What Does It Mean to “Walk by the Spirit”?
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | November 12, 2016
We frequently hear the phrase “walk by the Spirit”—but what does that mean? Christian terminology too often becomes overly familiar; we hear it so much, we forget how it applies to life! Of all the terms and phrases we encounter in Christianity, “walk by the Spirit” is one of the most important. It’s the key to a life that honors God.
The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity. He is the promised Comforter that Jesus gave every Christian after His ascension to heaven (Acts 2). The new nature we are given through Jesus frees us from a life separate from God, both presently and eternally. But we have to walk out that new identity, and that’s where God’s Spirit becomes necessary.
When Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit,” he’s saying to let everything we do be guided by the Holy Spirit’s influence. How we talk, think, date and love all points back to our identity: the new one in Christ, if we walk in God’s Spirit—or the old, “dead” self of our former habits. If you’re not sure what God’s Spirit should look like in your life, here is some biblical proof of His presence.
God’s Spirit always produces good fruit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
When we walk by God’s Spirit, we allow God’s Spirit to dictate our choices. Our “passions and desires”—emotional eating, lust, anger, gossip—are “crucified,” or rejected, by the Spirit of God. When we walk daily this way, we start to produce the good fruit of love, joy, peace, patience and all the other virtues Christ exemplified.
If you ever feel like you can’t be good enough or feel overwhelmed by the Christian life, it probably means you’re not walking in the Spirit! God’s Spirit enables us to live out His commands. Otherwise, it would indeed be impossible. Only by being in constant conversation with God’s Spirit and obedient to His leading do we produce the good fruit in our lives.
God’s Spirit rejects what is evil.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:16-17)
Since God is perfectly good, He will never lead us to do what is evil. Anytime we do evil, it is the product of our own fleshly desires—when we choose to follow temptation rather than to follow Christ. When we walk in God’s Spirit, we reject what is evil and offensive. By choosing to listen for God’s voice, we automatically will not gratify the desires of the flesh, because you can’t gratify your personal desires AND honor God at the same time!
This makes our walk with God so very simple. All we need to do is follow Jesus closely, listen for His voice leading us (which He promised to give through the Spirit) and obey Him when we need to reject evil and choose good.
God’s Spirit leads us to abide in Him.
Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:6)
Jesus walked with His Father during His earthly ministry. He was constantly living in the presence of God and listening for His leading—He only did things God told Him to do. The apostle John says that’s how we are supposed to live! If we say we abide in Him (which is what being a Christian means), we need to walk like He walked. We need to walk in the Spirit of God.
God’s power and goodness are evident in our lives to the degree we obey and love Him. We obey and love Him by abiding in His presence. As we abide, the Spirit’s voice gets stronger in our hearts and minds. And as His voice is stronger, we are better able to walk before Him in lives that honor His saving grace.