"Walk in the Spirit"


     The full title of our study is, "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." This is the precise language the inspired apostle Paul used in writing to the Christians in the region of Galatia (Gal. 5: 16). Great significance is placed on "the Spirit" in the New Testament (Rom. 8: 9, Gal. 3: 3, 2, Acts 2: 38). To "walk in the Spirit" is tantamount or equal to "be led of the Spirit" (Gal. 5: 18). The Christian "lives in the Spirit" (Gal. 5: 25). Since the Christian's domain and source of life is the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit must be obeyed (Heb. 10: 25 ff.). In connection to "walk in the Spirit" in Galatians 5: 16, we also want to briefly study the works of the flesh (Gal. 5: 19-21). I submit the Spirit reveals how the Christian should walk, first of all, by the Spirit's revelation, the New Testament (I Cor. 2: 13, Jn. 14: 26, 16: 13). The Spirit also precipitates the walk or life of the Christian by teaching the Christian regarding the "fruit of the Spirit," the very opposite of "works of the flesh," as we shall see (Gal. 5: 22, 19). We shall begin our study by introducing the text and then examining the works of the flesh (all word definitions are supplied by Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, unless otherwise stated):

     "16: This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17: 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. 18: But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19: Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20: Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21: Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23: Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Gal. 5).

     A brief study of the enumerated "works of the flesh," the very opposite of "walking in the Spirit."

     To exhaustively define terms and concepts, it is usually required that the writer provide both the positive and negative (what does not entail) meanings of the word. Paul began by supplying the converse of walking in the Spirit. The "works of the flesh" is an equal expression to "lust of the flesh," I understand (Gal. 5: 19; 16). Notice that these matters are opposite to the degree that they are totally incompatible and incongruous (vs. 17). Hence, there is no compromise or admixture.

     "Adultery" (vs. 19). The Greek word rendered adultery is moichos. "Unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another" is the common definition of adultery (Vine). However, if you compare translations, you will notice that most translations omit "adultery" in Galatians 5: 19. The reason for this omission is that the inclusion of "adultery" is lacking strong manuscript authority. None, however, would argue that "adultery" is not a "work of the flesh" in general. The Spirit through his word forbids unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another (cp. Matt. 19: 9).

     "Fornication" (vs. 19). "Fornication" is derived from the Greek porneia and means, "Illicit sexual intercourse" (Vine). "Fornication" is a broad word that often includes "adultery." The scriptures succinctly teach, "Flee fornication" (I Cor. 6: 18). However, our society is fascinated, it seems, with fornication. Marriage has the avoidance of fornication as one design (I Cor. 7: 1 ff.). As seen, the Holy Spirit teaches the Christian (all men) to flee fornication. Therefore, those who walk, live, and are led by the Spirit "shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (vs. 16).

     "Uncleanness" (vs. 19). Akatharsia is the term that is here translated "uncleanness." This term is a little elusive as far as assigning a precise meaning. In general, impurity and moral filthiness is the idea. Moreover, "uncleanness" is a word that is used to describe the most base of sins and sinners (Rom. 1: 24-32). The child of God is not called to uncleanness (I Thes. 4: 7).

     "Lasciviousness" (vs. 19). Aselgeia means, "Excess…absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness" (Vine). The highly recognized Henry Thayer comments that "lasciviousness" (aselgeia) pertains to "…indecent bodily movement, unchaste handling of males and females" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 79). "Lasciviousness" is very common in our society. Lasciviousness, though, is not to be a part of the Christian (I Pet. 4: 3).

     "Idolatry" (vs. 20). "Idolatry" is translated from eidololatria and is the placing of anything or anyone over God (Col. 3: 5). In placing God first, the saved avoid idolatry (Matt. 6: 33, 24).

     "Witchcraft" (vs. 20). Pharmakia, the original word, is an interesting term. This word is rendered "sorcery" in most translations. "Primarily signified the use of medicine, drugs, spells; then…poisoning; then, sorcery…," Vine remarks, "In sorcery, the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to the occult powers…." Magic that appeals to the supernatural is certainly condemned as well as much of the New Age Movement in general. Christians that following the teaching of the Spirit will destroy all such influences and will free their lives of practices (Acts 19: 19).

     "Hatred" (vs. 20). Echthra is the opposite of love or agapa. Echthra is usually rendered "enmities" in many translations. Those under the guidance of the Spirit replace enmity with love (Matt. 5: 44).

