“My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” Gal 4:19
One word I have never noticed until writing this blog is the word “again”. What did Paul mean? Usually with Paul, I get my questions like this answered if I but read a little further. He explains the word “again” in the rest of the chapter and in chapter 5. He answers my question in 5:4- “You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace.”
Christ was being formed in the Galatians through grace but they slipped back into a law gospel. Another way of looking at what Paul was saying: Christ is not formed in us through the law– trying to follow Christ on our own efforts, through the strength of the flesh. And our efforts can be well intentioned, with sincere motivation. The key is when they are our efforts and not His. Our efforts can impede Jesus being formed in us. The Galatians were trying to be justified by their efforts in following the law, thus falling from grace. For me, this is a wake up call, a gentle slap on the face. I do not want to fall from grace; I want Christ to be formed in me.
What are we to do? As usual, Paul answers this question in verse 5:16–“I say then walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desires of the flesh.” And in verse 18–“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” In other words, when the Spirit leads us we are under grace, not under our own efforts.
Jesus is formed in us as we walk in the Spirit. When we accept Jesus as our savior, a new creation is born in us. Picture the birth of a baby. If you have never seen this, check out a few episodes of “Call the Midwife”. Just as a mother and father hold this newborn in their arms so the Father holds this new creation born in us. He gently cuts the umbilical cord from our flesh and lovingly puts his arms around us. We are His, born of His Spirit and we can call Him Abba. We are babes but He wants to teach us to grow and eventually walk in Him. Just as with a newborn, this takes time as He teaches us; we fall, but get back up.
As we learn this new dependency on Him, He is being formed in us and His Godly characteristics will be manifested in our lives. The fruit of the Spirit are the characteristics of God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These fruits remind me of Jesus as He walked this earth. This new creature inside of us is one with His Spirit. As we follow the leading of the Spirit, we will see more of Jesus in our lives, apart from our efforts and any kind of law.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves…” 2 For 4:6 This new everlasting life (treasure) is expressed through us as we follow His Spirit.