These are "Christians" who view works not simply as a symptom of one's salvation status, but a cause of it, whether "works" be reckoned that of the religious ceremonial kind, or ethical works, or simply the idea of working to maintain one's salvation status.
The term "Neo-Circumcision" is to indicate these are a derivative of the Circumcision which the Apostle Paul dealt with in many of his letters, and which are spoken of in Acts 15, who viewed salvation as contingent upon being circumcised and following the Law.
One could argue the majority of sects, denominations of Institutional Christianity, and indeed the majority of alleged "Christians" of these last two millenia have been of the Neo-Circumcision variety, varying between one another only by shades.
The Gospel of Salvation
To distinguish the gospel of the Neo-Circumcision, consider the scriptural Gospel of salvation.
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24
The only condition mentioned here is to hear the word and believe it. And notice that upon doing so it is as if the judgement day has past for that individual. (Implying Eternal Security)
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." Rom 1:16
Belief in the gospel is the only condition mentioned here.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
Belief is the only condition mentioned.
But does the scriptures EXPLICITLY state that this salvation, this justification, is by faith alone apart from works? Yes it does.
"Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works" Rom 4:4-6
And there are many other such verses to support this point.
The Gospel of the Neo-Circumcision
The biggest Neo-Circumcision sect is Catholicism incorporating about half of the "Christians" in the world.
One of the Catholic Canons states, ""If
says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased
before God through good works, but that those works are merely the
and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase,
LET HIM BE ANATHEMA"
Thus in Catholicism good works are not simply a sign of one's justification, but a cause of it and thus they are categorized as of the Neo-Circumcision.
But not only the hyper-institutionalized Catholic and Orthodox sects, there are Protestant sects who also hold to such a gospel.
Some will make salvation contingent upon the ceremony of baptism, just as the Circumcision viewed the necessity of circumcision. And or there are those who distinguish initial salvation, which is solely by faith, but then one must work to maintain their salvation status the rest of their live to be "finally" saved, which makes salvation contingent upon one's ongoing performance, or in other words, salvation by works.
In all these cases one can boast of qualifying oneself by one's working to be a "good Christian" in contrast to Paul's argument against such boast in Rom 4:2,3 "If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about— but not before God. What does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
And in Eph 2:8,9
where Paul characterized salvation as a free gift and not something one works for. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."
The Fruit of the Neo-Circumcision
Firstly, they preach a false gospel, being antithetical to the Gospel of Christ, as an such the vast majority of "Christians" these last two millenia have not been saved. The belief of the Neo-Circumcision is disbelief in the Gospel of Christ.
Secondly is hopelessness and joylessness. Paul says to the Galatians who were influence by the gospel of the Circumcision. "What has happened to all your joy?" Gal 4:15
There can be no hope or joy that comes from their gospel because there is no guarantee of Eternal Security within it. If one's salvation is contingent upon one's ongoing performance then who is to say that how can they be sure they will finally be saved? How can they even be certain whether or not they are presently "saved".
In fact those of the Neo-Circumcision cannot logically use the phrase "I have been saved", though the Bible uses such a phrase. For salvation has to do with a future event, and being uncertain whether or not that future event will come to past, they can only say, "On the judgment day I may or may not be saved". Thus it is without Biblical "hope", though they may have "hope" in the sense of wishful thinking, but that is not Biblical hope, which is the feeling of anticipation of that which we have confidence will come to pass. Not does their doctrine produce the joy of those who are confident in the promise of God, being Eternally Secured.
He "set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2Cor 1:22 "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance" Eph 1:13,14
Eternal Security is an essential part of the Gospel of Christ. Those who reject it show themselves to be unbelievers and this rejection is characteristic of the Neo-Circumcision.
The Hostility of the Neo-Circumcision
"This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." Gal 2:4
The Neo-Circumcision are jealous of the Joy and Hope of those who believe they are Eternally Secure, having embraced the promise of God. And as such, like in the case of the Galatians mentioned above, they try to deceived the believers to take away their joy and make them slaves to their denominational regulations.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Gal 5:1
And they typically slander and bear false witness against believers, claiming that the gospel we believe is a license to sin. And so they tinker with the gospel in utilitarian fashion, making it a gospel of law to try and control the behavior of their people through the fear of condemnation. It's the curse of the law.
