Live by the Spirit

Read: Galatians 5:16-17

But I say, walk by the Spirit. (v. 16)

For the next two weeks we’ll consider Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which includes the listing of the “fruit of the Spirit” that is probably familiar to many of us. In today’s verses, Paul refers to the way of the Spirit and the way of the flesh. There’s been a tendency in Christian history to hear this and categorize things of a spiritual nature as “higher” or “better” than material things, including our physical bodies. This hierarchy comes from philosophical ideas, however. It doesn’t do justice to the affirmation of the body that resounds throughout the Bible and climaxes in the Incarnation, when God himself took on a body.

When Paul talks about the way of the flesh, what he means is that our “old selves” lead us in a very different way than when we take on “new selves” through Jesus Christ. Walking in the way of the Spirit doesn’t mean just placing importance on “spiritual” things generally; it means that our lives are guided by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit whom Christ sent so that we can continue his work on earth. To walk in the Spirit is to be led in thought, word, and action by the person and work of Jesus, through the power of his Holy Spirit. It’s not about our bodies fighting against our minds, it’s about what direction we are headed with our whole selves. In what direction is your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual life oriented?

As you pray, ask God to guide you in the Spirit’s steps, today and every day.

About the Author

Jessica Bratt Carle lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she has served as a chaplain and more recently as a clinical ethicist at Corewell Health (formerly Spectrum Health) since 2017. She is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She and her husband have two young sons.

This entry is part 1 of 15 in the series Fruit of the Spirit