The Ministries of God the Holy Spirit Today: Led by the Spirit
Ephesians 2:21–22; Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18
Ephesians Lesson #083
September 13, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father we’re thankful that we have this time to focus upon Your Word, to come to understand more about our spiritual life, to be challenged in terms of our daily walk by the Spirit, and coming to understand that the spiritual life of this Church Age is one that is energized and led by God the Holy Spirit Who is working in us and through us to mature us as sons of God.
“Father, we’re thankful that You have given us this grace, this privilege, the indwelling, the filling, the leading, the guiding of God the Holy Spirit. We pray that as we study today, that this will become clearer to us, that we might be encouraged and strengthened in our walk by the Spirit. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Romans 8:14. We are in a study of Ephesians and have finished through Ephesians 2:22, taking a break for a topical study related to God the Holy Spirit.
Today we will look at Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:18, the only two passages in the New Testament that talk about the leading of the Spirit. There’s a lot of confusion about this just as there is with some of these other aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life today.
At the end of Ephesians 2:11–22, we noticed that in the two paragraphs, each ends with the reference to the ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:18, “For through Him—that is, through Christ, through His death on the Cross—we both have access—’we both’ meaning Jew and Gentile now together—we both have access by one Spirit.”
It’s the same Spirit for Jew and Gentile, God the Holy Spirit; and by means of the Holy Spirit we have direct access to the Father.
Paul concludes Ephesians 2:22, “in whom—that is, in Christ—you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God—God the Father,” We have the Trinity here, as well as in Ephesians 2:18.
This building of the universal body of Christ is a temple for the indwelling of God the Father. Also, each individual believer as a temple for the dwelling of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
This is accomplished by means of the Spirit again, and we see this phrase, and I keep emphasizing it because often it is not translated clearly enough in Scripture. Today we will see that this phrase EN PNEUMATI has a second meaning, but most of the time in the spiritual life passages, it’s talking about our walk by means of God the Holy Spirit.
“The Ministries of God the Holy Spirit Today.”
We looked at His ministries to the world: restraining sin and evil. We can just barely imagine what it must’ve been like in that period between Adam and Noah when there was really no restraining ministry of God the Holy Spirit, and the evil was so bad that God had to destroy the earth by a judgment of water.
Today we have the restraining ministry of God the Holy Spirit. He is identified as the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians. When the Rapture occurs, God the Holy Spirit who indwells Church Age believers will be taken out of the world—that will end the restraining ministry.
God gives it over to Satan to do what he is going to do to try to establish his kingdom. He is given a permission—within certain boundaries that are somewhat limited—to try to destroy the work of God on the planet. It will not end well for him.
God the Holy Spirit’s convicting ministry to the world, according to John 16:
He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
- Sin because they have not believed in Him. If you don’t believe in Him, then we stand condemned already, so the focal point in any gospel presentation needs to be on faith in Christ.
- He convicts them that they lack righteousness. Without righteousness we cannot have fellowship with God, and that is supplied to us through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness at the instant of salvation.
- Judgment because Satan is judged on the Cross, and that is God’s strategic victory over Satan’s attempt to overthrow God’s plan.
We looked at the ministries at the time of salvation: when we trust in Christ as Savior we are regenerated; we get new life; we get a new human spirit; we are made alive again. We are baptized by the Holy Spirit, where we are identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
We are each indwelt. Every single believer at the instant of salvation is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit permanently, and that cannot be lost.
We are sealed by the Spirit, which marks us as God’s possession, and we cannot lose our salvation. The only one that can be lost is the filling by means of the Spirit. This is an operation that, like sealing and like the leading of the Spirit, is based on His indwelling.
When we sin the ministry of God the Holy Spirit is no longer focused on maturing us, but it’s focused on getting us back into fellowship, back where we’re walking by the Spirit, so we can continue to go forward.
Today we will look at what it means to be led by the Spirit.
We looked at what the Bible teaches about the ministries of God the Holy Spirit today in this Church Age at salvation.
We looked at being filled by means of the Holy Spirit:
This is not part of the eternal positional realities like being baptized by the Spirit or being indwelt by the Spirit. But this is a temporal reality whereby we are filled with the Word of God by the Holy Spirit. This is in tandem with our walking by the Spirit.
