Believers in the Galatians’ Church were being misled by some Jewish Christians that salvation must be preceded by circumcision and adoption of Jewish practices. Apostle Paul corrected this anomaly by highlighting the true role of God’s grace and mercy in our redemption and commanded them to be led by and walk with the Holy Spirit. Believers were blessed by God with the indwelling Holy Spirit to learn everything and be reminded of the teachings of Lord Jesus in daily life. Walking with the Holy Spirit is about enlightenment and empowerment by Him.
How do the works of Holy Spirit commence in our life? – Apostle Paul lists five specific steps for us about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:16-25). These are, walk by the Spirit (verse 16); Be led by the Spirit (vr 18); Bear the fruit of the Spirit (vr 22); live by the Spirit and finally walk in step with the Spirit (vr 25). Every believer would want the fullness of the Holy Spirit in his/her daily life. Simon, who was a sorcerer before, offered money to Apostles Peter and John to receive the power to impart the Holy Spirit to anyone by laying on of hands (Acts 8:18-19).
Our human nature is such, that without change, we cannot enter the kingdom of God and this happens through being born again and the Holy Spirit touches us to lead us to the Savior Lord. Scripture clarifies that we receive this change and the Holy Spirit by ‘hearing by faith’ (Galatians 3:2). First the Holy Spirit comes and leads us on, than we hear by faith and accept Lord Jesus as our Savior and a channel is created by the Holy Spirit. This channel then causes the flow of the same Spirit into us through our union with Lord Jesus through baptism and faith and not due to anything that we did. Apostle Paul then says that, ‘He who supplies the Spirit’ and this is the initial action and continuous supply, for it is not only a one time action because the Holy Spirit is of power. And further that God gives His ‘Spirit to you and works miracles among you’ and that these miracles would be about ‘signs and wonders’ but also about His fruits, love, joy, peace, patience, self control.
Being born by the Holy Spirit is being filled by the character of the Spirit which was displayed in the life of Lord Jesus and this is by grace. New birth is not caused by our faith but our faith is caused by the new birth. Lord Jesus said this same thing, ‘no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by the Father’ (John 6:65). I did not and could not have done this by myself and without the grace of God the Father, I would still have been buried deep in sin and would have probably perished by now. After receiving, it is about experiencing the supply of the Holy Spirit and His works and we are not to just relax and do nothing. We are required to ‘hear by faith’, to hear the Word of God, hear His promises, hear the Gospel of the Savior Lord and believe that and through prayer, worship and fellowship with God and other believers to develop a close relationship (Galatians 3:2).
And then come those commands of Galatians 5, walk by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit and there are nine fruit listed. One fruit is patience and in today’s world this is lacking in everyone and we can witness this on a traffic red light. When we walk by the Spirit it should be easy but we get easily frustrated or angry. In difficult situations we are to hear something that God promises by faith, ‘I am going to work all this together for good’ (Romans 8:28). This staying indoors is for your good so be patient rather than becoming a patient. Joseph suffered for 13 years but his patience resulted in His becoming the number two man in Egypt and during that interim period God was preparing him for that in fulfillment of his dream (Genesis 37-50). So I remind myself that God is sovereign, is wise, and is good and He controls everything, the diseases, the flight schedules and everything else in heaven and the earth. Then I place my trust in Him and rejoice, for God sent His Son to die for me to bring me into His promises and the Holy Spirit is at work in me bringing me to this reality and my patience is produced by Him as His fruit in my life.
Living in the Holy Spirit – A walk in the Scripture is about the way we are supposed to live and conduct our daily activities. Apostle Paul’s words are absolutely clear, ‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit’, totally in step and following exactly (Galatians 5:25). And then he gives the reason, ‘Even when we were dead in trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ’ and ‘we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:5 & 10). God decided a perfect time to call out ‘Let there be light’ and filled the earth with the light of His glory to make it useful for His purpose of creation. In the same way ‘He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ to make us useful for His kingdom work (2 Corinthians 4:6). The shining of this light began by the Holy Spirit under God’s grace to give us new birth, therefore, life after birth must also be lived under the Spirit under God’s sovereign power (Galatians 3:1-5). Walk would then mean to live your life in all its details from waking up in the morning to going to sleep and even during sleeping hours by the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
How do we walk by the Spirit? – The way in this walk is ‘not to gratify the desires of the flesh’ through self indulgence, independence, power, prestige and worldly pleasures (Galatians 5:16-17). The desires of the flesh are in direct contrast to the desires of the Spirit and there is a perpetual battle between ‘yetzer tov’ the desire to do good as led by the Spirit and ‘yetzer hara’ the desire to do evil as led by the flesh. Walking by the Spirit is to have the desires produced by the Spirit to be stronger than those of the flesh and it is not only about getting the help of the Spirit but to do everything by the empowerment and guidance of the Holy Spirit. All good intentions are given by the Spirit, since the mind controlled by the flesh is enemy of God and not governed by God’s law nor can it submit to the same (Romans 8:7). Apostle Paul admits this fact about himself and about all of us that, ‘in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells’ and even when I want to do good I find it difficult (Romans 7:18).
