Lesson 20. The Demonstration of Saving Faith (2:21-26) PART 3

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Some Jewish writers say that she was ten years of age when the Israelites came out of Egypt; and that all the forty years they were in the wilderness, "she played the harlot"; and was one at fifty years of age when she was proselyted. She is called a harlot, not with respect to her present but past life. This woman was a remarkable and unique instance of the free, sovereign, distinguishing, powerful, and effective grace of God. She sprung from Canaan and was from one of the nations that were despised but, being called by grace, became an eminent believer. She believed that the God of the Israelites was God in heaven and on earth; that he had given the land of Canaan to them. She received the spies, and hid them secular that faith; she caused them to swear by the Lord, that they would show mercy to her, and her family; and gave credit to them; and observed their instructions: and so she . . .
“perished not with them that believed not”; the inhabitants of Jericho, who were unbelievers, and disobedient, all perished by the sword: but Rahab perished not, neither temporally, nor eternally; her secular salvation was an emblem and type of her spiritual salvation; her receiving the spies was an emblem of a soul's receiving the Gospel, and the ministers of it; the scarlet thread, that was hung out the window, was an emblem of the blood of Christ, by which sins, though as scarlet, are made white as wool; and the saving of her whole family is an emblem of the complete salvation of all the elect, soul and body, by Christ.
“when she had received the spies with peace”; and had hidden them, for some time, in her house, and then let them down by the wall; and who, at the taking of the city, saved her, and hers, according to their promise and oath: the number of these spies were two, according to Joshua 2:1. The Jews say one of them was Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the high priest, and others say they were Phinehas and Caleb.
Rahab was an example of the grace of God by calling the chief of sinners and was a true believer; and what she did, she did in faith (Hebrews 11:31), and her faith was shown by her works to be authentic and genuine, and it is evident that she was a justified person. This instance is produced with the other, to show that wherever there is true faith, whether in Jew or Gentile, in man or woman, in greater or lesser believers, or in such who have been greater or lesser sinners, there will be good works; and therefore that person is a vain man that talks and boasts of his faith, and depends upon it, and slights and rejects good works as unnecessary to be done.

26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead,”... This expression is made use of to illustrate what the apostle had asserted in James 2:17 that as a body when the spirit or soul is departed from it, or the breath is gone out of it, is dead, and without motion, and useless.
The Song of Solomon also says that faith without works is dead: a vain thing, useless and unprofitable, can neither justify, nor save, nor prove that a man is justified, or will be saved.
The conclusion completes the section, which began in verse 14. The body without the spirit is dead, and it can accomplish nothing. So also, faith without works is dead. It can achieve nothing, especially the salvation that James is talking about (cf. 2:14,17,20,24,26).
Sound doctrine is the basis of saving faith. But truly believing the facts of the Gospel will result in a changed life. So works are an essential result of saving faith. If there are no works, then the faith is merely intellectual assent. This is something even the demons do.
"Faith alone justifies, but the faith which justifies is not alone" (John Calvin).



General Notes
1 “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” (Rom. 4:2)
2 “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3).
3 “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness (Gen. 15:6).
4 “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28).
5 “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).

Rahab’s Story
A good place to begin Rahab’s story is the time when spies sent by Israel went immediately to Rahab’s house (said to be a house of entertainment) upon entering the city. But why did they go there, for it seems like a foolish thing to do, as was Salmon's marrying her, which might be thought strange that a prince of Israel would marry a woman with a lousy reputation; to which may be added testimonies for her by both our apostle, and by James, and her making no mention of her husband and children, when she agreed with the spies, confirm her generally accepted character, that she was a harlot. It has to do with her business; she operated a house of prostitution.
Some Jewish writers say that she was ten years of age when the Israelites came out of Egypt; and that all the forty years they were in the wilderness, "she played the harlot"; and was one at fifty years of age when she was proselyted. She is called a harlot, not with respect to her present but past life. This woman was a remarkable and unique instance of the free, sovereign, distinguishing, powerful, and effective grace of God. She sprung from Canaan and was from one of the nations that were despised but, being called by grace, became an eminent believer. She believed that the God of the Israelites was God in heaven and on earth; that he had given the land of Canaan to them. She received the spies, and hid them through that faith; she caused them to swear by the Lord, that they would show mercy to her, and her family; and gave credit to them; and observed their instructions: and so she . . .
“perished not with them that believed not”; the inhabitants of Jericho, who were unbelievers, and disobedient, all perished by the sword: but Rahab perished not, neither temporally, nor eternally; her temporal salvation was an emblem and type of her spiritual salvation; her receiving the spies was an emblem of a soul's receiving the Gospel, and the ministers of it; the scarlet thread, that was hung out the window, was an emblem of the blood of Christ, by which sins, though as scarlet, are made white as wool; and the saving of her whole family is an emblem of the complete salvation of all the elect, soul and body, by Christ.
“when she had received the spies with peace”; and had hidden them, for some time, in her house, and then let them down by the wall; and who, at the taking of the city, saved her, and hers, according to their promise and oath: the number of these spies were two, according to Joshua 2:1. The Jews say one of them was Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the high priest, and others say they were Phinehas and Caleb.
Rahab was an example of the grace of God by calling the chief of sinners, and was a true believer; and what she did, she did in faith (Hebrews 11:31), and her faith was shown by her works to be authentic and genuine, and it is evident that she was a justified person. This instance is produced with the other, to show that wherever there is true faith, whether in Jew or Gentile, in man or woman, in greater or lesser believers, or in such who have been greater or lesser sinners, there will be good works; and therefore that person is a vain man that talks and boasts of his faith, and depends upon it, and slights and rejects good works as unnecessary to be done.

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