     "Variance" (vs. 20, eris). Eris is translated "strife" in a number of works. Strife is the product of hatred or enmity. However, endeavoring to be "of one mind" and possess love, will remove strife (I Cor. 1: 10; I Jn. 3: 11).

     "Emulations" (vs. 20, zelos). The American Standard Translation renders zelos (word for zeal) "jealousies." One commentator wrote regarding "emulations," "Painful feelings, anxious fear, and unfounded suspicions aroused in the heart over the excellencies of others, unholy desires…to excel one another" (A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, by David Lipscomb, Vol. 3, pg. 267). Walking in the Spirit precludes such zealous desires (Rom. 12: 15).

     "Wrath" (vs. 20, thumos). Thumos is a strong word meaning "hot anger, passion" (Vine). The Spirit teaches: "But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice…out of your mouth" (Col. 3: 8).

     "Strife" (vs. 20, erithia). "Denotes ambition, self-seeking, rivalry, self-will being an underlying idea in the word," Vine states, "hence it denotes party-making, it is derived, not from eris, strife, but from erithos, a hireling; hence the meaning of seeking to win followers." James wrote that where such a spirit prevails, "there is confusion and every evil work" (Jas. 3: 16). It is of interest that James' statement occurs in the sitting of discouraging men from "hastily" becoming teachers (Jas. 3: 1). If one seeks to serve others out of love, such a spirit will not be present (Gal. 5: 13).

     "Seditions" (vs. 20). The word dichostasia means "literally a standing apart, hence…division" (Vine). The curse of God rests on those who pervert the gospel and bring another gospel (Gal. 1: 6-9). Those who truly love the Lord and heed the teachings of the Holy Spirit will promote unity by teaching the doctrinal oneness of the gospel (Eph. 4: 3-7).

     "Heresies" (vs. 20, hairesis). The King James Version is probably showing a little Catholic influence when it rendered hairesis "heresies." "Parties" is an English word some select to translate hairesis. The Greek hairesis means "a choosing, choice…then, that which is chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects" (Vine). Concerned reader, have you noticed how the "works of the flesh" produce division among God's people ("variance," "strife," and "seditions"). When the Christian yields to the influence of the Spirit (teaching of word), he will deport himself in such a way as to discourage sinful division (cp. I Cor. 11: 19).

     "Envyings" (vs. 21, phthonos). This original word is defined as, "feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others" (Vine). How opposite of the Spirit's teaching, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep" (Rom. 12: 15).

     "Murders" (vs. 21, KJV). Again, in view of manuscript weakness, many translations omit "murders." Again, though, when the Spirit's teaching is allowed to control, there will not be a murderous spirit present, much less actual murder (I Jn. 3: 15).

     "Drunkenness" (vs. 21). Drunkenness (methe) is an indication of lack of control and is unquestionably denounced in the scriptures. In fact, the godly are warned not to ever "look upon" such intoxicants (Prov. 23: 29-35, medicinal use is the only exception, I Tim. 5: 23). When one is "filled with the Spirit," one has no use for strong drink (Eph. 5: 18).

     "Revellings" (vs. 21, komos). Komos has a basic meaning of carousals and lack of restraint. Notice the climate in which Peter used komos, "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries" (I Pet. 4: 3).

     "Such like" (vs. 21). Any particular not stated in the foregoing enumeration of the works of the flesh is here designated in "such like" (omoia). Gambling, the modern dance, and so many additional specifics that look to the flesh for their origin and nature fall into designation "such like." Paul makes it very plain that "they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (vs. 21).

     One of the greatest contrasts found in the Bible is next presented. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (vs. 22, 23).

     The works of the flesh are degrading to mankind and a threat to society itself. Nothing good ever came from "enmities," "envyings," and drunkenness." To the converse, "love," "gentleness," and "goodness" are uplifting and beneficial to the community and society. Remember that Paul wrote that those who "walk in the Spirit…shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh"? (vs. 16). When love is present, how can such works as "hatred,""variance," "emulations," "wrath," and "strife" find a place to lodge? In the climate of "peace," "seditions," heresies," and "strife" cannot thrive. "Gentleness" or kindness precludes works such as "wrath." If we allow the Spirit to nurture and educate us, we will not have to focus on battling the works of the flesh. You see, by following the Spirit through the teaching of his word, we acquire traits and will manifest the fruit of the Spirit that will preclude or displace the works of the flesh.

     As we have seen, the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit cannot co-exist. This is why the inspired text says, "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."  (To learn more about the Holy Spirit, click on "The Holy Spirit".)