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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Transformed by Grace Through Faith
Text:Hebrews 11:29-31 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Forgiveness of Sins
 
Preached:2016
Added:2021-11-03
Updated:2021-11-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Selections from the Blue Psalter unless otherwise noted): 

413 - I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.

424 - Just As I Am, Without One Plea 

75 (Red) - Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners

250 (Red) - Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord or  340 - There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood        

Note: This sermon has an alternate ending for those using the Trinity Psalter (or other) Hymnal. The hymn of application from the TPH is #340, “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray
08/28/2016
“Transformed by Grace Through Faith”
Hebrews 11:29-31; Joshua 2:1-24
 
I met someone years ago who would not think evil of anyone. Because of that, he was convinced that Rahab was an Innkeeper and not a prostitute. He pointed out that in both James 2:25 and Hebrews 11:31 her act of hiding the spies is given as a testimony of how true saving faith produces good works. He would remark that she is listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. Then he would point out that the footnote on Joshua 2:1, in the NIV (New International Version of the Bible) says, “Or possibly an Innkeeper.” “Surely,” he would say, “she was a noble innkeeper, not a prostitute.”
 
However, he failed to see that the New Testament leaves no doubt as to Rahab’s profession. She was indeed an Innkeeper, but she was in the red-light district of Jericho. James 2:25 makes that clear. In the Greek manuscript, James describes her as “Rahab the pornay” (the phonetic spelling of πόρνη). The Greek word “pornay” refers to all manner of immorality and is the word from which we derive our English word “pornography.”
 
Our text in Hebrews 11:31 also describes her as a pornay as it declares, “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” In fact, it is precisely because Rahab was a prostitute that these two spies went to her inn. They knew that as a prostitute she would open her door to any man, at any time of day or night. In a hostile city, they were wise to look up a prostitute and seek safety in her red-light inn.
 
Not only was Rahab a prostitute. She was also a liar. In verses 3 to 6 we read how the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: ‘Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.’”
 
But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, ‘Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.’ (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.)”
 
She was such a convincing liar that verse 7 describes how the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.”
 
Was Rahab right to lie? Was that an act of faith? Christians have been divided over that subject for years. Many would say that her lies (along with the lies of the Hebrew midwives who spared little baby boys from death in Exodus 1) teach us that at times – for instance, to save a human life – a lie may be used.  Others, like John Calvin, point out that although her lie “was given for a good purpose,” it is “contrary to the nature of God.”
    
I believe that she was right to lie, just as it was right for the Hebrew midwives to lie. And it was right for those who hid Jews in their homes, during World War Two, to lie to the Gestapo. The Bible teaches that although we are to be subject to political rulers (Rom. 13:1), there is also a time for civil disobedience (Acts 4:19; 5:29). And Rahab’s inclusion in Hebrews 11 teaches that it was an act of faith for her to hide the spies and to mislead the local authorities who would have put the spies to death.
 
But because Rahab had some obvious character flaws, some have asked, “Why is such a woman included in the genealogy of Jesus? How could James use her as an example of good works flowing from faith? And why would she be listed in Hebrews 11 as an example of a person who lived out her faith in the eternal Messiah?
 
God’s Gracious Gift of Saving Faith
 
Rahab’s example of faith teaches us a number of Biblical truths, including that God’s gracious gift of saving faith is given to all sorts of people. It is given to prostitutes, tax collectors, zealots, and countless other “undesirables.”
 
That is one reason why the Pharisees disliked Jesus so much. He was known to hang out with the riffraff, with the undesirables of his day. Luke 5:27-32 describes how Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.”
 
And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’”
 
Rahab fit the bill as a sinner, but so do you and I.  And it is for the salvation of sinners that Jesus came into this world!
 
From Rahab’s conversion we also see that God’s gracious gift of saving faith is not limited to one nationality. In Old Testament times the Lord dealt almost exclusively with the nation of Israel.  Yet Rahab was an Amorite. And later Ruth, the Moabite, would be given the gift of faith and brought to salvation in the Messiah to come. In that way Rahab and Ruth serve as shadows pointing to the universality of the gospel. 
 
