Revealing the Real Reasons (Galatians 6:11–13, NKJV)
12 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. 13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
The Judaizers wanted the Galatians to believe the lie of legitimizing their salvation through the works of the law. A lot of the pressure from the legalists can be summarized as a push to be circumcised (Galatians 5:2-6; 6:12). With large letters Paul now writes to reveal the real reasons behind the pushing.
Here is the deal, guys: They are obsessed with good optics. They are fixated on fine showings in the flesh. They are consumed by conceited concerns for currying favor that will lessen . Why? These men-pleasers (Galatians 1:10) are calling you to cut yourselves to for two reasons: (i) to minimize the scandal of the cross and (ii) for their boasting before (1 Samuel 18).
F Bruce, scholar among scholars, promotes a travel-to-stop-tribulation theory in his commentary on Galatians. I stand among those who believe this to be far fetched.
If the trouble-makers could persuade the Gentile Christians to accept circumcision, that might preserve the Jerusalem church and its daughter-churches in Judaea from reprisals at the hands of Zealot-minded militants for being linked with uncircumcised Gentiles. To such militants the cross of Christ, as it was proclaimed by Paul and those who agreed with him, was a σκάνδαλον (cf. 5:11) because it excluded the principle of salvation by adherence to the law of Moses. Those who refused to require circumcision from Gentile converts (a refusal enshrined in the Jerusalem decree of Acts 15:28f.; 21:25) were liable to be persecuted—persecuted in fact, as Paul says, for the cross of Christ.
Bruce, F. F. (1982). The Epistle to the Galatians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 269). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
Without prompting I wondered if it were really plausible that the Judaizers would have traveled so far to prevent problems at home; we would have to credit them with being extremely forward, altruistic, and broad in their thinking; this is not how they are characterized in Galatians. Further, we would have to assume that remote Gentile circumcision would be effective in placating the angst of anti-church Zealots back home in Jerusalem. That is conjecture.
The text is more readily understood when the reader recognizes that the false brethren are where Paul was. There are where he was when he was thrown out of Antioch, when he was ousted from Iconium, and when he was stoned in Lystra. Why would they fare any better if they came with the same message? Paul had run afoul with the local Jewish synagogues with his message of salvation by grace alone, through faith lone, in Christ alone. His offense was the scandalous declaration that the cross of Christ, for those trusting in Jesus work on Calvary, had made Gentiles right with God apart from the law. His odious message of Jews needing Christ's cross work as much as the Gentiles was too much to bear.