Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the King James Version.
“This I saythen, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would . But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before , as I have also told you in time past , that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16-26).
In the above text there are four related principles: walking in the Spirit, being led of the Spirit, having the fruit of the Spirit, and living in the Spirit. The word “walk” in verse 16 is the Greek term “peripateo” and in Strong’s Concordance it means “to tread all around; i.e. walk at large; fig. to live, deport oneself, follow (as a companion or votary): go, be occupied with, walk (about).” In this definition, then, we can infer at least three of the active principles involved: walking in the Spirit, living in the Spirit, and being led of the Spirit. When this takes place the fruit of the Spirit will follow.
One who is led of the Spirit, as is stated above in verse 18, is not under the law. What law is this verse addressing? It certainly involves the law of Moses which much of the book of Galatians speaks about. The law of Moses was a law code made up of over 600 individual laws containing various moral, ceremonial, and sacrificial precepts. After Christ came and died, believers are no longer to be under this law code (see Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). Galatians 3:10-14 is very adamant about this point. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written , Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written , Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
The book of the law (law of Moses) contained these 600 plus laws, as written by the hand of Moses, and it was placed in the side of the ark of the covenant rather than in the ark itself as were the Ten Commandment tablets (God’s law; see Deuteronomy 31:24-26; 10:1-5). Christ redeemed His followers from the curse of the book of the law when He died on the cross (tree). The reason that this law was a curse was because no one (except Christ, of course) could keep it perfectly. It was not of faith, and a person could not be justified by it since “the just shall live by faith.”
The Apostle Paul had to withstand (stop) the Apostle Peter for giving some credence to the law of Moses. It was unlawful for a Jew to keep company with a Gentile (see Acts 10:28) until God gave Peter the vision of the sheet containing the animals. Peter, however, did separate himself from Gentiles. “Butwhen Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come , he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision” (Galatians 2:11-12).
It also appears that Peter was advocating that the Gentiles live according to Jewish beliefs. “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:14-16).
Paul even had to rebuke the church in Galatia for trying to live by the works of the law. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:1-2). Notice this next point that Paul makes to the Galatian brethren. He equates doing the works of the law to being in the flesh (compare verses 2 and 3). Living by the works of the law (being in the flesh), therefore, is in opposition to the Spirit.
What was the purpose of the book of the law which was placed in the side of the ark? Galatians 3:19, 24-25 gives us the answer. “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made ; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator … Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come , we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Please also read Galatians 4:1-7).
At this point someone might be asking that since the book of the law contained moral laws, even principles of the Ten Commandments, didn’t these Commandments cease when the other commandments were abolished at Christ’s death? This is where many become confused. The book of the law did, indeed, contain many moral laws. Even the Sabbath is commanded in it. However, we don’t keep the Sabbath in the manner stated in the book of the law. The priests, for instance, offered sacrifices on the Sabbath day (see Numbers 28:9-10). We keep the Sabbath according to the Ten Commandments written on stone (actually these Commandments are to be written upon our hearts) and according to Christ’s instructions (see, for instance, Matthew 12:1-12; Mark 2:27-28). We know that when the Mosaic law was abolished at Christ’s death, the Ten Commandments as spoken by God, and the teachings of Christ still remained.
We mentioned earlier that doing the works of the law equates to being in the flesh (see again Galatians 3:2-3). This is because the person doing the works of the law is trying to be justified by his or her own efforts. Now, notice again what Galatians 5:19-21 reads: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Breaking God’s law, therefore, is also being in the flesh. When a person tries to live life on his or her own terms, the result is always one of failure. No matter how much one tries to be righteous, the opposite will always occur. God’s standard of righteousness--the holy Ten Commandment Law--is inevitably transgressed.
Let us examine more of what the Bible has to say about living in the flesh. Living in the flesh, basically, is disregarding God’s standard of righteousness. This righteousness can only be attained when the Holy Spirit indwells a person. If the Spirit does not reside within someone, then that person automatically is living in the flesh and is under the penalty of death. Living in the flesh may come under two related categories: disregarding God’s righteousness by living a life of sin, and disregarding His righteousness by trying to be justified by works. In either case God’s standard of righteousness is being disregarded, and the person or persons involved come under the death penalty.
These next passages of Scripture will bear out what I have been discussing. Romans 8:5-8, 12 reads: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God … Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.” In this text we can see that we owe God a debt which is to not live after the flesh.
