Jas 2:24-26 “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 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.”
Being justified (to render [that is, show or regard as] just or innocent – Strong’s) is always a matter of works. However, it is not always a matter of our works. Our eternal justification before Almighty God came through the redemptive work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Paul, in his powerful sermon in the synagogue at Antioch, declared concerning Jesus “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Act 13:38-39).”
Forgiveness of sins can only be declared through the man, Jesus. Our justification mentioned in Acts 13:39 is not the result of our belief; our belief is a fruit of the revelation that our eternal justification comes by him. We are justified by Jesus from “all things” (every transgression). This justification could not come by our works. It was (and is) impossible for us to attain this justification through the keeping of the law. Nevertheless, there is a justification that comes in this gospel kingdom from working according to faith.
James has presented clear evidence of the necessity of works in the lives of God’s people. He declares that we “understand clearly or experience” (see Strong’s definition of “see” in verse 24) how that there is a justification in our works that does not come by faith alone. He has clearly laid out Abraham’s work that he did by faith. Considering that James’ immediate audience was his fellow Jews, it was important that he set before them an example they would readily receive.
We need to also understand that being justified by works is not a matter of our family heritage. For that reason, James also mentions a Gentile named Rahab. Not only was she a Gentile, but she was a harlot. When the messengers of God came to her, she received them. From a spiritual standpoint, there is no life so vain that the messenger of God cannot impact it.
Not only did Rahab receive the messengers, but she protected them at great personal risk. She hid them in her house, and then she took action to send them on their way in safety. Though she was both a Gentile and a harlot, she was justified (regarded as innocent) by the work of faith before God.
We understand all too clearly that the body without the spirit is dead. There is no warmth, no function, and no love that is manifest from the body when the spirit is separated. This same analogy applies to faith that is separated from works. It is dead and not profitable to the kingdom of heaven here.
May we be blessed to realize that our innocence in the kingdom is reckoned as a result of our work by faith regardless of where we started from!