Thursday, April 03, 2008

walking by/in the Spirit

Lately I've been pondering the importance of walking by the Spirit, as we read in Paul's letter to the Galatians. Gordon Fee, an eminent New Testament scholar, says:
The first instruction [in Galatians 5:13-6:10] , "walk by the Spirit", is the basic command in Paul's ethics.
I was taught and again have noticed that the filling of the Spirit seems mostly related to speaking as in proclaiming the word of God, the wonders of God, the gospel of God. People often talk much about being filled with the Spirit, and I think that seems to me Scripturally, to be more related to the gifts, at least generally. But to walk in the Spirit concerns more the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc.

This is a command (an imperative), no less: present tense meaning it's ongoing for us, and active- we do it. Yet it's of the Spirit. So that we must walk or live in all of life, by the Spirit.

Fee thinks the Spirit's presence was more overwhelming or evident to the believers Paul wrote to, than to many of us today. So that Paul doesn't tell us how to walk by the Spirit. But it was certainly true then, as now that we in Jesus can grieve and quench (or, put out the fire of) the Spirit.

And Fee points out what he wrote had at least up to that time, been missed in most commentaries: how this command is community-oriented. Looking at the passage we can see this to be the case. Yes, we're individuals but individuals coming into and living in community.

This is something I want to work on for my life. So I'm realizing it must be community-oriented, and I'm a rather slow learner here, though gregarious by nature. Steeped in the tradition of individualism, but longing to know better the richness of community in Jesus and out from that, in mission for the world.

And I want to understand better in my life, what is ours in Jesus by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit. Not by the flesh, which as Fee points out is of our old life apart from Christ, not to be in our present existence even now. And doing this in community. More on this in future posts.

What thoughts might you like to share on this?


Anonymous said...

interesting thoughts, ted.
i will be glad to hear more of how the Spirit is working in your walk and your view on this.

Ted M. Gossard said...



Rachel Mc said...

Ah..fruits of the spirit versus gifts of the spirit. Which is more important? I had an interesting "happening" about 1 year or more ago. One day I just noticed I felt joy. My life was still hectic and a mess but one day I just felt joy and I remember thinking that was the wierdest feeling to have because my life was still as messed up as ever. That made such an impression on me and shortly after my bible study class was discussing fruits vs gifts of the spirt, a concept I had never heard of. I thought that was amazing too, to be given an explanation as to where the joy was coming from. Where is this all taking me? I have no clue.

Ted M. Gossard said...


Thanks for sharing that.

I certainly don't think it's a case of either/or, but rather, and/both. We need both the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit.

But if I have to choose between a church in which the gifts are front and center, but love seems lacking (and the church in Corinth, if I'm reading Paul's first letter to them correctly, is a case in point) compared to a church in which love is front and center, very evident- then I would pick the latter every time. Because gifts will come out where there's love. Love makes us want to serve the other, and gifts are all about service, or at least why they're given, primarily, as we see in 1 Corinthians 12-14.

As for your joy, that's wonderful, and I have experienced something of the same. Maybe a sister or brother was praying for you at the time, or it was just the Lord moving in your heart to encourage you.

But the joy of the Lord is our strength and we can experience it as part of the fruit of the Spirit, even while messed up in different ways. I know that, too, firsthand.