Affections in Maternal Tones

Paul did not have questions about his gender, but he did speak of his affections in maternal tones a couple times. He told the Thessalonians, “we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). To the Galatians he was even more active:

my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Galatians 4:19)

He regularly talked about his labors for the elect, but this is the only place he likened himself to being in labor. (We can only imagine the complaints of gender appropriation he must have received).

The Galatians were being bewitched by those preaching salvation by law keeping, or at least true sanctification by law keeping. Paul’s entire letter to them corrects ideas and practices contrary to the gospel of free grace.

Like a mother with her children, Paul is in “anguish,” a word which could be translated “suffer birth pains.” While I haven’t given birth, I’ve been around. It looks like it hurts. Paul used the illustration to communicate that he cared, that he was closely connected, and that he longed for a healthy baby. He wanted Christ in them, for them to take on Christ’s shape.

That happens by faith. When Paul says that he suffers birth pains so that Christ is formed in them, it includes his desire that they would, like him, “live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). So come to the Lord’s Table of grace and remember His loving sacrifice. May your faith be fed by the bread and wine. And may Christ be formed in you.

Leave a Reply