God changes us by softening our hardened hearts of stone that are in disobedience to Him and then gives His Spirit to dwell within to lead us into obedience to His statutes and judgments (Ezekiel 36:26-27). In this changed life in Christ Jesus the indwelling Holy Spirit gives us feelings and desires of holiness and through the process of sanctification, these desires overpower the desires of the flesh. Walking by the Spirit is living under control of desires of the Spirit while overcoming the fleshly desires. Walking by the Spirit thus implies ‘being led by the Spirit’ and we do not lead Him but He leads us by creating stronger desires to obey God and then enables us to affect a change in our behavior by fulfilling those desires (Galatians 5:18). Then we are not under the law and it is achieved, firstly, by living a righteous life as Apostle Paul meant (Romans 8:4) that by walking according to the Spirit the conditions of law are fulfilled. And secondly, when we walk by the Spirit we lose the desire to do evil and obeying God’s commands then is not a burden but a joy. The reason of this joy is that ‘where there is Spirit of the Lord, there is freedom’ from the law. It is like a smoker feeling guilt every time to finally leave the habit.
Comparing Galatians 5:16 with verses 19-24 we find that by not succumbing to the lusts of the flesh we abstain from doing the ‘works of the flesh’ or sinful deeds and do exactly opposite to this by bearing the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ in the same body and soul. Since this changed life style is through obedience to the desires created by the Spirit in us and not through our own effort the resultant change is fruit of the Spirit and it is at His initiative and empowerment to fulfill God’s law in our life. This aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit was defined by Lord Jesus that the Holy Spirit is our Helper to lead and guide us. He teaches us ‘all things’ that we need to lead a life in obedience to God’s commands and finally He reminds us of the commands of Lord Jesus (John 14:26). Walking by the Spirit would thus also involve ‘bearing witness’ of Lord Jesus and His works for mankind (John 15:27).
We are not given all this power and authority to try and meet the requirements of obedience under our own efforts for God knew that we would fail as the Old Testament saints also failed. God’s Spirit is not about ‘fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind’ (2 Timothy 1:7). God’s Spirit fills us with love for God and for others, fills us with His power and then fills us with a sound mind to exercise these gifts with total self control.
Affects of living in the Spirit – Equipped by the Holy Spirit we change and in that transformation are the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ borne in our lives. Since the change is under the Spirit’s control and guidance, the resultant fruit are also His. Apostle Paul lists the fruit of the flesh first and then the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:20-22). Love is the first fruit and this is also emphasized in verses 13-14, where We are called to love by becoming ‘servants of one another’ and also to love the neighbor in fulfillment of the law. The importance of love can be seen from the fact that without love even if we give everything away it will be an act of the flesh and not of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 13:3).
Filled with joy we rejoice for what God has done, is doing and will do. Peace leads to a worry and anxiety free life. Patience is another important fruit of the Spirit which fruit is lacking in most of us for we lose temper and live with a ‘short fuse’. Filled with kindness we show tender concern for the needs of others. Goodness is reflected through virtue and holiness. Faithfulness is seen in our trust of God and in His Word. Gentleness brings in humility, grace and thankfulness to God and self control reveals moderation, constraint and the ability to say ‘no’ to the flesh. Walking with the Spirit is not only about learning the right things to do but how to do the right things by the Spirit.
But what should we do to walk by the Spirit? – First, acknowledge failure through self effort. Lord Jesus warned us, ‘without Me you can do nothing’ and the only thing we can do without Him is sin (John 15:5). I must let go of my pride and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to enable me.
Second, prayerfully ask God – King David cried out to God, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me’ and further more that ‘do not take Your Holy Spirit from me’ (Psalm 51:10-11). Apostle Paul ended his letter to the Hebrews with a benediction, ‘May the God of peace…make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that is well pleasing in His sight through Christ Jesus’ (Hebrews 13:20-21). We ask and only then we receive for there is no other way.
Third, faith – Lord Jesus told the father of the deaf and mute boy, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes’ (Mark 9:23). And since He always walked with the Spirit, He could declare that ‘Father, I know that You always hear Me’ and then could confidently call out to Lazarus to come out of the tomb (John 11:42). We cannot be ‘sons of God’ if we are not led by and walk by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14).
Four, Act in obedience –Apostle Paul accepted his helplessness, prayed to God and believed in his deliverance to reach out to others. He could then declare, ‘I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed…. By the power of the Spirit of God’ (Romans 15:18-19). We tend to take our accomplishments as the first step without trying to understand His will for us and then all our acts will be of the flesh and not of the Spirit
Five, thankfulness – If we are unable to do any good on our own without the empowerment and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must thank Him for this. Apostle Paul tells us to, ‘give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18-19). Will being unthankful to God for everything quench the Spirit?
How do I know when my walk is by the Spirit? – First, obedience to the Word of God. The disciples let the word of Christ dwell in them richly’ and their whole life was lived as per the Scripture (Colossians 3:16). The Spirit uses word of God ‘for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16).
Second, Evidence of fruit of the Spirit in my behavior towards others – A person who is generally impatient and angry has not yet fully surrendered in every area of his life to the Holy Spirit.
Third, freedom from desires of the flesh since the one who walks by the Spirit has strong desires of love and righteousness that overcome the evil desires.
Four, delight in the word of God –When we walk by the Spirit of God we rejoice in the teaching of the Holy Spirit for He is in us to teach and remind us of our Savior Lord’s words. Only then do we say, ‘How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth’ (Psalm 119:103). How can we delight in the word of God? – First, pray for new taste buds on the tongue of your heart and second, meditate on the staggering promises of God to His people. Walking with another man leads you in to a ‘race’ but the result of walking with God’s Spirit is ‘grace’.
Walking and living in the Holy Spirit is about learning about God’s Word, His will and His ways and then using that to thankfully and delightfully obey. It is only this obedience that keeps us pointed in the direction of our future on the earth as also in eternity. Surrender your heart, soul and mind to God to be filled with His love and then shower that love on others as a testimony of our obedience.