It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. –Galatians 5:1-6
Salvation is not obtained by circumcision, but through faith in Christ.
I don’t think the issue is so much that they wanted to be circumcised, but that they thought they had to be. Medical research has shown that circumcision is in fact a good and healthy decision. But it won’t save you from your sins (just bacteria). The Galatians were being told that in order to be complete in Christ, and saved, they must also obey the Mosaic Law, or actually, instead. But Paul’s saying that this is not so, for if they’re to rely on obedience to the Law for salvation, then they’re:
- Moving backwards
- Taking on an impossible task
- Rejecting Christ, who fulfilled the Law
So to obey it, they must simply put their faith in Christ, who freed them, versus the Law, which enslaves them. It’s like what people do today: They basically give God the middle finger with the plan to save themselves. But that’s impossible (not the middle finger part, the saving themselves-part).