“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:7-15.
The Galatians had received the good news from Paul with joy. Christ had died to make them free, and all their sin was washed away. After Paul moves on, others come to tell them they still have to keep the law to REALLY be free. And until they do, they are still unworthy sinners. So they thought they could keep their freedom by being more perfect and keeping the law. But they could not be perfect. And their freedom became bondage to striving for perfection.
This is no longer about circumcision. No one is checking for that anymore. But it is still relevant because legalism can always find an issue to hang its hat on. There will always be imperfections that someone will demand must be eradicated. Then, that becomes the terms of your freedom instead of being forgiven by the Son of God. You cannot be free until you are faultless, even though you were justified by God Himself.
We fulfill the law when we love one another and serve one another, even if we do it imperfectly. Because, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9).