When I was in college, the promise of Galatians 5:16 stirred my heart. Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. I thought, “What a promise!” This, however, led me to wonder what it meant to walk in the Spirit.
Twice in Galatians we see the admonition to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25), and in both verses, the definite article is actually absent in the original text. (For us, it has been inserted because an English translation would sound awkward without it.) Yet verbal inspiration indicates words matter. Generally speaking, the definite article before a proper name emphasizes the named person. The absence of the article emphasizes instead the quality, operation, or power of the person, and this is what we find in Galatians 5:16 and 25. We are to walk in the ministry or provision of the Spirit.
So, what is the provision of the Spirit?
These two verses use different words that we see translated as walk. Galatians 5:16 employs a term that means to walk about or conduct one’s self. The admonition is to let your conduct be empowered by the Spirit. In contrast, Galatians 5:25 uses a word that means to keep in step with something or someone. We are to follow the leader like one who is part of a marching band. We must keep step, keep in line with the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
The first directive to walk focuses on the power of the Spirit’s enablement; the second centers on the power of the Spirit’s leadership. Together they reveal the provision of the Spirit: divine leadership and enablement.
Walk in the provision of the Spirit. This implies dependence on the Spirit to lead and enable. Walk in, (i.e., depend on) the leadership and power of the Spirit. This is explicitly stated in Colossians 2:6 which clarifies that as we have received Christ, we are to walk in Him. We received Christ by faith. Therefore, we walk in Him (we walk in the provision of His Spirit) by faith.
When we walk by faith in the Spirit’s leadership and power, the Spirit fills us with the life of Jesus. When we experience Jesus in us, we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
John Van Gelderen