Quick thought this morning as I rush out to take a friend to the airport . . .
It would seem that, for the apostle Paul, the end game went beyond receiving Christ . . . that it was about reflecting Christ. That, more than simply accepting the grace of God, Paul wanted his children in the faith to actually embody the grace of God. While Paul rejoiced that people would place their faith in Christ, even more he wanted Christ to be formed in them.
. . . my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:19-20 ESV)
There was a shift occurring among many throughout the churches in Galatia. Having received some additional “good news” from false teachers, those who had “begun in the Spirit” now sought to be “perfected by the flesh” (Gal. 3:3). Having started their Christian lives by faith, they now sought to live those Christian lives by works. Having received the righteousness of Another, they now believed that they could put on a righteousness of their own making. And so, an exasperated Paul scratches his head and says, “I am perplexed about you.”
It had been revealed to Paul that what had begun by the active agency of the Spirit was to be fully realized by the active agency of the Spirit. What was birthed by faith would have to mature by faith. The righteousness FROM Christ that had been placed UPON THEM by grace alone, was to morph into the righteousness OF Christ that would be formed WITHIN THEM by grace alone. That’s what Paul understood to be the nature of salvation. That’s what Paul desired for those who had come to know Christ as Savior. That’s why Paul would ache with the pains of childbirth over those who sought to do life in Christ through their own efforts.
And so those who had once received the gospel now needed to believe the gospel again.
And I’m thinking that’s how “Christ is formed in you.”
When the gospel goes on the shelf . . . when it’s put in a photo-album as a remembrance of something once believed for justification, then it loses its power as the means for sanctification. And, if I’m picking up what Paul is laying down, only the good news of a finished work and unmerited favor can take sinners-saved-by-grace and transform them into new creations who bear the very image and nature of God’s Son.
Christ formed in you. By grace alone. For His glory alone.