Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Walking In The Spirit (Gal. 5:16,17)
Gal. 5:16,17 I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
If a Christian is going to have a victorious spiritual life, this passage tells us that he must walk in the Spirit. Temptation is a normal part of any person's life. We all face trials and temptations, and in our human strength, it is impossible to overcome them. Temptation ensnares us by preying on our human weaknesses. In our human strength, it is impossible to overcome temptation, but the Bible tells us that through Christ, we have the victory, and do not have to be defeated by temptation:
Rom. 8:37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us
Phil. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
Before Jesus Christ, people were under the law. The function of the law was to make people aware of their sinful condition. In the Old Testament, the only thing that believers had to keep them from sinning was the law. Adherence to the law was based on fear and self-effort. Through the sacrificial system, and the various animal sacrifices, the law made it known that the penalty for sin was death. Since Jesus Christ came, and fulfilled the law, the Bible says that we are no longer under the law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14).
Part of being under grace is that God has given of us His Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us. We are saved by grace through faith. Faith in Christ has in essence replaced the law, and the Holy Spirit (not the law) is now our guide in living the Christian life (Gal. 3:23-25). We are no longer merely instructed to put off sin, but we are given a helper to keep us from sinning.
With that in mind, how then do we actually walk in the Spirit, and gain victory over the sin that so easily ensnares us? What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?
Gal. 5:16 I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh
The word walk in this verse literally means to conduct oneself, ordering one's manner of life or behaviour. It's the same word used in Eph. 4:1, which tells us to walk worthy of the calling in which you were called. Basically, what this passage is instructing us to do is to order our behaviour, our conduct, in a manner conducive to the Spirit of God, and His work in our lives.
The word fulfill is from the Greek word teleo, and means to bring into fulfillment or action. The lusts of the flesh refers to the evil desires, impulses, or passions that are constantly arising from the evil nature. So, then to fulfill the lusts of the flesh is to bring into action those innate desires that are constantly arising from within us – our flesh.....basically, allowing these desires to control us, rather than giving them over to the Holy Spirit. When a person becomes saved, the evil nature is not eradicated. It's power over the believer is broken, and the believer need not obey it. But it is there, contantly attempting to control the believer as it did before salvation.(1)
Walking in the Spirit involves surrendering one's entire being, including his evil desires and lusts, to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to resist temptation by overpowering the desires of the flesh. If the believer depends upon the Spirit to give him both the desire and the power to do the will of God, he will not bring to fulfillment in action, the evil impulses of the fallen nature, but will be able to resist and conquer them.(2) Too many people suppress the power of God's Spirit by giving over to their fleshly lusts, rather than giving them to the Lord.
Gal. 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish
Against comes from the root word kata, which indicates suppression. Thus, the flesh has a strong desire to suppress the Spirit, and the Spirit a strong desire to suppress the flesh. The word Spirit here is talking about the Holy Spirit, and His work inside the believer, for it is God who works inside the believer to bring the desires of the flesh under control. This verse indicates a literal spiritual battle raging inside of a person, when that person is tempted. The Bible tells us that temptation occurs when a person is drawn away by his own lusts:
James 1:14 But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
The words drawn away in this passage is a metaphor from hunting and fishing, and indicates being coaxed, or lured, as a fish is lured to take the bait. This verse also indicates that the source of all temptation is in man himself. It is his own lusts that drive him to sin.
The word contrary here means to oppose or withstand. The Spirit, and His desires, are opposed to those of the flesh, and vice-versa. The purpose of each is to prevent the believer from doing what the other moves him to do. The choice lies with the saint. He must develop the habit of keeping his eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus and his trust in the Holy Spirit. The more he says NO to sin, the easier it is to say no, until it becomes a habit. The more he says yes to Jesus, the easier it is to say yes, until that becomes a habit.(3)
So, then, how exactly do we walk in the Spirit? How do we order out life and behaviour according to the Spirit of God? There are 2 words that I would like to draw to your attention: mindset, and relationship:
(1)Mindset – Set our minds on the things of God.
