What Does It Mean to Walk According to the Spirit in Romans 8?

cover of the New Testament Recovery Version

After we were saved, we probably had the realization that we should live in a different way than how we lived before. Certainly God wants us to express Him in our daily life. But how do we do that? What should our Christian walk be like? 

Our walk involves our entire way of living: how we live, how we conduct ourselves, what we say, what we do, and where we go. In this post, we’ll focus on Romans 8:4 and helpful notes in the New Testament Recovery Version to see the walk God wants us believers to have.

What the New Testament says about how we walk

Romans 8:4 says:

“That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.”

This verse speaks of two different ways we can walk: according to the flesh or according to the spirit. 

Walking according to the flesh

First, let’s see what the flesh is.

When God created Adam, he was sinless. But when Adam disobeyed God, Satan injected his sinful nature into mankind, and our God-created pure body was transmuted into the sinful flesh, full of lust.

Even after we’re saved and born again in our spirit, our flesh is still with us and remains just as sinful as it was before we were regenerated.

Many verses in the New Testament confirm this. In fact, Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans to the believers who lived in Rome, not to unbelievers. And in Romans 13:14, he strongly exhorts them:

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.”

Since Paul wrote this to believers, it shows that we still have the sinful flesh even after we’re saved, and we must be careful not to make any provision for it. 

So although we’re saved, we can still be people who walk according to our fallen flesh. Of course, when we walk according to our flesh, we invariably sin.

Walking according to the spirit 

Now let’s see what the spirit that’s mentioned in Romans 8:4 is.

In the Recovery Version, note 3 on spirit in this verse explains: 

“It is difficult to discern the word spirit used in this chapter, in Gal. 5, and in other places in the New Testament, unless it is clearly designated to denote God’s Holy Spirit or our regenerated human spirit, as in v. 9 and v. 16 of this chapter. According to the usage in the New Testament, the word spirit, as used in this verse, denotes our regenerated human spirit indwelt by and mingled with the Spirit, who is the consummation of the Triune God (v. 9). This corresponds with 1 Cor. 6:17, ‘He who is joined to the Lord [who is the Spirit—2 Cor. 3:17; 1 Cor. 15:45] is one spirit’—one mingled spirit.”

God created us with a spirit that can contact and receive Him. Our human spirit is the deepest, innermost part of our being. 

Here in Romans 8:4, walking “according to the spirit” doesn’t refer to our human spirit alone, nor to the Holy Spirit alone. It’s referring to our regenerated human spirit indwelt by and mingled with the Spirit of the Triune God. 

This mingled spirit came into being when we repented and believed in Christ. That’s when we were regenerated, or, born again, and Christ as the life-giving Spirit came into our spirit to dwell there. Now His Spirit and our spirit are no longer separate and distinct, but are mingled together.

First Corinthians 6:17 says:

“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”

Through faith in Jesus, we were joined to Him. Our regenerated human spirit and the Spirit became one, mingled spirit

So in Romans 8:4, to walk according to the spirit means we live and do everything according to this wonderful mingled spirit.

The spontaneous result of walking according to the spirit

Christ did so much to enter into us to be our life. Now that He’s in our spirit, His desire for us is not that we would try our best not to make mistakes or be on our best behavior outwardly; He wants us to walk according to our spirit. 

Romans 8:4 also shows us what happens when we walk according to the spirit:

“That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.”

The verse doesn’t say that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled by those who try their best to live a good Christian life. It says that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk according to the spirit. 

Note 1 on fulfilled explains:

“Not consciously kept by us through our outward endeavoring but spontaneously and unconsciously fulfilled in us by the inward working of the Spirit of life. The Spirit of life is the Spirit of Christ, and Christ corresponds with the law of God. This Spirit within us spontaneously fulfills all the righteous requirements of the law through us when we walk according to Him.”

Christ lived the most excellent life on earth. He alone fulfilled all the requirements of the law. In all of His living, He expressed God.

And through His death on the cross, He redeemed us back to God. Then in resurrection, He became the life-giving Spirit; by believing in Him, we were joined to this wonderful Spirit in our spirit.

So when we walk according to our mingled spirit, the Spirit spontaneously fulfills the requirements of the law in us and for us. Our words, behavior, attitude, and actions have as their source the Spirit in our spirit. As a result, what people see isn’t a person behaving outwardly in an ethical, upright way. They see something much higher than that: God Himself expressed in our living. 

This is how God is expressed through us, which is His heart’s desire

How do we walk according to the spirit?

First of all, we have to see that our spirit is mingled with the Spirit. When we see this, we’ll appreciate how precious our spirit is and how near and available the Lord is to us. 

Then we have to realize that to walk according to the spirit means we have to be in our spirit, and not in our flesh. Our spirit should be the focal point of our whole being. So we need to practice turning from the flesh to the Lord in our spirit all the time. 

One very practical way to turn to our mingled spirit is to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we can do anytime, anywhere, whenever we find ourselves not walking according to our spirit. 

First Corinthians 12:3 says:

“Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking in the Spirit of God says, Jesus is accursed; and no one can say, Jesus is Lord! except in the Holy Spirit.”

Note 3 on this verse explains:

“This indicates that when we say with a proper spirit, ‘Jesus is Lord!’ we are in the Holy Spirit. Hence, to call on the Lord Jesus is the way to participate in, to enjoy, and to experience the Holy Spirit.”

By calling upon the Lord’s name, “Lord Jesus,” we’re brought into our spirit where we enjoy all that He is. As we enjoy Him in our spirit, we spontaneously walk according to our spirit, and the wonderful life of Christ is expressed in our walk. 

In this post, we could only briefly discuss what it means to walk according to the spirit in Romans 8. If you live in the US, we strongly encourage you to order a free New Testament Recovery Version so you can read all of the insightful notes in this crucial chapter.