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Gal 3:10
And they should have learned from the Bible that the Law doesn't work when it comes to make substantive changes to a person with regards to sinful behavior. Consider Jesus worse enemies - those who had him crucified were the most legalistically religious.
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil." Jer 13:23
What is needed a a new creation, which is only available to those who believe the gospel.
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" John 1:12
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2Cor 5:17
And when is one included in Christ?
"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit" Eph 1:13
But the Neo-Circumcision don't believe and as such are not qualified to be born of God, being still dead in their trespasses and sins in which they walk, though reckoning themselves to be religiously superior as did their Pharisaical forefathers.
"At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now." Gal 4:29
The Origin of the Neo-Circumcision
The Neo-Circumcision had its origin in Acts 15 as a compromise James imposed in dealing with the Circumcision. For "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts l5:1
And we learn these men were not only from his church in Jerusalem but even on his leadership team there. (Gal 2:2; Acts 15:5,24
Paul came and presented his gospel of faith apart from works to the leadership in Jerusalem and Peter agreed with him. Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they." Acts 15:7-11
Peter first alluded to his calling to preach to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. The angel told Cornelius, "‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved." Acts 11:13,14
Indeed people are saved by words, by in faith in words, not by deeds. "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy" Titus 3:5
Despite the fact that God commended him for his deeds, he was unsaved until he heard and believed the gospel. No deeds, not even water baptism, were necessary to save Cornelius. For he was saved simply by hearing and believing the gospel prior to his water baptism. (Thus those who are saved get baptized rather than getting baptized to be saved.) And certainly this stands in stark contrast with the idea that one has to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses to be saved.
However, James disagreed with Paul and Peter. He picked up on what Peter said of the futility of trying to be justified by the law in Peter's phrase, "why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?"
And with just two verse James became the forefather of the Neo-Circumcision saying, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." Acts 15:18,19
Consider James' command forbidding Christians to eat the meat of strangled animals as a condition for salvation. Paul says, "The
Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and
follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings
come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as
with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth." 1Tim 4:1-3
Paul is classifying James' decree as a doctrine of demons. He's
speaking of James being a hypocritical liar whose conscience is seared.
First of all notice the phrase "It is my judgment".
Who the hell does James thinks he is that he could simply tinker with the gospel to make it into whatever he wants? Paul brings up this point in Galatians 1,2. For in Gal 1 Paul makes the point that "the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." Gal 1:11,12
This in contrast to James' man-made gospel. And Paul insisted that not only was his gospel not to be tinkered with. "If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" Gal 1:9
Paul rejected James' attempt to tinker with his gospel as he said, "As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance— those men added nothing to my message." Gal 2:6
Now if it didn't make any different to Paul who James was, should it make any difference to us?
Secondly, while he gave deference to Peter's position that the law was too
difficult to keep, rather than abandoning the law as a means for
justification, which is what Paul was saying, instead he suggested tinkering
with the law to make it easier on the Gentiles to keep. That is, to be
justified not by the Law of Moses, but rather to be justified by James'
cherry picked tinkered with law. Note the "law" James imposed on the Gentiles. Three out of four of the laws had to do with ceremonial matters, eating and uncleanness, which is consistent with a Pharisaical view of the gospel so typical of the Neo-Circumcision. While James made the kingdom of God a matter of eating and drinking, Paul wrote, "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Rom 14:7
Furthermore while Peter said, "He made no distinction between us (Jewish believers) and them (Gentile believers)" Acts 15:9
and Paul also affirmed this same point, James makes a distinction between Jew and Gentile.
Catholicism is the first major sect of the Neo-Circumcision. I've heard Catholics argue that since James could tinker with the gospel, as they acknowledge he does in Acts 15, so can Catholicism through their Councils. And such is the origin of Catholic Canon Law, imposing a justification by law upon Christianity.
