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What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?

"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." —Galatians 5:25 (NKJV)

When it comes to the Christian faith, a believer's "walk" is a metaphor for how we live our lives, what we do, and whom we follow. Another translation of Galatians 5:25 reads, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit" (ESV, emphasis added). This metaphor of "walking" alongside the Holy Spirit implies a few things about the way God intends for us to live our lives.

"Walk in the Spirit" = Movement

"Walk" is verb. Verbs require action, and walking generally requires forward motion. As believers, we're expected to DO things—and GOOD things at that. Galatians 6:9 says, "And let us not grow weary of doing good..." James 2:14 asks, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" Without getting into the whole "faith without works is dead" thing, what this passage basically means is that the good things we do are a natural result of being committed to living as God wills.

"Walk in the Spirit" = Journey

If walking in the Spirit means we're moving, then our faith is a journey in which we're always striving to make consistent forward progress. Every believer may walk at a different pace and in different ways, but we should all endeavor to move forward—even if only a little bit at a time. We may stall or stumble along the way—or hit roadblocks—but, with the Holy Spirit, we can eventually get up, brush ourselves off, and start walking again (Philippians 3:14).

"Walk in the Spirit" = An Opportunity to Follow

If our faith is a journey, how do we know what we're supposed to be doing or which direction we're supposed to go? The Bible gives us the answer: Jesus. In fact, "Christian" literally means "follower of Christ." To follow Christ means that we live our lives by Jesus' example (John 14:6; 1 Peter 2:21). Will we always do it perfectly? Not likely. Should we keep trying anyway? Absolutely!

Jesus knew this would be a hard journey, that's why He sent the Holy Spirit—to be with us and remind us of His teachings (John 14:16, 26, 15:26). The Holy Spirit leads believers toward righteousness (Galatians 5:16-18) and speaks to God for us when we have no words (Romans 8:27). To walk in the Spirit means that we're allowing the Holy Spirit to choose where we go, then following His lead. To walk in the Spirit means that we're open to the Holy Spirit's influence. To walk in the Spirit is the opposite of resisting His direction or rebelling against His guidance. When we resist and rebel, we bring sorrow upon the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).

Walking in the Spirit Produces Spiritual Fruit

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." —Galatians 5:22-23

Spiritual fruit is the result of walking with the Holy Spirit over time. Spiritual fruit is what we want, because it's evidence we're allowing the Holy Spirit into our hearts, allowing Him to work within us as we continue along our spiritual path of life and practice obedience to His guidance (Romans 6:11-14). The "fruits" metaphor helps us see our faith as a tree with branches that may or may not produce fruit, depending on how well we take care of the tree itself.

When we practice patience by not losing our temper, that's walking in the Spirit. When we show kindness, love, and concern for others' needs, that's walking in the Spirit. When we hold to God's good virtues, morals, and standards, that's walking in the Spirit. When we stay faithful to God in the midst of adversity, that's walking in the Spirit. When we're gentle and loving to those around us, that's walking in the Spirit. When we have humility and grace, that's walking in the Spirit.

How can I tell if I'm walking in the Spirit?

Other than seeing the fruit of the Spirit, how else can we know if we're "in step" with the Spirit? Well, Galatians 5 lists more evidences of the Holy Spirit's work in the life of a believer. Those who walk in the Spirit "eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope" (v. 5) and have freedom from the old Laws (v. 18). Those who walk in the Spirit have self-control over the body's desires (v. 16), because when we let the body's desires take over, the results are not good (vs. 19-21).

There are more passages in the Bible that describe what it looks like to walk in the Spirit too. Those who walk in the Spirit are filled with thankfulness, singing, and joy (Ephesians 5:18-20). Those who walk in the Spirit live according to God's Word, allowing the Spirit to teach, rebuke, correct, and train them in righteousness (Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:16). Those who walk in the Spirit will find that sinful temptations are much, MUCH easier to resist.

Now, to be clear, the human's spiritual journey is not a perfect process. Our walk with the Spirit is going to be full of ups and downs, growth and pruning, forward motion and sideways motion and sometimes even backward motion. ALL CHRISTIANS will struggle with this—not just you! 1 John 1:8 reminds us, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." But we also ALL have the Holy Spirit right there with us—picking us up and comforting us when we stumble (John 15:26), helping us pray (Jude 20), and giving us new life (John 3:6).

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TL;DR

"Walking in the Spirit" means allowing the Holy Spirit to choose where we go, then following His lead. When we walk in the Spirit, we're open to the Holy Spirit's influence as He leads us toward righteousness (Galatians 5:16-18). Spiritual fruit is a result of walking with the Holy Spirit over time (Galatians 5:22-23). Our walk with the Spirit will be full of ups and downs, growth and pruning, forward motion and sideways motion and sometimes even backward motion. All Christians will still struggle with sin (1 John 1:8), and that's OK. We may stall or stumble along the way, but with the Holy Spirit, we can get up, brush ourselves off, and start walking again (Philippians 3:14).

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, four socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.


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