“It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (v12). Paul knew that the Jewish Christians who wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised were not concerned with morality, but with appearances. The Gentiles had found freedom in Christ, but their lack of obedience to the most basic Law was embarrassing for the primarily Jewish church. Yet Paul insisted only “the cross” was necessary for salvation (v14).
What counts is “a new creation” (v15). Rather than a change of appearance or label, Jesus desires to give us new hearts - real transformation.