Gal 5:16 “But I say, live~~ by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”
What does it mean to “continually be living by the Spirit”? After receiving Christ, the transforming power of the gospel (Rom 1:16), which is the indwelling of the Spirit in all believers, begins to change believers into Christ’s likeness.
Transformation is possible because we are now “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man”
(Eph 3:16), which empowers us to become more obedient. Without the Spirit, we are powerless against the flesh.
The Spirit gave the Scripture to guide the believer into a transformed life: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teach and admonishing one another” (Col 3:16). The New Testament commands are not a legalistic set of external rules to demonstrate spirituality; rather, they deal with attitudes of love and care, or duty and sacrifice for others, of self–denial and our relationship to the Spirit, all of which form the inner principles that guide a transformed lifestyle.
Once we learn the commands, the Holy Spirit then guides us in applying them for the benefit of others. The present progressive imperative verb means “to be continually living by the Spirit”—-that is, “to walk around, conduct oneself in all phases of life” in harmony with how the Spirit has revealed Himself.
This is a progressive transformation into harmony with the indwelling Spirit, until He is as perfectly comfortable residing within us as we are comfortable living in His perpetual presence. The command implies our volition or commitment to walk in the light of what the Spirit has instructed believers to value, think about, prioritize, and commit to do in His word.
The command to “live by the Spirit,” which results in “not fulfilling the desires of the flesh,” is parallel to the command to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom 13:14).
As soon as the believer learns of and decides to obey the Spirit’s inspired instructions, the Spirit empowers him to obey them, creating a new character or heart within the believer that increasingly looks like Jesus’s. This is not a mystical experience but a conscious choice to follow the Spirit’s revelation of God’s will in His word.
“Thank You, Lord, for the Spirit that dwells in me and brings to my mind Your words and commands. As I learn them, help me yield to the Spirit’s urging to obey Your word.”