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Previous Bible Studies:         Walk in the Spirit

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  Walk in the Spirit  

"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."   Galatians 5:16-17

John Gill wrote in his excellent exposition of the Bible these words, "The advice the apostle thinks fit to give is, to "walk in the Spirit", that is, after the Spirit of God; making the word inspired by him the rule of behaviour, which as it is the standard of faith, so of practice, and is the lamp unto our feet, and the light unto our path."

Walking in the spirit then is to walk in the Spirit inspired Word of God, making it the rule and practice of our every day lives. In this walk, we shall not entertain the desires and lusts of the flesh; rather shun them as a great assault and hindrance upon the rule and order of our spiritual lives.

Paul said in the book of Romans, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (8:1). He who walks in the spirit, who is ordered by the clear Word of God need not fear condemnation. But as true as this is, it is just as true then, that those who do not walk in the spirit, ordering their lives by the clear Word of God, must certainly fear the condemnation of Almighty God.

I believe in once saved always saved to this degree, once a man has truly been born again, he will stay saved because he is a new creation and continually abides in Christ. But the man the church calls "saved" today is nothing more than a lover of self; he is carnal and does not know God. This man never broke through at the alter, he was never born again, he does not know God and is certainly not saved.

"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin..." (I John 3:9)

"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh ... the carnal mind is enmity against God ... they that are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8)

"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (I John 2:15)

One evening before I was to preach, I was in prayer and asked God to reveal Christ in the service. The Spirit of God spoke to my heart and said, if I were to reveal Christ in the way you're asking, not one soul would see Him. Why Lord? I asked. Because every soul would fall as a dead man in His presence. I immediately thought of John when the glorified Christ was revealed to him, he fell on his face as a dead man, so much so that the Lord had to reach down and give him strength to hear the message. (Revelation 1:17)

Is the church so ignorant as to think she can carry on in her carnality and claim she is walking in the spirit. "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (I John 2:4)  Is the church so ignorant as to think God is within a million miles of their abominations. "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity..." (Habakkuk 1:13).

Looking around the world today, surely we must be in the very last days. Jesus said, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." (Luke 21:28) Every word that God has spoken will come to pass. Those who walk in the spirit know that it is midnight, they hear the cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. (Matthew 25:6)

There is no more time, eternity is at hand, but men have pleasure in unrighteousness, and will be damned who believe not the truth. (II Thessalonians 2:12) But there is still hope! The first step in recovery is to acknowledge the need for recovery. In this much quoted but little heeded scripture, the Lord gives a wonderful promise to those who acknowledge the need for recovery, the Lord says,

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (II Chronicles 7:14)

God has promised to those that will seek Him, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."   Ezekiel 36:26-27

He will cause us to walk in His statues and keep His judgments, this is the man who is truly born again, who Walks in the Spirit.

— Randy Munter    Editor and Webmaster


Galatians 5:16

This I say then This is the true rule about overcoming the propensities of your carnal natures, and of avoiding the evils of strife and contention.

Walk The Christian life is often represented as a journey, and the word walk, in the scripture, is often equivalent to live; Mar_7:5. See the notes at Rom_4:12; Rom_6:4, note; Rom_8:1, note.

In the Spirit Live under the influences of the Holy Spirit; admit those influences fully into your hearts. Do not resist him, but yield to all his suggestions; see the note at Rom_8:1. What the Holy Spirit would produce, Paul states in Gal_5:22-23. If a man would yield his heart to those influences, he would be able to overcome all his carnal propensities; and it is because he resists that Spirit, that he is ever overcome by the corrupt passions of his nature. Never was a better, a safer, or a more easy rule given to overcome our corrupt and sensual desires than that here furnished; compare notes, Rom_8:1-13.

And ye shall not fulfil... Margin, "Fulfil not", as if it were a command. So Tyndale renders it. But the more common interpretation, as it is the more significant, is that adopted by our translators. Thus, it is not merely a command, it is the statement of an important and deeply interesting truth, that the only way to overcome the corrupt desires and propensities of our nature, is by submitting to the influences of the Holy Spirit. It is not by philosophy; it is not by mere resolutions to resist them; it is not by the force of education and laws; it is only by admitting into our souls the influence of religion, and yielding ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. If we live under the influences of that Spirit, we need not fear the power of the sensual and corrupt propensities of our nature.

