Scripture includes Rahab among those whose faith God highlights for our profit: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Heb. 11:31). The inspired account about Rahab and her dealings with the Israelites (Josh. 2:1-24; cf. 6:25) illustrates several aspects of how a sinner is saved.
First, her faith resulted from her hearing about what the Lord had done in delivering His people and in destroying others (through His chosen judicial agents, the Israelites):
9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
Rahab was not saved by hearing a message only about the Lord as the One who saves those who are His; she heard a message that also informed her of the Lord as the One who judges those who are wicked. Every sinner should be given clear teaching that solemnly testifies to both truths (cf. Acts 10:42-43; 17:30-31).
Second, her faith included her believing that what the Lord and His chosen judicial agents (the Israelites) had done was righteous. This point is clear from her willingness to receive the Israelites in peace instead of informing the authorities of their presence and turning them over to them.
To be saved, a sinner must be persuaded that God has been and always will be just in everything He has done and will do. In particular, he must be prepared to acknowledge the righteousness of God in how He saves repentant sinners and destroys the unrepentant wicked.
Third, her faith evidenced her turning from whatever her former religious beliefs had been to believing in and confessing the Lord as the God of heaven and earth:
11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.
Such acknowledgement of the uniqueness of the Lord as the only true God is essential for the forgiveness of one’s sins (Rom. 10:9-10).
Fourth, having publicly confessed who the Lord was, she asked for mercy from His judicial agents:
12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: 13 And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.
With the exception of those who cannot knowledgeably pray to Him, God grants mercy only to those who ask Him for it.
Fifth, they covenanted with her to grant her mercy in the future judgment that would come on the sinners among whom she lived—provided she continued to act in keeping with her initial proper acceptance of God’s message and of His agents:
14 And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.
15 Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.
16 And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way.
17 And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.
18 Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee.
19 And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.
20 And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.
21 And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.
Her salvation experience thus included repentance and faith (cf. Acts 20:21), public confession of the Lord (cf. Rom. 10:9-10), a request for mercy from God (mediated through His judicial agents; cf. Acts 10:42-43; Rom. 10:13), and doing works fitting for saving repentance and faith (cf. Acts 2:38; 26:20).
These same elements will characterize the salvation experience of every sinner who repents toward God, believes in Jesus Christ, and manifests the genuineness of his salvation by persevering in the faith to the end. Those who do so will, like Rahab, not perish eternally with those who do not believe.