Both are listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, yet both were from heathen nations, foreshadowing the New Testament truth that the gospel message is for the whole world. Jesus gave us the Great Commission, recorded in Matthew 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
 
He also said, in Acts 1:8, …You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Rahab, along with Ruth and a few other Old Testament Gentile believers, foreshadow the Great Commission; they foreshadow that the gospel will be proclaimed to all nations.
 
Rahab’s faith also reminds us that the gift of faith knows no gender distinction. There are clear areas of gender distinction in the Bible. For instance, 1 Timothy 2:12 says: “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man.” Two reasons, neither of them cultural, are given in 1 Timothy 2:13 and 14: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman that was deceived and became a sinner.”
 
The purpose for the letter to Timothy is also clearly stated in 1 Timothy 3:15: “So that you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” That is why churches that are true to the Bible do not have ministers who are women and do not permit women to teach men in a public setting. But when it comes to faith, men and women, boys and girls are all equal. As Galatians 3:28 points out, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.”
 
Christ: The Object of Our Faith
 
Rahab’s faith also teaches us that the object of our faith must always be the Lord and his work, past, present and future. Did you notice how Rahab was absolutely enamored with the work of Almighty God?
 
In verses 9 to 11 she described, with awe, the work of God in the past. She said, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
             
She also recognized God’s hand in the present. In verse 12 and 13 she expressed great faith in God’s ability to deliver her from her present problems, and asked for a “sure sign” of protection from the spies. She said, “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
 
Rahab also had faith in what God would do in the future. As soon as the spies told her what to do – to hang a scarlet cord from the window (vss. 17-20) – she agreed to do what they asked. Her obedience was a result of her faith in what God would do in the future.  Verse 21: “‘Agreed,’ she replied. ‘Let it be as you say.’ So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.”
 
Rahab’s demonstration of faith also teaches us that genuine faith results in good works. It is often said, rightly so, that “Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.” Faith without works – without a demonstration of obedience and action – is a dead faith. It is not genuine. It might be expressed by the lips, but it is not rooted in the heart. In James chapter 2, the Holy Spirit goes to great lengths to teach this Biblical truth, and in the process uses the example of both Rahab and Abraham.
 
The quote of the Reformers, “Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone”,  speaks of a crucial truth for our lives: If we are indeed people of faith, then we must demonstrate the authenticity of our faith by doing the good deeds before ordained for us to do, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
 
The Precious Blood of Jesus Christ
 
How else do we apply this interesting story of Rahab to our lives today, as we live some 3,500 years after Rahab? A key application is that even those who are “chief of sinners”, which includes all people, including you and me, can be forgiven.
 
One frequent objection to the gospel is “I’m too sinful to be saved. Because of my sin, God would never have anything to do with me.” It is a common objection because the devil specializes in guilt. He loves to bring up your past; he loves to point to your sins, your transgressions and iniquity. He does so to convince you that God would never love you. “With all the sin in your life,” he accuses, “God would never love you; he would never save you and give you a place in heaven with him. You are too sinful for salvation.”
 
That objection is effectively put to rest through God’s gracious gift of faith given to Rahab the prostitute. She is not the exception to the rule by any means. In the New Testament we see the conversion of more than one “shady lady”. The woman at the well, the woman caught in the act of adultery, as well as Mary Magdalene are just a few of innumerable examples of sinners saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.
 
Not only do we see that God’s grace is greater than our sin in the life of Rahab, but we see the same truth in virtually every other believer’s life in the Bible. When we reflect on the lives of David, Saul of Tarsus, Peter or doubting Thomas – along with all the other believers recorded in Scripture – we see that in every case God’s grace is greater than their sin.
 
It’s no different for you and for me. When we confess our sins in humble repentance and true saving faith, we have the blessed assurance of forgiveness. In the words of 1 John 1:9 and 10, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
 
You and I must confess all our sins to the Lord. Confess them to Jesus and know his cleansing power. Rest in the promise of 1 Timothy 1:15: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.”
 