But when we sin, we are no longer walking by the Spirit, we are in carnality. We are living like we are a spiritually dead unbeliever. We have to confess sin, 1 John 1:9 to recover that operation of the Holy Spirit, where He is filling us with His Word.
Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk by means of wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled by means of the Spirit.”
This is similar to or goes along with our walk by means of the Spirit. When we’re walking by the Spirit, He is filling us with His Word.
Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly …”
It dwells in us richly when we are walking by the Holy Spirit and He is filling us with His Word. When we sin that positive growth-oriented ministry ceases, and He’s focused on getting us to recover our spiritual growth.
When we are sinning we are grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit, which we looked at last time.
When we are out of fellowship: not walking by the Spirit, not abiding in Christ, and we are walking in darkness, Scripture says that is when we are grieving the Holy Spirit according to Ephesians 4:30, and quenching the Holy Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5:19.
Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
“The Leading of the Spirit.”
What does the Bible teach about the leading of the Spirit?
For most people it has something to do with divine guidance, something to do with decision-making. In one sense it does, but that’s not really the focus.
There are only two passages that talk about the leading of the Spirit:
Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” We have to figure out what it means to be sons of God because that helps in the interpretation.
Galatians 5:18, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Both passages use the same Greek word AGO, which means to be led, that you are being guided, that you’re being directed in a certain course.
We are “led by the Spirit,” as it is translated, and this isn’t quite the same phrase that we see in other places where we have that preposition EN plus the instrumental of PNEUMA. We are led by the Spirit of God. It’s simply the instrumental case of PNEUMA without the preposition, but it means the same thing.
That phrase isn’t the same as being baptized by means of the Spirit or being filled by means of the Spirit. It doesn’t indicate that the Spirit is the One who is performing the action.
Remember, we talked about all those nasty little prepositions when I covered baptism by the Spirit, that when that preposition EN is used, it’s indicating the instrument that God is using to accomplish the task. It is not telling us who’s doing the leading.
Basic grammar: if I say, “John hit the ball,” John performs the action of hitting. If I say, “John hit the ball with the bat,” the bat is the means that he has for hitting the ball. If we reverse it to make it a passive voice verb, where the ball becomes the grammatical subject, “The ball was hit by John,” John is still the one doing the hitting.
In Greek, to designate the one who is still performing the action, it always uses the preposition HUPER. It’s very precise. HUPER indicates the one who performs the action of a passive verb.
When it says you are led by the Spirit, it doesn’t say you’re led, HUPER. The Spirit’s not doing the leading. It’s never stated actually, but we can assume it’s going to be the Father or it is going to be the Son, and the Spirit is used by Them in leading us. That’s how it should be understood.
The problem is that people think that the leading of the Spirit is, I like to call it, liver quiver. It is some sort of inner feeling that “I know this is what God wants me to do. The Spirit’s leading me. I just feel it.”
Well, I had a seminary professor who used to say, “If you can tell me the difference between that feeling and the unbelievers feeling that he needs to do something, his intuitive insight, then perhaps you might have a case. Everybody has these emotive intuitive insights. Not here; this isn’t talking about some sort of light mysticism that somehow God is speaking to us.
God only speaks to us today one way. If you want to listen to God speak to you, then pick up your Bible and read it out loud. The only way that God speaks to us is through His Word. It is God the Holy Spirit that He is using because God the Holy Spirit is the One who energizes the writers of Scripture, God the Holy Spirit is the One who gives us His Word. That’s the only way that we know that God is speaking to us.
We can’t just wake up in the morning and think we have a certain feeling or that God the Holy Spirit puts some impression on our mind, because there’s no Scripture that gives us any way to discern whether that’s just the same kind of impression that an unbeliever has or whether that is just because we had a double jalapeno pizza last night before we went to bed. We must not get sucked into the world’s way of thinking in terms of this kind of light mysticism.
The leading of the Spirit is something that is clear and objective. We have to ask, are these passages—Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:18—talking about decision-making and divine guidance in the sense of “should I take this job or that job,” “should I live in Houston,” “should I live in Chicago,” or “should I live in some small town somewhere?”
