An Exploration of Galatians: Walk in the Spirit
Galatians 5:25-26; Galatians 5:16 - Walking in the Spirit requires introspection, repentance and humility. Do not compare yourself to other believers!
”If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.“
Galatians 5:25-26 NASB1995
Well, the end of Galatians 5 has finally come, with these two verses and then only one more chapter in this incredible epistle exploration. In verse 25, Paul is telling his readers to not only live by the Spirit, but to also walk by the spirit. In Galatians 5:16, which we have already studied, Paul said the following to the Galatians:
”But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.“
Galatians 5:16 NASB1995
That “walk” in that verse is a different Greek word, peripateo, than the one in verse 25. Verse 25 uses the Greek word στοιχέω or stoicheo, with the following Biblical usages:
to proceed in a row as the march of a soldier, go in order
metaph. to go on prosperously, to turn out well
to direct one's life, to live
Also from the Strong’s lexicon: To conform to virtue and piety.
I think the commentary from Enduring Word says it quite well on what these two types of “walks” mean:
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit: We can better understand what Paul wrote here if we understand that the ancient Greek words for walk are different in Galatians 5:16 and 5:25. The first (peripateo) is the normal word for walking, used there as a picture of the “walk of life.” The second (stoicheo) means “to walk in line with” or “to be in line with.” Paul here is saying, “Keep in step with the Spirit.”
The idea is, “The Spirit has given you life. Now let Him direct your steps.” Or, as the Revised English Bible has it, “If the Spirit is the source of our life, let the Spirit also direct its course.”
“The verb stoicheo means ‘to be in line with, stand beside a person or a thing, hold to, agree with, follow’. The present imperative indicates that this is to be the habitual practice.” (Leon Morris)
We have to step out, now, in faith that the Holy Spirit will direct our steps in what remains of our lives from this day forward. We are not ambling aimlessly in the wilderness, but walking with a purpose that brings us closer and closer to righteousness and holiness. We are like toddlers when we start out, but we must get up from the pratfalls and tumbles to continue to march forward guided by the Spirit. Dr. J. Vernon McGee describes this walk so well in this commentary in Precept Austin:
You have to learn to walk in the Spirit, which means you are to start out. Why not start now? Say, “I am going to walk in the Spirit. I am going to depend upon the Holy Spirit to produce the fruits in my life.” Perhaps you are thinking that you might fall down. I have news for you—you are going to fall. It will hurt. You say, “How many times will I fall?” I don’t know. I am still falling. But that is the way you are going to walk in the Spirit, and that’s the only way. My friend, you need to step out today and begin leaning upon the Spirit of God. Yield yourself to Him; it is an act of the will.
Every day I start my day by saying, “Lord, I can’t live today in a way that pleases You, and I want You to do it through me.” I find there are times when I don’t get but a few blocks from home when something happens. One morning a woman in a Volkswagen cut in front of me. I had been so nice and sweet up to then, but I drove up beside her car and I told her what she had done. And she told me a thing or two right back. When she drove off, I thought, My, I sure fell on my face! When I do that, I just get up and start over again."
We have both been taking an exercise class for over five years that is called “Ageless Grace”. It helps greatly with movements, brain/body connections, and cognitive improvements; the best part (for someone like me who suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis) is that the class is done in a chair. We’re doing the class three days a week now and Steve has been trained in the concepts so he can be a substitute teacher. We have seen people come to the class ONCE and never return, or they come for a few weeks, then disappear for good. COVID-19 interrupted us but Steve and I did the exercises at home and then our recreation center found a way to do Zoom classes or move the class outdoors in the summer of 2020. We stuck with it!
My point in bringing up that exercise class is that it is like the old cliche of a journey of a thousand steps that starts with that first step. We have not given up on this class, but in fact, have had many benefits from it. So, too, we must NOT give up on walking with the Spirit when we stumble into the ditch of sin almost immediately. We repent, stand up, brush ourselves off, and ask for more guidance as we walk further and further into His Grace.
Verse 26 admonishes us to not become boastful, challenging one another and envying one another as we take this walk. Many commentators have thought that this verse is more suited for the beginning of Chapter 6, but I think there is a lot to learned here in conjunction with the walk with the Spirit to keep us humble. If you watch a child learn to walk (sadly, I never had that privilege personally), there are a lot of false starts and falls and crying. But as the child grows in confident and age, their skill at walking may turn into greater skill at running. Some grow so confident in their abilities that they become world-class athletes, often with the ego to match. When they fail, it is often blamed on some other factor (e.g., track feel, crowd noise) than on their inability to win every single time.
In the same cautionary way, we can become very proud of ourselves and boast of how well we are walking in the Spirit, challenging others to be as “good” as we are and envying them if they are doing better. The enemy excels at this strategy with believers. Boasting comes from the Greek word κενόδοξος or kenidoxos. This is the only usage of this word in the NT and it means glorying without reason, conceited, vain glorious, eager for empty glory. Here is a splendid commentary on this from Enduring Word:
Let us not become conceited: Paul concluded this section of walking in the Spirit with this warning, knowing that some will become conceited in their own walk in the Spirit. This can be a masterful stroke of Satan. We can think of a child of God finally walking in the Spirit – then Satan tempts him to be conceited about it. Soon, he is sure that he is almost always right and everyone else is wrong. It often happens gradually, so Paul warned, “Do not become conceited.”
[Leon] Morris on conceited: “To be conceited, to be sure that we are always right (even if that means that other people are always wrong!) is a perennial temptation to believers… It is easy to assume that because we are Christ’s we will always say and do the right thing. Paul is warning his readers that believers can be too confident that they are right in what they are contemplating.”
Provoking one another: When we are conceited – always sure we are right, always confident in our opinions and perceptions – it definitely provokes other people. It will rub them the wrong way and be the source of many conflicts.
Envying one another: When we are conceited, we also are open to the sin of envy. If we know someone is more right, or more successful than we are, we resent it and envythem.
This whole chapter lends itself to a searching examination of ourselves. We often think that our problems and difficulties are all outside of ourselves. We think that we would be fine if everyone just treated us right and if circumstances just got better. But that ignores the tenor of this chapter: the problems are in us, and need to be dealt with by the Spirit of God. Augustine used to often pray, “Lord, deliver me from that evil man, myself.” With that kind of reality check, we can see a new world, and a new life – and not one other person or one other circumstance has to change. All we must do is yield to the Spirit of God, and begin to truly walk in the Spirit.
We are the problem and this needs to be dealt with by the Spirit of God for the individual. I like the prayer that St. Augustine used. Believers must have a daily reality check and realize that they can have a new life that does not require any other person or circumstance to change. We yield to the Spirit!
My next devotional examines Galatians 6:1 - Restoring those overtaken by sin.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - I eagerly look forward to each step with the Spirit each day. Help me to be humble and introspective and to never look to others as a comparison as I grow in faith. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Enduring Word commentary by David Guzik is used with written permission.
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 1/30/2024 to review the lexicon for walk and boastful.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, creator of Precept Austin, can be found Here.