Until Christ is Formed in You

In the EEC Galatians commentary, after the commentary proper will be applicational and devotional comments. Here's a draft of one such comment based on Paul's utterance in 4:19.


I imagine my journey as an evangelical believer who has entered academic life is similar to many others. When I entered seminary, I was a traditionally evangelical believer with some fundamentalistic leanings. My most important spiritual concerns were personal: An individual’s personal relationship to Christ was paramount. I endeavored day by day to understand the Bible and to live by it in my particular circumstances. I desired to grow in love for Christ my Savior and maintain a fervent devotion of heart. As I began my studies, though, I learned that the spiritual universe I inhabited was rather small. God was not concerned only with the state of my soul but with the fate of the world. Like a miniature big bang, my universe expanded enormously when I learned the full scope of biblical teaching. Take, for example, the concept of the kingdom of God. In my Southern Baptist upbringing the kingdom of God was in practice equated with the work of the church. My attitude was remade as I discovered more fully of what the kingdom of God consisted (short answer: everything!) and where it was found in the scriptures (short answer: everywhere!). My spiritual universe became much larger than before. But just like a cooling contraction occurs after a hot expansion, I faced the danger of losing my focus on the personal. It was a real temptation to jettison my prior emphases for the ones I had more recently learned. Paul’s utterance in Gal 4:19, and many others like it, did not let me do this, however. This verse shows clearly that God’s concern for the state of the individual soul remains an appropriately biblical emphasis. Paul emphasizes here that he endures birth pains for the Galatians “until Christ is formed in you.” As stated previously in the commentary, this image is of Christ being formed inside the individual, much like a baby forms inside her mother. When Christ is fully formed in the Galatians, they will act in accordance with Paul’s teaching and choose not to be bound to the Law. Instead they will fully embrace faith as the only means to relate to Christ and enter the family of God. They will each think and act differently, in accordance with God’s will and character. I cannot avoid the fact that Paul speaks clearly of an internal reality, a spiritual change of character, that is the work of the gospel in the Galatians. He was desperate for that change to occur in them so they would make the proper choice to return back to his fold. Certainly the gospel Paul preached had global, apocalyptic effects, but it also drove deep into the heart of the individual to change thoughts and decisions. Let us never forget that God in his omniscience has his eyes both on the world and on the individual. And by saving and sanctifying the latter, God testifies that he will ultimately redeem the former.