But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— (Galatians 4:18-19).
Paul was in constant labor for the purpose of investing in these new believers until Christ is formed in them. The word formed (μορφόω) means simply to form or shape something. It has been connected to the idea of the formation of an embryo and associated here with Christ being formed in a believer.
This formation suggests a process. In this text, growth does not happen instantly. It is a constant process of ongoing change. This process would assume that something is developing and maturing. Our character is being shaped into the image of Christ so that our life reflects the qualities of the person of Jesus. However, keep in mind this is a life-long process, not one that stops at age fifty.
This formation also implies an objective reality that is greater than me. We are not just becoming a better version of ourselves. We are becoming like someone else; that someone is Jesus. One of the struggles of our culture is that humans are trying to find the best version of themselves. But our sinfulness and brokenness make this painfully difficult. It is obvious how tedious this is when we see all the identity issues that are overwhelming our culture. People are struggling with their identity (as we all do when left to ourselves) and searching for answers in all the wrong places. Jesus anchored us in the reality of His creation when He said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female…” (Matt. 19:4). If someone rejects this as the norm, then they are left to figure this out on their own. Consequently, we have a myriad of new “identities” that we are being introduced to because people are desperately trying to figure out who they are. The problem, of course, is that when you leave Christ out of the picture, we simply end up glorifying and grasping after the extreme brokenness of humanity. Only in Christ can we find our true identity, not just in terms of gender issues, but from a divine perspective our triumphant identity is being children of God.
This formation also infers our participation. Paul was deeply concerned these people came to know Christ, but they were now turning back to the “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world” (Galatians 4:9). These new believers were now allowing the things of this world to smother the work of the Spirit in them. Paul was teaching them about their new mode of existence in Christ not just some moral aphorisms.
This formation is grounded on relationship. Paul is fundamentally teaching these new believers about their relationship to Christ. He is also teaching them about the nature of their relationship with Christ. The defining element of our spirituality or religion is a person, not a set of concepts or rules or ideas that are simply stop-gaps to answer some confusing elements of life.
This formation is about life not just spirituality. One of the things we have forgotten is that trusting Christ is not just becoming spiritual or religious. When we accept Christ, we have been saved to a new way of life. Our “walk with Jesus” is not just about Sunday and Wednesday night programming like we are committed to a new sub-culture. We have not simply joined a new club for the purpose of self-improvement. Jesus saves us from death to life (John 5:24). We now have stepped into the reality of life as God originally created it and reveals it. God defines reality and objective truth. This is a change of life, not a change of club membership. We now need to learn to view the whole world from a different lens. Life is defined by God not me or my experiences. Because the whole of creation is broken, we will always struggle with these things when we do not view them through the eyes of Christ. Since Jesus is concerned about our life, we have lots to learn from Him; the only way is that Christ needs to be formed in us.
In His grace,