Walk by the Spirit (Part 1)
Since we live by the Spirit, we should also keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal 5:25, my translation)
"Walk" is a metaphor for living with purpose. "Walk" is a command in verse 16. Verse 25 uses a different word in a different form, but the idea is parallel. The statements concerning the Spirit from vv. 16, 25 introduce and conclude a distinct section of teaching, from Gal 5:16-26.
"You will not [Greek: ou mē] carry out the desire of the flesh" is a promise. There is a necessary connection here. Walking by the Spirit yields a life that is characterized not by fleshly desires, but by the fruit of the Spirit.
As clear from the list of "the works of the flesh" found in 5:19ff., "flesh" is used as a broad term for the old, unregenerate nature. In principle, the flesh has been crucified with Christ (as in 5:24, cf. Gal 2:20). In practice, we must be putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13), keeping in step with the Spirit.
Though not in the imperative form, the subjunctive form for the word translated "keep in step," found in verse 25, indicates a moral imperative: we should keep in step with the Spirit. "Keep in step" is translated from a form of a verb that "has as its basic meaning the idea of 'stand in a row'" [Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians, Word Biblical Commentary (Nelson Reference and Electronic, 1990), 265], which may be a military term; the word carries the meaning of a deliberative action in walking (it could be translated "march"). One either walks by the Spirit or carries out fleshly desires. These activities are mutually exclusive. If we do not walk by the Spirit, we are living contrary to a clear biblical command. If we do not keep in step with the Spirit, it indicates moral failure on our part.
Our motivation for walking by the Spirit is that He has given us life. "Believers have already been translated from an old mode of existence to a new one" [Moisés Silva, Interpreting Galatians (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 183]. The Holy Spirit is the origin of the believer's life, and He is the instrumental means by which we are empowered to live in a way that is pleasing to God.
In this section of Galatians, the command to walk by the Spirit is specifically contrasted with "the desire of the flesh" on the one hand and being "under the law" (5:18) on the other.
What does it mean to "walk by the Spirit"? How does a believer "walk by the Spirit"? These are questions that I hope to address in my next post. Until then, I would greatly appreciate readers' comments.
Labels: Bible study