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Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-7363-0961-6
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 27 of 46 Section 1 of 2

LIFE-STUDY OF GALATIANS

MESSAGE TWENTY-SEVEN

WALK BY THE SPIRIT,
NOT BY THE FLESH

Scripture Reading: Gal. 5:16-23

In 5:16 Paul tells us to walk by the Spirit. The Christian walk is absolutely by the Spirit, not by the flesh. According to the context of chapter five, the Spirit in 5:16 must be the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our regenerated spirit and mingles with it. To walk by the Spirit is to have our walk regulated by the Holy Spirit within our spirit. This is contrasted with our walk being regulated by the law in our flesh.

The word walk in 5:16 means to move, act, and have our being. It includes everything we do and say. Hence, it covers our whole daily life. In this verse Paul is charging us to have our daily life—to live, walk, and have our being—by the Spirit.

In composing verse 16, Paul did not use the term Holy Spirit. In fact, he did not even use the definite article before the word Spirit. Literally, he simply said, “Walk by Spirit.” We have indicated that in chapter five the Spirit refers to the Spirit indwelling our spirit and mingled with it. Therefore, the Spirit here is the mingled spirit. The emphasis, however, is on the indwelling Spirit. When the New Testament refers to the indwelling Spirit, it implies that our spirit is indwelt by the Spirit. The two spirits are one. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:17, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” The Spirit in 5:16 thus denotes the Holy Spirit mingled with the human spirit. Every saved person has such a spirit within him. To be regenerated is to have the mingled spirit, the Holy Spirit mingled with our spirit.

In 3:2 Paul asked the Galatians a question: “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of law or by the hearing of faith?” Paul was trying to impress the distracted Galatian believers with the fact that they had received the Spirit, who was now mingled with their spirit. In 3:3 he went on to ask them, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” They began their Christian life by the Spirit. However, they were being distracted from the Spirit to the law, circumcision, and the ordinances of Judaism. Now after covering a number of important matters in chapters three and four, Paul charges them in 5:16 to walk by the Spirit. There was no need for the Galatians to walk by the law, circumcision, or ordinances. It was sufficient for them to walk by the Spirit. If they would walk by the Spirit, they would by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh.

In chapter five Paul indicates that our only choice is to walk either by the Spirit or by the flesh. We have seen that the flesh is the uttermost expression of the fallen tripartite man, whereas the Spirit is the ultimate realization of the processed Triune God. To walk by the Spirit, therefore, is to walk by the processed Triune God. Because of Christ’s redemption and the Spirit’s work of regeneration, we, who have received God’s dispensation, can walk by the Spirit instead of by the flesh. This means that instead of walking by our fallen being, we can walk by the processed Triune God. We have the processed Triune God as the all-inclusive Spirit in our spirit. We cannot deny that we possess such a marvelous reality through Christ’s redemption, the Spirit’s regeneration, and God’s dispensation. Of course, we also have to contend with our fallen tripartite being. Concerning our walk, we thus have the possibility of walking either by the fallen being or by the wonderful Person in our spirit.

We should not go back to the law. If we try to keep the law, attempting to do good in order to please God, we shall be in the flesh, for the law is related to the flesh. Whenever we try to fulfill the requirements of the law, we exercise our flesh. This means that the flesh is active not only when we do evil, but even when we try to fulfill the law. Whenever we in ourselves try to do good, the flesh is active. Instead of trying to fulfill the law, we may walk by the processed Triune God who is the all-inclusive life-giving Spirit dwelling in our spirit. Paul wrote the book of Galatians not only to rescue the distracted Galatian believers from the law on the negative side, but also on the positive side to bring them into the realization that the believers have the all-inclusive life-giving Spirit in their spirit and that they should live, walk, and have their being by this Spirit. It is possible for us to live, walk, and have our being by this Spirit. We should not believe in our weaknesses, failures, or shortcomings. We should forget all such things and realize that the processed Triune God is in us right now, not only as our Redeemer and Savior, but as the all-inclusive Spirit.

I love Paul’s expression, “Walk by the Spirit.” In his Epistles, Paul does not charge us mainly to walk according to doctrine, nor even to walk according to certain Bible verses. This does not mean, however, that our walk should not be according to the Bible. The point here is that Paul charges us to walk by the Spirit in a living way. A crucial lesson for us to learn is to have our being in our spirit. This is basic.

When I was young, I read books on how to be victorious, how to be holy, and how to pray. Eventually I came to realize that the way to be victorious and holy and to have a proper prayer life is to be in spirit. The proper way to talk to your husband or wife is to speak in spirit. There is no need for us to seek methods. We have the unique method—to be in our spirit. The proper way to read the Bible is to read it in spirit. The way to overcome sin, to deal with our temper, and to defeat Satan is to be in spirit. To walk by the Spirit is to have our daily life in our spirit.

It is not possible to separate our spirit from the Spirit, for the two spirits have been mingled and have become one spirit. We have already referred to Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 6:17, where he says that he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Since our spirit is mingled with the Spirit, we need to learn to have our daily life in the Spirit. We can never overemphasize the importance of having our daily walk in our spirit.

Often during the day, we may want to take a leave of absence from our spirit. Throughout the course of the day, we may leave our spirit many times and live in the flesh. For example, if your wife speaks to you in a certain way, you may immediately forsake your spirit and talk to her according to the flesh. Even if your attitude toward your wife is good, as long as you are absent from the spirit, you are in the flesh. We do not get into the spirit once for all. On the contrary, we need to exercise continually to be in the spirit in order to walk by the Spirit.

When I was young, I did not appreciate the Lord’s word about watching and praying (Matt. 26:41). But the more I practice to have my daily walk in my spirit, the more I recognize the need to watch and pray. We need to watch lest we be away from the spirit. We also need to pray in order to get back to the spirit and stay there. The Christian life is a life of abiding in our spirit. Since we are so easily drawn away from our spirit, we need to watch and pray. In Paul’s word to the Colossians, he says that we need to “persevere in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving” (4:2). In Ephesians 6:18 Paul also speaks of “praying at every time in spirit, and watching unto this in all perseverance.” To repeat, we need to watch to see whether or not we are in the spirit and pray in order to be kept in the spirit.

If we remain in our spirit, the problems will be solved, and we shall enjoy the all-inclusive Spirit who dwells in our spirit. In spirit we feast on the Lord and participate in the blessing of the gospel. It is crucial to realize that the Christian walk is simply a life in our spirit. This is the reason that, in his writings, Paul speaks of the Spirit and our spirit again and again. Apart from the spirit, there can be no Christian walk. When we are in our spirit, we are simultaneously in the Spirit, because the Spirit is one with our spirit. When we first began to appreciate the preciousness of the Lord Jesus and to call on His name, an organic union took place between the Spirit and our regenerated spirit. This organic union is described by the word mingling.

In 5:16 Paul had the confidence to say that if we walk by the Spirit, we shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh. The way to be holy, to overcome sin, to be spiritual, and to have a life of prayer is simply to walk by the Spirit.


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