Walk in the Spirit
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:24-26
Paul is continuing with his exhortation to us to “walk in the Spirit” (v. 16). We recognize that the believer’s life of faith in Christ is a life lived by grace, sustained by grace, and worked in us by grace. The fruit of the Spirit within us, and manifest in our outward behavior is altogether the work of God’s unceasing grace and goodness. However, the life of faith in Christ is not a life of spiritual passivity. Rather, it is a life of relentless, determined resolve for the glory of God. While we are made willing by God our Savior to be his servants, all true believers are willing servants.
A Deliberate Crucifixion
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” — Those who are Christ’s are those who are united to him by faith; and they have nailed their flesh to his cross. Believers are people who have deliberately, purposefully, and willingly crucified the flesh. They are a people who belong to Christ.
We were his secretly from eternity, given to him in the covenant of grace from eternity by the Father who chose us in him before the foundations of the earth were laid (John 6:39). We were given to him as his sheep and his people, made to be one with him and accepted in him as our Mediator before the world began (Eph. 1:3-6). And we are his by purchase. The Lord Jesus Christ bought us with his precious blood. We are not our own; we have been bought with the price of Christ’s life’s blood poured out for us at Calvary. And we are Christ’s by the effectual, irresistible call of his Spirit in omnipotent grace. He has saved us by his grace. But there is more.
We belong to Christ by willful, deliberate faith. In our baptism, the believer’s public profession of faith in Christ, we were symbolically buried with Christ in the watery grave, declaring to Christ, his church, and the world that we were crucified with Christ, that we have been raised from death to life by his grace, and that we are his forever to walk with him in the newness of life, that we have deliberately given ourselves up to him (Rom. 6:3-10). Faith in Christ is the voluntary, willful surrender of ourselves to him. It is the deliberate denial of self, the surrender of our lives to Christ as Lord (Matt. 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 14:26-33). This is what Paul refers to when he speaks of us having crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. Confessing Christ as our Savior and Lord, we have declared (and continually declare) that our old man has no right to live, “mortifying the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).
Chosen in eternal love
By my God, Who reigns above,
All I am and own I bring
Under rule to Christ my King:
I submit to Christ my God.”
Chosen and redeemed and called,
Let no fear my heart intrude:
Christ will feed and clothe His own,
And protect me by His throne:
I will trust Him, Christ my God.
Savior, let me live on earth
To proclaim Your matchless worth:
In body and spirit, Lord,
I would glorify my God:
I will live for Christ my God.
Though my sinful flesh rebel,
Force me, Lord, to do Your will:
When my work on earth is done,
Bring me safely to Your throne:
I will see my Christ, my God!
A Determined Consecration
The interpretation I have given of verse 24 is confirmed by verse 25. — “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Those who are Christ’s “live in the Spirit.” God the Holy Spirit has given us eternal life, and that life is life we have by the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Still, this is not a life of spiritual passiveness, but a life of determined consecration to Christ our Savior. To walk in the Spirit is to live by the rule of his Word, under his influence and direction, constantly surrendering our will to our Savior’s will, ever seeking his glory. Yes, this is something we must continually do. It involves the continual, deliberate renunciation of self, the continual, deliberate surrender of self to Christ. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Some might ask, “Is such total, constant surrender to Christ reasonable?” Indeed, it is. It is the most reasonable thing in the world. — “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).
How much owest thou unto my Lord?” (Luke 16:5) — Were this question, which the unjust steward put to his lord’s debtors, put to me concerning that immense debt which has made me forever insolvent, how could it be answered? It is an indescribable debt I cannot calculate, much less pay. I am a debtor to God’s infinite, free, and sovereign grace.
When I think of my being, I realize that no human ledger is sufficient to calculate even the gifts of creation and providence with which I have been boundlessly blessed all the days of my life. Looking back over all my days, I am compelled to declare to the praise of my God, “Surely goodness and mercy have pursued me all the days of my life.”
