When Christ Is Formed in Us

By Francis Frangipane

The intercessory prayer of the Apostle Paul was not just a prayer for protection or for a few blessings to rest upon the saints. He said, "My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you" (Gal. 4:19). Paul was "in labor" to bring forth the actual spirit of Christ within the church. Let me say it again: his goal was Christ, not merely Christianity!

Any mother can relate to the focused intensity of labor pains. This was how the apostle prayed for the church, as though he were giving spiritual birth and would continue to be in labor until the person, power and nature of Christ Jesus Himself was functionally formed in the disciples.

We know "theologically" that Jesus is within us. But has He taken over our form? It is one thing to accept Him as our source of help in time of need; quite another dimension to have Him dwell in us as God in His earthly temple.

We must realize that Jesus wants more control over us than an occasional thank-you during life or merely the right to our souls at death. Our Lord desires to be FORMED in us -- take our form and be manifested through us. We are to literally, substantially and physically become Jesus' body upon the earth.

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father" (John 14:12).

It is one thing to have faith in Jesus; it is quite another thing to have the faith of Jesus, where He expresses His assurance of the miraculous through us! It is marvelous when we share with Him isolated moments of loving fellowship, but it is something else when His love, after conquering us, conquers and liberates our world around us!

We must perceive the awesome connection, the flow of power, the oneness Jesus came to establish between Himself and His body. Though He is not on earth in His own earthly body, He is on earth in our bodies! There is no separation between Jesus and His believing church! (See Rom. 8:38-39)

A Body God Has Prepared
In the tenth chapter of Hebrews we see again, in principle, this reality: "Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, 'Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.' Then I said, 'Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of Me) to do Your will, O God'" (Heb. 10:5-7).

When the Spirit of Christ comes into the world, He comes not just to exchange an old religion for a new one. Rather, He comes to inhabit, actually take the form of man, and "to do [God's] will" within us!

We have been "set apart" by God not just to become good people, but to have Christ's love, His faith and His power revealed through us. Paul urged us to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). Mark's gospel tells us that Jesus "appeared in a different form" to two disciples (Mark 16:12). It is not unlike Jesus to take a different form. Jesus took over Paul's form, Peter's form, John's form -- His disciples lost the limitations of who they were prior to Christ's indwelling them. Yes, each retained his unique personality, appearance and history, but even there the influence and fullness of Christ could be seen. They actually became His body, His temple, His bride, His branches -- the very extensions of Himself in the earth!

Jesus wants to take over our form as well. He wants to give us a new identity in Him. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).

From the moment you were saved, another person, Christ Jesus Himself, entered your life! The objective of Christianity is not merely to get you to stop smoking and going to clubs, but to fill your life with Jesus! This is why Paul's concern was not simply a prayer for the Galatians' physical or financial well-being. He knew God's plans were for Christ to come forth in them. Paul was in labor, travail, to give birth to Christ in the church.

At the same time, it was not really Paul who was in labor; it was Christ within Paul who desired to come forth in the Galatians. For too long we have looked to men to guide us, but as Jesus is truly formed in His people, we will not look to mere men for constant care and guidance. For Jesus Himself wants to empower us and lead us on into His glory.

This must be the goal and prayer of every church leader: to see Christ take over the church. We must go beyond possessing doctrines about Jesus and become a dwelling place for Jesus. We must not cease our pursuit until Christ is formed in us.