Friday, May 11, 2007

“Walk by the Spirit”, Part 2

If you don’t mind, I’m just going to “think out loud” a while on this subject of walking “by the Spirit”.
In order to answer the question of what it means to “walk by the Spirit”, it seems to me we must know what the word “walk” means. Just a quick glance in the English Bible at how the apostle Paul used the word “walk” in his writings reveals that he consistently used the word as a synonym for “live” (as in lifestyle). So, for example:

“Let us walk [live] properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy” (Romans 13:13).

“For though we walk [live] in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3).

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk [live] in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk [live] according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).

In every instance in which Paul used the word “walk”, “live” could easily be put in its place. So, with this in mind, we can say that to “walk by the Spirit” means to live one’s daily life by (or by the power of) the Spirit.

This interpretation is confirmed when we look at Galatians 5:16 in the Amplified Bible:

“But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).”

“Live habitually…responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit”. That sounds wonderful! But, how, exactly, is it accomplished? The Holy Spirit is spirit, after all—we can’t see Him or touch Him. How do we live “responsive to and controlled and guided by” One we cannot see?

First of all, we must relate to the Holy Spirit by faith. Remember, the Holy Spirit is God. I call the deity of the Holy Spirit to your remembrance because my observation over the years has been that most Christians tend to be very weak in their theology of the Holy Spirit. My casual observation is that many seem to be scared of the Holy Spirit, afraid to death of the emotionalism or fanaticism they associate with talk of the Holy Spirit. So, they avoid the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, there are those who believe in the Holy Spirit and have no trouble talking about Him, but they don’t seem to know who or what the Holy Spirit is. They think of the Holy Spirit as merely a feeling or force, as some kind of impersonal, supernatural power. I want to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is God—not an “it”, not an impersonal force. He is not some kind of magical “power” that some people “get” and can use at will. The Holy Spirit is the all-sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing God, the third Person in the Trinity. And, like God the Father, the Holy Spirit is unseen. The Spirit is spirit, not a physical presence. Therefore, we must relate to the Holy Spirit by faith, for faith is “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Also, the Bible bears testimony to the fact that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Because the Holy Spirit is God, would it not also apply that it is impossible to please the Holy Spirit without faith in Him? Now, we’ve already seen, from Galatians 5:16-17 and Romans 7:15-24, that we are incapable by nature of resisting the “desires of the flesh” or sin. We need help. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the “Helper” (John 14:16; 15:26), and it is the Holy Spirit who helps believers to resist the strong “desires of the flesh”. In light of Hebrews 11:6, if we are to effectively appropriate the Spirit’s help, we must believe in Him.

Doesn’t it seem that we are often guilty of acting as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist? Isn’t it easier to depend more on our educational training, on psychological methods or sheer willpower more than on the Holy Spirit? Nevertheless, the word God revealed long ago to His prophet, Zechariah, still applies: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). We “must believe that [the Holy Spirit] exists”, that we need Him, and we must trust in His enabling power. We must also believe “that he rewards those who seek him.” Specifically—as it relates to walking “by the Spirit”—we must trust that the Holy Spirit will help us, even as we seek His help in overcoming sin and temptation.

So, walking by the Spirit involves active faith in the Holy Spirit, looking to Him for our strength. Yet, one question remains: How can we know that we are trusting the Holy Spirit? How can we know we are living “[habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]”?

To be continued…

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