Working my way through Galatians. And it’s clear: Paul wasn’t content that they had prayed the prayer, he wanted them to mirror the Master.
Perhaps Paul’s most passionate letter, he comes out of the corner with both fists swinging. You are turning to a different gospel? Call it what it is, you are deserting the gospel for a distortion and I am blown away! (Gal. 1:6-7). Others are preaching a gospel other than by grace alone through faith alone? Curse them! And curse them, again! (Gal. 1:8-9).
This is a big deal! The gospel of eternal salvation was at stake. Get this wrong and everything else goes south.
What’s also evident is that Paul viewed the gospel not just as a ticket to heaven, but as the means to holiness.
It wasn’t just the “Jesus+” words that were used which vexed Paul. More than just adding Jewish practice onto genuine belief. The foolishness of it all was that they somehow thought that what had “begun by the Spirit” could then be “perfected by the flesh” (Gal. 3:3). “Perfected” — that, for Paul, was what true salvation was about, being perfected. The gospel’s endgame wasn’t in getting people to pray a prayer, but in transforming people to reflect the Redeemer.
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? . . . 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 4:9, 19-20 ESV)
Until Christ is formed in you. That’s the endgame. That’s what being saved is about. Not just about sinners saved, but saints seen. Not just about escaping hell, but about emerging holy. Not just about beating the devil, but about becoming like Jesus.
That’s the purpose of the gospel. That’s the power of the gospel. That’s the proof of the gospel. Christ formed in you.
We know that these Gentile believers at Galatia had authentically been saved by the gospel Paul had preached. Paul calls them brothers and sisters (4:12) because they really had been adopted as sons and daughters, sealed by the Spirit, and were part of the family of God (4:6-7). He calls them “my little children” (4:19) because they had, in fact, been born again. Yet, though their souls were secure, for Paul, he was again in the agony of wanting to birth them all over again because they weren’t meant just to be born again, they were meant to be becoming like Jesus. And that too, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Christ formed in you. That’s what it means to be saved, to be born again, to be redeemed.
Christ formed in you. Paul would settle for nothing less. The gospel demands nothing less. The glory of God is seen through nothing less. We should labor for nothing less.
Labor in the truth of the gospel. Labor by the power of the gospel. To settle for anything less perplexed Paul. To rely on anything else astonished Paul. To prize anything more angered Paul.
Mirroring the Master. Reflecting the Redeemer. Salvation to the full.
Empowered through the dynamics of the gospel.
Until Christ is formed in you.
By His grace. For His glory.