A Believer’s Walk
Any believer’s ideal is to please the Lord, to have His guidance and His approval in everything he does.
How wonderful it is to read about Enoch! “And Enoch walked with God after he had begotten Methushelah three hundred years, and begot sons and daughters. And all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5.22-24). We so wish we had more details. How did Enoch do? Maybe knowing more in detail what he did, we would try to do like him. And maybe we would succeed. But God’s word is not to be according to our natural mind, as men who have inherited from our fathers a “vain conversation”, and tells us just this much.
Wouldn’t any believer wish to walk with God? How is he to go about it, then? Can’t we find more hints on how one is to walk with God? We certainly can.
Another example of a believer who walked with God is Noah, and concerning him we have more details than concerning Enoch. Yet he was not taken by God, like we wish it would happen with us. From the narrative in Genesis we understand that Noah walked with God for more than a hundred and twenty years. That is more than a lifetime in our days. And yet, after these more than a hundred and twenty years walk with God, the word sets forth a shameful fall. This plainly shows us that even a lifetime lived in fear of the Lord and striving to please Him is by no means a guarantee that a believer will never have a fall. “The righteous man falls seven times and rises up again” (Proverbs 24.16). This remark is by no means intended to justify any believer’s fall, but just intends to set forth the reality as it is according to the word of God: the believer falls, but then rises up, for it is God who rises him up. And, after his fall, we see Noah restored uttering the prophecy about his descendents, for those words Noah said concerning his sons have not been spoken while he was drunk, nor in anger, but when he was alert and in communion with God. Having, by the natural birth, inherited a sinful nature, we get to fall. And then applies what John says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.9). And is it just by conjecture that in Proverbs “the righteous man falls seven times”? Does not the number seven have a special meaning? In Genesis, the creation took place in seven days, then, in the Gospel of Matthew, the evil spirit is said to return to the man in out of whom he went out bringing in with him “seven other spirits worse than himself” (see Matthew 12.43-45 and Luke 11.24-26), and in the gospel of Luke is mentioned a woman out of whom “seven demons had gone out” (see Luke 8.2), and in the book of Revelation we have the phrase “the seven spirits of God” (see Revelation 1.4, 3.1, 4.5 și 5.6). In these texts the number seven has the meaning of completeness, be it in good or in bad. Thus, if we are to apply this to the phrase “the righteous man falls seven times”, this would show that the righteous man has in himself this tendency of falling and failing completely. And, when it comes to man, what is the alternative to falling seven times or failing completely? In what follows immediately, the same verse says: “but the wicked stumble into disaster”. Thus, for the wicked, disaster follows his stumbling. For the believer, falling comes when he makes a false step. The believer wishes to walk with God, but, because of his sinful old nature, has always the risk of falling. Is this not according to what the apostle Paul says in the Epistle to the Romans: “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, good does not dwell: for to will is there with me, but to do right I find not. For I do not practise the good that I will; but the evil I do not will, that I do. But if what I do not will, this I practise, it is no longer I that do it, but the sin that dwells in me. I find then the law upon me who will to practise what is right, that with me evil is there. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring in opposition to the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which exists in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of this body of death?” (see Romans 7.18-25). But the Lord is the One who raises the fallen believer, and, just as the verse in Proverbs says that the righteous rises after every fall, in Romans the apostle concludes this dramatic passage with the rise: “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I myself with the mind serve God’s law; but with the flesh sin’s law”. And Paul testifies that God told him: “My grace suffices thee; for my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12.9). That means that the believer is enabled to walk with God only through His grace, and, if he happened to fall (for the carnal nature within the believer, no matter how it may get to manifest itself, when it does manifest itself, it will only make him fall somehow), the same grace of the Lord will rise him and restore him, although he is still in weakness.
Yet, how exactly is a believer supposed to walk with God? Can’t we find any instructions applicable to us nowadays? We’d so much want to have a rule that says what a believer has to do in order to walk with God. We’d like something like a procedure by which the believer can make sure that the Lord will support him all along the way. But, not only we cannot find a method for this, but rather, following the history in the Old Testament, we find no other believer about whom the scripture says literally that he walked with God.
To Abraham, whom He previously had told He would make his name a great blessing and that in him shall all the families of the earth be blessed (see Genesis 12.2-3), God later spoke saying “walk before my face and be perfect” (Genesis 17.1). Later, towards the end of his life, Jacob spoke to Joseph about the God before whom his fathers walked (Genesis 48.15). So, as to Abraham and Isaac, the Scripture does not say that they walked with God, but that they walked “before God”. And we think that the different phrases are meant to represent different relationships with God. And what would the difference consist in? In our attempt to understand this we will not go beyond that which is written. To “walk with God” is not possible unless one receives instructions from God for every he makes. Like, for instance, God told Noah exactly how to build the ark, giving him all the dimensions and indicating also the materials he had to use, and he also instructed him when to enter the ship and also what to take with him. And, before the law was given through Moses, it is evident that God told Noah which were the clean animals according to the law, so that of those he would take seven in the ship and of them Noah would later offer burnt offerings of sweet odour to the Lord. In the life of Abraham we do not see him receiving from God very specific instructions what to do. Abraham “walked before God”, which means that, in his ways he thought of God, having in mind that he ought to please Him in all that he did. Therefore, it seems that Abraham did not have such a close relationship with God as Enoch or Noah.
