by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 7 October 14, 2012 Dayton, Texas
19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
1901 ASV Translation:
19 My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you
20 but I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my tone; for I am perplexed about you.
I. Paul's "Perplexity" (NASB translation of Verse Twenty).
A. Paul calls them "My little children" -- strongly implying a "spiritual" fatherhood in the faith.
B. Paul declares that he does not think they have "Christ formed in them" -- raising the question of whether the formation of Christ in a person is a "justification" issue.
1. If it is, the next most basic issue is what the "formation of Christ in" a person means.
a. Clearly, the formation of Christ in a person has direct contacts with the doctrine of the methodology of justification; in other words, a clear understanding of grace.
b. Just as clearly, the formation of Christ in a person cannot be removed from the actual residence of the Spirit of Christ within that person.
c. Therefore, the apostle's job is to make the methodology of justification as clear as can be done with language so that the Spirit of Christ can move into the "believer's" body to take on the task of expanding upon the truths and beliefs necessary for Christ to be effectively present.
2. If it is not, there is no point to the labor in respect to the large focus in this context upon justification and its methodology. If the formation of Christ in a person is a sanctification issue, it belongs in the later context of chapters 5-6.
C. Paul wishes he could be present with them so that he might have a better grasp of their condition.
D. Thus, his "perplexity" almost has to be whether, or not, they did "believe" his Gospel as their response when he was there seemed to indicate. This absolutely fits Luke's terminology of Luke 8:13: "... believe for a while ...". Luke, being Paul's constant companion in ministry over a period of years, surely understood Paul's perception of justifying faith and how it fits his perception of the accursedness of those who promote the flawed "gospel" of the Galatian heretics whom he described as "false brethren". If "an angel from heaven" can be "accursed" for bringing a false gospel on the scene, certainly anyone who "believed for a while" but, then, began to oppose the Truth by proclaiming the false gospel would also find him/herself in the same boat.
1. In Acts 15:5 Luke called the opposition in Jerusalem "Pharisees who believed"; in Galatians 2:4 Paul called the very same people "false brethren" and in Galatians 1:8-9 placed them under a decree of accursedness. This begs for some kind of legitimate resolution: were they "believers", or were they deceitful "false brethren" with a clear intention to preach "another gospel"?
2. The most likely resolution is Luke's category in Luke 8:13 mentioned above.
II. Paul's "Effort".
A. He describes his condition as "travailing in birth". This term is used of someone who is in the midst of enduring the pains of labor that are designed to push an infant out of the womb into the world.
B. This "travailing in birth again" fits the "my little children" characterization: he "produces" little children by "giving birth through serious travail".
C. The analogy is interesting because the "travail" is designed to get "Christ formed in" a person rather than delivering the formed person into the world. In the analogy, Paul is the "pregnant woman" and the Galatians are the "little children" which he is struggling to push into the world. The "travailing" involves all the problems associated with getting a person ready to live in the world as a "believer".
D. The analogy draws our attention to the question of meaning.
1. What could move Paul to use such an analogy? It must be that he simply needed a rather extreme illustration of the kind of effort he was putting forth on their behalf. There are few "labors" that get our attention more than those involved in birthing a child. In this light, he was wishing his readers would identify him with a pregnant women so they could identify the intensity of his efforts on their behalf.
2. Clearly, Paul expects that anyone who has "Christ formed in them" will embrace the Gospel of Grace in opposition to the demands of "Law". This is what should be happening in Galatia, but is not.
3. The perplexity stands: are they, or are they not, "believers" in the Gospel of the Grace of God?