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Spirit Walking (Part 1)

Everyone's battle.

Galatians 5:16–21 (ESV)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This passage starts out by describing the battle between the Spirit and the flesh that goes on inside of each of us. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other. This brings to mind the classic image of a tiny angel and a tiny devil sitting on our shoulders trying to talk us into being good or being bad.

But then what do we make of Paul’s command to walk by the Spirit? How do we do that? Note: the word “not” is emphatic in the Greek — walk by the Spirit, and you will [definitely] not gratify the desires of the flesh. Okay great, but how? Should I just flick the little devil off my shoulder?

Well, Paul will later write a similar, more detailed instruction to the Ephesians.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. … put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. — Ephesians 4:17, 22–24 (ESV)

So, “walk by the spirit” doesn’t mean some hyper-spiritual way of living. Rather it’s just a colloquial way of encouraging the Galatians to walk the walk like the Spirit-led Christians that they are.

Today’s passage goes on to give a chilling list of seventeen sins of the flesh. Paul ends the list with “and things like these.” So it’s not a precise list, just some examples. Paul then adds that these sins are a fair description of the unsaved.

And so they are.

The list of works of the flesh seems inordinately long, and the ending even says that it’s not a complete list. What’s the point in Paul writing it this way?

Note the wide range of sins mentioned. It includes super creepy sins like sorcery and orgies. They’re there to get our attention and horrify us.

But it also includes sins like impurity, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, and dissensions. We’re sure to see ourselves somewhere in there, especially given the tag line, “and things like these.”

Paul’s point is that this is serious. And it isn’t about somebody else; it’s about me.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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