So, just as we wish to have some rules for a believer’s walk, in what follows in the Books of Moses we find the law, which was given as a rule fore the Israelites’ walk. Throughout the books of the Bible from Exodus to Judges we find phrases like “walk in the law of the LORD”, “observe the statutes and ordinances of the LORD” and “walk in all the way that the LORD, your God has commanded you” (see Exodus 16.4, Leviticus 18.4, 26.3, Deut. 8.6, 10.12, 11.22, 19.9, 26.17, 28.9, 29.19, 30.16, Joshua 22.5). This was the rule for their walk, but the Lord was no longer so close to the Israelites as He was close to Enoch and Noah. They had to walk in the law of the Lord, but communications with the Lord had only the priest bearing the “urim and thumim”, and, even he did not have constant communications with the Lord. Since the giving of the law until the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, God entered in a relationship with His own, and mainly with the Israelites by the law.
Later on, the faithful kings of Judah are said to have “walked in the way of David”.
We are not told that Moses or Samuel or David or Elias or Elisha or Daniel – all of them remarkable believers – walked with God. None of the most faithful believers from Moses to John the Baptist, none who has done great things or had exceptional revelations from God is said to have walked with God, but the measure of the fidelity in that period was the fear of the Lord and keeping the ordinances of the law.
And searching the Old Testament history that not only Israel as a people was unfaithful and transgressed against the law, but even the priests were transgressors and later also the kings. And even the greatest prophets and the most faithful kings had falls.
And, if so, can a believer who has inherited from Adam a sinful nature keep the law? Or do we think that we are better than those of old? No, sinful flesh has always proved incapable of pleasing God, and law has only made most evident how sinful the nature that we have inherited from Adam really is, how that nature cannot be accepted by God. And the law sets forth only some minimal requirements, while those features that are really agreeable to God are presented by the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7). The apostle Paul plainly states “the law has been our tutor up to Christ, that we might be justified on the principle of faith” (Galatians 3.24). And then, is the law that God Himself gave to Moses no longer a rule for the Christians’ walk? I would not dare to say that a Christian should not strive to keep the law, but the apostles said that, together with the elders in Jerusalem, in chapter 15 of the Book of Acts, when to those who were willing to make the Christians of the gentiles keep the law, they told: “Now therefore why tempt ye God, by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same manner as they also” (Acts 15.10-11).
Don’t we then wish so much to “walk with God” somehow like Enoch and Noah once did? Yet how could we do that? How could we have that kind of communications from God that would direct our walk?
In this respect, the words of the apostle Paul give us light: “walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the flesh’s lust”. How? Did not the Lord Jesus tell His disciples: I will beg the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth” și “the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and will bring to your remembrance all the things which I have said to you” (see John 14.15-27). The Holy Spirit, a divine person, is with the believer and teaches him what to do. Is this not even more than what Enoch and Noah had? For neither Enoch, nor Noah had clear knowledge concerning the Lord Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, nor about the resurrection. Does this not mean that, for us nowadays, to “walk in the Spirit” has the same value that, in ancient times, had the walk of Enoch and Noah? And, if one may think that the Holy Spirit is reserved only for a selected elite of believers, then he should call to mind the fact that this exhortation the apostle addressed to the believers of “the churches of Galatia” in general, and not to some elite that had very special capacities for “walking in the Spirit”. And the fact that the Holy Spirit is not exclusively for some elite, but is in any believer, results plainly from what the apostle Paul tells the Corinthians: “Do ye not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God; and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6.19).
Thus, every believer has the Holy Spirit. Yet not any believer automatically walks in the Spirit, and the walk in the spirit does not manifest itself as an inherent characteristic of believers.
How can then a believer walk in the Spirit? Isn’t there a method or “procedure” for that? How we’d like to have in written exactly what we are to do! Yet, if it were to be written, it should be something applicable for any believer, in any age, in any country, irrespective of his social position, no matter how his family is or what his job is. And it would have to be so because anyone, irrespective of the nationality or social standing may be saved through faith in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and, by that, have the Holy Spirit. It should comprise all that the believers in any age should do, which would mean an immense volume of information. So we get to what John said: “I suppose that not even the world itself would contain the books written”. And then, if we think of Enoch or Noah, have they walked according to something written?
But man is inclined to make rules and regulations he would go by, and tends to frame within rules even the life of faith. Still, were he to make rules only for himself, and not have the arrogance of making rules and regulations for the life of other people!
