Walking in the Spirit
By David M Rogers
Published: June 2010
Table of Contents
And I say: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not accomplish the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. And these are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you desire to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Torah. And the works of the flesh are well-known, which are these: adultery, whoring, uncleanness, indecency, idolatry, drug sorcery, hatred, quarrels, jealousies, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, murders, drunkenness, wild parties, and the like – of which I forewarn you, even as I also said before, that those who practice such as these shall not inherit the reign of Elohim. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustworthiness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no Instruction. And those who are of Messiah have impaled the flesh with its passions and the desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Every Bible believing Christian knows the importance of the influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. What sincere, serious follower of Messiah would not want to be "walking by faith, not by sight"? And so it is that Sha'ul (the apostle Paul) teaches in his letter to the Galatians that we should all "walk in the Spirit."
However, not all who attempt to interpret Scripture and to teach the "walk of faith" have correctly discerned the meaning of Sha'ul's exhortation to "walk in the Spirit." It is our intention in this article to explore the informing texts to "rightly divide" the Scriptures to discern the meaning of being "led by the Spirit."
Our exploration of the meaning of the phrase, "walk in the Spirit" must begin with an understanding of the New Covenant (sometimes referred to the "renewed covenant"). What is the purpose of Elohim in giving of his Spirit? Why is the Spirit given and what will be the true indication that someone has the set-apart Spirit of Elohim?
We are told in Acts 2 that on the day of Shavu'ot (a.k.a. Pentecost),
they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Set-apart Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)
And thus, the believers were "filled with the Set-apart Spirit."
We are told of their immediate behavior: "they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them." This is in fulfillment of what the Messiah told the disciples after he was raised from the dead:
These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and whatever poison they drink will not harm them; they will place their hands on the sick and they will be well." (Mark 16:17,18)
There are denominations which have been formed because some Christian groups can see nothing else but this verse. Snake handling and speaking in strange tongues, for these groups, are all the proof one needs to validate that its participants are truly "filled with the Holy Ghost."
Shimon Kefa (Simon Peter) explains to those gathered the meaning of these disciples speaking in foreign tongues:
You men of Judea and all you who live in Yerushalayim, know this and listen carefully to what I say. In spite of what you think, these men are not drunk, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. But this is what was spoken about through the prophet Yoel: 'And in the last days it will be,' Elohim says, 'that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.' (Acts 2:14-18)
This, of course, was a quotation of Yoel 2:28. Yoel's prophetic utterance speaks of the time of Shavuot when Yahuwah pours out his Spirit on his disciples, and it also looks forward to the time when Messiah returns to take vengeance on his enemies.
The prophet Yirmyahu (a.k.a. Jeremiah) speaks in greater detail about the pouring out of the Set-apart Spirit, to which Kefa is referring.
“For this is the covenant I shall make with the house of Yisra’el after those days, declares HWHY: I shall put My Torah in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts. And I shall be their Elohim, and they shall be My people. “And no longer shall they teach, each one his neighbour, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know HWHY,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares HWHY. “For I shall forgive their crookedness, and remember their sin no more.” (Yirmeyahu 31:33,34, The Scriptures)
Let's be very clear about what happened at Shavuot (Pentecost) as recorded in Acts 2. The pouring out of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) was in fulfillment of the prophetic utterances of Yoel, Yirmeyahu, and others. With the pouring out of the Ruach, the New (Renewed) Covenant was being initiated.
On what basis is the Ruach Elohim given? Does Elohim indiscriminately give of his Spirit to everyone? Or is the Set-Apart Spirit only given to certain individuals? If the latter, then what criteria does Elohim have for giving his Spirit. What qualities or qualifications must one have if he is to receive the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh.
First, we are taught that the Spirit does leave individuals.
Now the Spirit of Yahuwah had turned away from Sha'ul, and an evil spirit from Yahuwah tormented him. (1 Sh'muel 16:14)
Why did the Spirit turn away from Sha'ul? Clearly it was because Sha'ul was walking in disobedience and disbelief.
Shimshon (Samson) experienced the same thing. As one who was under the Nazirite vow, Shimshon broke the three commandments of the vow. When he was shaven while he slept, the Spirit of Yahuwah left him.
