Walking By Faith, Walking In The Spirit And Living In The Spirit— What They Mean In Practical Terms

(Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the American King James Version).

2 Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Christians are constantly enjoined in the New Testament to “walk by faith“, to “walk in the Spirit” and to “live by the Spirit“. What exactly do these phrases that are supposed to guide Christian conduct and living mean? How are believers to “walk by faith“, “walk in the Spirit” and “live by the Spirit“? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these questions.

Let’s first examine the issue of walking by faith. Faith is defined in the Scriptures as the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. Faith is said to come by hearing the word of God, and implies an act of obedience to a commandment of God. For instance, before the great deluge that destroyed the antediluvian world, God commanded Noah to build an ark through which to save himself and his family. Noah obeyed and was saved with his family, while the flood destroyed the world. Noah’s act of obedience is described as an act of faith. He heard the word of God concerning an event that had not happened, obeyed the word of God and was saved. That’s walking by faith. To walk by faith then is to live in obedience to the Word of God. It means to live as prescribed by the Word of God. We saw the same example of walking by faith in the life of Abraham, the father of faith. God called him to leave his father’s country and go to a strange land he didn’t know. He obeyed without questioning and set out on this journey, not knowing where he was going, but relying completely on God for direction and leadership. That’s walking by faith.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.

Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

Hebrews 11:18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall your seed be called:

Hebrews 11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from where also he received him in a figure.

Walking by faith is also contrasted with walking by sight. Those who walk by sight are guided by human reasoning and the natural senses. They are guided by self. Such people need to see before they believe. They have to prove everything beyond reasonable doubt before they buy into it. It’s like Thomas who had to see the print of the nails in Christ’s hands, and palpate the hole in the Lord’s side before believing the Lord had risen. That’s the natural human tendency—to see before we believe. That’s walking by sight, in contrast to walking by faith. Walking by sight does not require God’s word for guidance. It doesn’t depend on following or obeying God’s word. Walking by sight is living by the human senses. It is man guiding himself and depending on his wisdom to navigate through life. In contrast, walking by faith is man believing God and relying on God’s supernatural wisdom and power for guidance and leadership. It is man trusting in the word of God and obeying it as the rule of conduct for his life. Walking by faith is fallible and mortal man realising it is not in himself to guide or lead himself. Walking by faith is man submitting to God and living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 Corinthians 5:2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed on with our house which is from heaven:

2 Corinthians 5:3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

2 Corinthians 5:4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed on, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

2 Corinthians 5:5 Now he that has worked us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given to us the earnest of the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

2 Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:9 Why we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the middle, and said to them, Peace be to you.

John 20:20 And when he had so said, he showed to them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD.

John 20:21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be to you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you.

John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive you the Holy Ghost:

John 20:23 Whose soever sins you remit, they are remitted to them; and whose soever sins you retain, they are retained.

John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

John 20:25 The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the LORD. But he said to them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

John 20:26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the middle, and said, Peace be to you.

John 20:27 Then said he to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and behold my hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said to him, My LORD and my God.

John 20:29 Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Jeremiah 10:23 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.

Psalms 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way.

Psalms 37:24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Next, let’s examine the issue of living by the Spirit. Every born again child of God (who’s been born of water and the Spirit) has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him or her. Yet, every born again child of God still has their old nature (the flesh) alive in them. A Christian can thus follow the dictates of the flesh in obeying its lusts and desires, or he can follow the leading of the Spirit in obeying the word of God, subduing the flesh and bearing fruits of righteousness thereby. To follow the impulses of the flesh and fulfil its lusts is to live by the flesh. It is the normal way every natural, unregenerated person lives. It is a life wholly controlled and dominated by the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life. It is a life controlled by the devil, for he it is that is at work in the children of disobedience, instigating them to rebel against God and his government. Such people who are said to be in the flesh cannot please God, simply because the flesh is in perpetual enemity with God. To love the flesh and to live by the flesh is to hate God, simple! The Spirit of God in the believer is constantly at war with the flesh and its lusts in us. If we resist the Holy Spirit in us and submit to the flesh, we will bear fruits of the flesh (the works of the flesh), which will lead to spiritual death. If we through the Holy Spirit resist and mortify the flesh, we shall bear fruits of the Spirit and please God.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

Romans 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Romans 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 8:9 But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Romans 8:10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.

Romans 8:12 Therefore, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

Romans 8:13 For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would.

Galatians 5:18 But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Galatians 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

Galatians 5:21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Galatians 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Galatians 5:26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

1 John 2:17 And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God stays for ever.

Ephesians 2:1 And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:

Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Living by the Spirit/ walking in the Spirit then means allowing the Holy Spirit in us to lead, guide and empower us to resist the flesh and its lusts. It means allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us into all truths and to live by the truth of God’s word. The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Truth, because part of his work in the believer is to guide and lead us into all truths and to glorify Christ. To live by the Spirit then is to walk by faith! It is the same as living in obedience to the word of God. A Christian who lives by the flesh continually grieves the Spirit and cuts himself from fellowship with God. Such a person can never please God and is in danger of spiritual death, the same way a branch disconnected from a tree is in danger of dying. Living or walking in the Spirit implies being filled with the Spirit and walking in the light of Scripture, walking in the wisdom of the Holy Ghost and bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 5:1 Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children;

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling smell.

Ephesians 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becomes saints;

Ephesians 5:4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

Ephesians 5:5 For this you know, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Ephesians 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things comes the wrath of God on the children of disobedience.

Ephesians 5:7 Be not you therefore partakers with them.

Ephesians 5:8 For you were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

Ephesians 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

Ephesians 5:10 Proving what is acceptable to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Ephesians 5:12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

Ephesians 5:13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatever does make manifest is light.

Ephesians 5:14 Why he said, Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

Ephesians 5:15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:17 Why be you not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Ephesians 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

In conclusion, the New Testament uses certain figures of speech to describe the believer’s walk in Christ. “To walk in faith” is a term used to describe a life lived in obedience to God’s word, as faith comes by hearing the word of God. This is contrasted with “walking by sight“, which is the natural man’s way of living and acting, guided totally by his five senses. “To walk in the Spirit” or “to live in the Spirit” mean the same thing. They both refer to a life directed and led by the Holy Spirit, as against those who live by the dictates of the sinful or old nature, who are said to “walk in the flesh” or “live in the flesh“. Those that are in the flesh cannot please God, for the flesh is at perpetual enemity with God, as it opposes the Spirit of God and rebels against God’s word, being under the control of Satan. No wonder only those who have the Spirit of God and allow themselves to be led by the Spirit are called children of God. Thus, only children of God can live and walk in the Spirit, and only they can walk by faith. These terms therefore describe the submissive relationship of the Christian to both the Word of God and the Spirit of God.

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Published by Dr. Ndubuisi E. Ojo

Dr Ojo is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a student of the Word of God, who believes firmly in the original apostolic faith as the only authentic version of Christianity, and the only legitimate basis for Christian conduct, order and doctrine.

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