But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
God graciously gives the Holy Spirit to his people. This is part of his grace to us (per chapter 32 “The Gift of the Holy Spirit”). Yet the above verses indicate that we have a part to play, that we are to “walk by the Spirit.”
Being “saved” through repentance and faith (chapter 16) does not necessarily result in outward righteousness. There is a process of growing in Christ; of becoming spiritual; of learning to walk by the Spirit. Paul speaks of how God’s people can be of the flesh rather than spiritual:
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1Corinthians 3:1-3)
Walking by the Spirit is not greater self-effort. Nor is it being “controlled” by the Holy Spirit, with us playing no part. Recall from chapter 32 that the Holy Spirit teaches us, reminds us, helps our understanding, brings us freedom, and gives us power. Galatians 5:18 (above) speaks of being “led by the Spirit,” as does the book of Romans: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (Romans 8:14). Being led by the Spirit involves choosing to follow the Spirit of God; giving up our own priorities for God’s priorities; doing things his way rather than our own way.
A failure to walk by the Spirit can result in bondage to sin and other symptoms of spiritual weakness. The apostle Paul discussed his own problem in this area in Romans chapter 7. If you find yourself not doing what you want, but doing the very things you hate (Romans 7:15), then I recommend that you prayerfully consider Romans chapters 5 to 8 (also, consider the books referenced below).
As we walk by the Spirit, the “fruit of the Spirit” will become apparent in our lives, as discussed in the next chapter. Successfully walking by the Spirit will also result in the practical realization of the truths spoken of in Romans 8:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
Thank you, Lord, for the victory that is ours as we walk by the Spirit!
For Further Reflection
Romans 7:1-6: The new way of the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-17: The Spirit and the flesh.
1Corinthians 2:9-16: The Spirit who is from God.
Galatians 3:1-7; 6:7-8: The Spirit, the law, and the flesh.
Book Reference: “Walking in the Spirit” by Kenneth Berding.
Book Reference: “Secret Power” by D. L. Moody (available free on the internet).
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