But when I think of my well-being in Christ, of the boundless riches of God’s free grace bestowed upon my soul in Christ, I am humbled with gratitude and overawed with wonder and praise. The calculation of my debt is infinite. Before God’s holy law, I was utterly bankrupt, condemned by the righteous justice of God and under the dreadful penalty of everlasting death in hell. The terrors and alarms of a guilty, screaming conscience held me in fear of death. The accusations of Satan tormented me day and night. What an oppressive load of guilt and sin I carried in my dark soul! My heart sank within me. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,” stepped in, gave me life and faith in Christ, spoke peace to my soul by the blood and righteousness of his darling Son, revealing Christ in me as my all-glorious, almighty Savior, and my burden fell from my soul! — “How much owest thou,” O my soul?
When I think of my Savior, the Lord Jesus, and remember that he has restored all that I owed, fed my hungry soul, and clothed my nakedness with his own righteous garments, I bow before him in amazement. He has made me to be a man who has done that which is lawful and right before God, as one who has walked in his statutes and kept his judgments. All the bounty of his grace he has given to this sinful man freely, not “upon usury,” but freely, taking no increase from me. Yes, he has ransomed me from the power of death by his death in my stead. He is for me the plague of death and the destruction of the grave (Ezek. 18:5-13; Hosea 13:14). My ever-blessed Savior has cancelled all my debts. He has fulfilled all the demands of God’s holy law for me. He has silenced Satan, my accuser. He has redeemed me out of the hands of everlasting bondage, misery, and eternal death. He has brought me into his everlasting kingdom of freedom, joy, and glory. He has made me an heir of God and joint-heir with himself! — “How much owest thou,” O my soul?
When I consider the love of God my Father in giving his dear Son to be my Savior, when I meditate upon my great Redeemer’s love in coming to save me, when I think about the love of God the Holy Spirit made known to my soul in effectual grace, my heart cries out, “How much owest thou,” O my soul! Oh precious debt! It is ever increasing. Yet, owing it makes me blessed forever!
“Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.”
A Denied Exaltation
In verse 26 Paul again shows us that this matter of walking in the Spirit, this matter of living in this world for the glory of God is directly connected with brotherly love. If we would walk in the Spirit, “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” We must make it a matter of constant determination not to desire and seek honor, esteem, and applause from men. What we are in Christ, we are by the grace of God. He and he alone has made us to differ from others. We must ever abase ourselves and prefer one another. We who know ourselves to be the chief of sinners must take care not to despise and provoke one another by a show of pretentious superiority. And we must not envy the gifts and abilities God has bestowed upon others, but rejoice in them.
“As” and “So”
The Apostle Paul makes a statement in Colossians 2:6 that goes to the very heart of this matter of walking in the Spirit. There he says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” How did you receive Christ? We did not receive Christ by the works of the flesh, or by the hearing of the law, but by faith (Gal. 3:1-3). That is how we must live, if we would honor God. We honor God, fulfill the law, and magnify our Savior, only by faith in him (Rom. 3:31; Heb. 11:4-6).
How did you receive Christ? If you have received him, you received him by faith. You came to him as a sinner, trusting him as your Savior (1 Cor. 1:30-31). You bowed to him as a servant, receiving him as your Lord. You became the willing servant of Jesus Christ (Ex. 21:1-6). You came to him as a bride, like Gomer, conquered by his love, embracing him as your husband.
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, trusting Christ’s goodness, grace, love, and providence in all things (Ps. 23:1; Pro. 3:5-6). Walk in faith, following Christ. Worship Him. In everything give thanks to him. Sing praise to him. Ever follow his example (John 13:15; 1 Pet. 2:20-24; Eph. 4:32-5:2).
If we would live in this world for the glory of God our Savior, if we would walk in the Spirit, we must seek the will and glory of God in all things and above all things. I do not mean that we should endeavor to show people that we love the Lord (Matt. 6:1-17). But I do mean that we ought to be consumed with love for Christ, utterly consumed with love for Christ. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” The secret to satisfaction in this world is serving God, doing his will (John 4:31-34). Daily surrender all things to Christ. Call everything but dung in comparison to him (Phil. 3:7-10). Take up your cross daily, and follow him. Lose your life to Christ, and you will save it. “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
I cannot think of a better way of summarizing Paul’s message in Galatians 5 than by quoting a statement I heard a preacher make when I was just a very young man. — “Don’t ever lose your sweetheart love for Christ.”