put his Spirit in our hearts so we can love. We can love because, through the Spirit of Jesus in us, we experience God's love as our Father. Because we are experiencing God's love as our Father, we are empowered to express his love to others. 

God's Spirit and love within us will never lead us to commit adultery, lie, steal ,murder, etc... Just the opposite. Those who walk according to the Spirit, rather than the law, will bear the fruit of the Spirit, which is love. Paul says the following in Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. And against such things there is no law.

So we see the Christian life it is not about us trying to obey a law. Rather, the Christian life is about walking in the Spirit whereby we experience our Father's love, as Jesus did. As we experience the Father's love, which is his patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness to us, we will express that same love to others. We will become patient, peaceful, kind, good, gentle, and faithful. We will actually be treating others the same way our loving Father treats us. This is the Spirit-filled life. Walking by the Spirit, or the Spirit-filled life, results in the fruit of the Spirit being produced in our lives. 

To walk in the Spirit is when our lives are controlled by God's love through his Spirit who lives within us. Self-control is the last fruit of love the Spirit produces. Instead of our lives being controlled by his law on the outside of us telling us how to live, his love is changing us from the inside, empowering us to live a life of love. And as Paul says:

Against such things there is no law.

This means it is not illegal to love! The law focuses on what it is illegal to do. "Do not commit adultery." "Do not lie." "Do not murder." Grace, the Spirit-filled life where our hearts are filled with his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness, is not focusing on what is illegal, but focuses on loving others. 

Furthermore, as we walk in a love relationship with our heavenly Father through the Spirit of Jesus in us, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh because our lives are under the control of his love.

So I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Galatians 5:16

This Christian life is not about trying not to sin. That is life under the law. Paul said those who belong to Jesus Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its desires and passions. Rather, the Christian life is learning to walk in the Spirit. As we do, we will not gratify the desires and passions of the sinful nature.

So, according to Paul in his letter to the Galatians, to walk by the Spirit means the following:

1. To walk in the Spirit means we no longer seek to obey the law since we have been redeemed and released from the law, but now we walk in a loving relationship with God as our Father.

2. To walk in the Spirit means we do not seek to obey the law since we are no longer under the supervision of the law, but now walk in a loving relationship with God as our Father.

3. To walk in the Spirit means we do not relate to God as our judge under law, but to relate to him as our loving Father under grace.

4. To walk in the Spirit means to experience God's love (joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness) as our Father and express his love to others (peace, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), which is the fruit of the Spirit.

5. To walk in the Spirit is to walk in a loving relationship with God's as our Father and in doing so we will not gratify the desires of our sinful nature.

It is my prayer this teaching has helped you understand what it means to walk by the Spirit. If it has been helpful, please join with me in sharing the good news of God's grace with others by clicking the Share button at the bottom of this blog. Also, if you would like to be updated when I post a new blog, simply complete the form on the Contact page and you will be sent an email when each new blog is posted.

2 Comments to What Does It Mean To Walk By The Spirit?:

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Jason Pennington on Wednesday, August 06, 2014 10:07 PM
wow amazing I love them out of time and how thorough you dug into the Scripture with all the reference scriptures put forth for everything to confirm what you're stating! Sign me up for the book of grace when you're done with it.??thank you for making yourself available to God's wisdom and knowledge and truth that he is put inside of you to preach and teach grace! Hallelujah
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Shawn L on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 10:02 AM
Brad, you are a true champion of grace. There is so much here about walking by the Spirit I feel like I need to read this a few times to grasp it all. And I liked how you summed it up at the end. Thanks for your willingness to share the message of God's grace!
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