Sunday June 22, 2003 | Greg Boyd
19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
Greg continued his series on discipleship by preaching on the nature of kingdom training. Galatians 4:19-20 served as the text for a message about two competing models of discipleship: the legal-religious model and the love-relational model.
Greg continued his series on discipleship by preaching on the nature of kingdom training. Galatians 4:19-20 served as the text for preaching about two competing models of discipleship: “the legal-religious” and “the love-relational.”
In Galatians 4:19-20, the apostle Paul is perplexed about why the believers in Galatia are stunting their spiritual growth by accepting the false teaching that believers must be circumcised. Paul’s tone throughout the letter illustrates his anger at their belief that an outward, external sign is necessary for demonstrating faith in Christ.
If a person accepts that external behavior is the most important characteristic for a believer it serves to change the person’s relationship with God. Instead of viewing his or her identity as a gift from God, the person operating within the “legal-religious” model thinks that demonstrating right behavior can achieve a healthy sense of identity that pleases God. In this model, a person’s relationship with God is not characterized by unconditional love, but instead bears the mark of a legal, transactional arrangement. The thinking goes, “If I act in a certain way, then I will be blessed.” However, the reality is that this model fails to produce long-lasting spiritual transformation.
Thankfully, there is another option. The “love-relational” model emphasizes the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is to say, God still loves us even when we fall woefully short of God’s standard. God does not give up on us. In fact, while we were sinners, Christ died for us, so that we might live eternally with God (Romans 5:8) We must yield our lives to God in response to this gracious gift. Paul uses the metaphor of childbirth in Galatians 4:19 to explain this process of spiritual maturation. Just as a baby grows and develops within the mother’s womb likewise the Christ who lives within each follower must increasingly refine and transform the believer. We must let the light that is already within us by the power of God shine forth through us to others. Instead of an imposed external standard, God works within us to transform us from the inside out.
“Sin” literally means, “missing the mark.” It is a term borrowed from archery. In life, the bull’s eye is God’s perfect love. How are we to live in love if, as Romans 7 describes, the Law increases sin? It does so not because the Law is inherently sinful – for the Law tells us what to do and the consequences for our sinful behavior – but because it cannot empower us to live God-honoring lives. Our only hope is Jesus Christ who lives within us. In this life, we will still miss the mark, but it is Christ’s love in us that leads us to repent of our sins, and to persevere in the process of spiritual transformation and maturation.