Galatians 5:16 – “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
- Command – “live or walk by the Spirit.”
- Promise – “you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Walking by the Spirit is presented in Galatians 5:15-16 as the solution to destructive relationships. Note the connection made in these verses –
15 – “But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” 16 – “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
“so I say”, (but I say) – This is a common formula used by Paul to introduce an emphatic point. “Here is my advice.” Or, “Here is the remedy for the situation described in v. 15 – “always biting and devouring one another.” To protect the community from destructive relationships (15), each member must “live or walk by the Spirit” (present tense) —“go on walking…” (16).
He is not saying, “Try not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh and then you will walk by the Spirit,” – as though the latter were a reward for the former. I am convinced that many believers subtly fall for this reversal of Galatians 5:16. But we cannot depend on the flesh to accomplish anything spiritual.
When the apostle says, “live” or “walk” – “by the Spirit,” he means, “let your conduct be continually directed by the Spirit.” This is a command with an emphatic promise (based on a double negative in the Greek language) — “you will by no means fulfill the desires of the flesh (or sinful nature).”
Additional audio resource from my conference ministry: How to be filled with the Spirit