ngNEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES
CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XXXV)
Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas also comments on how the Anointed One is formed in the believer. As he sees it, the Spirit of God’s Son grows in a person according to their progress in the faith. At the same time, when faith weakens, His image in them diminishes. Therefore, when the faith of an individual becomes deformed by sin, the Messiah’s clear form is not maintained in them. As such, because faith did not fully form in them, they must be re-birthed until the Anointed One is formed again in them through faith. This is called “formed faith,” which works through love. Aquinas was a very brilliant thinker and theologian, but his view of how the image of the Anointed One is formed in us does not stand up the Scriptural examination. No matter how much we may try, we can never form the Lord in us, He forms Himself through the Holy Spirit. What God has given us that we can strive for is to “conform” to the image of the Anointed One.
Needless to say, the Reformers also found this explanation to be inverted. To them, as the Anointed One grows in you, you grow in Him. It is impossible for any believer to make the Anointed One grow in themselves. Only the Son of God possesses that power, and the source of that power comes from God’s Word. Furthermore, both Bruno the Carthusian and Aquinas erred when they suggest that a person can be re-born again. That required the Anointed One to die all over again. Paul says that since the Anointed One has risen from the grave, He will never die again. So if we are in union with the Anointed One and He is in us as a result of our new birth, then we too will never die spiritually again. What happens to a Christian is what happened to the Children of Israel. They never ceased being God’s children, part of God’s chosen people, but they strayed and became disobedient. And in God’s economy, unrepented disobedience will be punished by being excluded from the glory promised to those who preserve to the end.
Martin Luther notes that when Paul indicts the false apostles, he tells the Galatians that they were birthed through the Gospel, giving them the form of the Anointed One. But these false apostles are giving you a new form, the form of Moses. Note, says Luther, the Apostle Paul does not say, “I am again experiencing the pains of childbirth until I am formed in you,” but “until the Anointed One is formed in you.” The false apostles tore the form of the Anointed One out of the hearts of the Galatians and substituted their own form. Paul endeavors to reform them, or rather, have them conform to the Anointed One in them.
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) picks up the theme here in verse nineteen, where Paul admits that it felt to him like he was going through the pangs of childbirth again after such a long time. The Galatians should be adults by now, not still infants in the womb needing to be birthed anew. Was it a matter of them merely converting to Christianity but not to Christ? Could it be that although Paul’s message convicted them of their sin and misery, while they asked the Anointed One for forgiveness, they did not accept Him as their Lord and Savior? Were they only trying to avoid the curse of condemnation but yet not willing to concentrate unconditionally to His service? And now that the Judaizers came and tested their commitment to the Gospel, they failed miserably to stand firm in their faith by grace and decided to go back to stewardship under the Law. It was like starting all over again, and Paul was hardly able to stand the grief and the pain.
Edwards adds that this should make all of us more aware of our prayers and endeavors for the salvation of others. Is it only a matter of casual outreach, or do they as Paul did, agonizing for them, and plead earnestly with God for their salvation? The way Paul felt about the Galatians should be the same way we feel about those God lays on our hearts to pray for them and seek to be used by Him through the help of the Holy Spirit as an instrument in leading them to His Son. I wonder what scene might we witness if every true believer who left us to await the resurrection only fifty years ago, were to come back to life for just one week and attend the church they were in before laying down to rest. Would they love what they see so much they’d be tempted to ask God to let them stay longer? Or would they plead with Him to cut short their visit because what they saw broke their hearts?
If they entered the sanctuary and heard people singing praises to God with passion and fervor, and listened to an anointed Gospel message from the Word ignited by the power of the Holy Spirit, and saw people being saved and filled with the Spirit, then maybe they would want to hang around. But if they witnessed unemotional singing meant only to fill up time, and sermons that deal with the pastor’s personal philosophy on positive thinking and a prosperous world view, and prayers for those who responded to the invitation to be part of the church that neither included the words: confess, sin, forgiveness, cleansing, born again, nor acceptance of salvation, then yes, they’d probably slip out the back door and be gone.
Presbyterian Evangelist Charles G. Finney (1792-1875), when speaking of Paul’s wanting to bring the Galatians back into the fold of believers by faith while reeling with birth pangs all over again, says that this travailing in birth for souls creates a remarkable bond of union between warm-hearted Christians and young converts. Such newborn babes in the Anointed One appear very dear to the hearts that carry this spirit of prayer for their spiritual welfare. The feeling is like that of a mother for her first-born. Paul expresses it beautifully when he says: “My little children!” His heart was warm and tender to them. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again” – they were backslidden, and Paul laments here in verse nineteen that he feels all the agony of a parent over a runaway child – “I travail in birth again until The Anointed One be formed in you.” As he told the Colossians, “the Anointed One is the hope of glory.”
