How Does a Christian Live by the Spirit?

By Ron Jones ©Titus Institute 2009

The answer to this question is given in outline form.

I. The Holy Spirit indwells or lives within every believer.

Once a person has accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live within a believer and never leaves. A person cannot be a Christian unless the Holy Spirit lives within him or her.

Rom. 8:9, 11

1 Cor.6:19

1 Cor.3:16 (corporately as well individually)


II. The Holy Spirit leads every believer into obedience to God.

Rom. 8:8-9, 13-16

Ed. Note: [I have added the brackets to explain the context]

Context of Rom.8: This chapter contrasts believers and unbelievers. Paul says all believers are indwelt by the Spirit and led by the Spirit; therefore they live according to the Spirit. Paul says all unbelievers do not have the Spirit; therefore they live according to the flesh. The leading of the Spirit involves leading believers into a life of righteousness.

"Then those that are in the flesh [unbelievers] cannot please God. 9But you [Roman believers] are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if any one does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not one of his [Christ’s]. (Rom.8:8-9)

"For if ye live according to the flesh [living as unbelievers], you shall die [because you are unbelievers]: but if you live by the Spirit [living as believers] you put to death the deeds of the body [fleshly sins], you shall live [because you are believers]. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God [all believers]. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. (Rom.8:13-16)

How does the Holy Spirit lead the believer?

The Holy Spirit prompts the believer through the Scriptures to obey God.

The Holy Spirit convicts the believer through the Scriptures when he sins.

The Holy Spirit encourages and strengthens the believer through the Scriptures.

The Holy Spirit is available to empower the believer to turn away from sin and obey God when he is tempted.

The Holy Spirit is not waiting for the believer to submit to work in the believer's life, He is already active in the life of the believer to lead him into fulfilling God's moral will for him. As the believer submits and trusts, the Holy Spirit is allowed to empower Him to obey God.

III. The filling of the Holy Spirit and living by the Spirit

A. Being filled with the Spirit

Eph.5:18 "Be filled with the Spirit"

The filling of the Spirit is the Holy Spirit empowering and directing the believer as the believer submits to and depends on God.

"Be filled" does not mean "be controlled." "Be controlled" implies that the believer somehow releases control of his life to the Holy Spirit, which the Scriptures do not anywhere claim. "Be filled" means to allow the Holy Spirit to produce his attitudes and actions in the life of the believer.

It means to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into obedience to God according to Rom.8:14 ("led by the Spirit").

You do not get part of the Spirit. He is a person. You have all of Him working in your life.

B. Living by the Spirit

Gal.5:16 "Live by the Spirit"

"Live" refers to "our desires thoughts, attitudes, decisions, and actions"

"By" (implied in the Greek) - "by means of" - "by the power of the Spirit"

"Trusting God that his will His perfect is the basis of your submission"

"Trusting God to empower you is the basis of the Spirit empowering

you to obey"

As you trust God and submit to you in your life you are filled with the Spirit or walk by the Spirit.

It is not necessarily a conscious moment-by-moment decision, but a way of living.

3. The result of a believer being filled with the Spirit or walking by the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit in his or her life

Gal.5:16-25 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..."

If you want to know if you are walking by the Spirit, ask yourself if you are trusting and submitting to God and if the fruit of the Spirit is being displayed in your life.

C. Parallel Biblical concepts

Living by the Spirit is also spoken of from the perspective of Christ.

1. Live by faith in Jesus Christ

Gal.2:20 "

"I have been crucified with Christ. Yet I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me. The life which I now live in the flesh [in the physical realm] I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Paul is saying that he, his mind and will, were once controlled exclusively by his own self-will and selfishness, but that "I" died on the cross. Its hold on him was broken. The life he now leads is one where he, his mind and will, now trusts the Son of God who lives in him.

To live by faith in the Son of God is to live by the Spirit.

2. Clothe yourselves with Christ

Rom.13: 14 "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not make provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts."

To "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" means to put into your life his characteristics. His characteristics are the fruit of the Spirit in Gal.5:22-23. You do that by "living by the Spirit" as explained above.