My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you-but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:19--20)
Speaking like a mother, Paul now addressed the Galatian believers as my children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you. He was not arguing like a lawyer before a skeptical jury but pleading like a parent to a wayward child.
Children is from teknion, a diminutive that was used figuratively as a term of special affection. Literally, it referred to a small child, and therefore can be translated here as "little children," as in the King James Version. In light of Paul's figure of childbirth, both ideas are appropriate. The Galatian believers were extremely dear to Paul but were acting like infants who refused to be born.
Paul's compassion was always evident. For example, to the Thessalonian church he wrote, "We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us" (1 Thess. 2:7--8).
With the Galatians, however, after having spiritually nursed them in their new life in Christ, he became again in laborwith them. "That is abnormal and unnatural," he implies. "You have already experienced the new birth, but now you are acting as if you need to be spiritually born all over again. You make me feel like a mother who has to deliver the same baby twice."