Gal 4:19 – A Neglected Image of Pastoral Ministry

In his efforts to avert apostasy among his Galatian converts, Paul uses an image of pastoral ministry that is at once evocative and neglected:

“My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Gal 4:19)

Paul portrays himself as a woman in labor, racked by painful contractions as he seeks to Christ formed within the Galatians. In doing so he uses the same verb (odino) found in the quotation of Isa 54:1 in Gal 4:27, which speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem giving birth to the people of God. By doing so, Paul aligns himself with the purposes of God. Central to that purpose is seeing Christ formed in the Galatians. The passive voice indicates that it is God who forms Christ in the Galatians; we might even think of Paul’s ministry as the “womb” in which God forms Christ in the infant Galatians.

Have you ever thought of your own ministry in terms of laboring to see Christ formed in the people you work with? For those in full-time ministry, do you consider a central feature of your ministry seeing Christ formed in the people you serve? Do your methods, programs, etc. further this end, or something else?

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