Hebrews 11:31, “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace”
One of the most challenging topics to tackle for many is “faith” and “works”. The question that always arises, are we justified by grace through faith ALONE or are we justified by works; or justified by both? To answer these questions we look at Rahab’s story and how the book of Hebrews and James address faith and works in light of her story.
Rahab was a harlot who hid two spies in her house sent by Joshua to spy their land Jericho (Joshua 2). In the early chapter, you find that the two spies came in and she hid them. While the king looked for them in her house even questioning her, she lied to the king that they came but left to which they should pursue them. Later she releases the spies to go their way but before then in vs. 8, she says, “8 I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 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 of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 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. 12 Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, 13 and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
The bible talks FIRST of her WORKS vs. 1-7, then we read of her FAITH in vs. 8-13. Now that we’ve seen her works and her faith, the question to ask, which is which? What was she justified by? The writer of Hebrews tells us that “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace”, Hebrews 11:31 and then we read in James 2:24-25, “24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” Sounds like a contradiction doesn’t it? Hebrews says she is justified by faith apart from works, James seems to say that she is justified by works.
There is no contradiction here; there is a harmony we need to identify. Hebrews talks about justification by faith, James then comes along and shows us that a person justified by faith will evidence their faith by works. In other words, a justifying faith cannot be without works. It’s faith that is producing works, not the other way around. This is why it’s not Faith PLUS works or faith AND works. It’s faith THAT works or faith AT work, a great difference. Yes Rahab hid the spies but that is not what she is justified by, it’s her faith in the God of the Israelites evidenced by her works when she shows kindness to the spies.
If she was justified by works, then she has something to boast of, Romans 3:27-28, ”27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law”.
Rahab’s conduct proved her faith to be living, or having power. It showed that she believed with her heart, not merely by an assent of the understanding. Rahab the harlot, who was proved by her works that she was justified by a true faith
This is very crucial to salvation, why? Because of Ephesians 2:8-9, “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast”. This is where true Christianity is different from other religions that teach you must earn your way, you must work to be saved, and you must pay your dues. True salvation and only salvation requires receiving Christ by grace through faith alone apart from works. He has given it freely as a gift. A gift you don’t work for or earn, you receive it as offered. Then when you have truly been saved, the genuine of your faith will be evidenced by works. So you don’t do works to be saved, you do works because you are saved.
Are you trusting in your good works to be used to justify (save) you? Or are you trusting in your good works and faith to save you? If any of these applies to you, then you cannot be justified. But if you come to God in repentance and faith, you will be justified through His finished work on the cross. Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. And if you are not justified by faith, you are not at peace with God. That means you are at war, an enemy of God through wicked works (Colossians 1:21). See what camp you are in today move to the right camp if you haven’t already. When Rahab believed, she interceded for her family’s salvation. Blessings Ev