If the holy law given by God through Moses proved to be a too have yoke to bear, for no one was able to keep it perfectly in all its commandments, then, as a rule for the life of faith man chooses only some parts of the law and says to himself that those parts are “essential”, and those that he does not keep are unessential. And then groups are formed, which differentiate one from another by the set of rules that they have adopted to regulate the life of faith. And these groups may have disputes that may escalate to violent forms, as the apostle Paul remarked at the Galatians: “ye bite and devour one another” (Galatians 5.15). And all the disputes are about what some deem to be essential, which others deem unessential. Is not the history of Christianity full of such disputes? And, on a much smaller scale, aren’t there such disputes in the local assemblies?
Still, what would help a believer “walk in the Spirit”? “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light onto my path” (Psalm 119.105). Yes, the Word of God is the one that gives the believer the perspective of being in eternity with the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus being his final destination, and, at the same time, it is also the source of light for each step that he makes. It is not like a map on which the route is marked in detail, but it is a light for the next step. And what if – this is not uncommon – I have no light for the next step? Then I should stay and not try to change my position even if I feel something is not good and I should change something. This is a difficult test: to depend on the Lord, for we almost always think we should do something in order to improve. Maybe in a given situation the Lord desires us to remain for some time where we are, even if that position brings some sufferings or if we feel we are inactive and we bear no fruit. Moses had been 40 years in the desert doing nothing remarkable, Elias, likewise, stood for some time at the torrent Cherith, completely inactive, and Saul of Tarsus had spent three years in Arabia (Exodus 2; 1 Kings 17; Galatians 1.15-17). And how would a believer receive the needed light? “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and in the law does he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1.2). “Give thyself to reading, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4.13). So, he keeps reading the word and receives teaching. And, at the moment that the Lord has appointed, he will receive the light for the next step. It will not be something mystic, there will not be the rule that he should hear some voice, but the Lord will give him the right thought. How is then the believer to know if the thought that came to his mind is from the Lord, and it is not a thought that is the issue of the sinful nature stimulated by the evil one? In order to be able to discern that, he should have “an outline of sound words” (see 2 Timothy 1.13), which means that he should be well acquainted with the general designs of God and be familiar with what pleases Him, for anything that does not agree with those cannot possibly be of the Lord, and, in that case, he should no longer search out of what depth that evil thought has emerged. And once he received light for the next step, the believed should no longer tarry, but do without delay that which he has understood from the Lord he ought to do, even when that is something completely different from what he was used to do – and this is another test for the obedience. Is the believer willing to “lead captive every thought to the obedience of Christ”? (see 2 Corinthians 10.4-8)
Thus, walking in the Spirit does by no means require a set of rules, but that the believer should depend on the Lord and bring before Him in prayer any problem, being ready to give up his ideas in order to do what pleases the Lord. As we have seen, in this walk the believer may fall. But, even falling repeatedly, he rises, and, after he is restored by the Lord he continues walking in the Spirit. As to the attitude towards the believers that happen to fall, the apostle Paul says: “Brethren, even if a man be taken in some fault, ye who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6.1).
There is one more important aspect in connection with the walk. The Lord said: “He that is not with Me is against Me, and He that gathers not with Me scatters” (Matthew 12.30). That means that one cannot possibly have a position of neutrality towards the Lord, and, if one is not His, and, therefore, is not on His side, then he cannot but fall to the evil one. But we find in Scripture one text which appears to say the opposite: “He who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9.40). Yet Scripture does not contradict itself, for between the two verses is a clear difference: while in Matthew the main issue is one’s position towards the Lord Jesus, while in Mark the issue is one’s position towards a group of believers designated by the plural “us”. And reading the verse in Mark in its context we see that the main thing that the Lord wanted to tell the disciples who followed Him was that they were not to forbid the man who performed the remarkable work of casting out demons in His name just for the reason that he did not follow them, the twelve. We therefore ought to follow the Lord without being puffed up with our things, our works and what we are, and being thus puffed up, turn against others who do remarkable works in the name of the Lord just for the sole reason that they do not follow us – that is a sectarian spirit. And we should mark well that this spirit was then manifested in John, the very disciple who was the closest to the Lord. The disciples should not have ceased following the Lord and start following that man who performed remarkable works, doing things that they were unable to do (see Mark 9.14-29, where the disciples were unable to cast out a demon). But, at the same time they should not have been against that person who confessed the Name of the Lord and did miraculous works in His Name. That means a believer should seek to know the Lord and follow the way that He reveals him, and not follow people who do extraordinary works, declaring that they do those works in the Name of the Lord, yet he should not seek to enter into conflict with another one who confesses the name of the Lord and performs extraordinary works in His Name just for the sole reason that he does not follow the same way.
And what does a believer walking by the Spirit do? According to what the apostle Paul says, he is an imitator of God (see Ephesians 5.1, 1 Corinthians 11.1, Philippians 3.17, 1 Thessalonians. 1.6). He manifests love towards other people, even towards those who manifest enmity towards them. Knowing he is beneficiary of the grace of God, he manifests grace towards other people. And, having the word of God abiding in him in abundance and having his heart close to the lord and being familiar with His thoughts, he speaks the word of God, somewhat like Enoch prophesied during his walk with God.