What Does It Mean To Walk In The Spirit?
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's letter to the Galatians. Let me say a few things by way of introduction. First, let me say that this message will have very little value to you if you are an unbeliever. It will profit you after you come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, but if you have never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you may even wonder what I am talking about because my message is addressed to those who have placed their faith and their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

May I say to you that if you are here without the Savior, you need not leave without Him. You don't even need to wait until the end of the service for some invitation to be given so that you can receive the Lord Jesus Christ. As you sit there in your seat at this very moment, if you will recognize the truth of God's Word that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners—and that means you; if you will recognize the truth of God's Word that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved; that is, if you will ask the Lord Jesus Christ to save you, He will.

Even as I am addressing these remarks to you, if you will recognize that you as a sinner, if you will believe God's Word that Christ same into the world to save sinners, if you will bow your heart before the Lord at this very moment and ask God to save you through the blood of His Son because you have placed your faith and your trust in Him, He will. Then you will be ready for this message. This message is one of a series we have been bringing on the theme, Simple Questions Often Asked .

Walk in the Spirit

Last week we dealt with the question, “How can I as a Christian keep from sinning?”, and we found the answer in chapter 5 of the Galatian letter, verse 16, where we read:

Galatians 5:

16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

If we want to paraphrase this very literally, we could say, “Walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit, and as a Christian you will not need to sin. Walk in complete dependence on the Holy Spirit and as a believer you will not need to be under the dominion of sin.” We closed our message with the appeal of verse 25 of this chapter, where we read:

Galatians 5:

25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Very literally, if you believe that you have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, then why not walk in complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit? The question we are to consider now has grown out of that appeal. A very natural question, and certainly a very simple one is, “How can I walk in the Spirit? You tell me I should. You tell me that that is the secret of living as a believer without being under the dominion of sin. How can I do it? I am interested in walking at the direction of the Spirit, I am interested in walking in complete dependence upon Him, but how do I go about doing it? That is what I want to know.”

Four Rules

That is the question we want to discuss with you now. In order to do that adequately, I want to give you four rules which will enable you to walk in the Spirit if you will observe them. These four rules I am going to give you first, and then we will talk about them together.

Rule 1: Be continuously surrendered to the Spirit. Rule 2: Be constantly sensitive to the Spirit. Rules 3 and 4 are presented negatively. Rule 3: Be careful not to sadden the Spirit. Rule 4: Be concerned not to stifle the Spirit.

I suggest to you that if these rules are carefully observed as a manner of life, you will learn to walk in complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit. In learning to walk in complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit, you have the double guarantee which we presented last week that you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.

First Rule

Turn with me, please, to Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5. This is a familiar passage of Scripture because when the subject of spirituality is discovered, this is the key verse that is given. I wish to present it as the first basic rule which will guarantee that we can walk in the Spirit:

Ephesians 5:

18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

A Commandment to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

We have learned in times past that from its grammatical construction in the original text, this is a command: Be filled with the Spirit. It is not a matter of option. Oftentimes we speak of people who are spiritual and people who are not, as though the people who are spiritual are living on a high plane and the rest of us poor mortals are living on a lower plane. We even speak of spirituality in terms of degrees. This is wrong from the standpoint of the Scripture.

You are commanded as a believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and we have also learned in times past that according to its grammatical construction in the original text, this represents a command which is to be obeyed continuously. It is not a command for a time when you get in a tight spot and feel that you need a sudden inrush of power. It is a command that is to be continuously obeyed from the very day that you are born again.

Continuity in this Command

As we learned last week, the Holy Spirit moves into your heart the very moment that you find the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, and from that very moment on, you are commanded to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit.

Because people do not recognize the continuity in this command, they have developed the habit of seeking an additional experience with the Holy Spirit. Some of them refer to it as the baptism of the Holy Spirit . They declare that after you are born again, you need a baptism of the Holy Spirit for power, for a special kind of gift, for any number of reasons.

I challenge anyone to prove that to me from the Word of God. The Bible very plainly teaches that when you are born again, you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and from that moment on you are to be continuously controlled by Him.

