How Do We 'Walk in the Spirit'? Meaning of Galatians 5:16

The Bible teaches us to "walk in the spirit" by following the example of Jesus. Learn the meaning and significance of this biblical quote.
Updated Oct 06, 2023
How Do We 'Walk in the Spirit'? Meaning of Galatians 5:16

"Walk in the Spirit" Bible Verse

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. - Galatians 5:16-26

Walk in the Spirit Meaning

In Galatians 5:16, Apostle Paul states, "...walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." By "the flesh," Paul does not mean the body. The flesh here is a general term for evil actions, the depraved will, the earthly mind, the slothful and careless soul - things that are under our control, not part of human nature. This flesh is crucified with Christ (Gal. 5:24). It is not human nature that is put to death, but its evil deeds.

Our walk in the Spirit comes from a life in the Spirit. The advice apostle Paul gives is exemplified through his own life. The rule of behavior is to be inspired by Christ, which is not only the standard of faith but also of practice. He is the lamp unto our feet, and the light unto our path, guiding us into all truth and in the way of holiness and righteousness unto the land of uprightness. 

We need to take Him as our guide and depend on His grace and strength for assistance throughout our entire walk and conversation. We should exercise the graces of the Spirit of God, such as faith upon the person and grace of Christ which the Spirit is the author of, and love to God, Christ, and one another, which is a fruit of the Spirit, as well as humility, lowliness of mind, meekness, and condescension. All of these help us to walk in the Spirit or spiritually, and strengthen the argument for love that the apostle is upon. The apostle encourages us to live this way by observing.

What Does Paul Mean by 'Walk by the Spirit'?

The following is a transcript of the video above edited for readability, in which Randy Smith explains the meaning of "walk in the spirit" from Galatians 5:16.

Walking by the spirit is just living a life in the spirit. It's living your life in the continual presence of the spirit of God. Jesus put it like this in John 15 that we need to abide in him, basically the same thing. If we abide in Jesus, the spirit is working within us. So as we abide in Jesus Christ, as we abide in that vine, as a branch abides in the vine, the Holy Spirit is pulsating the sap into our body, if I could put it that way. And he is producing then, fruit in our lives. But as Jesus said, "When I'm separated from that vine, I shrivel up and I die."

So, walking in the spirit is a God-consciousness. It's having Christ foremost in all your affections. It's pursuing God with all of your heart, as we're commanded to. as the Great Commandment. It's to have no other idols before you and no other gods before you but to serve God alone with all of your heart. 

I think what's important to understand, too, when we talk about abiding in Jesus is that the way we abide in Jesus is to practice what we call the spiritual disciplines. I can't abide in Jesus just by doing what I want to do. Abiding Jesus is giving us the means he has given us that he uses to bring grace into our lives. Things like Bible reading, memorization, meditation, prayer, fellowship, church attendance, evangelism, serving others. These are ways that we abide in Jesus. 

Now, a lot of people come up to me, and they say, "Can we have a specific explanation as to how long I need to pray and how long I need to read the word?" Well, that would contradict everything Paul has already argued in Galatians because now we're back to legalism again. We can't do that.  So God has to place that upon your heart, somehow using the spiritual disciplines he gave us. As we remain in them, we abide in Jesus, and as we abide in Jesus, his spirit is working in our lives, and we are then walking in the spirit. 

We can, throughout the day, and this is true for every Christian, either in the spirit or in the flesh. I don't think it's 75/25%, or 50/50. You're either in one or the other. And it is our goal as Christians now that we have the spirit dwelling within us and the ability and power to overcome the flesh, to continually live a life walking in the spirit.

How to Walk in the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is one of God's most precious gifts to His beloved children. He takes up residence within the believer at the moment of salvation, empowering him to overcome sin and live for God's glory and purposes. However, the Spirit's power can be "turned off" or ignored. Only those who choose to walk with Him have unhindered access to His strength and guidance.

Walking by the Spirit denotes reliance upon Him. He leads the way, and we follow. As He speaks, we listen, heed His warnings, and obey His directions. The Spirit's way is a path of surrender, which, although difficult, leads to the fullness of life.

God's Spirit guides and empowers us because the challenge of obeying Him is impossible in our own strength. The Holy Spirit supplies everything we need to live a godly life and produces His amazing fruit in us.

Being led by the Spirit should be the natural lifestyle of the sons and daughters of God. As you intentionally seek to maintain an awareness of His presence throughout the day, He is only a thought away. When your mind turns to Him, He gives sensitivity to the things of God and understanding about the situations and people in your life.

Take a walk with the Spirit today, and learn to know His voice. Whenever your mind is not occupied with the day's duties, focus your thoughts on Him, asking for His guidance and looking expectantly for His leading. When He gives it, rely on His power to obey.

Excerpt from "Walking in the Spirit" - In Touch - Mar. 3, 2010 by Charles Stanley

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit was intimately connected with Jesus throughout his entire life. Prior to Jesus’ virginal conception, an angel said to Mary, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35; cf. Matt. 1:18, 20). When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, the Father anointed him with the Spirit (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). Then Jesus was immediately driven into the wilderness by the Spirit for a season of testing (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). Luke says that Jesus was “full of the Spirit” when this happened; he afterward returned to Galilee in “the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).

In Jesus’ first sermon, he claimed to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy of a Spirit-anointed ministry of redemption and restoration to Israel (Luke 4:16–21). Peter’s summary of Christ’s ministry describes “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). When skeptical religious leaders accused him of casting out demons by satanic power, Jesus said, “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28).

In his death, Jesus offered himself as an atoning sacrifice through the Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14). Paul tells us that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). After Jesus’ resurrection he breathed on his disciples, saying “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Then followed Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out on the church, as the Spirit of Christ.

Excerpt from Depending on the Holy Spirit by Brian Hedges

 Save this PDF for guidance to "Walk in the Holy Spirit" Living By the Holy Spirit Power - A Prayer and Scripture Guide.


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