The Mishandling of Scripture by the Neo-Circumcision
Catholicism's mishandling of Acts 15 is typical of the mishandling of scripture by the various Neo-Circumcision sects for the last two Millenia. Much as it didn't matter to Paul who James was, Catholicism's justification of inflating James' "authority" to speak on such matters, along with other things, was based on Nepotism, just as they had done so with Mary.
The concept of Nepotism is the reason why Mary is viewed as being the
"Queen of Heaven" in Catholicism. I think it's the reason why James was
treated as if the head of the Church, who could arbitrarily impose
regulations upon it. Interesting fact Eusebius, the Christian historian
writing in the early 4th century, notes that the Roman Emperor Domitian
presumed the Church to be a monarchy, and wanting to rid the empire of
it located the descendants of the Lord's family, namely descendants of
Jude, who along with James, were two of the half brothers of Jesus.
Eusebius says, "Treating them with contempt, seeing them as
simpletons, commanded them to be dismissed, and by a decree ordered the
persecution to cease." But what is of particular note is what Eusebius writes next, "Thus delivered, they ruled the churches, both as witnesses and relatives of the Lord."
They ruled simply because they were relatives. That's nepotism.
Catholicism started off as a monarchy ruled by Jesus' relatives. It is
not what Jesus endorsed. Just as James arbitrarily added man made
regulations to the Church, so also the Catholic Church. They corrupted
the gospel consequently leading to "church" filled with false brethren,
both in leadership an among the assembly.
James started it. Paul failed to sufficiently stand against it. The
result being thousands of years of the gospel largely being lost and
marginalized. The "rulers" not being allowed to be scrutinized on any
basis but one's pedigree.
Nepotism led to Cronyism. And again Bereans were disallowed from
scrutinizing leadership, simply due to "office" and church politics.
Church leaders became insulated from scrutiny until the Reformation. Ye
Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity stand and continue today as
illustrations of the errors of James and the sect of the circumcision.
The Epistle of James
The greatest mishandling of scripture by Catholicism was to include the Epistle of James in the Bible as if it were scripture.
James' View of Justification
First regarding Justification, Martin Luther starting his introduction to this epistle saying, "this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients" Martin Luthe
r and "I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow. In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works 2:24).
It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son
Isaac (2:20); Though in Romans 4:22-22 St. Paul teaches to the contrary
that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before
he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6.
Although it would be possible to "save" the epistle by a gloss
giving a correct explanation of justification here ascribed to works, i
is impossible to deny that it does refer to Moses' words in Genesis 15
(which speaks not of Abraham's works but of his faith, just as Paul
makes plain in Romans 4) to Abraham's works. This fault proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle." Martin Luther
This particularly becomes an issue in the second part of chapter 2 where
James' ACTUAL statements are in contradiction to Paul's writings,
particularly Romans 4. In both cases they apply Gen 15:6
to their argument which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
In Romans 4 Paul uses this verse as proof that justification is by
faith alone apart from works, interpreting the Gen 15:6 as being
fulfilled right then in Gen 15:6 prior to Abraham doing any works.
Whereas James views Gen 15:6 as a prediction, a prophecy not being
fulfilled until Gen 22
, when Abraham did a work of faith. For to James, justification is not attained until one has both faith and works.
Note how James phrases James 2:23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
Every time in the Bible when this kind of phrase is used it's ALWAYS
referring to the scripture as being a prophecy, a prediction of a future
Thus James views Abraham as either not believing God in Gen 15, or believing God, but not being reckoned righteous until Gen 22,
prior to which Abraham had faith but no
works, of which James refers to as dead faith and not able to save. Thus
James views Abraham as not saved until Gen 22 when he offered Isaac as a
If James interpretation is correct concerning Gen 15:6, then Paul can'
use it to prove his point in Romans 4. Conversely if Paul's
interpretation of Gen 15:6 is correct and thus Abraham was justified by
faith alone apart from works, then James is wrong. And thus Luther said
and I agree concerning James, "it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works
In fact why would James bring up Gen 15:6 to begin with? It doesn't lend
support to his argument. Unlike Paul he's not using it as "proof"
validating his point, rather he's simply imposing an interpretation of
Gen 15:6 which is explicitly and intentionally contrary to Paul's
Furthermore consider the phrasing James chose in direct contradiction to Paul:
Paul in Romans 4:2-6
"if Abraham was justified by works, he has
something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the
Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for
righteousness." Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace
but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who
justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as
David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes
righteousness apart from works"
"But do you want to know, O foolish man, tha
faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by
works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?"
