12 Famous Examples of Walking in the Spirit in the Bible

walk-in-step-with-the-spiritThe Bible describes two kinds of life and two ways to live. You are either in the flesh or in the spirit (Rm 8:9) AND you can either walk according to the flesh or according to the spirit (Gal 5:25). The sinner lives in the flesh and walks according to the flesh. The Christian is in the spirit and ideally walks after the spirit. But as we saw in a recent post, the Bible provides plenty of examples of saints walking after the flesh. In Galatia there was an entire church that did it!

Walking after the old ways of the flesh is abnormal for a believer. It’s like a butterfly who thinks and acts as though he was still a caterpillar. But what does it mean to walk after the spirit? Are there any examples of this in the Bible? There are plenty. Pick just about anything Jesus did and you will see a man filled with the Spirit who consistently walked according to the Spirit. Jesus is our best model of a life lived in step with the Spirit.

But Jesus was not the only one who walked in the spirit. I suspect this way of life was normal for many New Testament believers. However, in my list of 12 examples below, I have taken care to pick stories where the Bible clearly indicates that an individual was walking in the spirit. What do we take away from such a list? It gives us a picture of how life is meant to be for a Christian. It defines what is “normal” and thus exposes the utter poverty of a life lived according to the flesh. As you review this list, tell yourself:  “This is describing the abundant life that Jesus promised to me in John 10:10. This is a picture of the kind of life I wish to live.” Let’s see what that sort of life looks like:

1. Simeon has a date with destiny. For hundreds of years the prophets had been straining to see the promised Messiah. Then Simeon, “moved by the Holy Spirit,” goes to the temple courts and sees what all the others missed. Talk about all your Christmasses coming at once! Those who are led by the Spirit are always at the right place at the right time.

2. Jesus lives free. Like the wind, no one could tell where He came from or where He was going (Jn 3:8). He shunned labels, refused to be controlled, and ate with whomever He pleased. Friends and family tried to manage Him. Politicians and religious leaders tried to control Him. Even Satan tried to tempt Him. But Jesus had no needs that weren’t fully met in His Father. He was not distracted by success nor apparent failure. He could sleep through storms. Jesus was perfectly secure in His Sonship and completely free.

3. Jesus turns water into wine (Jn 2). Initially Jesus didn’t think His time had come but the Spirit had other ideas. The kingdom of heaven is a party (Mt 22:2) and those who are led by the Spirit are the life of the party wherever they go!

4. Jesus heals all the sick (Mt 12:15, 14:36). In his flesh Jesus could not heal a headache any more than you could. Walking in the spirit you can heal the sick, just as Jesus did.

5. Jesus delivers all who are oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). He drove out demons with a word (Mt 8:16). No spooky exorcisms, no prayer and fasting – just a word of irresistible authority backed up by the Most Powerful Being in the Universe: the Holy Spirit.

6. Jesus teaches with authority (Mt 7:29). In contrast with those who minister condemnation by teaching dead religion, those who are led by the spirit speak words of eternal life (Jn 6:68). In contrast with those who preach paralyzing homilies of uncertainty, those led by the spirit declare truth with unshakeable conviction, just like Jesus. Jesus didn’t try to grow His ministry and He didn’t run after crowds. Crowds ran after Him.

7. Peter and John declare the gospel boldly in the face of persecution (Acts 4:8). The Spirit emboldens “unschooled and ordinary” men.

8. Stephen refutes the legalistic arguments of religious trouble-makers (Acts 6:10). So did Jesus, Paul, Peter, James and John. So will you. Those who serve in the newness of the spirit will encounter opposition from those who persist in the oldness of the letter. There will be arguments and you could die (see Jesus, Paul, Peter, Stephen, et al.). But no weapon formed against you will prosper and you will refute every judgmental and critical tongue that rises in opposition to the message of Christ and His finished work.

9. Barnabas reaches out to Paul. None of the apostles trusted the man once known as Saul. They regarded him from a worldly point of view and were afraid of him. “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:27). Barnabas saw what no one else saw and through one act of encouragement helped change the course of history.

10. Paul writes down the doctrines of a new covenant. Jesus revealed the grace of God to an orphaned world and Paul wrote it all down so we wouldn’t forget it. With “words taught by the Spirit” Paul preached a message that went against everything he had learned in Pharisee school (1 Co 2:13). Paul had been trained in the old ways of the written code but began to serve in the new way of the spirit (Rm 7:6). In the natural he was unqualified – his own training he now counted as dung. But he said that those of us who minister in the new covenant of the spirit have a “competence that comes from God” (2 Co 3:6).

11. Paul goes to Macedonia instead of Bithynia (Acts 16:7). As a result, the Philippians got the gospel and we got the most joy-filled letter in the Bible. Led by the spirit Paul also went to Jerusalem in spite of the hardships that he knew awaited him (Acts 20:22-3). Those who live in the spirit walk fearlessly into the toughest, most hostile places on earth. No place is out of bounds. No place is given over to the devil. It’s all God’s Country and as His kids we own this world (Rm 4:13).

