What did Paul know about childbirth? Never having gone through it, what does any man know about giving birth to a child? I clearly remember pacing the hospital halls when our first child was born as a breech. They would not allow me into the delivery room with my wife, but I could hear her screaming with the pain – until our son was born!
Because of the intense struggles in the Early Church between justification by the law and being justified by grace alone, I see in Paul’s first letter that he wrote, the deep pain he had over wanting the saints to receive the pure gospel of grace. Galatians is Paul’s screams of pain because some wanted to shackle believers with the slavery of works and withhold their freedom in Christ.
There were false teachers who went to Galatia and taught them “a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble [them] and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (1:6-7). This caused great pain for Paul and drove him to write this letter immediately after the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-35).
We see the depth of this pain in this verse: “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Galatians 4:19). Notice that real spiritual birth takes place when “Christ is formed in you!” This is not knowledge or a form of religion, but the living Christ building His character in us by the Holy Spirit. It is a divine work, not human effort.
The Church needs leaders like this who are willing to suffer intense pain so others are conformed to the image of Christ through the power of the gospel. That is true discipling!
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