In chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul is really hitting on the idea of freedom and no longer living under a burdensome law. A big part of this, as illustrated by verses 16-23 is identifying those things that come from the Spirit of God and those that do not. Paul calls them the “fruits of the Spirit” and “works of the flesh”. So when we pick up in verse 24 and says “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” That means that the moment you put your faith in Jesus as the Son of God and profess Him as Lord and Savior, your sinful nature, what Paul calls the “flesh”, is crucified. And for the rest of your life, your crucified flesh withers away until all that is left in eternity is the beautiful “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) that you are in Jesus. And notice that Paul says that not only is the flesh itself crucified, but its passions and desires along with it. That offers a deep hope for a renewed mind (Romans 12:2) and a clean heart (Psalm 51:10) and the chance to focus on those things which are life-giving (Phillipians 4:8).
So what does life look like when our flesh begins to wither away and the new creations that we are begin to take over?? Well, to be certain our life begins to bear more fruit of the Spirit, but the application of what Jesus has taught us could look different for many of us outside of the principle disciplines (i.e. prayer, knowing scripture, fast, giving, etc.). What I’m trying to say is one person living out a devoted life for the sake of the Gospel could look wildly different from another person doing the same thing. That’s why Paul says what he says in verse 25. The Greek verb for “keep in step with the Spirit” is literally translated as “walk in line behind the Spirit”. Paul is simply saying to go where the Spirit is leading you. He knows and understands that this will take people to all sorts of places to do all sorts of things. Which is why he couldn’t possibly make a list of potential outcomes for a person’s life. The Holy Spirit is God Himself. He doesn’t want to be predicted, He wants to be followed.
Verse 26 was an admonishment specific to what the Galatians were dealing with, namely pursuing selfish desires and becoming jealous of what others had. Have you ever been in that place where you see someone following the Spirit and it takes them right to something that you’ve always wanted. And here you are, trying your best to keep in step with the Spirit also and you’re being taken in a direction that is uncertain and honestly scary. That’s why Paul is warning the Galatians to be guarded against this. Keeping in step with the Spirit isn’t just following some mystical force that could lead you into nothingness, it’s following God our Father who Jesus promised would take care of us, provide for us and love us (Matthew 6).