“Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:25–26, AV)
I met a woman one time who thought that she had sinned so terribly that God could not forgive her. She thought that she could never be justified in the eyes of God. This was a significant hindrance to her coming to faith in Christ. Often people erroneously think that only the people they see as not being too bad can come to faith. This is a heretical thought and one that the devil uses to trip up many.
James has been pointing out that works justify that we have faith. That is, true faith will result in good works that testify our faith before others. Previously, he looked to Abraham. The Jews considered Abraham as their father, the greatest of Hebrews. They took great pride in Abraham as the example of righteousness. So, it is interesting that, he moves from the example of Abraham to Rahab the harlot.
Rahab the harlot. One would hardly think of using such a person as an example of works that justified true faith. Three things worked against her. First, she was a gentile, an inhabitant of Jericho. Second, she was a woman who in biblical days had a standing lower than men. Third, she had a sinful occupation. The Jews would have considered her the lowest of people. Yet, she is a person of faith (Heb 11:31).
The Bible commends her for hiding two spies that Joshua sent to Jericho prior to the Israelite conquest. This is the good work that the Bible mentions regarding her. However, the book of Joshua gives us further insight to her faith that produced this good work. We see this in her words to the two spies.
“I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9–11, AV)
Here we see that she recognized the supremacy of God over all. She saw the omnipotence of God, that He granted victories to the Israelites, and that He was the God over heaven and earth. Her confession of God demonstrated that she revered Him in her heart. She had true faith in God. This faith that she had was further demonstrated by her hiding the spies.
What is the point? The point is that those who, from a righteousness standpoint, would be considered the least to experience true faith are not exempt from it. Moreover, often those who have hit the moral bottom are the ones whom the Lord often raises up to marvelous heights. Because of her faith, Rahab was spared as the Israelites conquered the city of Jericho. Moreover, when we look at the lineage of Rahab, we see something very interesting. Rahab became an ancestor of Jesus (Matt 1:5). Faith lifts people from the gutter and seats them at the top. Faith moves people from useless to being remarkably useful for God’s glory.
Perhaps you are considering your life, or your past today. Looking back, you do not see how you might be used for the glory of God. To this I say, only trust Him. You will be surprised what He will do through a life surrendered to Him by true faith in Jesus Christ alone.