What Does It Look Like to Walk in the Spirit?

These gospel realities give us hope as we consider the battle within us.

Man and boy walking along the beach

We are new creations if we are in Christ, yes, but the battle rages on until Christ returns. The flesh and the Spirit have competing agendas. 

 

We are new creations if we are in Christ, yes, but the battle rages on until Christ returns. The flesh and the Spirit have competing agendas. 

But this shouldn’t lead us to a defeatist mentality. Paul tells us in Romans that we aren’t slaves of sin any longer (Rom 6:6-7, 14, 18, 22). We have been united to Christ, and we have the power of walking in the newness of life (Rom 6:1-5). We can have significant and observable victory over remaining sin, as we refuse to let it reign in us (Rom 6:12). We who know God’s saving grace in Christ have said good-bye to the world of sin. We’re new. This does not mean that we are not capable of sinning anymore, but rather, that our relationship to sin has changed. We died to it (Rom 6:2). We have a new heart, and therefore don’t want to go back to that way of life. These gospel realities give us hope as we consider the present battle within (Gal 5:16-26). 

Paul tells the Galatian believers four important truths about walking by the Spirit:

1. We walk by the Spirit continually.

To “walk” by the Spirit (Gal 5:16a) indicates the need to yield to the Spirit every day and everywhere. We must meditate on the Spirit-inspired Scriptures, and follow the Spirit’s guidance in our relationships. 

2. We walk by the Spirit to overcome the flesh.

When Paul says, “walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16b), he’s stating a promise. Those who yield to the Spirit daily have the promise that they will not gratify the flesh. There’s no neutral ground. We’re living in one sphere or the other. You cannot be walking by the Spirit and be harsh with your spouse at the same time. You cannot be walking by the Spirit the same moment you burst out in anger at your roommate. 

3. We walk by the Spirit because the battle is so intense.

The inspired apostle says that the flesh is “against” the Spirit and vice versa, and that these two are “opposed to each other” (Gal 5:17). The enemy wants us to have a casual attitude toward sin. Paul is telling us that the Christian life is a war. Therefore, to conquer the flesh, one must see the seriousness of this battle and resolve to walk by the Spirit. Without His help, we have no shot conquering the internal conflict within us, or the external conflicts we have with others.

4. We walk by the Spirit to be free from the law.

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal 5:18). Paul connects life in the Spirit to liberation from the Mosaic era. Believers in the new covenant are enabled to obey God by the new way of the Spirit, and bear fruit for God (cf., Rom 7:4-6). We have new life in Christ, and new power in this new covenant, to offer ourselves to God. God has given us everything we need to showcase his love and grace in our relationships.


This is excerpted from Christ-Centered Conflict Resolution: A Guide for Turbulent TimesIn this short, biblical, and practical book, pastor and author Tony Merida shows us that it doesn’t have to be this way. Merida not only paints a stunning picture of Christ our Peacemaker, he also shows us how to stop wishing for peace and go make it.   

Tony Merida is lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He earned a Ph.D. in preaching from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as associate professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His books include Faithful Preaching and Orphanology.