She said, "The Philistines are here, Shimshon!" He woke up and thought, "I will do as I did before and shake myself free." But he did not realize that Yahuwah had left him. (Shoftim [Judges] 16:20).
Disobedience is the condition which causes the Set-apart Spirit to leave a person.
Furthermore, following the time of his sin, David cried out,
Do not reject me! Do not take your Set-apart Spirit away from me! (Mizmor [Psalm] 51:11)
It would have been foolish for David to have penned that prayer if the Spirit could not be taken from someone. The Spirit is informing us through this prayer that disobedience will result in the removal of the Spirit from Elohim's people. This pattern is evident throughout the Scriptures that the Spirit will leave those who are in rebellion against Yahuwah and will leave the disobedient.
On the flip side, the Scripture explicitly instructs us that Elohim gives his Spirit to his own, on the condition that they are obedient to his Word. When the Sanhedrin had jailed Peter because he was preaching in the name of the Messiah, a messenger of Elohim had sprung him from prison. The next morning the Pharisees found Peter preaching in the temple courts again, and tried to intimidate Peter from proclaiming the name Yahusha. But Peter's response to them was a rebuke:
But Peter and the apostles replied, "We must obey Elohim rather than people. The Elohim of our forefathers raised up Yahusha, whom you seized and killed by hanging him on a tree. Elohim exalted him to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Yisrael and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these events, and so is the Set-apart Spirit whom Elohim has given to those who obey him." (Acts 5:29-32)
The implication is straight-forward. The Sanhedrin did not have the Spirit of Elohim because they were in rebellion against His Messiah. But those who follow Messiah and walk in obedience to the Scriptures receive the Set-apart Spirit.
In his first epistle, Yochanan (John) warns us to test the spirits to ascertain whether they are from Elohim or not.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from Elohim, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
How do we "test the spirits"? What criteria can we use to determine if the spirit is genuinely from Elohim? After all, the false prophets perform signs and wonders and miracles to deceive. The false prophets heal the sick while they masquerade as angels of light. What unmistakable characteristic is evident when the Holy Spirit is in a believer?
And I say: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not accomplish the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. And these are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you desire to do.
The prophets give us the definitive answer about how to identity the work of the Spirit of Elohim and distinguish it from the work of deceiving spirits. Yechezqel (aka Ezekiel) reveals to us the purpose for which the Almighty is bringing people to repentance. Yahuwah was explaining to him what is to become of the scattered House of Israel in the last days.
I will give them one heart and I will put a new Spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their bodies and I will give them a heart of flesh, so that they may obey my rules (Hebrew, "chukot") and keep my right-rulings (Hebrew, "mishpatim") and observe them. Then they will be my people, and I will be their Elohim. (Yechezqel 11:19,20).
When Elohim places his Spirit in repentant believers in the last days, the Spirit causes them (makes them, compels them) to obey the rules and keep the statutes (or judgments). In a nutshell, the Spirit can be discerned by the behavior and walk of those claiming to possess it. The true believer will no longer be in rebellion against the commandments of Elohim. The genuine Spirit-filled people will be obeying the Law of Mosheh!
And in case we missed it the first time, Yechezqel reiterates this message.
"'I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries; then I will bring you to your land. I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will cause you to walk in my rules (Hebrew, "chukot") and carefully observe my right-rulings (Hebrew, "mishpatim"). Then you will live in the land I gave to your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your Elohim. I will save you from all your uncleanness (Yechezqel 36:24-29).
The tried and true method of testing the spirits to see whether they are from Elohim is to look at the results - what does the spirit cause people to do. If the spirit causes the believer to walk in obedience to the commandments of Elohim, then this is proof that the spirit is the Set-apart Spirit. The Set-apart Spirit always causes the one being set-apart to repent from disobedience and to walk in full compliance with the instructions and commandments of Scripture. But if the spirit within you causes you to forsake and ignore the commandments of Scripture, be sure that it is some other spirit that is controlling you, and not the Set-apart Spirit of Elohim.
