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Abraham and Rahab in James 2

Jerry Bilkes, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, made the observation that Abraham and Rahab are singled out in James 2--as examples of those who had saving faith--for at least two reasons. First, Abraham was a man and Rahab was a woman. In Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female. Second, Abraham was a Jew and Rahab was a Gentile. There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile in Christ. Bilkes also pointed out that both Abraham and Rahab were tested before a watching world. So how does all this fit together with James' intention in his epistle?

James  introduced the concept of testing at the beginning of the epistle. In chapter 2, sincerity is in view. Chapter 1 ends by saying, "Whoever thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, this one's religion is useless." As chapter 2 develops, the idea of showing whether one has saving faith or not comes to the forefront. In order for someone to show whether they have saving faith or not, there must be a test. James is not talking about Abraham and Rahab being justified before God because they lived lives of law keeping. The Scriptures are clear that 'Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6). In the same way, we are told that Rahab heard of the exodus (i.e. the typical redemption that pointed to the spiritual redemption that God would provide in Christ) and believed in the Covenant God of promise (Joshua 2:9-11). She, like Abraham, believed the Gospel (John 8:58; Gal. 3:8). Regarding what James says about the works that their faith produced, he alluded to one event in each of their lives that served the purpose of showing that they had saving faith. Abraham and Rahab were justified before God because they believed on Him who was to come. They were justified before the watching world on account of the works that their saving faith produced.

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