P.AllanHow-To books sell.  Maybe because about something we’re all  “DUMMIES.”  I’m not admitting to “dummie-hood;” but, since reading the apostle Paul’s imperative,  “But I say, walk by the Spirit”  in Galatians 5:16  (see link . . .     http://theoldpreacher.com/spirit-walking/ ), I’ve been asking, “How to?” 

Look at the second imperative Paul issues in 5:25:  “keep in step with the Spirit.”   Notice, too, he references to being “led by the Spirit” in 5:18.  I contend  that by these phrases (walk by the Spirit, [be] led by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit) Paul is saying essentially the same thing.  The Christian life is a Spirit-walk, Spirit-led, Spirit-step life.

These terms also paint a picture.  I walk by [means of] a walker for support and strength. When our four-family family vacationed together, three cars in caravan would follow the lead driver.  I never tried out for high school marching band fearing my feet couldn’t stay in rhythm with all the rest.  Walk by the Spirit (like me on my walker).  [B]e led by the Spirit (like us in our caravan).  Keep in step with the Spirit (like me, if I could, in marching band). 

In a sermon entitled “Live by the Spirit,” Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California, and a co-host of the White Horse Inn radio program, explains . . .

“The Spirit works in and through the Word” and  “motivates us to pray” and “causes us to live in freedom by serving one another in love.”  He summarily concludes:  “But we do not fulfill Paul’s imperative  by merely re-doubling our efforts, or by attempting to reach and attain a higher-level or more intense Christian experience. Walking in the Spirit is participating in the means of grace—Word and Sacrament—as well as things such as prayer and fellowship, the result of which is growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and progressive conformity to his image.”

Riddlebarger (one of my Reformed “go-to guys” for perspective) hardly hints at an answer here.  Certainly participating in every means of grace enables us to walk by the Spirit.  But it isn’t the walking itself.   There has to be more.

In a sermon entitled “Walk by the Spirit,” Dr. John Piper, founder and teacher of desiringgod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota and former Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. says . . .

“But the $60,000 question is, How do you walk by the Spirit? All of us have heard preachers say, ‘Let the Spirit lead you,’ or, ‘Allow the Spirit to control you,’ and have gone away puzzled as to what that means practically. How do you allow the Spirit to control you? I want to try to show you that the answer is, You allow the Spirit to control you by keeping your heart happy in God. Or to put it another way, you walk by the Spirit when your heart is resting in the promises of God. The Spirit reigns over the flesh in your life when you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you and now is working everything together for your good.” 

Piper (a mentor through books and Internet) takes us a step closer.  But, while “resting in the promises of God” and living “by faith in the Son of God” fuel our Spirit-walk, it seems to me that “walk by the Spirit” and ‘keep in step with the Spirit” call for more action than resting and trusting.

I think Dr. Gordon Fee, Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada in his excellent book God’s Powerful Presence takes us closest . . .

“[Paul’s] appeal . . . is to ‘go on walking by the very same Spirit by which you came to faith and with whom God still richly supplies you’ . . . That is, a powerful and experiential–supernatural, if you will–presuppositional base lies behind this imperative . . . Life in the Spirit is not passive submission to the Spirit to do a supernatural work in one’s life; rather it requires conscious effort, so that the indwelling Spirit may accomplish his ends in one’s life.  One is urged to ‘walk by the Spirit’ . . . by deliberately ‘conforming one’s life to the Spirit’ (‘keep in step with the Spirit’, 5:25).  If such a person is also described as being ‘led by the Spirit,’ that does not mean passively; it means to rise up and follow the Spirit by walking in obedience to the Spirit’s desire . . .

The difference between ‘them’ and ‘us’ many centuries later is almost certainly at the experiential level, wherein their dynamic experience of the Spirit both at the beginning of life in Christ and in their ongoing life in the church would have made this imperative seem much more ‘practical’ and everyday.  Since the Spirit is God’s own empowering presence, Paul expected God’s supernatural aid to enable them to live in keeping with God’s character and purposes . . .

In a world in which Torah observance no longer obtains, the Spirit is sufficient and adequate to accomplish God’s purposes in and among his people.  Spirit people march to a different drummer, and the Spirit empowers them to live in such a way that their lives evidence that fact.”

The Spirit is like my walker.
He gives me support and strength to walk in the Word-centered ways he desires.
I’m urged to walk.
“Walk by the Spirit.”

The Spirit is like the lead car in our caravan.
He, in my new-born nature, leads me in the Word-centered paths he wants.
I’m urged to follow.
“[Be] led by the Spirit.”

The Spirit is like the marching band conductor.
He sets the Word-centered tempo and pace he favors.
I’m urged to keep in step.
“Keep in step with the Spirit.”

 

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