"You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only."
And regarding the law, while Paul says in Gal 3:10 "All
who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written:
'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in
the Book of the Law.'"
and being under the law he refers to as bondage. yet James again contradicts Paul by saying, "speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty." James 2:12.
And yes he is talking about the law of Moses as he quotes Deut and Exodus referencing the Law of Moses.
It appears on all these points that James is writing to intentionally oppose Paul.
Gloss Readings of James
Typically Catholics interpret Paul in light of James. James is the
underpinning of the soteriology of Catholic and anti-OSAS non-Catholic
Christians who view salvation as contingent not upon faith apart from
works, but upon FAITH + WORKS.
In fact James was included in the Bible because of Catholicism, though
rejected as scripture by the earlier Christians. It was included as the
foundation of their soteriology. Go and argue Paul's points concerning
the gospel and the Catholic will typically defend Catholicism with the
book of James. It's the leaven of the Bible.
Though Martin Luther is credited as the forefather the Reformation, ye
his views concerning James have largely been ignored. Yet he makes valid
points. Consequently non-Catholic Christians misread James in such a
way to make him agree with Paul.
To elaborate see my page on A View of Church History
to view the particulars of gloss readings of James.
Other Evidence from the Epistle of James
Is the Curse of the Law Freedom?
James 2:10-13 "For whoever shall keep the
whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who
said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you
do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a
transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."
James advocates the idea that we will be judged by the law, and tha
such law brings freedom (that is, if you follow it perfectly) In
contrast Paul views the law as a curse. "For as
many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is
written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which
are written in the book of the law, to do them." But that no one is justified by the law
in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." Ye
the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by
them." Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law." Gal 3:10-13
According to James justification is by works, and yes, the works of the law, and that in opposition to Paul.
James' Hypocrisy and Prejudice
James 2:1 "My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality."
He goes on to speak of not treating the rich with partiality over the
poor. But if you were to replace "rich" with "Jew" and "poor" with
Gentile, James is guilty of that very thing.
But let's consider even in his epistle, does James treat the rich impartially? No.
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your
miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your
garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their
corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like
fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of
the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry
out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of
Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have
fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you
have murdered the just; he does not resist you." James 5:1-6
He categorically condemns the rich. While he commands "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned." James 5:9
, yet he grumbles against the rich. In James 4:12
he asks rhetorically "Who are you to judge another?"
Well who are you James to judge another? Who do you think you are? He says, "Do not speak evil of one another" James 4:11
Yet he speaks evil of the rich.
James is partial to the poor, and how conveniently being one of them.
And this is how James responds to the generosity shown him by rich
Gentile Christians whom he would never have welcomed into his church
without them first getting circumcised (see Gal 2:3) who had sen
donations to the poor saints in Jerusalem.
Where do you suppose Cornelius - a Gentile convert who was generous to
the Jews - went to church? Certainly not in James' church. He would have
never been welcomed there despite being converted by Peter himself.
James shows himself partial, ungrateful, proud and demeaning towards
Gentile Christians, of whom he imposes his own personal cherry picked
regulations upon while washing his hands of them with regards to
ministry. (See Gal 2 an Acts 15)
The Most Important Thing
What is the most important thing to James? "Bu
above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or
with any other oath. But let your "Yes," be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment." James 5:12
The most important thing to James is to not swear an oath. Compare that with Paul. Col 3:14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
James obsesses about the external - words, works. But Paul emphasizes attitude. James obsesses over condemnation and judgement. "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned." James 5:9
While Paul emphasizes attitude, grace, hope, love, one's security in Christ.