That’s how most people take the leading of the Spirit. We will learn today that it has absolutely nothing to do with this. It is not talking about divine guidance in that sense at all. It is not seeking God’s help in terms of making day-to-day decisions in that sense. It is something much more significant than that.
“Is the leading of the Spirit the same as divine guidance?”
No, not in the sense of “I need God to tell me what decision to make in this situation.” It is in a broader sense because the Holy Spirit leads us with His Word. That gives us a foundation of doctrine—of biblical teaching in our soul—that becomes the foundation from which we make wise decisions in terms of application.
We have to look at the context of these two passages to understand what they mean by being led by the Spirit. We will discover that the context of Romans 8 and the context of Galatians 5 are remarkably similar. That similarity tells us exactly what it means to be led by the Spirit.
I want to direct your attention first to Romans 8:12–13. We will go back to Romans 8:1 in order to pick up the context; this is the conclusion of the first 11 verses.
In Ephesians 8:1–11, Paul contrasts the walk “by the Spirit” or “according to the Spirit” with “walk by the flesh.” The flesh is the biblical term that just relates to the sin nature. Again, just as in Galatians 5, Romans 8 talks about you’re either one or the other; you’re either walking according to the Spirit, walking by the Spirit, or you’re walking according to the lust of the flesh or walking according to your sin nature, and you’re living life your own way.
Romans 8:12, after Paul walks us through Romans 8:1–11, “Therefore—this is our conclusion—therefore, brethren …” Brethren is an important term here which tells us that he’s talking to them as believers, not as unbelievers. And he’s giving them truth that relates to the Christian life, not truth that’s related to getting saved or getting justified—“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors”—literally, this should be translated “we are under obligation.”
We’re under an obligation because of God’s grace, because of what He’s done for us. That obligation is, “… not to the flesh—that is, we’re not obligated to our sin nature.” A lot of Christians live as if they’re under obligation to their sin nature. They let their sin nature tell them exactly what to do all the time. We’re not under obligation to the flesh or the sin nature “to live according to the flesh—there’s the key phrase—according to the flesh.”
It’s the Greek preposition KATA, which means according to a standard or in light of a standard. The standard here is the standard provided by the sin nature—we are not to live according to the standard of our sin nature.
Romans 8:13 starts with “For.” That’s always an important word because it tells us that Romans 8:13 is explaining further what was said in Romans 8:12. It’s saying the same thing, but in slightly different words,
“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
What exactly does that mean? What does it mean that if you live according to the sin nature you will die? A lot of people immediately jump to the either physical death or spiritual death. There are some who don’t believe in eternal security, so they would take that, “Well, if you live according the flesh, you lose your salvation.”
Seven different kinds of death in the Bible.
It’s like baptism. People look at the word “baptism,” they immediately think that it involves getting wet; whereas, in many of the baptisms in the Scriptures, the only people who get wet are the people who are going to die. They’re under some kind of judgment, like those at the Red Sea or with the baptism of Noah, those who didn’t make it onto the ark.
1. Physical death.
When our immaterial being—our soul—separates from the physical body, it’s first indicated in Genesis 3:19, “… from dust you came, to dust you will return.”
It is mentioned again in Hebrews 9:27, “… it is appointed unto man once to die.” Once. No reincarnation, you’re not going to come back as a rat or as a grasshopper or as your brother-in-law or whatever, “… once to die, and after that the judgment—that’s it.”
2. Spiritual death when we are separated from God.
Romans 5:12 says that in Adam all die. Because Adam is the head of the human race, when he sinned, when he followed Eve in her eating of the fruit. (I don’t know that she died spiritually, but if she did and she separated from God, which is possible, the text just doesn’t talk about it, it wouldn’t have affected anybody else.) But Adam’s death was significant because he’s the head of the human race. So when he ate of the fruit, he died spiritually.
The two of them were now spiritually dead, they were separated from the Father. When God came to walk in the garden, they wanted to run and hide because they were afraid. They are spiritually dead; they’re separated from the life of God.
We studied this in Ephesians 2:1 where Paul says that you are born dead in your trespasses and sins. In Ephesians 4:18 it talks about being alienated from the life of God—that’s spiritual death.