Listen carefully now: Because we do not obey that command, an emptiness appears in our lives of which we are conscious in more ways than I have time to mention. We seek the reason, we confess our sins, and are filled with the Holy Spirit. That is, He takes control again, and consequently we have learned to speak of this as something other than an initial experience related to our salvation. The happy thing is to be continuously controlled by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit's Absolute Control

May I suggest further that we have learned that this verse speaks of the absolute control of the believer by the Holy Spirit. That is indicated by the comparison which the Holy Spirit has been pleased to choose to illustrate what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit:

Ephesians 5:

18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Illustration

A drunken man does not do what he wishes to do; he does what the intoxicating beverage of which he has imbibed commands him to do. He has no choice. We have become highly scientific in our day. You can now breathe into a little container and they can measure the content of alcohol in the container to tell whether or not you are drunk. In the old days, before we became so scientifically proficient, if you were arrested on suspicion of drunkenness, you were taken to the police station and you were instructed to walk a line which had been painted or chalked on the floor. If you walked that line without too much deviation, you were considered sober enough to drive a car, but if you could not walk that line, you were considered drunk.

How many times men under the influence of liquor, knowing that their freedom depended upon their walking that line, have stood at the end of it, surveyed it, gritted their teeth and clenched their fists, and made every effort to control their feet so they could walk straight, but they could not because the liquor controlled their actions.

Whether you like the illustration or not is beside the point. The Holy Spirit has chosen it; the Holy Spirit has said that just as a man may be under the influence of liquor, so should a born-again believer be continuously under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

The Word Filled

Look at the word filled in our text: “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” As you look at that word, let me point out that it comes from the Greek word plaroo , which speaks not only of being filled, but of being controlled—of being supplied with whatever the need may be.

You are familiar with Philippians, chapter 4, verse 19, where the Apostle Paul said:

Philippians 4:

19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The word supply in Philippians, chapter 4, verse 19, is the translation of this Greek word plaroo, which here is translated filled .

This is the first rule: Be continuously controlled by the Holy Spirit. Why do I call it a rule? Because it is your responsibility. God does not fill you unless you see to it that you are filled. God does not say, “I am going to hold your nose and fill you with the Holy Spirit so you will do what I tell you to do.” God says, “Here He is: He is willing and able to control your life if you will let Him, and it is your responsibility to see to it that He does.”

Second Rule

That leads me to the discussion of the second rule, which is almost essential to the observance of the first. What was the second rule? It is your responsibility to be constantly sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Insensitivity nullifies our surrender to the Holy Spirit. The sensitivity of which we speak is described in the book of Galatians, chapter 5, verse 18:

Galatians 5:

18But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

In the light of the context, you might expect the Holy Spirit to be saying, “If you are led by the Holy Spirit, you will not be under the dominion of the flesh.” There is no contradiction of terms. The observance of the law on the part of the people in an effort to be well pleasing to God is but an effort of the flesh, so what the Spirit of God is saying to us is that as a believer you are obligated to be led by the Spirit of God.

The Need of Being Sensitive to the Holy Spirit

Romans, chapter 8, reminds us that it is one of the evidences that we have been born again, that we are led of the Spirit of God. Moffett translates this phrase, “under the sway of the Spirit,” and I like that; you will recall that one of the figures of speech for the Holy Spirit, one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit used often in the Word of God, is the wind. The Lord Jesus Christ said, you will remember, that the wind bloweth where it listeth, and you don't know anything about where it comes from (John 3:8). All you know is the effect that the wind causes. So to speak of an individual as being under the sway of the Holy Spirit is an appealing thing to me.

In order to be under the sway of the Holy Spirit, you have to be sensitive. You would not have to be sensitive to an earthquake; if you were in the immediate area, you would know about it even if your attention were on a thousand other things. If we were talking about the loud noises and boomings and bangings and clatter and clamor in many religious gatherings, which is the fleshly imitation of the Holy Spirit, you would not have to be sensitive. You would know all about it just because of the noise. Elijah, listening to God's message, you will remember, stood in the mouth of the cave, and there was a great wind, but nothing spoke to his heart. There was a great fire, but nothing bothered him. But a still small voice conveyed the message, and had he not been sensitive, he would have missed it (I Kings 19:11-13).

Sensitivity Demands Selfless Submission

May I suggest to you that if you and I are to be constantly sensitive to the Holy Spirit, it will demand on our part a selfless submission—a submission to the Spirit of God in which self has absolutely no part. I suggest to you that the word led in Galatians, chapter 5, verse 18, comes from a very simple Greek word ago, which means “to be led,” but it conveys the idea of being led under the power of another.