Galatians 5:17

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit The inclinations and desires of the flesh are contrary to those of the Spirit. They draw us away in an opposite direction, and while the Spirit of God would lead us one way, our carnal nature would lead us another, and thus produce the painful controversy which exists in our minds. The word "Spirit" here refers to the Spirit of God, and to his influences on the heart.

And these are contrary... They are opposite in their nature. They never can harmonize; see Rom_8:6-7; compare below Gal_5:19-23. The contrariety Paul has illustrated by showing what each produces; and they are as opposite as adultery, wrath, strife, murders, drunkenness, etc., are to love, joy, goodness, gentleness, and temperance.

So that ye cannot do the things that ye would See this sentiment illustrated in the notes at Rom_7:15-19. The expression "cannot do" is stronger by far than the original, and it is doubted whether the original will bear this interpretation. The literal translation would be, "Lest what ye will, those things ye should do". It is rendered by Doddridge, "So that ye do not the things that ye would." By Locke, "You do not the things that you propose to yourselves;" and Locke remarks on the passage, "Ours is the only translation that I knew which renders it cannot." The Vulgate and the Syriac give a literal translation of the Greek, "So that you do not what you would." This is undoubtedly the true rendering; and, in the original, there is no declaration about the possibility or the impossibility, the ability or the inability to do these things.

It is simply a statement of a fact, as it is in Rom_7:15, Rom_7:19. That statement is, that in the mind of a renewed man there is a contrariety in the two influences which bear on his soul, the Spirit of God inclining him in one direction, and the lusts of the flesh in another; that one of these influences is so great as in fact to restrain and control the mind, and prevent its doing what it would otherwise do; that when there is an inclination in one direction, there is a controlling and overpowering influence in another, producing a conflict, which prevents it, and which finally checks and restrains the mind. There is no reason for interpreting this, moreover, as seems always to be the case, of the overpowering tendency in the mind to evil, as if it taught that the Christian was desirous of doing good, but could not, on account of his indwelling corruption. So far as the language of Paul or the fact is concerned, it may be understood of just the opposite, and may mean, that such are the restraints and influences of the Holy Spirit on the heart, that the Christian does not the evil which he otherwise would, and to which his corrupt nature inclines him.

He (Paul) is exhorting them Gal_5:16 to walk in the Spirit, and assures them that thus they would not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. To encourage them to this, he reminds them that there were contrary principles in their minds, the influences of the Spirit of God, and a carnal and downward tendency of the flesh. These are contrary one to the other; and such are, in fact, the influences of the Spirit on the mind, that the Christian does not do the things which he otherwise would. So understood, or understood in any fair interpretation of the original, it makes no assertion about the ability or inability of man to do right or wrong. It affirms as a fact, that where these opposite principles exist, a man does not do the things which otherwise he would do. If a man could not do otherwise than he actually does, he would not be to blame. Whether a Christian could not resist the influences of the Holy Spirit, and yield to the corrupt desires of the flesh; or whether he could not overcome these evil propensities and do right always, are points on which the apostle here makes no affirmation. His is the statement of a mere fact, that where these counteracting propensities exist in the mind, there is a conflict, and that the man does not do what he otherwise would do.

— Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible


Galatians 5:16

This I say then, walk in the Spirit,... The advice the apostle thinks fit to give, and which he would have observed, is, to "walk in the Spirit", that is, either after the Spirit of God; making the word inspired by him the rule of behaviour, which as it is the standard of faith, so of practice, and is the lamp unto our feet, and the light unto our path; taking him himself for a guide, who not only guides into all truth, but in the way of holiness and righteousness unto the land of uprightness; and depending upon his grace and strength for assistance throughout the whole of our walk and conversation: or in the exercise of the graces of the Spirit of God; as in the exercise of faith upon the person and grace of Christ, of which the Spirit is the author; and in love to God, Christ, and one another, which is a fruit of the Spirit; and in humility, lowliness of mind, meekness and condescension; all which is to walk in the Spirit, or spiritually, and strengthens the argument for love the apostle is upon: and this he encourages to by observing,

and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh; he does not say there shall be no flesh, nor any lust of the flesh in them if they walk spiritually; or that the flesh should not act and operate in them; or that they should do no sinful action; all which is only true of Christ; and the contrary is to be found and observed in all true Christians, though ever so spiritual; but that they should not fulfil or perfect the lust of the flesh; should not give up themselves entirely to the power and dictates of the flesh, so as to be under it and at its command, and be obedient servants and slaves unto it; for, in this sense only, such that are spiritual do not, commit sin, they do not make a trade of it, it is not their constant employ or course of conversation.