3. Sexual death is when you reach an age that you’re no longer fertile, no longer able to have children, no longer able to have sexual activity.
This is mentioned regarding Abraham and Sarah in Romans 4:17–21 and Hebrews 11:11–12. They are past the childbearing years, so God had to do something miraculous to re-energize Sarah’s womb.
I’ve heard an obstetrician go through all of the things that God had to do in order to make it possible for Sarah to once again produce an ovum, to have it fertilized and to have her womb reenergized, so that she could carry a child and give birth. It was one of the most phenomenal things that I’ve ever heard, all of the things God had to do to change her biological makeup so that she could again have a child.
4. Positional death. Romans 6:1–4 says that when we trust in Christ as Savior, we are identified with His death, burial, and resurrection; we become positionally dead to our sins.
5. Carnal death, what this passage is talking about, that when we are not living in light of the life that God has given us, then our life experience is like the unbeliever: we are in carnal death ;we’re living no differently from an unbeliever.
6. Dead works, Hebrews 6:1, the product of walking according to the flesh.
7. The second death, Revelation 2:11, which is judgment in the eternal Lake of Fire.
This passage talks about the fact that we have an option as believers. We can live one way, or we can live the other way. We can live according to the flesh or live according to the Spirit. If we live according to the flesh, we will die. We will live just like an unbeliever. We will not have joy. We will not have happiness. We will not have the peace of mind that would be ours if we were walking by the Spirit. There would be no fruit of the Spirit, and we aren’t living any differently from an unbeliever.
In contrast, “if by the Spirit we put to death …” Another sense of death is the idea of separation. Physical death is separation of our immaterial nature from our material nature. Spiritual death is separation from God. Putting to death the deeds of the body is an idiom for separating from the deeds of the body—the deeds of the flesh—and separating from sin. We are to put to death the deeds of the body.
The challenge in spiritual life is to grow. It not only involves learning the Word, but it also means separating ourselves from the things our sin nature wants us to do. And that’s a continuous struggle because we never get rid of the sin nature.
The sin nature never becomes less potent than the day we were saved. It doesn’t get any easier. Sometimes I think it gets harder because the more we learn, the more we grow, the more we are aware of how really sinful we really are. Again, we see the contrast.
That’s important because the very next verse is the one that we’re talking about, Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”
Romans 8:14 begins with the word “for” indicating a further explanation of what is said in Romans 8:12-13. That’s important. Putting it in the context tells us what it’s talking about. Let’s look at the broad context of Romans 8:1–17.
For each line up here on the chart, the verse is on the far side.
In Romans 8:2, we have a contrast between the law of sin and death—that’s the flesh—and the law of the Spirit of life. He’s talking to believers.
Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
He’s talking about those who are in Christ, who are believers in Christ. He quit talking about unbelievers back in Romans 3.
Romans 4–5 talks about the gospel and how to be justified and reconciled.
Romans 6–7 talks about the spiritual life and now the Holy Spirit has brought into it.
Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus …” Why? Because we are justified. We have been declared righteous: we have His righteousness.
There is debate over whether the second half of Romans 8:1 is part of the original text or not, because the same clause is found in Romans 8:4. Since it’s not in a lot of manuscripts, the copyist at some point copied that into Romans 8:2, and that’s why it’s in some translations and not in others.
Romans 8:2, “For the law—this is not the Mosaic Law; it’s not like the law that’s codified by Congress. It is the principle, that idea—of the Spirit of life.”
Notice it is the “Spirit of life.” The Holy Spirit is the source of life. When we are spiritually dead, we are alienated from the life of God. Now in this Church Age, we not only are regenerate and have new life, but we have the Holy Spirit, who is the One who gives life.
“The law of sin and death” in Romans 8:2 is contrasted to what we have by the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of life.
Romans 8:4, we see the contrast between those who live according to the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit. This is talking about believers. Believers do not automatically live according to the Spirit.
Believers can only live according to the Spirit if they’re in the Word, and they know something. This is a big debate; people think that somehow living the spiritual life, to some degree, is inevitable to those who are truly saved.
