Sounds like a low-budget horror movie. Or a TV preacher’s new “blessing”. Spirit-Walking. Actually it’s the way the apostle Paul directs the Galatian church (and us) to live the Christian life. (Note: Haven’t read “The Summit: The Spirit”? Good to read now— http://theoldpreacher.com/the-summit-spirit/.)
Paul continues with a “But”, a contrast. What’s Paul “but-ing”? Submitting again to a yoke of slavery (5:1) by accepting circumcision (5:2) and so obligating oneself to keep all God’s Law (5:3). Also, using Christ-given freedom from Law (5:1) as an opportunity for the “flesh” (5:13) . . .
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 law.
(Galatians 5:16-18, ESV).
” . . . walk by the Spirit” . . . “Walk” literally translates the Greek, perapatayte. Figuratively perapataye is translated “behave, conduct oneself, live”. Under sunny skies and rainy, along a woodsy path, down a plunging, stony trail into a dark valley, up and up a mountain side to a spectacular panaroma. Perapatayte pictures the Christian way of life as an ongoing walk.
” . . . walk by the Spirit”. “By” implies means, mode, method. Yesterday morning I went to my chiropractor’s office (don’t ask) by truck (sitting in the seat, not dumped in the bed). Paul directs the Galatian church (and us) to walk through the Christian life, not by means of personal effort to scrupulously keep God’s Law, but by means of the Spirit. “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts . . . ” (4:6). The Spirit doesn’t hover way up in heaven but indwells us who believe in Christ. By means of the now-indwelling Spirit, we are to walk. Paul couples his command with a promise . . .
” . . . and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” “Flesh” here doesn’t refer to our physical body or (what this word often brings to mind) sexual sin. Usually, as here, it refers to our human nature. Us apart from Christ. And that “us”, our nature, sinfully seeks opportunities to gratify its desires. That’s what lies behind Paul’s earlier warning: ” . . . do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh” (5:13a).
See Law’s weakness? “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). “You shall not covet . . . your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17). The Commandments may give us pause, but are powerless to push away our sin-nature’s desires. ” . . . if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law” (3:21). God’s Law is ” . . . holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12), but is “weakened by the flesh” (Romans 8:3). So “God has done what the law . . . 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 requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3,4). God the Actor. God the Giver.
Why, though, does “Spirit-walking” work? . . .
“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.” Our human nature is wired to gratify its sinful desires. The Spirit of God’s Son sent into us opposes sinful desires with Holy Spirit desires. Think magnets. Point two north-seeking magnet poles toward each other and they repel. So the Spirit’s presence in our fallen human nature creates resistance. The opposition “keeps you from the doing the things you (that is, your fallen, sinful human nature) want to do.”
Two important points. One, though justified (in right-standing with God) and Spirit-filled, we have to contend with our sin-nature’s desires as long as we’re in this body. ” . . . we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).
Two, we must “walk by the Spirit.” In other words, the against-the-flesh activity of the Spirit in us is not without action on our part. Take a young man with natural-born baseball-pitching ability. It’s there in his arm—the strength, the finesse, the feel, the touch. But he has to develop it, work out, practice, pitch in crucial games. We have to “walk by the Spirit.”
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” If we are “Spirit-walkers” we are not “under law” (don’t have to post-note the Ten Commandments to our refrigerator and grim- faced sweat to obey them today), because we are being “led by the Spirit.” Hint: here’show to “walk by the Spirit”. Be led by the Spirit. More on this next time.
Let’s finish now by allowing God’s Word to strengthen our faith. We are not doomed to sweaty, desperate efforts to be a better Christian. We are not imprisoned by God’s good Law we can’t hope to keep. We are not sentenced to create our own more-workable system of religion to sooth guilt-feelings. WE ARE NOT LEFT ON OUR OWN.
But when the fullness of time had come,
God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under law,
to redeem those who were under law,
so that we might receive adoptions as sons.
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
So you are no longer a slave, but a son,
and if a son, then an heir through God.