Galatians 5:17

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit... By "flesh" is meant, not the carnal or literal sense of the Scripture, which is Origen's gloss, as militating against the spiritual sense of it; nor the sensual part of man rebelling against his rational powers; but the corruption of nature, which still is in regenerate persons: and is so called because it is propagated by carnal generation; has for its object carnal things; its lusts and works are fleshly; and though it has its seat in the heart, it shows itself in the flesh or members of the body, which are yielded as instruments of unrighteousness; and it makes and denominates men carnal, even believers themselves so far as it prevails: by "the Spirit" is meant the internal principle of grace in a regenerate man, and is so called from the author of it, the Spirit of God, whose name it bears, because it is his workmanship; and from the seat and subject of it, the soul or spirit of man; and from the nature of it, it is spiritual, a new heart and a new Spirit; its objects are spiritual, and it minds, savours, and delights in spiritual things: and the meaning of the lusting of the one against the other, for it is reciprocal, hence it follows,

and the Spirit against the flesh, is that the one wills, chooses, desires, and affects what is contrary to the other; so the flesh, or the old man, the carnal I, in regenerate persons, wills, chooses, desires, and loves carnal things, which are contrary to the Spirit or principle of grace in the soul; and on the other hand, the Spirit or the new man, the spiritual I, wills, chooses, desire, approves, and loves spiritual things, such as are contrary to corrupt nature; and this sense is strengthened by the Oriental versions. The Syriac version reads, "for the flesh desires that" "which hurts", or is contrary to "the Spirit"; and "the Spirit desires that which hurts", or is contrary to the "flesh"; and much in the same way the Arabic version renders it, "for the flesh desires that which militates against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires that which militates against the flesh"; to which the Ethiopic version agrees, reading it thus, "for the flesh desires what the Spirit would not, and the Spirit desires what the flesh would not"; the reason whereof is suggested in the next clause:

and these are contrary the one to the other; as light and darkness, fire and water, or any two opposites can be thought to be; they are contrary in their nature, actings, and effects; there is not only a repugnancy to each other, but a continued war, conflict, and combat, is maintained between them; the flesh is the law in the members or force of sin, which wars against the spirit, the law in the mind, or the force and power of the principle of grace; these are the company of two armies, to be seen in the Shulamite, fighting one against the other. So the Jews say (w) of the good imagination, and of the evil one, by which they mean the same as here, that they are like Abraham and Lot; and that

"though they are brethren, joined in one body, "they are enemies to one another";

hence it follows,

so that ye cannot do the good that ye would which may be understood both of evil things and of good things. The former seems to be chiefly the apostle's sense; since the whole of this text is a reason given why those who walk spiritually shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, because they have a powerful governing principle in them, the Spirit, or grace; which though the flesh lusts against, and opposes itself unto, yet that also rises up against the flesh, and often hinders it from doing the works and lusts of it. There is in regenerate men a propensity and inclination to sin, a carnal I, that wills and desires sin, and wishes for an opportunity to do it, which when it offers, the flesh strongly solicits to it; but the Spirit, or the internal principle of grace, opposes the motion; and like another Joseph says, how can I commit this great wickedness and sin against a God of so much love and grace? it is a voice behind and even in a believer, which, when he is tempted to turn to the right hand or the left, says, this is the way, walk in it, and will not suffer him to go into crooked paths with the workers of iniquity; and so sin cannot have the dominion over him, because he is under grace as a reigning principle; and the old man cannot do the evil things he would, being under the restraints of mighty grace. This is the apostle's principal sense, and best suits with his reasoning in the context; but inasmuch as the lusting and opposition of these two principles are mutual and reciprocal, the other sense may also be taken in; as that oftentimes, by reason of the prevalence of corrupt nature, and power of indwelling sin, a regenerate man does the evil he would not, and cannot do the good he would; for he would always do good and nothing else, and even as the angels do it in heaven; but he cannot, because of this opposite principle, the flesh.
(w) Tzeror, Hammor, fol. 15. 3.

— John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible



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