The problem is to know how to live beyond the gospel. In terms of spiritual truth for Christian living, you have to be taught something about spiritual life and walking by the Spirit. Most people are never taught anything about the spiritual life. They’re given a handbook of what they think is Christian morality, but the spiritual life isn’t morality. Any unbeliever can live a moral life. The spiritual life is lived by means of God the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:4, “… that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
The contrast again: there some believers who live according to the flesh. That is just another way of talking about walking, because it’s a metaphor. The idea is of going forward step-by-step, but it’s a metaphor for how a person lives or conducts their life.
Walking according to the flesh and living according to the flesh are the same thing.
Walking according to the Spirit in Romans 8:4 is the same as living according to the Spirit Romans 8:5.
In each of these clauses the in second part of Romans 8:5, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.”
Those who are living according to the sin nature put the focus of their attention on the things that gratify the sin nature. That traps them in a non-spiritually productive life. They are not going to look any different from an unbeliever.
In contrast the believer who is living according to the Holy Spirit is going to set their thinking on the things of the Spirit of God. That doesn’t happen overnight. That is a progress that occurs as we grow spiritually.
Romans 8:6, “For to be carnally minded—that is, to have our mind focused on the flesh,”
This is a development of what we saw in Romans 8:5, setting our mind on the things of the flesh. The carnally-minded is the one who sets their thinking on the things of the flesh, which—is death” That is carnal death. It is living like you’re spiritually dead, like an unbeliever.
“… but to be spiritually minded—that is, to have your mind set on the things of the Spirit—is life and peace.”
This is important to remember. John 10:10 Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and life abundantly.”
The way to have this life abundant is to walk by the Spirit after you’re saved. When you’re saved you get the first category of life, you get eternal life. But the experience of abundant life comes as you grow and mature, emphasized in Romans 8:6.
Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be.”
This is not talking about the unbeliever’s mind. It’s true about the unbeliever’s mind, but this is also true about believers. When we are out of fellowship, we cannot please God, and we are not submitting ourselves to the authority of God. Because we are walking by the sin nature, it is not until we confess sin that we can then reverse course.
Romans 8:7 talks about the flesh. All the way through here, we see the contrast between what “walking by the flesh” is like and “walking according to the Spirit.”
Think about Galatians 5:16, “… walk by the Spirit and you won’t bring to completion the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:18 tells us that we’re led by the Spirit; the same context in both passages.
Romans 8:7–8, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be, so then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Notice there’s a shift in terminology. Up to this point he’s been talking about “according to the Spirit” or “according to the flesh,” and in a couple places “by means of the Spirit,” but now it changes to “in the flesh.” What is happening here?
From Romans 8:7 to Romans 8:8, there is a shift in topic. It begins with a conjunction in the Greek that can indicate a continuation, or it can indicate a contrast even to the degree of introducing a new topic. It’s doing both; it’s introducing a contrast, but the contrast is to a new topic.
Romans 8:8–11, we will see a description of the unbeliever.
Romans 8:8, “So then, those who are in the flesh—that means those who are not saved, those who are still spiritually dead—those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
We know that because previously in Romans 7:5 Paul said, “when we were—past tense—when we were in the flesh—as unbelievers—the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.”
“In the flesh” means unsaved, so then those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
“But you,” Romans 8:9, “you are not in the flesh.” In the transition in Romans 8:7–10 he’s reminding them of who they are in Christ and what we all have together in Christ, which is the foundation for being able to live according to the Spirit. The idea of being in the flesh is critical for understanding this particular passage.
Romans 8:9, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
That makes it very clear: when we are unsaved we are in the flesh; when we’re saved we are in the Spirit.
I told you earlier about the use of the preposition EN in the locative case: we are “in the Spirit;” it’s not to be translated “by means of the Spirit.” I’ve told you many times that Greek preposition EN is getting broader.
You really have to look at the context to understand whether it’s “in the Spirit,” or “by means of the Spirit,” instead of locative. “In the flesh” is locative, so “in the Spirit” would also be locative,
“… if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now the Spirit of God dwells in every believer, so he is saying you’re not in the flesh, you are not an unbeliever if the Spirit of God dwells in you, because the Spirit of God dwells in every single believer.
