You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:24-26)
Faith Only And The Prostitute
Church signs say a lot about what the adherents of a local church believe. A recent sign read: Faith Alone; Grace Alone; Jesus Alone; Bible Alone. The four elements of belief are defined by faith, grace, Jesus and the Bible. No one could or should doubt the need of any of these vital characteristics in pleasing God. The message on the sign was not limited by the space of the sign but reflected the limitations man has placed on the will of the Lord. It is clear without faith man cannot be pleasing to God. Grace is the measure of salvation that no man can repay. Jesus is the only way to the Father as He is the way, the truth and the life. No book can guide a man to heaven but the Bible. Agreement is made of these four elements of God’s redemptive plan. What the believers of faith alone and grace alone do not understand is the proper use of the English language and the dividing of the word of truth. First the confusion of the sign is suggesting one can be saved by faith “alone” and grace “alone.” According to the dictionary, the word alone means without help from others or to be absent of anything else. Alone declares the idea of “only” or “solely” indicating one thing exclusively or just the thing specified. It is grammatically impossible to be saved by faith alone and grace alone because each one cancels the other out. If man is saved by faith alone he cannot be saved by grace; and vice versa. Salvation comes through Jesus alone because He is Lord and the Bible is the only word that can save man. Each one can stand alone as they indicate a part of the whole that brings one to God. Suggesting that faith and grace save alone cancels the other from having any saving power. Where is repentance, love, mercy, obedience and a host of other necessary commands of God? These things are found in Jesus Christ and declared through His word.
James makes the argument against those who teach salvation by faith only and grace only. The only time the phrase “faith only” appears in the Bible is when the Holy Spirit declares that one is not saved by faith only. Justification is by works and faith not exclusive one from another. It is hard to understand why so many people in the religious world believe in faith only when the Bible says that man is not saved by faith only. Paul shows how man is saved by grace because without the mercy of God there would be no hope of eternal life. James does not contradict Paul but compliments the same need of salvation when one obeys the grace of God and shows their faith by their works. There were many examples James could have used to prove his point and while he pointed out the obvious story of Abraham he uses a most unusual example to prove that man is saved by faith and works; not faith alone. When the children of Israel came to Jericho two men were sent to spy the city and determine its defenses. A woman named Rahab hid the spies when they were found out and helped them escape from the kings men. She was a harlot but had heard of what the Israelite’s had done in Egypt and subsequent battles over the past forty years. Was Rahab justified by faith only? According to James, Rahab (the ancestor of Jesus – who was a prostitute) was justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way. Where is grace alone? Where is faith alone? A prostitute proves the religious world wrong.
Faith absent of works cannot save. Like the body and the spirit define life, the body without the spirit is dead. Faith alone is a dead faith or grace alone is an empty grace. Rahab did not have faith alone but by her works she found justification before God. She was not a Hebrew. Her life was a dismal existence of selling her body. Deep inside her she came to believe in the grace of God and feared the power of the Lord. It is highly unlikely she was born when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. She would be saved when Jericho fell and marry Salmon the great-great-great-grandfather of David the king. Her life is testimony to the grace and love of God to save a woman whose heart came to believe the word of the Lord. Her faith and works justified her. The world needs more people like Rahab that will accept the power of God’s grace and follow His will. Faith alone will not save. Believe the word of Rahab the harlot and follow her example.