In a recent conversation, a friend said, “I want to grow in walking in the Spirit” a couple of times. It’s a Biblical phrase for sure, and one you hear in my part of the US quite a lot, but I started thinking, “what does that mean?” And I wanted to write out a few thoughts.
First, here’s what I think people mean (at least here in the Southern part of the US, you tell me if it applies in your context) when they say, “walk in the Spirit.” I think they mean a kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit that is marked by an ongoing input from the Spirit, particularly as it pertains to what that person should be doing at a given moment. Said another way, walking in the Spirit is often meant to communicate a Spirit directed life, especially through responding to inner promptings that the person feels/experiences throughout the day. Does that sound like what you’re hearing as well?
After reflecting on that, I thought, “Is that what the Bible means by walking in the Spirit?” So, I went to the Word. Here are the 3 places in the New Testament where walking in the Spirit might be understood.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
- 4.16 Walk by the Spirit – the result will be that you won’t gratify the desires of the flesh.
- 4.18 Be led by the Spirit – the result will be that you won’t perform the deeds of the flesh (listed in vv 19-21), but instead you’ll produce the fruit of the Spirit (vv 22-23) because you have “crucified the flesh along with its passions and desires” (v 24).
- 4.25-26 – Live by the Spirit/Keep in Step with the Spirit – the result will be that we won’t “become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Every example seems to be saying that walking with/in the Spirit is a Biblical phrase that means walking obediently or living holy lives. That’s easier said that done! I do think Piper has been helpful on how the Spirit’s work empowers that. You can listen here. So, where do we get the idea of the Spirit giving us real time, internal promptings/instructions as a way of living that we should aspire to. Perhaps it’s in the Bible but just not in these passages? That’s my next step of inquiry. Stay tuned AND let me know your thoughts in the comments!