James gives two examples from the old testament who had both faith and works. Abraham and Rehab, and many others in the old testament, were examples of rock hard faith. This could be called the rock of ages festival! Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for his relationship with God. (Genesis 22) A firm faith will produce a work that is willing to give up everything for God! These verses need to be read in context. If one reads only "justified by works" without the surrounding verses, it makes it seem that doing good can save. However, verse 22 says "faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works,' which is very clear. Verse 24 is very clear as well in that a person is justified by works and faith together. Faith always results in works. Faith comes first; works follows. Works alone do not save otherwise every unbeliever who did good things would be saved. Abraham was counted as righteous and a friend of God. This makes me want to sing, "What a friend we have in Jesus!" This is also referenced in Romans 4:1-5.
Verse 23 quotes Genesis 15:6, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." This is before the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. There are two kinds of righteousness. First, we become righteous in the eyes of God through faith on account of Christ. Second, we become righteous in the eyes of the world by works. Abraham's faith was completed in that it fulfilled both kinds of righteousness.
Rahab lived in Jericho when the spies from the Israelites came before they entered the promised land. Rahab hid the spies and helped them escape. Her family was saved when the city was destroyed because she had faith in God's plan for the Israelites. (Joshua 2:8-13) Rahab was also an ancestor of Jesus. This is also referenced in Hebrews 11:31. Am I the difference maker? Am I the difference even at my own expense without expecting anything in return?
In verse 26, "spirit" is "breath of life" and not "Holy Spirit." We cannot live without the breath of life. The body cannot live apart from the spirit (breathe). Faith cannot live without works. Both Abraham and Rahab breathed faith in by what they did. It was living faith because it did something. If something is dead it does not move. I need to breathe faith. I need to live and breathe faith.