Uses of the Greek Word Ago

An excellent illustration of this is found in chapter 8 of the Acts of the Apostles, where a quotation is made from chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah. Philip was witnessing to the Ethiopian eunuch in verse 32:

Acts 8:

32The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

The Holy Spirit could have chosen any one of five different words in Greek to use for the word led , but He chose the word ago because it was the only accurate one; it describes an individual's being led in submission to another person. Is there anything more submissive than a sheep being led to the slaughter? Is there anything more submissive than a sheep standing before his shearer?

If we are to be constantly sensitive to the Holy Spirit, I say it will demand a selfless submission; self will keep you from being sensitive. To be sensitive to the Holy Spirit will demand an immediate compliance on the part of the individual with any suggestion from the Holy Spirit.

Turn, please, to the gospel of Mark, chapter 1, for another use of the word led :

Mark 1:

37And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.
38And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.

Notice the phrase, “Let us go”: it is a translation of the same Greek word ago , and it suggests to my mind that if we are to be led of the Spirit of God, there must be immediate compliance with whatever suggestion the Holy Spirit makes. Get the picture: Here was the whole world, figuratively speaking, looking for Jesus, and His disciples found Him and told Him. What do you think they wanted Him to do? They wanted Him to go where people were standing with open arms to receive Him, but He did not. He said, “Let us go away,” and there is not one word to indicate that they objected. Certainly that was not what they wanted, but they did it because they were sensitive to the Holy Spirit and were able to comply immediately with what He had to say.

There is a third thing that will be demanded if you are constantly sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and it is brought to my attention by another use of this Greek word ago as it is recorded in chapter 19 of the Acts of the Apostles. A problem was presented because of the preaching of the gospel. The trade of the silversmiths was about to be disbanded because the gospel had fixed it so there was no further use or need for images of the Goddess Diana, and they did not like it. They complained about it, and the story is found in Acts, chapter 19. Notice only one verse:

Acts 19:

38Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.

We are interested in this verse only because of the one word open . It is a translation of this Greek word ago. There was recourse for Demetrius. The law was open. I suggest to you, Beloved, that if you are constantly sensitive to the Holy Spirit, then you are going to have to be open to any suggestion which the Holy Spirit makes, and there is ample illustration of that in the Scripture.

Two Illustrations

We will not take the time to turn to all of the illustrations, but I call attention to two, one in the life of Philip. In the midst of a great evangelistic meeting, as we might term it today, which was meeting with tremendous success, the Holy Spirit suggested to Philip that he leave the place where it seemed obvious he ought to be and go to the most impractical place a person could imagine—a desert. He was sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit that when the Holy Spirit suggested it (Acts 8:29, 30), he ran to comply. The Holy Spirit can make suggestions to many of us today and we do not even know that He is making the suggestion.

The Apostle Paul was on a missionary trip. He was seeking the mind of the Lord as to where he should stop and proclaim the message, and in chapter 16 of the Acts, verses 6, 7, and 8, we have an illustration of how sensitive he was to the Holy Spirit. He wanted to go into Asia to speak, but Dr. Luke, who recorded the story, says, “The Holy Spirit forbade him to go.” I don't know how He forbade him to go where he wanted to go. Then he assayed—that is, he tried—to go into Bithynia, and Dr. Luke said, “The Holy Spirit suffered him not.” I don't know how He stopped it, but Paul was sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit that he knew he should not go.

I have said before, and I repeat for illustration and for emphasis, that I have always prayed, “God, keep me sensitive to the Holy Spirit.” I have always prayed, “God, You don't have to knock me in the head; you don't have to break my leg; you don't have to kill me; I want to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.” Beloved, if you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, you will be able to walk in the Spirit.

The Third Rule

I have two more rules, and I must hurry on. These two rules, as I have already suggested, have a negative approach. The third rule is: Be careful not to sadden the Holy Spirit. Turn, please, to Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 30:

Ephesians 4:

30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

The Bible translation known as Good News for Modern Man translates this verse, “And do not make God's Holy Spirit sad,” and I rather like that. Do not make God's Holy Spirit sad. This word grieve is from the Greek word lupeo , which means “to grieve,” “to offend,” “to vex,” or “to sadden.” The Amplified version of the Scriptures uses all these words to convey what it means to be careful that we do not make the Holy Spirit sad. The Williams translation of this same verse catches the grammatical construction of the phrase by rendering it, “You must stop offending the Holy Spirit,” for the construction indicates that most of us spend our time offending the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures say, “You must stop it.” Weymouth, in his translation, captures the need of being careful that we do not sadden the Holy Spirit by rendering the verse, “Beware of grieving the Holy Spirit.”

