As the great Apostle Paul opens Galatians 5, he returns once again to the all important issue of salvation and circumcision. As we recall, that was the issue that provoked the apostle to write the epistle to the Galatians in the first place. Bear in mind that certain Christians of a Pharisee persuasion who belonged to the church in Jerusalem had journeyed to the region of Galatia in Asia minor. They had made this journey because they were concerned with the certain heretical positions that had been taken by the Apostle Paul. They were determined to correct the damage the apostle may have caused.
When they visited these various churches, they informed the believers in the region that they would have to be circumcised to be saved. They also told them that they could not go to heaven unless they were willing to submit to the rituals of circumcision. Apparently they were able to present a very compelling argument.
What they told the Galatians was this. If you really want to be a Christian, that is if you really want to be saved, you have to first become a Jew because only Jews can be saved. After all they pointed out that Jesus himself had said that Salvation is of the Jews. But these Galatians were Gentiles not Jews. Remember that Jewishness was both a racial and religious distinction. Not just one of the other. So the question became, how could Gentiles like them become Jewish.
Well, the Pharisee Christians had an answer to this. They informed the Galatians that there was a way in which a Gentile could become a Jew. That was called the path of the Prosthelye. This path involved two distinct steps. In the first place, one had to be baptized in water, and in the second place, they also had to be circumcised.
Since these Galatians had already been baptized by Paul. The Pharisees Christians told them that all they needed to do was submit themselves to ritual circumcision. The Pharisees Christians must have been very convincing because the Galatians were standing in line to undergo this painful procedure.
When word reached Paul about what was happening in Galatia he was absolutely incensed because he knew that there was more at stake in Galatian than a piece of foreskin. What was at stake was the essence of what would become the orthodox gospel of Jesus Christ himself. As we now know, the Gospel has always been Jesus plus nothing and it always will be. There is no place for the concept of Jesus plus circumcision.