12. Paul finishes the race in style (see 2 Tim 4:6-8). Paul said his fleshly life was “worth nothing” in comparison to finishing the race and completing his God-given task (Acts 20:24). His mind was so fixed on things above that he was torn between here and there. “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Php 1:21). While serving time on death row, Paul knew that the end of his fleshly existence was near. We know what was going through his mind because he wrote one final letter. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul penned words that have since been etched on countless headstones:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day. (2 Tim 4:7-8a)

In the last line of his last letter, this spirit-conscious man reminds us of the secret of living well:

The Lord Jesus Christ is with thy spirit… Amen. (2 Tim 4:22, YLT)

___
Related posts:
- 10 myths about the Holy Spirit
- How to walk after the flesh in 20 easy lessons
- Life doesn’t have the last word (not when you’re walking in the spirit)

Comments

  1. WOW!! Indeed a WOW!! That last line hit home! Awesome!

  2. Joshua noah says:

    Life is only worth living when it’s in God, for God, and by God.

  3. Why do you think people get this wrong sometimes? I’ll read books or talk to people who say something along the lines of “I was led by the Spirit to believe that …” The problem is that Person A’s Spirit-led belief contradicts with Person’s B’s Spirit-led belief. I’ve had someone tell me, “The Spirit has told me that salvation can be lost.” And then she backs up her statement with Scripture taken out of context. I think she truly believes that she is being led the Spirit. So, again, where is the disconnect? I think people sometimes unintentionally take their own feelings as thoughts from the Spirit. How can we be sure to avoid this?

    In the above examples of people walking in the Spirit, they all involve a sort of supernatural element to them (hence the idea of walking by faith and not by sight). Take Simeon for example, who was “moved by the Spirit.” How can we avoid being moved by our feelings and mistaken them for the Spirit? I’m just really confused on this topic because I’ve seen so many contradictions.

  4. Jan Gale says:

    Walking by the Spirit is the default position for us. We are a new creation from the day we accept Jesus is the man. When people ask me questions about my faith I say I know the man. The man of course is Jesus and I talk to him throughout the day and especially at bed time. I asked him for wisdom, and although I technically already had it, he taught me how to listen to his small voice inside my heart and now I’m more confident, When things happen or something is said that I don’t have an immediate answer for, I wait and listen. He always shows me the way forward. That is following him and it glorifies him. In the train of his glory we get some praise. We get recognition and attract both positive and negative reactions just as he did. I have found if someone is wanting to argue theology with me they are generally not peaceful and want to pass their agitation to me as a free gift! i won’t take it because my friend who is closer than a brother is leading me from glory to glory and one day that conversation I have with him will be face to face in a new place and that is overwhelmingly my goal. Along the way, I will have introduced the man to as many as want to listen. Quoting scripture to people is like reading a recipe when someone asks you for a cake. I know about cakes :)

  5. John Senior says:

    Just a comment/question…. (sorry, more than 250 words due to scripture quotes)
    You wrote in (11)…Led by the spirit Paul also went to Jerusalem in spite of the hardships that he knew awaited him (Acts 20:22-3). You say this is an example of being lead by the Spirit. Given the story that followed (I have given a précis below), was this really the case?

    Paul was warned repeatedly by the Holy Spirit NOT to go to Jerusalem – but he went anyway. In Acts 19:21 it says “he purposed in the spirit” – his or HS?). His friends and companions tried to dissuade him, but he was determined to go, even if it cost him his life. (Acts 21:12-14)

    When he got there, and met with James and the other elders of the Ekklesia in Jerusalem, they said to him, “You are beholding, brother, how many tens of thousands there are among the Jews who have believed, and all are inherently zealous for the law? Now they were instructed concerning you that you teach all the Jews among the nations apostasy from Moses, telling them not to be circumcising their children, nor yet to be walking in the customs [of the Jews]. What is it, then? Undoubtedly a multitude must come together, for they will hear that you have come.” Acts 21:20-22 YLT

    This was in fact true – Paul had been preaching Grace apart from the Law – and as a result he was virtually blackmailed into performing a work of the Law (see Acts 21:23-24). He followed through on their request, but rather than preventing a riot, it caused one (Acts 21:27 – 22:29, and Paul was nearly lynched by the Jews, rescued, only to be almost scourged, by the Romans, and was only saved from certain death after he had revealed he was a Roman citizen. It was only through messages to the centurion, as given by Paul’s nephew, that resulted in Paul being whisked away from Jerusalem under cover of darkness, so saving his life again. As a result he ended up in jail for the next 2 – 3 years, in Caesarea. Paul then got his wish to go to Rome, albeit in chains as a prisoner, when he appealed to Caesar.

    If Paul had not been so stubborn, maybe God could have shown him an easier way to go to Rome, as a free man. What do you think?

    • I confess that of my Pauline examples, his trip to Jerusalem is the one I am least certain about. It could be as you say – Paul’s own decision made against the prompting of the Holy Spirit. However, I don’t think Paul was virtually blackmailed into doing a work of law. (I have written elsewhere on Acts 21.) Don’t you think it would’ve been extraordinarily out of character for Paul to cave to a little religious pressure?

      Whether Paul was prompted to go to Jerusalem by the spirit or not is uncertain. But what is certain is that he believed he was being led by the Spirit. “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Spirit testifieth unto me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me” (Act 20:22-23).

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