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How to walk in the Spirit-1

Galatians 5:16-18

Background to the book of Galatians: The Galatian churches were a Celtic people like most of us Scots. So this epistle may have special significance to Celtic peoples however it is certainly relevant to all Christians today.

Galatia was in Central Turkey which is near modern day city of Ankara.

Theme: By way of context the main theme of the letter to the Galatians is the warning not to add anything onto the Gospel. The true gospel is ‘believe in Jesus Christ’ but with no additions. The problem of the day was the Judaizing teachers who taught that believing in Jesus Christ was not enough, but the believer also had to be circumcised and keep the entire Law.

God wants all his children to walk in victory in our day to day lives. Amen

This should involve us recognising all that Jesus Christ has done for us, in us and through us. We ought to have Satan under our feet and live with victory over the demons and even be able through prayer to pull down the enemy strongholds in our own lives and the lives of others (things like ingrained bad habits/thinking and addictions etc.)

Part of our victory is achieved by walking in the Spirit.

In Part 1 we are going to explore what it means to walk in the Spirit.

Keynote scripture

Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Paul is drawing from the Old Testament metaphor where ‘walk’ means how to conduct your daily life or you could say your lifestyle. Traditionally a person’s daily conduct in the Old Testament simply was not just defined as “walking” but more accurately as “walking in the law’’. [1]

If you are not sure which actions are performed by those walking in the flesh as opposed to those walking in the Spirit, Paul helpfully lists them;

5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery. fornication [2}, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The great commentator Matthew Henry said this of lust

Lust by definition can never be satisfied or happy!

Our problem is that the flesh does not stay dead. When we become careless about our spiritual lives or when we feed our flesh, it rears its ugly head and causes us serious problems.

This struggle between flesh/spirit is graphically portrayed for us by Paul in Romans chapters 7 and 8. Paul makes it clear in chapter 8 that the outcome of our struggle with the flesh is determined by what we "set our minds on". In Romans 8: 5-6 he says "for those who are according to the flesh "set their minds" on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

And you get to decide! What is your mind set on today? If your mind is set on the Spirit here is what will happen.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. The FOS is the character of JC reproduced in the life of the believer).

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Here is what the theologian John Stott said

Walking in the Spirit stops us from conducting the sins and lusts of the flesh. The lusts of the flesh will cause us to feel defeated and to be ashamed. As previously stated this is part of the victorious Christian life.

You may say ‘that is great, and we all say Amen’ but how do we learn to walk in the Spirit?

Unfortunately, there is surprisingly little sound teaching in the broad church about this!

I hope that today’s message will help us all gain some understanding of what Paul is saying in this scripture and that we can indeed put it into practice in our daily lives.


Your prayer

[1] Halakhah is the legal term Jews use to refer to the rules and regulations found in both the law and the rabbinic traditions of their ancestors. While Halakhah usually is translated “the Jewish law,” the word actually is based on the Hebrew word for “to walk” and literally means “the way of going. The first Christians were also said to be ‘in the Way’ as in the W, T, and L. [2] Galatians 5:19 sexual immorality The word Paul uses is porneia "fornication") "broad, general word for unlawful and immoral sexual intercourse and relationships” In Part 2 we look at how to go about walking in the Spirit from three different angles.

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