In the Bible life is often spoken of as a journey. The primary mode of transportation in those days was by walking. When Jesus wanted to go from Galilee to Jerusalem he walked. If a person wanted to visit his neighbor, he walked. Anywhere and everywhere people went, in all likelihood they walked. So the idea of life as a journey by walking was well understood in those days. In our day of high speed, convenient, comfortable modes of transportation we find the figure a little hard to understand.
As much travel as Paul did, he well understood the idea of life as a journey accomplished by walking. In some of his references he speaks of having a guide accompanying and guiding us on our journey.
“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. (Galatians 5:16-18).
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25).
Walking by the Spirit is like having a guide to lead us through dangerous terrain fraught with pitfalls which could cause death were we to fall into them. He knows the dangers as well as the safe way for us to go. Why wouldn’t we want the help of such a competent guide?
In Romans 8:12-14 Paul refers to the Spirit leading us to be children of God. In much the same kind of language as in the references above he says,
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
How does the Spirit lead us? The standard answer to this is “By the word,” meaning by the written word, the Bible. It certainly is true that the Spirit uses the word which he inspired to lead us into becoming children of God. In every case of conversion in the book of Acts, those who became obedient to the gospel were first taught. Faith comes by hearing and there is no way to have faith than by hearing the word of Christ. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).
But does he have any influence apart from the Bible? For just a moment, consider this.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
How does the spirit (obviously the devil) spoken of here influence people? He doesn’t have a Satanic Bible. He doesn’t write letters to his constituents. He has no classes teaching people how to sin nor to create a desire in them for what he offers. Yet he is highly successful. Does the devil not work through the agency of his servants? People who are committed to the principles he upholds advocate in his behalf. His work is done through deception and subterfuge, employing persuasive arguments calculated to mislead the unsuspecting. We are warned to constantly be on guard against his attacks because he is a master at his craft.
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Now if Satan can do all that and more without immediate contact with us, what can the Holy Spirit do who dwells in the Christian? Look at all the ways the Spirit is said to be in immediate relationship with the Christian.
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom. 8:9).
With the Spirit/God/Christ in us we are not “in the flesh.” We are not in the realm of the flesh where passions and desires control. We are in the Spirit where God is in control. The knowledge of the presence of God (in the person of the Spirit) in our lives is a deterrent to sin and an incentive to righteous living.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
What evidence is there that the Spirit is present and active in the life of a Christian? Consider this…
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:18-21).
What happens when one is filled with wine – or “under the influence” of alcohol? What evidence will there be that one is filled with wine? A drunk person will often be incoherent, babbling foolishness, sometimes singing bawdy songs, belligerent, hard to get along with and a general nuisance as well as being a danger to himself and others.
On the other hand, being filled with the Spirit will be evidenced in ways quite different from the one who is filled with wine. Instead of silly, suggestive songs there will be instructive, encouraging, uplifting psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. There will be thanksgiving – always and for everything. And Christians will, instead of being stubborn and rebellious, be submissive in service to one another as is detailed in the remainder of Ephesians 5 and into chapter 6.
What a wonderful thing it is that God has provided this Helper to be with his people to be a constant source of comfort, guidance and assurance. We can know that we are safe as long as we “walk after the Spirit.”
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1).
With him as our guide we are assured that we will have strength for the journey. Paul prayed for Christians…
“…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19).