Summary: Faith is the link that bonds us to Christ, and works, nor any other mindset or practice, can forge the bond that only faith can secure.
FAITH IS THE ANSWER
Consider the question: 'What must I do to be saved?' Time has revealed various answers. Some think they do not need saving because they do not believe they are lost. They reject the idea of a God that we are responsible to. They do not believe in something called sin and that unforgiven sin is punished. For such people, the question is meaningless. For many years, the Roman Catholic Church answered this question by saying through the church. To be sure, salvation came through Christ, but the church managed this grace of God through the sacraments they administered to people. If a person or region disagreed with the doctrine of the church, they simply excommunicated them or issued an interdict against the region. They even carried out inquisitions that ended the life of heretics. Martin Luther, a German and leader of the Protestant Reformation, said all one must do was believe. A person did not need the priest or the church they represented. The Catholic Church called on him to recant this heretical belief, but he refused. Friends hid him to save his life. John Calvin, a Frenchman and also a leader in the Protestant Reformation, also claimed faith was the way to salvation, but he believed the only ones who could believe were the ones God chose before the foundation of the world. Others try meditation or Eastern mystical practices for salvation. Some follow the religions of Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism trying to find salvation. The different denominations, cults and occults all prove that people are trying in different ways to answer the question of how one is saved.
It was the question asked of Paul by the Philippian jailer. Paul and Silas were put in jail for advocating customs that were not acceptable to the Romans. Before being thrown in jail, they were attacked, stripped of their clothes and beaten with rods. About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns. Suddenly, there was an earthquake that opened the doors of the prison and loosed the chains that bound them. When the jailer woke up, he saw the prison doors open. Assuming the prisoners had escaped and that he would lose his life because he allowed them to, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself. Paul stopped him just in time. He rushed in, fell before them and asked the question.
Paul goes to great lengths in the letter to the Galatians to prove that faith is the answer. It may seem he overdoes the message, but repetition is the best teacher, and Paul obviously realized this. The message that faith is the answer to the question of how one is saved was being undercut by the Judaizers. So terrible was the situation that many of the Gentiles and Jews that had once accepted Paul's message were deceived. Whereas they had believed that faith was the means of salvation, now some were believing that they could work for their salvation. Paul now appeals to the Old Testament, what the Judaizers proposed people must still believe, to prove that faith was the way even in that time period.
Perhaps we do not face the exact same set of circumstances today, but we are still subtly tempted to believe that salvation comes some other way. We may profess that we believe faith is the way, but we live as if something we do helps. It might surprise us to know how many deep down inside trust in other things such as how active they are at church, their membership at some church or how many good works they do. We would never admit it outwardly, but deep inside surely some trust in these things. We must again hear the message of the Bible that faith is the only way.
Faith has always been the way God accepts people. This has not changed. God accepted Abel over Cain because of his faith. Noah and his family were saved when all others perished because of their faith. Moses was selected by God for a great task because of his faith. Paul has already shown the Galatians that they were justified by their faith by appealing to their experience. Now he will appeal to Scripture, the very thing the Judaizers trusted in.
I. POSITIVE PROOF FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
What better person to appeal to in proving this doctrine than Abraham. He was the father of the faithful. He lived before God gave his law to Moses at Sinai. If Paul could prove that God accepted Abraham because of his faith, he could disprove the arguments of the Judaizers. They said a person must observe rites, circumcision and ceremonies. These only came with the giving of the Law, and Abraham lived before that happened.