Finney goes on to say that while conducting revival services, he often noticed how those who were filled with the spirit of prayer, loved seeing young converts at the altar. He explains that for those who’ve never felt anything like this, probably have the same attitude as a first-grader does about algebra. But to those who experienced the agony of spiritual wrestling as they prevail in prayer for the conversion of a lost soul, can expect that soul, after it is converted, to appear to them as dear as a child does to its mother. Paul agonized for it, received it in answer to prayer, and willingly presented them before the Lord Jesus the Anointed One, saying: “Hear, O Lord, are the children you gave me.” 
American Methodist minister and evangelist in the holiness movement, Mr. Beverly Carradine (1848-1931), is speaking about a person’s experience with the Messiah as a Savior being a “Deeper Salvation.” Some appear to be saved on the outside, but we must be saved deep-down on the inside. Carradine notes that back in chapter one, verse sixteen, Paul says that it pleased God to reveal His Son in him. This came after his first revelation on the road to Damascus. While he became blind on the outside, Paul was able to see on the inside. That’s when he saw Jesus. This is what is promised to the believer where the Savior says He will come in and take up His abode in our hearts. And this is what Paul wrote about of the mystery hidden for ages but now manifested to His saints, which is the Messiah dwelling in them.
Now here in verse nineteen, Paul writes and calls the little children instead of adults, and tells them that he is in pain again over them, it feels the same as a mother giving birth. And he will feel this pain until people can look at them and see the Anointed One. For having Him revealed to us as our Savior is one thing, but having the Messiah revealed in us as the Indweller and Sanctifier is something totally different. This is the mystery that is now being declared to the saints called God’s people, that the Savior will, upon compliance with conditions, cease to make visits and will enter our hearts and take up His residence in us.
Carradine reminds people that after Solomon’s Temple was completed, during the dedication, the priests, Levites, and all others withdrew, and then suddenly, the glory of the Lord filled it, and after that, God’s Shekinah glory was always present. We are the temple of the Lord and His Spirit. After our sins were emptied, stains erased, spirit empowered, and soulfully expecting Jesus to knock, suddenly He will come into us as a glorious abiding presence.
Charles G. Findlay (1849-1919) sees Paul as a heartbroken patriot wishing and praying for his fellow Jews to repent and turn to the Messiah for salvation. In Latin, John Calvin called him “Hoc prudentis est pastoris – “A wise shepherd.” But that only increases Paul’s grief because he is wise enough to know that if these sheep do not turn around, they will soon go over the cliff into eternity without God. So, we must see here in verse nineteen that there is more to Paul’s plea than some sort of calculated wisdom in trying to get them to turn around and come back to Messiah.
For Findlay, it is a cry of the heart. Paul’s soul is experiencing the pain of remorse that he might not have done or said the right thing to keep this from happening. The sternness in his face from the opening chapter is more relaxed while he pursues his mighty rescue effort. As he surveys the working of God’s counsel in past ages, the promise given to Abraham for all nations, the intervening legal discipline of the Law, the coming of the Messiah in the fullness of time, the breaking of ancient chains to heathenism, and sending out the Spirit of Adoption – and all this for the sake of these Galatian Gentiles, and then thinks how they are after all this are now on the verge of rejecting God’s grace for the shackles of the Law and renouncing their Divine inheritance. Sad, so sad.
So, we can see why the Apostle’s heart aches with such grief. These Galatians have proven just as foolish and fickled as their reputation claimed they were. Yet, they are God’s adopted children, the ones that Paul was given the privilege of bringing into the fold as God’s own. That’s why he is not grieving over them as a stranger or friend, but as the one who helped make it possible for them to be born again. So just as he went through this when they first were converted, he now is going through it again. There is just as much joy in seeing a backslider return to the Lord as there was when they came to Him the first time.
 Thomas Aquinas: Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, loc. cit.
 See Romans 8:29-30; 1 Corinthians 15:48-49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:13
 Romans 6:9
 Matthew 24:13
 Martin Luther, op. cit., loc. cit
 Edwards, Jonathan. The Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards: op. cit., (Kindle Location 11763-11795)
 Ibid. (Kindle Location 79012-79021).
 Colossians 1:27
 Isaiah 8:18; (See also Hebrews 2:13)
 Charles G. Finney: Revivals of Religion or Lectures on Revival, Lecture 4, Prevailing Prayer, p. 61
 John 14:23
 Colossians 4:19
 1 Corinthians 3:16
 Revelation 3:20
 Beverly Carradine: op. cit., The Better Way, Ch. 11, p. 38