Galatians 5:25 (NASB) says:

"If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."

What is the difference between living by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit?

4 Answers 4


In Galatians 5:25, "live" is "live" as in "live or die" rather than "live" as in "the way I live my life". In other words, "If the Spirit is what saves us from death, let us allow that same Spirit to direct our steps"

This is reinforced in chapter 6 with a different metaphor:

8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.   NASB


To be very succinct:
Living in the spirit is about faith, walking in the spirit is about what we practice.

Living in the Spirit

Fortunately, Paul did us a great service of defining the terms!

Early in the letter to the Galatians, we see this passage:

Galations 2:19-20 (NASB)
19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

What Paul is saying here that life in God (or, as he later refers to it, living in the spirit) is still living in the flesh (meaning living in our current bodies), but living by faith in the Son of God.

Walking in the Spirit

Galations 5:16-21 (NASB)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The idea in this passage is that if we are walking in the flesh, then we practice desires of the flesh. When we walk in the flesh, we will practice immorality, practice jealousy, we will have outbursts of anger, we will practice drunkenness, etc.


Essentially, "living in the spirit" comes down to having faith in God (that is, having an active belief and trust in God). "Walking in the spirit" comes down to what we focus on and what we practice (ie, the acts that we continually think about and commit).


The following answer comes from the Recovery Version of the Bible:

To live by the Spirit is to have our life dependent on and regulated by the Spirit, not by the law. This equals the walk by the Spirit in v. 16 but differs from the walk by the Spirit in this verse.

To walk Lit., walk according to rules. The Greek word means to observe the elements , to walk according to the elements, e.g ., to walk in line, to march in military rank, to keep in step; and, derivatively, to walk in an orderly, regulated manner (cf. 6: 16 ; Acts 21: 24 ; Rom. 4: 12 and note ; Phil. 3: 16 and note 4 ).

Both the walk in v. 16 and the walk in this verse are by the Spirit and are regulated by the Spirit. The former refers to a general, daily walk; the latter, to a walk that takes God’s unique goal as the direction and purpose of life, and a walk that follows the Spirit as the elementary rule, the basic principle. Such a walk is cultivated by living in the new creation ( 6: 16 and note 2 ), by pursuing Christ in order to gain Him ( Phil. 3: 12 and notes ), and by practicing the church life ( Rom. 12: 1-5 ; Eph. 4: 1-16 ), thus fulfilling God’s intention in Christ for the church.

Reference: Recovery Version of the Bible footnotes

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    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 15:09

Jack Douglas' answer is correct. The point refers to the distinction between ontic (or ontological) holiness and moral holiness, and can be easily seen, in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologies, in the case of a baptized baby: he lives by the Spirit because he has been made "partaker of the divine nature" by baptism, but he does not walk by the Spirit because he does not walk at all (in the sense of having use of reason and free will).

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