By Adam Brown –
31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies (Hebrews 11:31).
Rahab the prostitute was saved by faith.
Notice, the biblical statement of fact does NOT say, “Rahab the FORMER prostitute was saved by faith.”
Nor does it say, “Rahab the prostitute was saved by her GOOD DEEDS.”
And yet, it seems customary for us as evangelical Christians to very subtly transform Hebrews 11:31 into one of these two alternatives:
A) We require Rahab to undergo some moral rehabilitation by suggesting that her prostitution is a past-tense occupation.
B) We require Rahab’s “good deed” toward the spies to outweigh the moral indecency of her profession.
Either way, we seem inclined to factor good works into our evaluation of Rahab’s salvation. After all, God couldn’t possibly save a practicing prostitute, could He?
It is amazing how easy it is for us to abandon the core conviction of the Gospel, that we are saved by grace through faith. This is not our own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). I believe that we believe this! And yet, even while we believe this, we then require Rahab to be saved by faith AND works.
My greatest concern is not for Rahab. She is enjoying the fruit of her faith even now. And, to her belongs the resurrection of the dead unto eternal life. My greatest concern is for us. If we require a faith + works Gospel for Rahab, do we secretly require a faith + works Gospel for ourselves and one another? I am concerned about this because such a Gospel is NOT the Gospel. A faith + works equation undermines the true Gospel and leaves us vulnerable to counterfeit conversions and bad evangelism.
I am not advocating a licentious Gospel or suggesting that good works do not flow out of a true salvation (as per Ephesians 2:10). However, good works can never be considered an ingredient in our salvation. We are saved by grace through faith [FULL STOP]. This is not our own doing [FULL STOP]. It is the gift of God [FULL STOP]. Not a result of works [FULL STOP]. So that no one may boast [FULL STOP].
Rahab was not saved because she was a reformed prostitute. Nor was she saved because the value of her kindness toward the spies was greater than the liability of her prostitution. Rahab was saved by grace through faith. This was not her own doing. It was the gift of God. It was not a result of works. Rahab cannot boast in her salvation. Why, then, was Rahab saved? In spite of all her sin, Rahab was saved because of this faith-filled speech:
Joshua 2:9–13 (ESV)
“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. 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. 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. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death” (Joshua 2:9-13).
In spite of everything else that opposed God in Rahab’s life, Rahab had heard about the God of Israel, she believed in Him, and she cried out to Him for salvation. And the LORD counted this faith as righteousness and He saved her.
We do not know much about the rest of Rahab’s life. It is possible that God’s grace had a transforming effect in her life, that she ceased her life as a prostitute. We are told that she became a mother in the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah (Matthew 1:5), which is, itself, a wonderful evidence of the lavish grace of God. Whatever the rest of Rahab’s life looked like, she was saved by grace through faith while yet a sinner.
May we find comfort in the example of Rahab. May we also find instruction, both for ourselves and for those we seek for God’s salvation.