Galatians 5:25 is part of a broader set of instructions that address Christian living. The verse states, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Some translations express this as “follow the Spirit’s leading” (NLT).
The concept of “keeping in step” brings to mind a formal dance, where the man often initiates, and the woman follows. Both dancers excel when they move in synchrony, meaning that the woman keeps in step with the man. Considering that the church is Christ’s bride, this analogy seems fitting to illustrate what it means to keep in step with the Spirit.
The Spirit initiates the “dance” by convicting sinners of their need for salvation through the gospel witness (John 16:8–11, 13; Acts 2:37). He also regenerates our spirit in an act that Jesus calls being “born again” (John 3:5–6; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:13). We respond to the Spirit’s conviction by having faith in the Person and sacrificial work of Christ (John 3:16; Romans 3:22–24; Galatians 2:16). The “dance” is set in motion as we begin to live by the Spirit.
Although Paul’s instruction may sound abstract, it has practical implications for our daily lives. How do we keep in step with the Spirit?
1. Follow the Spirit’s desires. In Galatians 5:17, Paul explains that “the sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (NLT).
As Christians, we experience a battle between competing desires. Paul himself acknowledges the struggle he had in his personal life in Romans 7:19–25.
One way to keep in step with the Spirit is to yield to the godly desires that manifest in us. Philippians 2:13 asserts that “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (NLT). This is a comforting truth, because it means we’re not left to rely solely on our own strength. When we feel the desire to do something godly, we should obey it. We should also be sensitive to the conviction of the Spirit when we sin.
2. Dwell in the Scriptures. To return to the dance analogy, imagine if the woman doesn’t know the dance steps. She would be unable to keep in step. Similarly, how can we keep in step with the Spirit when we are unfamiliar with God’s principles? It would be impossible. Only through Scripture can we understand the godly “steps” to take.
The Spirit does not introduce any new teachings but rather reminds us of what is already contained in the Bible (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10–12). Scripture also renews our minds, transforming the way we think (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23–24). Furthermore, immersing ourselves in Scripture reduces the influence of sin over us. We need to engage with the Word of God on a daily basis.
3. Examine the fruit. Paul contrasts the outcomes of yielding to our sinful nature with the fruit that results from obeying the Spirit:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:19–23).The fruit of the Spirit are godly characteristics that are produced in our lives as we follow the Spirit and yield to His desires. Simply put, the Spirit influences us to want to obey God’s principles in specific situations, and the more we choose to obey, the more these godly traits manifest in our lives.
4. Prioritize love. In Galatians 5:13, Paul emphasizes that, although we are free from the requirements of the law, this freedom should not be used to satisfy our sinful nature. Instead, we are called to “serve one another humbly in love.” There is a connection between keeping in step with the Spirit and serving others in love.
Biblical love entails the decision to treat others in a way that pleases God. We search the Scriptures to learn how He wants us to relate to both fellow Christians and unbelievers, and then we obey. Love also influences how we view people, including those who are difficult. Love is the greatest gift of all, and we are to prioritize it (1 Corinthians 13:13; 14:1).
5. Depend on God. We must never make the mistake of thinking that we can follow the Spirit’s lead on our own. It requires a conscious choice on our part to surrender to Him, but the power does not come from us. We need to acknowledge our daily need for God and maintain fellowship with Him.
A mindset of dependence on God begins with the cross, which reveals our inability to reconcile with God by our own obedience to the law. The cross also demonstrates God’s justice and mercy as He took upon Himself the penalty for our sin in the Person of Jesus. Our hope lies in this truth, and everything we do as Christians must stem from relying on God’s grace.