“Until Christ is formed in you” Galatians 4:19
When a baby is born the expectation is that the baby will grow to be a toddler, a child, a teenager and to adulthood. This growth is not just physical but also mental, emotional and social. We all recognise that something is wrong if any of these things do not occur simultaneously with the others and at appropriate times.
Learning and maturing take place through parental and other teaching processes and the numerous experiences that a person endures from birth. All this is just head knowledge unless translated by life’s experiences. How many times have we had to learn the hard way? We may forget or disregard instruction and that has led to painful consequences. The wise person will make the most of these opportunities and learn from them.
When a person is “born from above” Jesus Christ is “born” in them by the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the natural expectation is that the spiritually newly born will grow to spiritual maturity. We call it “new birth” and “born again” in recognition of the fact that God has created something new that did not exist before.
Spiritual learning and maturity come through instruction that originates in God and application in and through life experiences. When we forget or disregard instruction we may suffer painful consequences and hopefully be the wiser in future.
In Galatians 4:8-20 Paul expresses his fear that the Christians in Galatia were not growing or maturing in the way that would normally be expected. Something was wrong and he knew what it was.
He had called them “foolish” (3:1) because they had turned back to following religious ritual and works as a means of trying to please God instead of enjoying a relationship with Him. This had never pleased God before so why would it please Him now? That is why he called them foolish. They had been justified by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and they should remain true to that by continuing to live by faith (3:11).
The object of faith for Christians is Jesus Christ. The Word of God is the source of knowledge of Jesus Christ. Christ will be formed in us as we grow to maturity spiritually and for that we need the nourishment of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit teaching us through the experiences of life in conjunction with that word. The Lord engineers our experiences with a view to bringing us to maturity. How well we enjoy that journey will depend on our willingness to trust in His sovereign leading and submit to His headship.
When a child does not develop in all areas, physical, mental, emotional and social, we recognise that something is wrong. When a Christian does not go on to spiritual maturity we know that something is wrong as well. Let us all press on to maturity. This will require spiritual food, spiritual exercises, development of godly attributes and service to others. If we allow any of these to fall away we will fall short of spiritual maturity.