“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25
In one of my previous posts The Holy Spirit, what is His role in a Believer? I presented to you the role of the Holy Spirit by Dawson McAllister in which I quoted Dawson write;
“Somebody who is drunk with wine or alcohol is controlled by and consumed by alcohol. But somebody who is “drunk in the Spirit” is controlled and consumed by the Spirit, who helps us live holy lives.”
I have at one time been drunk and I know what it means to be drunk by wine and be controlled by the same. I have equally observed people who are drunk when I am sober and know how fascinating alcohol influences one into acts and words that one would not be driven to when not drunk. The power of alcohol to influence one is beyond one’s control as soon as he is drunk of wine. It is for this very reason that led by the Spirit of God, apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians,
“Do not be drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-20).
Every believer in Christ is obliged to being filled and controlled by the Spirit such that his actions, words and thoughts are the fruit of the Spirit and NOT the influence of other forces like being drunk on wine. Today, I reflect on Living by the Spirit, Keeping in Step with the Spirit.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God – the third person in the Godhead in Trinitarian theology, He in Unity with the Father and the Son is the One, Holy God. The theology of the Trinity has remained a very hard concept to grasp to many yet the One God has on several occasions in the Scriptures revealed himself as Father, Son and Spirit. One common example which I usually make reference to is an event at Jesus’ baptism by the rivers of Jordan. At his baptism, the manifestation of the Triune Godhead is very evident, the Son was in the water having just been baptised by John the Baptist, as Jesus went up out of the water, “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17).
This is one clear evidence of the Trinity of the Godhead. The apostles in their writings did not invent or used the term “Trinity” but in their writings they were very Trinitarian. This is evident in much if not all of Paul’s letters. Let me sample for you some few. The Pauline salutation and conclusion of his letters were generally in Trinitarian terms. His epistle which appears first in our Bibles, the letter to the Romans begins with such a salutation. He identifies himself as the servant of Jesus Christ, that Christ through the Spirit of God was appointed the Son of God (Romans 1:1, 3, 4, 7). His benedictions in the conclusion of 2 Corinthians even bring the Trinity of the Godhead very clearly. He writes; “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
It is not only apostle Paul who held the Trinitarian view, Peter for instance in his first epistle addresses his letter in this way; “To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the [Holy] Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ [the Son] and sprinkled with his blood.” (1 Peter 1:1-2). Other salutations and doxology for the other epistles at least mentions God the Father and Jesus Christ [the Son] without mentioning the Holy Spirit.
I am not writing about the Trinity, however, every time I speak or write about the Holy Spirit, I feel compelled to make mention of this basic Trinitarian teaching because our God is a triune God, the Father, Son and Spirit. Many people have been dissuaded by strange teachings that denies this fact. I have at one time been a victim of such a teaching that claims the Trinitarian theology points to three gods. Never, Trinity is not about three gods, it is about the One, Holy God who has manifested himself as the Father, Son and Spirit.
It may not be required for one to have right theology before being saved, but I believe right theology is necessary for those who believe. So, the Holy Spirit whom the Bible exhorts us to Live by Him and Keep steps with Him is God.
The law and the Spirit contrasted
In several of his epistles, Paul had issues with Christians of Jewish origin who continued to reason that believers in Christ should continue to live by the law whether they are Jews or gentiles. This is one argument that Paul didn’t let go without confronting it. Paul is quite aware that Christ didn’t come to abolish the law, rather Christ himself is the fulfilment of the law. He writes that in Christ, we are called to freedom in which the law is not our guardian, the Holy Spirit is. He further explained that the law is fulfilled in keeping the command of LOVE, to love God and to love one’s neighbours.
It is interesting to note that Paul’s consistent argument is that the law doesn’t change the SINFUL condition of the human heart, it rather reflects exactly what the human heart is. The only thing that can bring a U-turn and transformation to the human heart is only if it yields to the Spirit – its creator. The law tells us what not to do but doesn’t stop us from doing it, it rather condemns us when we do what we are not expected to do. But the Spirit of God produces fruit in those who yield to him to do things against which there is no law. When we are under the law, we might know what not to do but we do not have the power that draws us away from doing what we know we shouldn’t do. Being under the law is being led by the flesh to be judged by the law.
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21).
On the contrary, when we are living by the Spirit, we should be led by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit thus making us reflect the works of the Spirit in our words, thoughts and actions. Thus what Paul refers to as the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). In Christ the passion of the flesh and its desires must be subject to the Spirit, it must be crucified and no longer the master of the believer.
How to live by the Spirit and keep in Step with Him
To live by the Spirit is not to undermine the law but to fulfil the law. Jesus has said the entirety of the law is found in the two commands; to love God at ones best (all your heart, all your mind, all your strength) and to love neighbour as oneself. This is the view of Paul too; he says that the entire law is fulfilled in keeping the command to love neighbour as yourself. It isn’t that Paul was not concerned about loving God, but there was a particular context in which he writes. God is the first object of our love and the second should be loving our neighbours. For in these we not only live by the Spirit but also fulfil the law while not being under the law.
In his exposition of this part of Galatians at The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on February 6, 1881, the nineteenth century evangelical British preacher, C. H Spurgeon expounds that to live by the Spirit is to be free from the law. For to be bound by the law is the ignorance of the Grace of God. Charles Spurgeon writes what living by the Spirit means:
“This teaches us, then, that we are not to look upon bondage as being the object of the work of the Spirit of God, or the design of the Lord in a work of grace. Many are under bondage to the law: they attempt to keep the commands of God, not out of love, but from slavish fear. They dread the lash of punishment, and tremble like slaves; but to believers it is said “You are not under the law, but under grace,” and “You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” To be in bondage under the law, to be afraid of being cast away by God, and visited with destruction on account of sin after we have trusted in Jesus, — this is not the work of the Spirit of God in believers, but the black offspring of unbelief or ignorance of the grace of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is my intention in this message to call upon everyone to Living in the Spirit, to keep in step with the Spirit, for this is the will of God for mankind that in his Grace and by His Grace, we walk by the Spirit. It is my intention to point you to the Love and knowledge of God in Christ Jesus that you might fulfil the law by Living by the Spirit and not by the law. My joy is seeing that every knee bows before Christ and every tongue confesses that Christ is Lord, and yielding hearts to the control of the Spirit that we may not produce the works of the flesh. With grace and peace from God, I call you to Live by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters.
This message is written by Rev. Julius Izza Tabi who is a pastor in the Anglican Church of Uganda, Ma’di & West Nile Diocese. Julius served as an assistant Chaplain and lecturer at the Arua Campus of the Uganda Christin University. He is currently a candidate of Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues at Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet alias the Norwegian School of Theology, in Oslo, Norway and is an assisting Priest at St. Edmund’s Anglican Church, in Oslo. For any pastoral assistance or support of this ministry you can email Rev. Julius you can also reach Rev. Julius here.