One of the first heresies (or false teachings) confronted by the early church involved the doctrines held by a group known today as the Judaizers. The Judaizers were early Jewish converts to Christianity who taught that non-Jewish people were obligated to observe the Old Testament Law in order to receive salvation through Christ. The New Testament book of Acts records one such instance of this teaching…
“And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved'” (Acts 15:31).
So we might summarize this argument in the following manner: “Jesus saves us but only after we have accepted the Old Testament Law. Therefore, we must first accept the requirements of the Old Covenant before accepting Christ.” However, that teaching stood in direct opposition to the message of salvation given to us in the following New Testament Scriptures…
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
“…The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6 NLT).
“For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort” (Philippians 3:3 NLT).
So it was not as if these false teachers had rejected Jesus entirely- the problem involved their attempt to add a prerequisite to His sacrificial work on the cross. Unfortunately, there are some who promote a similar path to salvation today. Its not so much that they attempt to add something to Jesus’ sacrifice; the problem is found in their attempt to add anything at all. (1)
One source offers some background information that provides context for what we will go on to read in this epistle to the Galatians…
“The identity of the ‘Judaizers’ is also important. Their method included discrediting Paul. The first two chapters of Galatians especially deal with criticisms leveled against him personally. His critics appear to have been Jews who claimed to be Christians, and who wanted Christians to submit to the authority of the Mosaic Law and its institutions. They probably came from Jerusalem, and evidently had a wide influence (cf. Acts 15). One man seems to have been their spokesman (3:1; 5:7, 10), though there were several Judaizers in Galatia, as the many references to “them” and “they,” scattered throughout the epistle, suggest.” (2)
(1) See Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, Introduction To Galatians Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL07/VOL07A_introduction.html
(2) Constable, Thomas. DD. Notes on Galatians 2017 Edition Copyright © 2017 Thomas L. Constable. https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/galatians/galatians.htm