World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
19. My little children. The word children is still softer and more affectionate than brethren; and the diminutive, little children, is an expression, not of contempt, but of endearment, though, at the same time, it suggests the tender years of those who ought now to have arrived at full age. (Hebrews 5:12.) The style is abrupt, which is usually the case with highly pathetic passages. Strong feeling, from the difficulty of finding adequate expression, breaks off our words when half uttered, while the powerful emotion chokes the utterance.
Of whom I travail in birth again. This phrase is added, to convey still more fully his vehement affection, which endured, on their account, the throes and pangs of a mother. It denotes likewise his anxiety; for
“a woman, when she is in travail, hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” (John 16:21.)
The Galatians had already been conceived and brought forth; but, after their revolt, they must now be begotten a second time.
Until Christ be formed in you. By these words he soothes their anger; for he does not set aside the former birth, but says that they must be again nourished in the womb, as if they had not yet been fully formed. That Christ should be formed in us is the same thing with our being formed in Christ; for we are born so as to become new creatures in him; and he, on the other hand, is born in us, so that we live his life. Since the true image of Christ, through the superstitions introduced by the false apostles, had been defaced, Paul labors to restore that image in all its perfection and brightness. This is done by the ministers of the gospel, when they give
“milk to babes, and strong meat to them that are of full age,” (Hebrews 5:13, 14,)
and, in short, ought to be their employment during the whole course of their preaching. But Paul here compares himself to a woman in labor, because the Galatians were not yet completely born.
This is a remarkable passage for illustrating the efficacy of the Christian ministry. True, we are “born of God,” (1 John 3:9;) but, because he employs a minister and preaching as his instruments for that purpose, he is pleased to ascribe to them that work which Himself performs, through the power of his Spirit, in co-operation with the labors of man. Let us always attend to this distinction, that, when a minister is contrasted with God, he is nothing, and can do nothing, and is utterly useless; but, because the Holy Spirit works efficaciously by means of him, he comes to be regarded and praised as an agent. Still, it is not what he can do in himself, or apart from God, but what God does by him, that is there described. If ministers wish to do anything, let them labor to form Christ, not to form themselves, in their hearers. The writer is now so oppressed with grief, that he almost faints from exhaustion without completing his sentence.