He goes on to say at the end of Romans 8:9, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ—in other words, if the Holy Spirit is not dwelling in you—you’re not His.”
You can’t determine if the Spirit of God’s dwelling in you by experience; we only learn about it when we read God’s Word. But he’s drawing a conclusion from this that because the Holy Spirit lives in every believer, that is the foundation for being able to live according to the Spirit. You can only know about this reality by studying the Word of God.
Romans 8:10, “And if Christ is in you—the Holy Spirit is in you, and now if this is true, Christ is in you—the body is dead because of sin.” We have to count ourselves as dead.
This is the same argument that Paul uses over in Romans 6:1–4, that we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin because we have been positionally identified with Christ on the Cross; and because He died on the Cross, we have died to sin. In other words, we don’t have to continue to listen to the dictates of the sin nature every time it entices us to do something.
Romans 8:10, “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
Remember this corporal body is going to die physically, it’s going to be gone, it’s going to be buried, but we have life eternal. Because we have God the Holy Spirit, we can still live according to the Spirit and have a life of peace and joy and stability and happiness because we are Christ’s.
Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you—‘but if,’ first class condition: if and it’s true—the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Talking about our future resurrection.
Romans 8:9–11 is a parenthesis reminding us of what we have when we are saved. Before we were saved, before we trusted Christ as Savior, we were in the flesh, we had no option but to sin. But now we are in the Spirit. God the Holy Spirit dwells within us, Christ dwells within us, and we have an option to live for Him.
That’s the issue now: are we going to live according to the sin nature? We don’t have to do that anymore. Or are we going to live according to the Spirit?
Romans 8:12, where we started, “Therefore, brethren, we are under obligation …”
What does that mean? It means that we have a responsibility because God has done something for us. This isn’t legalism. If I were to give you a brand-new car and no strings attached, I was going to make a present to you, “Here’s a brand new car and here are the keys. It’s yours to drive. It’s yours to do whatever you’re going to do with it.”
I was blown away by this because all my life my parents were always teaching me the value of hard work and the value of saving money, and all I heard from the time I could comprehend its significance was that they would never give me a car; I had to earn it.
When I graduated from high school they gave me a car. It was a 1970 white Ford Falcon with a three on the column, no air conditioning in Houston, Texas, and an AM radio. But I had a car. I had to learn how to take care of that car. I had to take care of maintaining tire pressure, all of the basic things, oil changes, change the filter, inspection, I had to take care of all of those things.
It was a free gift. It was mine, but I had a responsibility now. I had to take care of what I was given. If I didn’t take care of it—and there were times I didn’t because it was the first time I had a car, and I didn’t really know all the things needed to do—then there would be consequent problems.
That’s like life. We’re given a new life in Christ. It is ours. It’s a free gift, but we’re under obligation to feed it, we’re under obligation to walk by the Spirit and grow, so that we can experience all the blessings that God has for us, and that we can serve God effectively in our lives.
Paul is saying here, “Brethren, we’re under obligation.” God saved us. We don’t do anything to earn it or deserve it. And living in light of that obligation doesn’t mean we’re earning it or keeping it. It’s just that if it’s going to mean anything to us, if we’re going to experience that peace and that joy and that stability that God promised us, then we have to live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
We have this contrast: we are under obligation, but not to our sin nature. Our sin nature is not going to give us anything good, we just think it will. You’re not obligated now when the sin nature says that you need to do this or that. You don’t need to do that, you’re not obligated to live according to the flesh.
Romans 8:13, he explains the problem with living according to the flesh, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
Romans 8:12 gives us the negative; Romans 8:13 gives us the positive.
We learned from the structure of this verse that putting to death the things of the body is the same as being led by the Spirit in Romans 8:14, because it starts off, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Those who are led by the Spirit who put to death the deeds of the flesh, grow to maturity.
The word translated sons is not TEKNON that you find in other passages which has to do with a child, but HUIOS, an adult mature son.
Those who walk by the Spirit are led by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit is the flipside. If somebody is leading me down a trail, I’m driving somewhere and I’m following somebody, they’re leading me, my responsibility is to follow them.