In Romans 4:4 we read that the person who tries to be justified by works is also under a debt. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” This situation places the person outside of God’s grace. The Apostle Paul continues this thought in Galatians 5:2-4. “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
Another term for living in the flesh is being carnal. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Corinthians 3:3). Peter wrote against a carnal group of people in II Peter 2:10: “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.”
The answer to not living in the flesh is given by Paul in his letter to the Colossians, chapter 3. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:5-9). “Mortify” means to put to death. This can only be done through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, the law does not condemn a person who walks after the Spirit. We see this from Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Notice that there are two other laws mentioned in these verses: “the law of the Spirit of life” and “the law of sin and death”. Being in the flesh places one under the law of sin and death. Walking after the Spirit places one under the law of the Spirit of life.
Our emphasis so far of not being justified by the works of the law has been about the law of Moses. Let us now discuss more of the Ten Commandments (God’s law). Though only Christ can give us salvation, the Ten Commandments are still a part of the covenant between God and His people (see, for instance, Deuteronomy 4:13). After the Lord spoke these Ten Commandments, we find in Deuteronomy 5:22: “These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.” Notice that He “added no more” to these commandments. But because of the peoples’ transgressions, as we have seen, the LORD gave them the book of the law (see, again, Galatians 3:19).
Notice, too, that the Ten Commandment law does not contain within its writing a specific penalty for breaking these commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21). The LORD does, however, state in these commandments, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” and “the LORD will not hold him guiltless” (see Exodus 20:5, 7). The book of the law does contain the death penalty for sins committed. Exodus 21:12 states: “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.” This passage in the book of the law is referring back to the sixth commandment (God’s law) which is about not committing murder. We know that a murderer is under the death penalty, both by man and by the Lord. Therefore, when one is living in the flesh (either by works of the law or by disobedience to God’s law) that person becomes a debtor. Not only does the ensuing death penalty occur, but John wrote that this individual does not have eternal life (see John 3:15).
We have seen that one who is led of the Spirit is not under the law, and that there is no condemnation for the one who walks after the Spirit. Does this mean that one can wilfully transgress the Ten Commandments (God’s law) and get away with it? Absolutely not! Transgressing God’s law, the basis for His covenant, places one in the category of living in the flesh, and thus he or she is under the death penalty once again. The Ten Commandments actually define what sin is (see I John 3:4). Romans 3:20 tells us: “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” James 2:11 reads, “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.”
Let us now spend some time observing what being in the Spirit is about. “Butye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:9-11).
Verses 14-17 further informs us: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” What a wonderful blessing--being adopted children of God, as well as being heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. Being joint-heirs means that He will share with us some of what God has given to Him as the only begotten Son of God.
The Scriptures commands one to be filled with the Spirit. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). This is the secret to the believer’s success. Being filled with the Spirit, however, is not a one-time event. It appears that one needs to be continually filled. Why is this? When one repents of his or her sins, is baptized in Jesus’ name, and has had hands laid on to receive the Spirit, this is just the beginning of the believer’s walk. This person now has the fruit of the Spirit, but that fruit needs to be cultivated. If the believer begins to live in the flesh, then he or she is “carnal” (“babes in Christ”, see I Corinthians 3:1-3). This condition causes one to grieve the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 admonishes us: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” If this grieving of the Spirit does not stop, then one can actually quench the Spirit (see I Thessalonians 5:19). We do not have to continually have hands laid on us after baptism to be again filled with the Spirit. If we repent of our sinful ways, we can ask the Lord to fill us with His Spirit again (see Luke 11:13).
The Lord Jesus is our supreme example of being filled with the Spirit. Luke 4:1 reads: “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness”. After He was tempted of the devil we find in verse 14, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.” Jesus was filled with the Spirit and He was in the power of the Spirit. Notice that in verses 18-19, Jesus was then equipped for His ministry. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted , to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised , 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Walking in the Spirit, then, is walking as Jesus walked. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (I John 2:6). It is walking in newness of life; it is walking by faith; it is living in the unity of the Spirit; and it is operating in the diversities of gifts that the Spirit provides (see Romans 6:4; II Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 4:3; I Corinthians 12:4). When each believer is filled with the Spirit, then the whole body of Christ is also Spirit filled. This is what Christ is desiring--a Spirit filled church. Notice how the church is described in Ephesians 5:27: “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
Walking in the Spirit is experiencing Christ’s life within us. This condition will give us such peace and holy power that we will be able to withstand the trials, temptations, and tribulations of life. We will walk in victory and in the end be overcomers. Christ’s promise to the church in Sardis will be ours as well: “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4).
From “The Advocate of Truth”. March 26, 2011.
The Church of God - Publishing House - Salem, West Virginia