Walk, Or Christian Behavior
Basic Studies in Christian Living for Young Believers, #9
A Christian should show what he believes by the way he behaves.
In the early days of Christianity, the Christian faith was frequently referred to as “the way,” and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ were described as being “of this way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). This would seem to indicate that not only did they declare a doctrine to be believed — the way to God (John 14:6), but they manifested in their lives the practical implications of this doctrine — the Christian faith was a way of life. So it is today. While it is necessary for us to be acquainted with the teachings of the Scriptures and the truths of the Gospel, these teachings and truths should affect our lives and conduct. The writer of the 119th. Psalm obviously delighted in God’s law, learned His statutes, and meditated upon His Word; but he stresses frequently in that great Psalm the importance of walking in the law of the Lord (vv. 1, 3, 5), and allowing the way to be cleansed (v. 9) and directed (vv. 59, 105) thereby. Everywhere in the Scriptures, emphasis is placed on the necessity of a life consistent with our profession of faith.
In considering this subject, we are going to study two words used in Scripture to describe our conduct —”walk” and “conversation” — and to use as our textbooks, in particular, two New Testament Epistles — Ephesians and 1 Peter — in which these words respectively occur on several occasions.
The Epistle to the Ephesians has been summarized in three words —the wealth, walk, and warfare of the believer. The immeasurable wealth — the blessings — with which we have been endued, forms the main theme of the first half of the book, and especially the first chapter; the consequent walk — behaviour — that should characterize us is emphasized in the second half, the final section of which reminds us that we are engaged in warfare — a battle —against powerful adversaries determined to deprive us of the enjoyment of our blessings and to prevent us manifesting this behaviour.
A glance at a concordance will quickly demonstrate that the word “walk” is frequently used in both Old and New Testaments of the course, character and tenor of a person’s life — whether believer or unbeliever — and embraces all his conduct and activities. Just as a soldier can sometimes be recognized by his walk, and certain types of gait are characteristic of certain illnesses, so the Christian should be distinguished by the character of his walk. Notice three ways in which the word is applied in this Epistle:
(1) How we used to walk, Chapter 2:2. “In time past ye walked.” “There, but for the grace of God, am I” are words we can all use as we read the description of verses 1-3 of this chapter, for there we discern a picture of what we once were and might yet have been. The picture is in three parts: verse one, the condition we were in; verse two, the character we had; verse three, the consequences we deserved. We were dead, disobedient and doomed. Notice particularly the description of our previous walk in verse 2: (a) its course — “The course of this world”; (b) its control — “the prince of the the power of the air”; (c) its character — “disobedience.” By implication, we can describe what our present walk should be, in contrast to this — heavenly in its course, directed and controlled by the Lord Jesus Christ, and characterized by obedience to the Word of God.
(2) How we should not walk, Chapter 4:17-19. “Walk not.” Our lives and conduct should be entirely different from those of others in the world around us, “not conformed to this world but … transformed” (Rom. 12:2). The emptiness and aimlessness of life, darkness and ignorance in relation to divine things, hardness of heart, sensuality, uncleanness of life, speech and thought, and greed that are still as prevalent in the 20th. century as they were in the 1st. should not characterize the Christian’s walk.
(3) How we should walk. A number of phrases that describe the walk of the believer should be carefully studied in their context:
(a) “In good works.” Chapter 2:10. We are not saved by works, but God’s purpose in saving us by grace was that we should walk in good works.
(b) “Worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” Chapter 4:1, that is, in keeping with the great privileges and the high position, into which, as we learn from the first three chapters, we have been brought through God’s grace. The characteristics of such a worthy walk are outlined in verses 2 and 3 and relate especially to our relationships with other believers, who are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the one Body and fellow-partakers of God’s promise in Christ (ch. 3:6). The unity of the Spirit will be maintained and manifested if each one of us walks “with all lowliness and meekness,” etc,
(c) “In love.” Chapter 5:2, sacrificial love, imitating God Himself (v. 1, and see, e.g. John 3:16), and inspired by the highest example and striving towards the highest standard — “as Christ also has loved us.”
(d) “As children of light,” Chapter 5:8, walking in the light of God and His Word; following Christ who is the Light of the World (John 8:12; 12:35, 36); and living lives of transparent sincerity and truth, as those who love light rather than darkness because they “do truth” and have no fear of their deeds being made manifest (John 3.21).
(e) “Circumspectly,” Chapter 5:15, accurately, carefully, wisely, — remembering others are watching us and noting our lives.
These are all the occurrences of the word “walk” in the Epistle to the Ephesians, but our study can be profitably extended to include other descriptions of our walk in the New Testament. The following list is intended to be suggestive but by no means exhaustive:
Negatively: we ought not to walk selfishly (Phil. 3.18, 19), deceitfully, craftily (2 Cor,. 4:2), “disorderly” (2 Thess. 3:11), “after the flesh” (Rom. 8:4, etc.)
Positively: our walk should be “in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4), “worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10), “worthy of God” (1 Thess. 2:12), “in Christ as Lord” (Col. 2:6), “in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, etc.), “by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7), “in truth” (2 John 4), “light” (1 John 1:7), “wisdom” (Col. 4:5), “honestly” (Rom. 13:13, 1 Thess, 4:12).
“Conversation:” 1 Peter
The word “conversation” is one of several the meanings of which have changed since our Authorized Version was translated. Today it refers to talk; in our Bibles it means, rather, walk — behaviour, the whole conduct of the life. Three different words are translated “conversation” in the A. V. of the New Testament. In Philippians 1:27, 3:20, the word means “citizenship” and indicates our heavenly calling and status and the kind of life and conduct consistent with this position. In Hebrews 13:5, “let your conversation be without covetousness,” the word literally means “a turn,” is translated elsewhere “manner,” “means,” “way,” and obviously refers here to the manner of life. Six of the other 15 occurrences of the word are in Peter’s first Epistle (and 2 in the second Epistle). On all these occasions, the word “conversation” translates a Greek word meaning to “turn back,” and, by implication, to “move about in a place,” “busy oneself,” and so to “behave, conduct oneself.” It refers, therefore, again to the manner of life and behaviour, Notice again the negative and positive aspects of our “conversation:” (i) Negative, “Vain” (1:18) — the empty, aimless, fruitless kind of life we used to live, and from which we have been redeemed at the infinite cost of “the precious blood of Christ.” (ii) Positive, “Holy” (1:15) — as children in God’s family, manifesting His character in the way we live amongst men. “Honest” (2:12) — beautiful, admirable, intrinsically good and commanding respect — as pilgrims in the world coming in contact with others. “Chaste” (3:1, 2) — as members of a human family with an influence for good or ill on our relatives in the home. (These verses were specifically written to believing wives of unsaved husbands, and exhort them to endeavour to win their husbands, who “obey not the word” — the Word of God in the Gospel — by their “conversation,” “without a word” — see other translations —that is, without even speaking to them. So great is the influence of our lives apart altogether from our words that this verse can be extended to apply to all our contacts with others.) “Good” (3:16) — as Christians facing persecution, the best way to answer the false charges that may be made against us is to deny them by the good lives we live.