Rom. 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit
How we think and how we live are completely intertwined. The term set their minds upon indicates a willful and intentional ordering of a person's thought life. What is being indicated here is not an occasional thought that may cross the mind, but a purposeful directive towards a certain mode of thinking. If you set your mind upon the things of the flesh, you have purposed in your heart to think that way. Who you live for determines how you think, and how you think determines how you act. If you are living for Christ, you will set your mind on the things of the Spirit – if living for self, the things of the flesh. The more you set your mind upon the things of God, the easier it becomes to do the things He requires of you. Philippians 4:8 specifies what kinds of things we are to dwell on:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things
These are the things of the Spirit as referenced in Romans 8:5. As long as we set our minds on these things, our actions will follow. As long as we strive to keep our minds pure, the less likely we are to fall into temptation and sin. The reality, though, is that we live in a fallen world, and for so many of us, years of ungodly and degenerate living have sort of “tainted” our minds, so that they are not as pure as we would desire. Ungodly thoughts and desires creep in, unwanted and seemingly uninhibited.
Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
The word transformed comes from the same root word as metamorphasis, and literally means to put on another form, or change the form of the world for that of Christianity (A. Barnes). The word renewing simply means to make new. This passage indicates that an outward change in action is to come from an inward change of the mind. It happens when our thoughts are less in tune with the world, and more in tune with Christ. This is accomplished by the reading of God's word and dwelling on those things listed in Philippans 4:8. The more we do that, and the more our mind is renewed, the stronger we become to resist the ungodly thoughts and temptations that arise from being in the world. We cannot change the fact that we are in the world, but we can separate ourselves from the world in the way we think, act, and relate to God.
1 Cor. 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
But what of those who struggle with impure thoughts and attitudes – those who truly want to live Godly lives, but who just can't seem to gain victory in this area?
2 Cor. 10:5 tells us that we are to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. In other words, we must learn to recognize, and sieze, every ungodly or negative thought and bring it under submission. We are not to dwell upon it, but to cast it aside, laying it at the feet of Jesus. For many of us, the thought life is the center for profound struggle. Though we may intend to set our minds upon the things of the Spirit, negative or sinful thoughts continue to creep in. This can lead to a great deal of frustration. The important thing here is not to allow any thought to gain a stronghold in your mind, but to cast it off as soon as you recognize it. Call it what it is and cast it out. Do not take the time to consider it. If allowed to linger, it can incite lust, and draw us into temptation.
Rom. 13:14 Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Make no provision for the flesh – this includes entertaining lustful thoughts. So, then, walking in the Spirit includes not only dwelling on the things of the Lord, but also taking every thought into captivity that is NOT of the Lord.
(2)Relationship – Abide in Christ
The other aspect of walking in the Spirit involves abiding in Christ. What does it mean to abide in Christ?
John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing.
The word abide here means to remain closely united to Jesus through faith and love, and live a life of dependance on Him. It has to do with close relationship, complete and total dependance – just as the branches depend upon the vine. Likewise, we are continually being nourished and sustained by the Lord through the Spirit. This verse tells us that when we abide in Christ, that we bear fruit. The fruit He is referring to is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Gal. 5:22,23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kidness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
The fruit of the Spirit, and the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) run contrary to one another. Fruit grows naturally out of the sustenance of the branch, while works are something that a person must willfully set out to do. So, then, as we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit works in us to produce fruit – including self-control in the face of temptation.
We abide in Christ, first by confessing Him as Lord and Saviour (1 John 4:15), and obeying His commandments:
1 John 3:24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
When we obey Christ and His commandments, we abide in His love, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us. In obeying the Lord, we are ordering our conduct according to the Spirit of God, which is what Gal. 5:16 instructs us to do. As we walk in obedience, ordering our steps according to the commandments of God, the Holy Spirit empowers us, producing fruit and equipping us to resist temptations which may arise. The Bible tells us not to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 5:19). Disobedience quenches the Holy Spirit, and His work in our lives.
The Holy Spirit has been given to us as the agent to counteract the evil nature, but He does that for the saint when the saint puts himself under His control, and by an act of his free will, says NO to sin. There must be a cooperation of the saint with the Holy Spirit in His work of sanctifying the life.
So, then, what are we to conclude from all of this? Walking in the Spirit involves more than just claiming one's allegiance to Christ, or trying to do good. It involves abiding closely with Him, allowing His Spirit to transform, through His word, every aspect of our lives, including our actions and our way of thinking. It is setting our minds upon the things of God, and patterning our conduct according to His commandments. Walking in the Spirit is an outward reflection of an inward reality – behaving in a manner that is pleasing to God, not by our own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working inside of us.
1.Wuest's Word Studies, Vol. 1 & 2
2.Wuest's Word Studies, Vol. 1 & 2
3.Wuest's Word Studies, Vol. 1 & 2