Being led by the Spirit means following the Spirit, which is just another way of talking about walking by the Spirit. When you’re walking, following somebody, they’re leading, you’re following; you’re walking by them. It’s not talking about some sort of liver quiver, inner guidance, in decision-making. But it does in a broad sense, and I’ll get to that.
The key to spiritual maturity is to follow the leading of the Spirit, which means to walk by the Spirit. The one who walks by the Spirit is the one who is led by the Spirit to spiritual maturity.
Galatians 5 lays it all out very clearly. It’s the same context as in Romans 8. Paul says in Galatians 5:16, “Walk by means of the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Galatians 5:17 is an explanation: there’s a battle going on between a life lived according to the sin nature and a life lived according to the Holy Spirit, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary—these are in antagonism against one another—so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Galatians 5:18, “But if you are led by the Spirit—being led by the Spirit means walking by the Spirit. If you’re letting the Holy Spirit lead you that means you’re following Him, you’re walking forward—“But if you are led by the Spirit, you’re not under the law.” That was a problem with the Galatians—they thought that the Mosaic Law was the key to spiritual growth.
I’m not going through all of Galatians 5, I’ve done that many times before about the Spiritual life. But this section on walking by the Spirit is framed by Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit,” then in Galatians 5:18, “be led by the Spirit—that means to follow the Spirit.”
It closes out in Galatians 5:25, “If we live by means of the Spirit—because we’re walking by the Spirit; He’s leading us—let us also walk by the Spirit.” He ties it together, but he doesn’t use the same word here that’s used in Galatians 5:16.
Galatians 5:16 uses the Greek word PERIPATEO, which emphasizes that it’s a step-by-step following. As you follow step-by-step, the Holy Spirit is leading you. He’s the One who’s showing you the path.
In Galatians 5:25 it means to be in line with, to line up, to follow His steps, step-by-step, keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.
How does he do that? He doesn’t do it through feelings or emotions or through some sort of intuitive flash, He does it through the Word of God. In Galatians 5:25, STOICHEO is the idea of following a laid-out path.
What’s the laid-out path? It’s the Word of God. That’s how we know, that’s how we are led by the Spirit: we go to the Word of God, we study the Word of God which tells us how we should live, how we shouldn’t live.
That gives us the guidance we need. It’s not going to tell us the right thing to do every single day, whether to get up and drive to work one way or the other way, or to put on red shoes, brown shoes or black shoes. It will tell us how we should think, what our priorities should be and how we should live our life.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says if we trust in the Lord, then He makes our paths straight; He guides and directs us that way. Not by giving us some sort of overt sign as to which choice we should make but building in us through the Holy Spirit a frame of reference, a way of thinking biblically, so that we can make God-honoring choices as we go through life.
That’s what it means to be led by the Spirit. It’s an objective standard to follow the Word of God. When we’re trusting in the Lord, He’s going to direct our paths, not through some sort of external signals, but He will marshal the circumstances and everything, so that we go where He wants us to go.
We don’t have to sit around and navel-gaze to see what kind of decision we ought to make today. That’s just mysticism, which is paganism. If we are walking by the Spirit and reading the Word of God, we are being led by the Spirit of God.
“Father, we’re thankful for this opportunity to study Your Word, to come to a clear understanding of what the Scripture teaches, that as we walk by the Spirit we’re led by the Spirit. He leads us through Your Word. It is through Your Word that we learn about all the wonderful things You’ve provided for us, we learn about our wonderful salvation, that Christ did everything for us.
“He died on the Cross. He paid the penalty for our sin. We can’t do anything to earn it or deserve it. We can’t do anything to somehow merit God’s grace. All we can do is trust in Your Word and trust in Christ as our Savior. And we know that the instant we trust in Christ as Savior we have everlasting life.
“Father, we pray for those who may be listening today who’ve never understood the gospel, who’ve never truly understood how to have eternal life, that they would understand that it’s based only on one thing, and that is believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and we will be saved.
“Father, we thank You for what we’ve learned today, and pray that as we live our life that we will be reminded that we don’t have to follow a sin nature. We don’t have to yield to those temptations. We are to walk by the Spirit and not according to the flesh. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.”