We hear in the Bible many references to walking in the flesh, and walking in the spirit. What does this mean? How can we know whether we walk in the flesh or in the spirit? These concepts may seem difficult to understand, but the Word explains so clearly the difference between the two. To understand these things- it helps first to understand your “make-up” as a human being. You can find Bible references to understanding this on the “Truth About Afterlife” page. To sum it up- you are made of three parts- Body (flesh), Soul (Mind/Personality-who you are), and Spirit (Breath/Life). The body comes from the dust of the ground, the spirit comes from God, and when the body and the spirit come together, a living soul is created. We are born of the seed of Adam- also known as the seed of sin. Our original spirit that was breathed into our bodies is sinful. Because of this, many walk in a sinful nature i.e. walking in the flesh. Sin doesn’t find us, it is in us at our birth, all because we were born of the seed of Adam. For this reason, the Israelites of the OT under the Old Covenant failed over and over again to obey God. No matter how hard they would try to obey the law of God, they failed miserably. We are told in scripture that this was due to the fact that sin was in them- a part of their spirit. God through the prophet Ezekiel spoke of a New Covenant that would one day come:
“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” ~ Ezekiel 36:27
Ezekiel prophesied of a rebirth of the “spirit” portion of our make-up. We can see here that the promise of the New Covenant, was that the actual spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, would be put within us. The big difference to note here is that in the rebirth, we shed the seed of Adam which carries sin, and we receive the seed of God, which is holy and has no sin. We are promised, that if we believe in Jesus Christ and become baptized (reborn), we will be set free from sin as we are set free from the seed of Adam. Because of this, we no longer walk in sin/walk in the flesh:
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” ~ 1 John 3:8-10
This new creation and new seed is spirit/spiritual, not natural:
“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:44-47
This speaks of a brand new creation! Nothing like this had ever been seen before. This second man/new creation….is the Lord from heaven! When we are reborn, Jesus lives in our Spirit through the Holy Spirit. He walks with us and talks to us. We walk free from sin, no longer prisoners of the flesh. Jesus tried to explain this concept of the rebirth to Nicodemus, yet he did not understand. Jesus alludes that the rebirth has nothing to do with flesh, and everything to do with spirit:
“The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” ~ John 3:2-8
So we can see, that the Spirit portion of our make-up is reborn. Because of this, our identity changes. We are no longer a “sinner”, rather the Bible says we are now “saints.” Jesus now lives within us along with the Holy Spirit, the Temple, the church and the Kingdom of God! Whenever the Apostles address the congregations in the NT, both Jew and Gentile, they refer to them as the saints. Why? Because their identity had changed. They were reborn into the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. In other words, the “spirit” portion of their make-up no longer had sin. It was holy. The word “saint” means “to be holy like God is holy.” This was just the beginning. As believers were reborn in baptism, they received a new spirit, but just like any newborn baby- they still had to learn to walk. They had grown up walking in the flesh, so they were well equipped in knowing how to walk in sin. Now with this new Holy Spirit, they had to learn to walk all over again as babies…..in the Spirit. Paul tries to help them:
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” ~ Galatians 5:16-25
As believers received the Holy Spirit, they still were contending with their Body (Flesh and Dust), and Soul (Mind/Personality). They were tasked with renewing their minds to come into line with this new spirit, this Holy Spirit that replaced the spirit of Adam. They were tasked with learning their new identity….IN CHRIST. Today many Christians see sinful behavior within the Christian body, and say to these people- “change your behavior.” This leads to Christians constantly trying to change their sinful behavior, while never being able to. Why? Because they are getting bad advice, which leads to one continuing to walk in the flesh. Rather than saying to them “change your fleshly behavior,” we should be helping them to understand their new identity, which is holy. We should be helping them to understand who they are IN CHRIST. If Christians today knew who they were, sin would not be a problem in the body of Christ. This is teaching believers to Walk in the Spirit. An early Christian writer, Irenaeus of Lyons, explains this war between the flesh and spirit. His writings come from 185-190AD, and Irenaeus was a Bishop in Lyons France. He grew up listening to the Bishop Polycarp, who was discipled directly by John the Apostle:
“…..there are three things out of which, as I have shown, the complete man is composed-flesh, soul, and spirit. One of these does indeed preserve and fashion [the man]-this is the spirit; while as to another it is united and formed-that is the flesh; then [comes] that which is between these two–that is the soul, which sometimes indeed, when it follows the spirit, is raised up by it, but sometimes it sympathizes with the flesh, and falls into carnal lusts. Those then, as many as they be, who have not that which saves and forms [us] into life [eternal], shall be, and shall be called, [mere] flesh and blood; for these are they who have not the Spirit of God in themselves. Wherefore men of this stamp are spoken of by the Lord as “dead; “for, says He, “Let the dead bury their dead,” because they have not the Spirit which quickens man.” ~ Irenaeus of Lyons- Book V, Chapter IX. Verse 1.
If you believe and have been reborn/baptized- YOU ARE NOW HOLY, YOU ARE A SAINT, and YOU ARE NO LONGER A SINNER. This is your new identity, accept it in faith. Because you are holy, YOU WALK IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, just as Jesus and the first believers did. Because you are holy, YOU HAVE RECEIVED ALL OF THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Because you are holy, YOU HAVE RECEIVED ALL THAT YOU NEED FOR YOUR WALK. We know and believe this BY FAITH in the Word of God. If a Christian doesn’t believe these things, they continue to walk after the flesh in a never ending cycle of sin and sadness. We are not called to be sinners, we are called to be SAINTS, sons and daughters of the one and only high and holy God, creator of all things. Walking in sin/the flesh is a thing of the past for those that are reborn:
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 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. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” ~ Ephesians 2:1-7
You can see here, that even now we sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus! Our spirit is already there- in heavenly places! This is why we pray- “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Walking in the Spirit, we see all things differently. We no longer see things out of our own fleshly eyes, rather we see things through God’s eyes. We see people the way God sees them, and we love like we’ve never loved before. When we walk in the Holy Spirit, we can boldly approach God because through Christ we have no more sin.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 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: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 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. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye 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. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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 dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” ~ Romans 8:1-14
Ask yourself- “Am I walking in the flesh, or in the Holy Spirit?” We all must examine ourselves, and transform our minds to obedience to this new Holy Spirit that has been placed within us. Look at your own personal walk and seek to walk in the spirit. Just like the first Christians, we are learning to walk in the Spirit like babies from the time of our rebirth. Because of this, if you are further along in your walk and another less mature saint stumbles, pick them up- brush them off and be ready to explain to them who they are in Christ. Be patient, kind and loving, ready to edify according to the Word of God teaching others their identity in the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit is real, and active in the world today. Seek to Walk in the Spirit, and Christ will show you the way. Sin has no grip on the Holy Spirit. Set your mind on heavenly things, and lay aside earthly things. Remember your identity- you are no longer a sinner walking after the flesh, rather you are a saint walking after the spirit. You are holy, perfect in the sight of God, and the power of God lives within you because you have His Holy Spirit. We today can walk in heavenly places in the Spirit, and we encourage you to seek out this walk today! Seek and you shall find.