Saturday, 30 April 2016
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19
In the previous verse, Paul said, “…it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.” As noted, the word “zealous” was in the passive voice. The Galatians allowed themselves to be the object of the zeal of others, but in the case of the Judaizers, it was not a good thing. Now Paul was in need of reworking everything he had already accomplished for them. He was directing his zeal for the gospel to them all over again.
In order to show them that this is of the highest importance to him, he begins this verse with the words tekna mou, or “my little children.” This is the only time he uses this term in his writings, but it is something John wrote several times. It indicates the dearest of affections, as if speaking to one’s own little children. Certainly this is how Paul viewed the Galatians as he had “begotten” them in the gospel, just as he had the Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 4:15).
Now, he was in the process of labor for them once again. He was forced to expend his energies in redirecting their wayward doctrine. And yet, he acknowledged in the previous chapter that they had already received the Spirit and were baptized into Christ. Therefore, his words are speaking of the birth of understanding and obedience to the gospel of grace. This is evident by the words, “…until Christ is formed in you.”
To make a comparable worldly example, we could look at a child who is from one culture. He is adopted into a family and learns the ways of that family. After a certain amount of time, he goes to school back in the land he came from. While there, he takes up the same habits that he had when he was young, forgetting the culture and refinement of his adopted home. Upon returning home, the family has to reeducate him on his position within the family, and proper conduct in the land of his inheritance.
This child never stopped being the son of his adopted parents, but he did lose his understanding of what it means to be a child in that family. This is the case of the Galatians. They had not lost any of their inheritance, but they had failed to be formed into the image of Christ. Paul’s job was now to labor, once again, in that process.
Life application: Pity the poor pastor who loves his flock so much that he agonizes over those who walk away from the congregation and get swept up into crummy doctrine! If anything can be done about it, he will labor intensively to restore them to that which is proper. If nothing can be done for them, he will carry the memory of what happened and spend his years rethinking what he could have done differently.
Precious Lord, You have a good plan and a purpose for each of Your creatures. If we will simply look to You for guidance and instruction, You will be there for us. But You have also given us free will to choose what is right or to follow whatever wayward avenue we desire. Grant us the wisdom to turn our eyes to You and to take the narrow path of pursuing Christ all the days of our lives. And for those who choose otherwise, hear our prayers for them. Reveal Yourself to them while You may be found by them. Amen.