Rahab’s Assurance

I forgot to mention something crucial in yesterday’s post on Rahab and salvation: Rahab had assurance.

Introducing good works as a salvation requirement can undermine assurance. Imagine that good works are a requirement for salvation. Does that mean I have to do something good (e.g., help the poor, smile at those I meet) every single day? Can I take a break at any time? Can I ever have the assurance that God just loves me, whether I do something good or not? Also, there is the question of how good is good enough. Do my good works have to be perfect for God to accept them? Suppose I have both good works and bad works. Does God weigh those in the balance in determining whether or not I enter his kingdom, as is argued within Judaism? Can I ever be at peace when works are a requirement for salvation?

As I said yesterday, there is a sense in which Rahab’s faith and works were both necessary for her escape from divine wrath (the Conquest). She believed in God, but she also helped the spies, and she appealed to her good deed in persuading them to deliver her. Her good deed was not necessarily perfect, since she lied, but she did have a noble desire to help them and to be on God’s side.

In all of this, she had some assurance that she would be delivered. The spies told her to tie a scarlet cord onto her window, and that would signal to the Israelite soldiers that they were not to touch her house. So the spies gave Rahab a promise that she could trust (which implies assurance), and her deliverance was based in part on a simple act: tying a cord onto her house. Christians such as Francis Schaeffer have seen a parallel between this act and the Passover ritual of painting blood on the doorposts to avert the Destroyer. For Schaeffer, the scarlet cord represents the blood of Christ, which protects God’s people from divine wrath. This makes the Rahab story a lesson about justification by grace through faith, since Rahab trusts a symbol of Christ’s blood to be delivered.

There was another condition in the spies’ oath, however. If Rahab told anybody about the spies’ mission, then the oath would be nullified. I do not know entirely what this means. Are the spies afraid that Rahab might send them to the mountains for three days and then tell the Jericho troops that they are there? Do they fear that Rahab will tell the people of Jericho when the Israelites are coming, and the spies want the attack to be a surprise? I don’t know, but I think I can say this with some confidence: For the spies and the other Israelites, if the Israelites successfully attacked, then that would mean that Rahab fulfilled her side of the bargain and did not compromise the spies’ mission.

So we have a recipe with all of these ingredients. Faith and works play a role in Rahab’s deliverance, yet she exemplifies divine grace, since God gave her a new beginning despite her sordid past. Rahab must continue to be on God’s side even after the spies’ departure for her deliverance to be certain. Plus, Rahab is instructed to do a simple act that would protect her and her family: she is to tie a scarlet cord (the blood of Christ) onto her window. That gives her assurance, since it is such a simple act that safeguards her household.

So how does all this influence how I see salvation? I have no idea. I’ll have to think more about that.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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