You would expect a reading and writing teacher like myself to make such a comment, but it’s true. The word “love,” for instance, carries meaning far greater than most of us can put into words. The word “money” has caused many a person to flood with feelings of greed, desire, or anxiety. Or what about the word “religion?” For some, it brings to mind thoughts of their close relationship with God, while others hear the same word and cringe with disgust.
If we’re to read the Bible, the most powerful words in existence, with even a remote level of discernment, then words and how they are collected into sentences and paragraphs and stories or letters become very important. Take, for example, the conjunction “for” in Acts 2:38. When Peter speaks the first gospel message at Pentecost following Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, he says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This one little conjunction connects the two clause ideas of repentance/baptism and forgiveness. It’s very simple to see the relationship because of the wording.
This is also the case in countless other passages in the Bible, and today I want to focus on Galatians 5:16-18. For those who are new to this blog or who simply haven’t noticed before, the title of my site (“Faith and Footsteps”) has a very specific meaning. Being a Christian is not simply about faith, but also about following in the footsteps of Christ. The conjunction “and” ties Faith and Footsteps together. You can’t have one without the other. Let’s take a look at our passage…
“ But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
My favorite part of this text are the words, “walk by the Spirit.” You see, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation, when we confess his name and repent of our sins, and when we show obedience to the gospel message through the act of baptism, we’re really only beginning our Christian walk. That’s the “faith” part of our decision to be a Christian. The “and” part comes in when we actually walk, when we take our first footsteps in our lifelong journey to follow God. The truth is, when we put our faith in Christ, we’re all walking somewhere. We’re either continuing to walk our own path, serving our needs and desires, or we’re choosing to walk by the Spirit, following God’s purposes for our life.
You can see that it boils down to my tag line for this site: “to search, to learn, to follow.” We search out for God and all the while he is actively pursuing us. We learn about him, his love for us, and what he has done to redeem us. Then, we choose to take the steps to follow him. Now notice in Galatians, he didn’t say, “just walk to church and you’re a good Christian.” He didn’t say, “just walk a little different than the rest of the world.” We are commanded to “walk by the Spirit.” Why? Because the Spirit is in contrast to our own sinful nature and desires. We cannot call ourselves Christians and continue in our sinful ways. We must be “under the influence” of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), so much so that he controls our thoughts and actions. This requires a close and discerning study of God’s word and a willingness to submit to the urgings of the Spirit.
It requires Faith “AND” Footsteps.