October 19, 2015
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
We have come to the last of Four Examples Of Faith in James 2:19 through 25. The fourth example is Rahab in James 2:25: “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? ”
Rahab the harlot – How is it that a harlot was chosen to be an example of faith? And more than just an example, according to Matthew 1:5, Rahab was a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ! She was King David’s great-great-grandmother. But it is God’s amazing grace that put her in that position. She was a Canaanite living in Jericho, the first city the Israelites attacked after crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land (see Joshua 6:1-27). Rahab, in Joshua 2:9-11, told the spies Joshua had sent out to reconnoiter the city:
I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has
fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted
because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of
the Red sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the
two kings of the Amorites, who were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and
Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things,
our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone
because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above, and
on earth beneath.
Did you see Rahab’s strong statement of faith in verse 11? “…the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath.” This pagan Canaanite woman was rejecting the false Baal worship in which she was brought up, and she was embracing the God of Israel! Then in Joshua 2:12 and 13 she extracted a promise from the Jewish spies:
Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown
you kindness [by hiding the spies from the Jericho officials], that you also
will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and
spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have,
and deliver our lives from death.
They did spare Rahab and her family. When the walls of Jericho collapsed, her house – which was built into the city wall (see Joshua 2:15) still stood. Rahab and all her relatives were assimilated into the nation of Israel, and she became a prominent figure in the Messiah’s lineage!
How did she show her faith? Was it just by the statement – bold as it was – quoted before? You might say, she put ‘legs to her faith’ when, as James said in our featured scripture, “…she received the messengers, and sent them out another way….” Her actions give us something to see that shows her faith was real – the same as Abraham did (see the two previous blogs). And so James boldly states, “…Rahab the harlot [was] also justified by works ….”
But Paul insists in Ephesians 2:8 and 9 (and in many other scriptures – see Romans 4:4, 5; 11:6; Galatians 2:16; Titus 3:5): “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” Paul and James seem greatly to contradict one another in this very important Scripture principle! But someone has explained it this way:
• Paul is describing justification from God’s point of view! God knows the hearts and minds of all people (see Psalm 139:1-6; John 2:24, 25). He does not need to see faith worked out in a life to know that faith is real. So from God’s point of view, Ephesians 2:8 and 9 best describes justification!
• James is describing man’s point of view! We cannot see the mind and heart of a person. Instead, we can only see the result of faith which is a life of works done for the glory of God. As a matter of fact, Jesus told us to inspect the fruit of a life to see if that fruit comes from a justified heart or one that is not justified. In Matthew 7:16 through 20 the Lord says:
You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn-
bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit;
but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor
can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit
is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will
So, according to James, from man’s perspective, works justifies a person because works proves their faith is real!
This leads to a final question concerning faith and the Four Examples Of Faith that we have seen: Is your faith so real that it is proved by your works – by the life you live?