Many Christians are perplexed about the role of the Holy Spirit in their daily lives. Scripture is clear that when you trust in Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells your heart (Gal. 4:6) and you become an individual temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). But what role does the Holy Spirit have in a believer’s life now?
There are two primary commands in Scripture that deal with this issue, which are “to be filled with the Spirit” and “to walk by the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18-21; Gal. 5:16-26). These two phrases may sound bizarre at first, but they are tremendously important to the believer’s daily life.
Filling of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-21)
The idea of the filling of the Spirit comes from Ephesians 5:18, which reads:
“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
When the Greek word for “fill” is used in the rest of the New Testament, it usually refers to the dominating force that controls a person. For example, Jesus talks about sorrow filling one’s heart in John 16:6. That is to say, some people are so filled with sorrow that it begins to dominate their life.
Paul contrasts the filling of the Spirit to getting drunk with alcohol. A person who is filled with alcohol is under it’s control. In the same way, a person who is filled with the Spirit is under His control.
Additionally, a person under the influence of alcohol begins to produce visible characteristics (e.g., slurred speech). A person under the control of the Spirit will produce a vastly different set of characteristics (e.g., worship, thankfulness and changed relationships in 5:19-21). To be filled with the Spirit means to consistently surrender control to the Spirit, which results in a changed life.
Walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26)
In Galatians 5:16, Paul says:
“But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
He goes on to contrast the characteristics of those who satisfy the desires of the flesh with those who walk by the Spirit. According to Paul, a person’s life will either be marked by “the deeds of the flesh” or “the fruit of the Spirit.”
The word “walk” in Greek is in the present tense, signifying a continual action. Therefore believers must consistently rely on the power of the Spirit to overcome the deeds of the flesh. To walk by the Spirit is to depend on the Spirit’s strength to produce His fruit in your life (Gal. 5:22-23).
It is important to maintain both sides of the equation (“walk” and “by the Spirit”) without negating the other. We are called to walk and take one step at a time, so there is action on our part. Paul didn’t command us to “coast” by the Spirit. But at the same time, we need to realize that we can’t even take one step without the Spirit’s help. As Jesus said to his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
A simple way to discern whether or not you are walking by the Spirit is to ask yourself:
Which of these characteristics are more visible in my daily life: the fruit of the Spirit or the deeds of the flesh?
Putting It into Practice
How can we live out both of these commands in our daily life? Paul gives us three applications in Ephesians 5:19-21.
- Singing. Paul tells us to sing to the Lord with all our hearts. There is something special about singing to God throughout the day that makes us more aware of God’s Spirit within us. The more aware we are, the more we can allow the Spirit to work in our hearts.
- Thankfulness. Paul says that we should be thankful “always and for everything.” A heart of thankfulness changes the way you look at the world. We can either go around complaining about everything or be thankful for everything God has given us. Strive to develop a heart of gratitude and constantly thank God throughout your day.
- Service. Paul concludes the section with “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” When we are constantly living for ourselves and not for others, we leave little room for the Spirit to work. Jesus was the perfect example of a servant in his earthly life. We should seek to follow his example by serving others out of our reverence for Him.
The Holy Spirit is God’s immediate presence in us. To ignore Him in our daily lives is not an option for the believer. We must daily surrender our “control” to the Spirit and rely on His strength to produce fruit and help us overcome the deeds of the flesh.