When Paul is speaking of Christ being in the Galatians, what is the true meaning of that phrase, "Christ formed in you"? Does it relate directly to salvation?

In the context of the letter, he speaks of the woman Hagar who represents condemnation under the law and the free woman Sarah whom by Faith receives the blessing of God. Paul writes that when the Galatians place themselves under the law they are condemned and not in Christ. So, is the meaning of this condemnation purely earthly or is it also spiritual (hell vs heaven)?

I want to clarify what this means before taking the next step of, "does this scripture mean we can lose our salvation?"

(KJV) My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

(ESV) my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

(emphasis added)

  • I'm confused that you would associate Hagar with Condemnation under the Law.Granted, the context is that Hagar represents slavary where,now that the new covenant exists, Jerusalem at that present time,represented Slavary, as Hagar did.There was a separation between Isaac and Ish'mael,one who was heir to the promiss and one who was the slave. This is Allagory"When Christ came and made a New Covenant,he did not remove the heirs to the promise,but rather defined them more accurately. Assurance of salvation is a bold pressumption,I would not want such an pressumption on my soul at death. – Marc Aug 19 '15 at 15:53
  • I only mention Hagar as a reference to Paul using her in his teaching. See Galatians 4:21-27. In Galatians 3:10-12 Paul talks about the condemnation through the law. At the end of verse 14 in Galatians 3 he clarifies that the gift of the spirit is from faith. My understanding of Galatians is that the law is mutually exclusive with faith. Thus, cursed vs blessed (Hagar + Ishmael vs Sarah + Isaac), and perhaps by extension saved vs unsaved. However the scope of this question is the theology behind Christ being formed again in someone who was already saved. – Adam Heeg Aug 19 '15 at 16:02
  • I think your quest will only give you an answer to what you want to hear, depending on your faith back ground. The word of God is clear to me, I do not have to create a context such as "Christ was speaking to the Jews and not to Christians" or "Paul was talking to those who were not yet saved or had not made a full conversion" The only time you can be assured of salvation is when the race is over and you have achieved it. Good luck with your research. – Marc Aug 19 '15 at 16:21
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    In my view the Word of God isn't something we make up, it is something we read and understand through our reading of the bible. I'm not creating anything on my own or trying to prove a view I already have. This is biblical text in full context and I am trying to gain an understanding of what it means. – Adam Heeg Aug 19 '15 at 19:26
  • This question could have as many different answers as there are Christian denominations and individual Christians. To be on-topic here, it would need to specify the group or denomination of Christians whose answer it seeks. – Lee Woofenden Jan 17 '16 at 5:17

This may seem simplistic but you have already read the complex. The meaning is simple. Christ formed in us is exactly what it says. First of all we initiate the salvation experience by surrendering to Christ and inviting Him into our heart to live and He is formed in us. Additionally, as we grow in understanding, we become examples of Christianity and, essentially, Christ is formed in us once again.


This section focuses specifically on Paul's relationship with the Galatians and how he feels like he has to lay the foundation again for their faith. He uses that tried and true metaphor of childbirth. "Until Christ is formed in you" could mean that he thinks they are all pagans, but it also might simply be that he desires for them to live in the freedom gained by Christ. I would caution you against pinning the entirety of a doctrine of the assurance of salvation (whatever you believe about it) on this one phrase. Pinning down one particular phrase can be tricky, so it is always best to have the clear places of scripture help us understand the unclear.

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please consider registering an account to fully take advantage of what this site has to offer. Also, be sure to check out the site tour and in particular what constitutes a good answer. Your answer shows promise, but would be greatly improved by either 1) referencing a published commentary that backs your position or 2) explaining more thoroughly how you got his interpretation from the text itself. – ThaddeusB Aug 19 '15 at 16:48
  • Thank you for the response. I don't think i'm pinning a Once Saved Always Saved or rebuke of OSAS on one phrase. I am pointing out a phrase, and trying to understand it in full context as Paul meant to the Galatians. He uses a lot of strong words and draws on biblical stories to make his point. You seem to be saying there may be a focus of simply earthly freedom in Christ and not an emphasis on eternal salvation. Can you add any scripture to back up your viewpoint or is it just a general sense of how you read it? – Adam Heeg Aug 19 '15 at 19:33

Marc, Thaddeus B, and Adam. Please bear with me, as I am new to S/E. Yes, 'Rightly dividing' is certainly about context. In the broader context, the Epistles are addressed to Children of God (saints). But he reserves judgment on salvation, as in the verse after the one in question (vs 20): "...I stand in doubt of you.", which speaks for itself. And, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith;..." (2 Cor 13:5). This literary technique is the 'two edged sword' of the scriptures, convicting lost and saved, and serving as proof-texts (see 1st John). Birth? Always about 'born again'. 'Travailing again'? Just 'confirming' (Acts 14:22). 'Christ be formed in you'? "...Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:27). Salvation? Always 'in Christ'. So, he is exhorting the lost, or the saved, to trust in the promise, not the law - - God sorts out how to apply it. Assurance? "...show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end." (Heb 6:11). The end? "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet 1:11). "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith..." (10:22).

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange Bob. We are glad you are here. – ThaddeusB Aug 20 '15 at 3:17
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    I echo Thaddeus' welcome, but I hope you might be open to some constructive criticism as I recognise that you are trying to say something significant, but it doesn't seem to be coming across very well. In short, it's really hard to make sense of your answer. A major thing that will help is to write with complete grammatical sentences and paragraphs rather than using a style that requires people to fill in semantic gaps to follow your train of thought. You could try leaving it for a while and then coming back with a fresh pair of eyes to see how you might find it as a first-time viewer. – bruised reed Aug 20 '15 at 5:57

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