The Spirit and the Body
James' backwards theology is further illustrated in his saying, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." James 2:26
Here James associates the body with one's faith, and the spirit with
one's works. That's backwards. A person's faith is internal. One's
works, like one's body is an expression of that which is internal. And
faith should be associated with one's spirit in this analogy, and works
with one's body. And seeing as the spiritual man is alive even though
his body may be dead, yes you can say that a man is justified by faith
apart from works, just as Paul declared Abraham justified (alive to God)
in Gen 15:6, whereas James considered him dead until Gen 22. Paul says,
"if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Rom 8:10
The body is dead in that one's works (the body) are not taken into
account with regards to one's justification, unlike the gospel of James. So while James could have said "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so works without faith is dead"
or "For as the spirit can be alive apart from the body (2Cor 5:6), so also one's faith may be a living faith without works"
, but he couldn't say what he did say.
The Neo-Circumcision's Misinterpretation of Scripture
To get around Paul's opposition, the Neo-Circumcision interpret Paul not in light of Paul, but in light of James and in light of their own particular Neo-Circumcision Soteriology. Roman 2:6,7 God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
Taken out of context the Neo-Circumcision typically use these verses to claim that Paul's gospel is salvation by works. What they fail to point out or notice for themselves that in the first two and half chapters of Romans Paul was showing the futility of trying to be justified by works, concluding Romans 3:20 and then Rom 3:21 with the biggest "but" in the Bible, contrasting justification by works with justification by faith. Romans 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
As for the Neo-Circumcision, "I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Rom 10:2-4
And so they read their own way of righteousness into Paul's writings. They read into Scripture rather than reading out of it.1Cor 6:9,10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5; Rev 21:8
These verses speak of categories of people who go to hell. Because the verses make a correlation between a person's behavior and their salvation status, the Neo-Circumcision jump to the conclusion that salvation is by works, rather than the idea that those who have been saved don't subsequently behave characteristically in those manners. Note 1John 3:9 "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."
Thus, contrary to the Neo-Circumcision, righteous behavior is an effect rather than a cause of one's justification. Rom 4:4-6 "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works"
In my debates with Neo-Circumcision types I've heard two arguments to get around what Paul says here. One is to claim that by "works" Paul is only referring to the ceremonial regulations in the Law of Moses, not the 10 commandments or other moral laws in the Law of Moses. What they fail to deal with is that first of all note how he's characterizing "work" in these verses. He's not even speaking of particular regulations versus other regulations. He's speaking of the concept of working to earn salvation versus that of obtaining salvation (righteousness, forgiveness of sins) apart from one's efforts. And also they fail to deal with the fact that all the way up to this point in Romans Paul was not dealing simply with the futility of the ceremonial laws to justify, but rather the fact that people fall short of the glory of God in all their behavior, characteristically.
Secondly are those who claim that Paul's gospel includes a distinction between what they refer to as "INITIAL SALVATION" versus "FINAL SALVATION". And that here, yes salvation is by faith alone, but only initial salvation. The moment one is initially saved, from then on it's by works that one maintains their salvation status. It's a fantasy, but people fall for it. First is the ignoring of what Paul already established in Romans and which he repeats and emphasizes throughout his writings, that justification by works is futile and not part of his gospel. But also is the fact their "initial salvation" has no relevance. If salvation from hell, that is, justification, the forgiveness of sins, is not determined until after one dies, then one cannot use the rhetoric the Scriptures use of believers, "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Eph 2:8,9
, speaking of salvation as already having occurred, if in fact the end is indeterminate. Likewise Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24
But the Neo-Circumcision take away the joy and hopeful anticipation of this certainty by their salvation by works doctrine, just as the Circumcision did to the Galatians, "What has happened to all your joy?" Gal 4:15
For the Neo-Circumcision can only say, "You might be saved in the end if you behave well enough."
And that's the curse of the law, "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith."The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Gal 3:10-12
They simply replace the law of Moses with their law, just as James, their forefather, did.
And as I dealt with the various verses above, pretty much every other verse the Neo-Circumcision reads their theology into, can be dealt with using the arguments given above.