When you "walk in the Spirit" you do not "accomplish the lust of the flesh." The lust of the flesh is all those activities which Yahuwah has commanded us not to do. Disobedience to the commandments of the Almighty is a work of the flesh and is a result of the lust of the flesh. But when one walks in the Spirit, he is doing what the Spirit is "causing" him to do. And Yechezqel tells us that the Spirit of Elohim always "causes" those so influenced to walk in the commandments and judgments of Scripture.
The Spirit and the flesh are leading in opposite directions. The flesh leads us into sin. The Spirit leads us into obedience. The flesh leads us into disobedience. The Spirit leads us to be set-apart unto Elohim.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under (the curse of) Law.
Sha'ul concludes that "if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." One thing is for certain about the interpretation of the statement: Sha'ul is NOT saying that if you are led by the Spirit then you will not be obeying the Law!!! The prophets say just the opposite. They inform us that the one who has the Spirit will be compelled to obey the laws and the precepts. So, Sha'ul CANNOT be saying that the Spirit-led person forsakes or rejects the Law of Elohim.
Then what is Sha'ul saying? The key is in the understanding of the phrase "under the Law." This phrase is an ellipsis for the expression, "under the curse of the Law." Thus, to be "under the Law" means to be under its curse. And what is the curse of the Law (Torah)? The curses of Devarim 28-30 are all the bad things that Yahuwah has promised to bring upon those who are in rebellion against Yahuwah and his Law. So, those who are "under the Law" are those who are subjects of the curses to be brought upon those who disobey the Law.
Therefore, those who are led by the Spirit are not "under" the curses which those who disobey the Law are sentenced to, because the Spirit leads the believer to obey the Law and thus to be subject to the blessings of the Law. But those who are led by some other spirit are deceived into disobeying the Almighty's Law and are subject to all the curses of the Law.
And the works of the flesh are well-known, which are these: adultery, whoring, uncleanness, indecency, idolatry, drug sorcery, hatred, quarrels, jealousies, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, murders, drunkenness, wild parties, and the like – of which I forewarn you, even as I also said before, that those who practice such as these shall not inherit the reign of Elohim.
Again, the works of the flesh are those activities that the flesh in rebellion against Yahuwah and against his commandments produces. These are all sinful activities, because they are acts of disobedience against Yahuwah's Law. These sins are translated as follows in these three Bible translations:
Sha'ul points out that those who practice these lusts of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of Elohim. This conclusion is in agreement with the Torah and the Prophets, who teach that entrance into the kingdom is conditional upon ones response of faithfulness to Yahuwah and to his Instructions. Those who remain in rebellion against Yahuwah's ways cannot enter into the blessings of the reign of Messiah. But those who, in fidelity to Yahuwah and the Messiah, submit to the Instructions and obey the Laws of Elohim, will inherit the blessing of partaking with Messiah Yahusha in his reign of righteousness on earth.
Galatians 5:22, 23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustworthiness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no Instruction.
The written Torah does not prohibit these activities, behaviors and actions. Because written Torah is the standard of righteous behavior which Yahuwah accepts, we should live by the principles of Torah. Obedience to the commandments of Scripture brings about the following characteristics, which are translated by those same three Bible translations as follows:
The "fruit of the Spirit" is the end result of the working of the Spirit in a person. The Spirit, which leads us into compliance to the Law, brings about these positive qualities. Obedience to the commandments, not disobedience to the commandments brings about love, joy and peace to the believer. Obedience to the Instructions of Elohim causes one to be patient, kind and good. Compliance with the Law of the Old Testament is evidence of one's fidelity and loyalty to the Almighty because such obedience is pleasing to Him. And those who willingly submit to the will of Elohim as revealed in the Law will experience gentleness and self-control in his walk and talk, because he is in harmony with the character of the Creator.
And those who are of Messiah have impaled the flesh with its passions and the desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Sha'ul summarizes all of the preceding by explaining that those who belong to Messiah have decided to say "no" to the disobediences of walking according to the flesh. Those who "live" in the Spirit must also "walk" in the Spirit - which is to say - they must obey the righteous commandments which the Almighty has created us to walk in. And the greatest commandant pertaining to your fellow is to love your neighbor as yourself - which precludes us from seeing oneself as better than another, or provoking your brother to sin.