by the Rev. Larry Wilson
20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
"Do you want to be shown … that faith apart from works is useless?" Now look at Exhibit B—Rahab. "And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?"
Listen to Joshua 2:8–11—
"8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, "I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath."
Rahab heard about the mighty deeds of the Lord. She heard how the Lord saved Israel from Egypt by many miracles. She heard the gospel—how the Lord himself delivers his people by means of judgment.
And what's utterly breathtaking is that this Canaanite woman identified with the people of the living and true God. She took sides against her own people. By grace through faith, she agreed that the Lord's judgment upon her own people was just. By grace through faith she saw that Joshua and the Israelites had a true claim to this land from God himself. Gripped by this faith, she acted on it by showing hospitality to the spies, and then by hiding them and helping them to escape. She didn't wait for their evangelistic overtures. She made them take an oath to spare her and her family.
Rahab thus demonstrated that she believed the stories about Israel's God. More than that! She had come to turn from idols to commit herself to the living and true God, "the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath." Her actions, then, were actions of faith. They showed that God's grace had worked in her heart. She was a genuine believer in the Lord.
What makes this all the more striking is that she was "Rahab the prostitute!" A prostitute isn't someone you usually choose as a model of earning God's favor by moral obedience. No, God saves sinners. He declares his verdict of righteous because of his grace alone in Christ alone, and it is received through faith alone! The works that demonstrated that Rahab really did belong to God were the fruits of her genuine faith in the Lord.
What's the bottom line? "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." Your religious claims are proved to be true, not merely by your talk—no matter how orthodox or eloquent—but by the walk that flows from faith. That's the difference between dead faith and living faith. "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." If you don't have the fruits, you don't have the roots. Do you have the fruits?
Click here for background on the author of Are You For Real?: Meditations in the Epistle of James for Secret or Family Worship.