“As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ”
Paul now describes his adversaries who hate grace (6:12-13). These people believed circumcision was necessary for salvation and sanctification. The cross plus nothing always offends religion.
As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh,
The words “good showing” come from two words: good and face. Some Galatians wanted to show their self-righteousness by self-effort. They wanted to put on a good face to make a good impression. Appearance was more important to them than integrity. Many people today use religion as an outward appearance of righteousness. They take pride in external religious observance. Pride motivated legalistic Judaizers.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
these would compel you to be circumcised,
The Judaizers wanted to “compel” the Galatians to be circumcised because this was required by their legalistic standards. They wanted to force the Galatians into this. Legalism is a religion of outward force, not inward compulsion (2:14).
only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ
Not only were the legalists proud, but they were cowards as well. The legalists did not want unadulterated grace because they had a vested interest–they were afraid of persecution. They did not want any hassle or trouble for the cause of Christ. They would rather adapt their doctrine to the situation than face persecution. Already some systematically organized a program to oppress those who believed in grace.
“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
“Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1).
There is a correlation between legalism and cowardice. Legalists want security above everything else.
The cross is always an affront to legalism and religion. The cross offends people because we have to swallow our pride and fall at the feet of the cross for salvation. That is the opposite of self-effort and self-righteousness. People hate the idea of grace so much that they persecute those who orient themselves to grace. Our whole system of salvation solely rests on the cross of Christ.
“For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).
Legalism is appearance oriented because it focuses on religious pride.
Religion that rests on appearance operates on pride. Religion always tries to impress us. Pride is the biggest stumbling block to embracing God’s grace. The fact that Jesus did all of the work for salvation is an affront to our pride.
“And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased” (Galatians 5:11).
The offense of the cross is that it does not need us for salvation. The cross provides everything we need. Jesus finished the work of making us ready for heaven on the cross. That offends religious people. It offends religious pride.
The combination of pride and cowardice is a dangerous mixture. This deadly blend will attack grace every time. People always want to add something to the cross. Man’s system is always the cross plus works or the cross plus baptism or the cross plus something. God’s system is Christ plus nothing. Our readiness for heaven does not depend on baptism or works but solely on the cross.
“The boast measures the man.” That quote shows insight into the nature of man. Those who brag about their accomplishments negate the accomplishments of Christ. Their Christianity is essentially an outward show. They have something to prove but not to God.