Another application from this passage is that when saved, sinners are sanctified. Numerous passages of Scripture make it clear that Rahab was a “pornay” – a prostitute. But later, as she was sanctified, she married a godly man named Salmon. Together they conceived Boaz who married Ruth. They carried on the lineage of the Messiah whom God had promised in the beginning of time (Gen. 3:15), after Adam and Eve fell into sin; and they are listed in the human genealogy of Jesus. (Matt. 1:5)
 
God sanctifies all whom he justifies.  “Being confident of this,” declares Philippians 1:6, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” That is the gracious work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, sanctifying sinners whose sin is covered by the precious blood of Jesus.
 
The Biblical teaching of sanctification is in direct opposition from the popular teaching that we can take Christ as Savior but not as Lord, that we can be “carnal Christians”. Although our sanctification is far from perfect in this life, everyone who is justified will use every means given by God to be sanctified. Those means given by God include the faithful study of his word, prayer, and the proper use of the sacraments as we worship with other believers.
 
Rahab is but one example of how those who are saved by grace through faith will reveal the authenticity of their faith by how they live. In other words, good works will flow out of God’s gift of saving faith in Christ. In the words of Jesus, “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44).
___
 
That man I once knew who had trouble thinking evil of anyone, was convinced that Rahab was an innkeeper and not a prostitute. But I’m thankful that she was both an innkeeper and a prostitute. It reminds me of the truth in a familiar hymn:
 
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
yonder on Calvary's mount out-poured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
  (Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord; Julia Johnston)
 
It was Clement of Rome who, in the first century, made an analogy that the cord the spies told Rahab to hang out the window was to be scarlet. His analogy was that the scarlet color was pointing to the shed blood of the Messiah to come, the Lord Jesus Christ. * 
 
The hymn writer, Julia Johnston, put it this way when she wrote:
 
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
what can avail to wash it away!
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
whiter than snow you may be today.
 
Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.
 
Rahab found that God’s grace was greater than her sin. May you and I also have that same assurance – that blessed assurance of salvation and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ!  Amen.
 
 
 
* Alternate ending for Trinity Psalter (or other) Hymnal use:
 
 
It was Clement of Rome who, in the first century, made an analogy that the cord the spies told Rahab to hang out the window was to be scarlet. His analogy was that the scarlet color was pointing to the shed blood of the Messiah to come, the Lord Jesus Christ. 
 
The hymn writer, Robert Lowry, made the same observation when he asked, “What can wash away my sin?” And answered, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” And another hymnwriter, William Cowper, pointed out:
 
There is a fountain filled with blood
  Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
  Lose all their guilty stains…
  
The dying thief rejoiced to see
  That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
  Wash all my sins away…
 
Rahab found that God’s grace was greater than her sin. May you and I also have that same assurance, that blessed assurance of salvation and forgiveness through saving faith in Jesus Christ, as he shed his blood for sinners.  Amen!
 
 
Bulletin Outline:
 
 
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies,
was not killed with those who were disobedient.  – Hebrews 11:31
 
                   “Transformed by Grace Through Faith”
                              Hebrews 11:31; Joshua 2:1-24
 
I.  In Joshua 2:1-24 we read how Rahab, a prostitute who could tell lies
    convincingly (3-6), demonstrated her faith by tying a scarlet cord in her
    window, showing us that:
     1) Saving faith is given to prostitutes, tax collectors, zealots, and countless
          other “undesirables” (1; Luke 5:27-32)
 
 
     2) Faith is not limited to one nationality (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8),
          nor does it have a gender distinction (Galatians 3:28)
 
 
     3) The object of saving faith must always be the Lord and His work:
          a) Past (8-11)
 
 
          b) Present (12-13)
 
 
          c) Future (17-21)
 
 
      4) Genuine faith results in good works (James 2:25-26; Eph. 2:8-10)
 
 
II. Applications:
      1) Even those who are “chief of sinners” (including us!) can be
           forgiven (1 Timothy 1:15)
 
  
      2) When saved, sinners are sanctified: Rahab married Salmon,  
           became the mother of Boaz who married Ruth, and is listed in
           the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5)
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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