A Need to be Careful

Why is there such a need for carefulness? When you have time, read Ephesians, chapter 4, the last paragraph, and you will discover that the things that make the Holy Spirit sad are things which most of us take for granted in our lives. They are not the big things, they are not the great things, they are not the things that will get you put into jail, they are not the things which will ruin your reputation. They are the things that in many cases nobody will need to know about except you yourself, and because they are such insignificant things, as men look upon things, they can creep up without your even knowing they are there.

Remember what the Spirit of God said in the Song of Solomon: It is the little foxes that spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15). I daresay, Beloved, the reason that many folk have trouble walking in the Spirit lies with this third rule; they are not careful that they do not make the Holy Spirit sad. Will you examine your hearts; look deep. Is there something in your heart that has saddened the Holy Spirit? Confess it, for the Holy Spirit cannot control your life and you cannot walk in complete dependence upon Him if you have saddened the Holy Spirit in any way.

The Fourth Rule

The fourth rule that I want to leave with you is also presented negatively. It may be stated: Be concerned not to stifle the Holy Spirit. Turn with me, please, to I Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 19, where you find this rule stated in very simple language:

I Thessalonians 5:

19Quench not the Spirit.

Notice the word quench as I point out to you that it comes from the Greek word sbennumi , and may be translated by the word quench , by the word extinguish , or by the words go out . It is a happy selection by the Holy Spirit because another symbol for the Holy Spirit in the Word of God is fire. You know what it means to extinguish a fire, don't you? You know what it means to let a fire go out, don't you? God has chosen that word to give us this fourth rule, that we be very, very careful, yea concerned, that we do not stifle the Holy Spirit.

Catching the thought of the verse as it really is, I believe, the Berkeley translation renders it, “Do not extinguish the Spirit's fire.” Some of us let the fire of the Spirit burn very low, almost to the point of going out. Sometimes we need to heed the advice which the Apostle Paul gave the young Timothy as is recorded in II Timothy, chapter 1, verse 6:

II Timothy 1:

6Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

Someone may say, “What has this got to do with a fire? What has this got to do with the fire of the Holy Spirit?” The answer is a very simple one. The words stirup come from a Greek word which speaks of rekindling a fire, and the Amplified version recognizes this when it translates the verse: “Rekindle the embers. Fan the flame and keep burning.

Quench not the Spirit. Don't extinguish the fire of the Spirit. We expressed it a little differently, didn't we? We said, “Don't stifle the Spirit.” The reason for our phrasing of this fourth rule, “Be concerned not to stifle the Spirit,” is suggested by the Williams translation, which renders I Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 19: “Stop stifling the Holy Spirit.”

Here again is a suggestion that this is what most Christians are consistently doing—stifling the Holy Spirit. If we had time to pursue this, we could say, “Don't smother the Holy Spirit.” We could say, “Don't restrain the Holy Spirit.” We could say, “Don't subdue the Holy Spirit.” So I suggest to you, be concerned that you don't stifle the Holy Spirit.

How to Keep From Stifling the Holy Spirit

You want some practical application, don't you? You want me to tell you in so many words and in so many rules how you can keep from stifling the Holy Spirit? I want to make one or two suggestions. If you are led by the Holy Spirit to stop whatever you are doing about your house or at your work or wherever you are and have a time of intercession for someone whom God has laid upon your heart, and you don't do it, you are stifling the Holy Spirit. If you have a burden placed upon your heart through the Holy Spirit to go witness to someone about the Lord Jesus Christ, or to go call someone on the telephone because he may need a word of encouragement, or maybe to drop in on him because he needs what you have to offer him, and you say, “I haven't been to see him in a long time,” or, “I have too much to do”—if you give such excuses, you are smothering the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

I don't have time to give you any more illustrations, but I want to say to you on the authority of the Word of God, and from thirty years' experience, that if you want to walk in the Spirit, observe these four rules very carefully and you will be able to do it.


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