Friday, March 16, 2007

Repentance from Dead Works

"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit." (Hebrews 6:1-3)


The message of repentance is God's fundamental message to the world. Ever since the prophets first began to speak the oracles of God, the primal declaration has been the solemn word of repentance. Our Lord Jesus was preceded by His forerunner, John the Baptist, who cried out to Israel: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight", and the Lord Himself first preached to men: "Repent, and believe the gospel."

The seriousness of the issue is this: if repentance in the gospel is omitted then there is no hope for anyone to be saved. If there is not a change in a person than there is not a change in that same person's eternal destination. A sinner who fails to repent will steadfastly gaze upon the gates of hell until he has finally passed through it without a single distraction. Oh, the necessity of repentance! It is the provision of heaven for the sojourner to hell.

What then is repentance? Is it a reformation of our moral behavior? Some would think it to be just that, but our text does not allow it. "...repentance from dead works." It is of utmost importance that our definition of repentance be the true definition or else we will find ourselves running the well-trodden course of vain self-righteousness. The true meaning of the word metanoeo is to change one's mind; it is to think differently toward God, to think differently toward sin, and to think differently toward Christ. Hymn writer William Newell wrote:

Years I've spent in vanity and pride
Caring not my Lord was crucified
Knowing not it was for me He died at Calvary

Notice the particulars of this verse: vanity; pride; caring not... It is not so much that the sinner is unaware that Jesus indeed died on the cross... but the problem lies with his attitude toward that death, and the utter ignorance of the fact that Christ died FOR HIM on the cross, to destroy the sin which he so wickedly enjoys. He has not had a change of mind towards God and sin and Christ that would break his carnal self, causing him to tremble upon his knees.

When a man repents, his mind changes toward God. No longer does he see himself as god upon the throne, but he bows the knee to the one true God and freely confesses that "Jesus Christ is Lord". A revelation of the absolute sovereignty of God causes the man to give up his futile rebellion and submit himself to the Lord's rule and authority. Then his mind is changed toward sin. No longer does he see sin as a desirable means of satisfying his carnal lusts, but sin becomes utterly repulsive and evil, for it is the transgressing of God's righteous law which deserves inexplicable punishment. How he then sees the corrupted nature of his own vile self in the light of God's unspeakable and unapproachable holiness! "Woe is me, for I am undone!" And thus, his mind changes toward Christ. At last he looks upon the cross, not as an object of scorn, but as the ultimate triumph of redeeming love where Jesus rescued his perishing soul.

By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.

The repentance described in Scripture is the turning from self-saving to the saving God. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:22) It is a humbling thing to repent. It is death to all that is self.

And it is here that the righteousness of God displayed. "...repentance from dead works." Dead works are all that man tries to do to save himself; all the self-righteousness we deceive ourselves into thinking will procure our own salvation! What folly of the Pharisees! "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:3) But the righteousness of God... I don't think there is a sweeter sound to the truly redeemed soul!... the righteousness of God, which is by the faith of the Son of God: "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." (Romans 3:20-22) The righteousness of Jesus Christ is worth more than a million endless lifetimes of man's attempt at Law. Glory to God!

There is only one gate into heaven, let us not be confused. Christ is the gate, and by Him only we must be saved. If any man tries to get in any other way he is a thief and a robber. The surrender of the will is to turn aside into this living Way. Turn aside, sinner! Flee from wrath to come! Repent, or you shall perish.

Repentance is not moral reform. This frame of mind has damned many souls. Repentance is a change of the mind towards God, towards sin and towards Christ. It is throwing yourself down upon the nail-pierced feet of the risen Son of God. It is the only escape from the path that leads to death.

"And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight." (Colossians 1:20-22)


Thank you Jesus for the victory that You secured for me by Your death on the cross and Your resurrection from the dead. I repent of my dead works today and place my hope in the righteousness that is by faith in You. Help me to live everyday for the glory of Your holy Name.


Micah and Katie said...

Hey Eli,

Love the post. I have been realizing lately that sometimes when I am telling people about Jesus that I forget to talk about repentance! *Slap forehead*. I tell them about how he paid the price for our sin and forgives us for our sin and how if we follow his commandments in the bible, were good to go....... but I sometimes completely forget to address the fact that you can't just accept Jesus and his teachings without comming face to face with the fact that we are all a bunch of rotten sinners. It's all frosting if people "accept" Jesus, but don't even realize that the reason they need to accept him is to deal with their sin. I guess I probably avoid it because talking about people's sin isn't the best way to hit it off with someone. hahaha. "Hi there! My name is Micah and you are a sinner!". I need to pray and ask God to help me in the area with wisdom and boldness. Thanks for the reminder. God Bless brother! Micah

Anonymous said...

Dear Eli,
What a splendid message! How true! It's something that I've never seen that way before, but it bore witness in my spirit that it was true.
God bless you for sharing this word with us.