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Repentance From Dead Works (1)


As we prepare to commence our studies on the first of the six elementary principles of Christ documented in Hebrews 6:1-2, it is imperative that we state categorically that the basis or the platform on which these foundational principles are to be laid is the finished work of Christ on the cross at Calvary. If Jesus Christ did not die on the cross for the sins of mankind, then these elementary principles would be nothing but some philosophical statements, having no power to bring about transformation in peoples lives. The bible says in 1 Corinthians 3:11, For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ., and in Acts 4:12, the bible, speaking of the salvation which comes through the death of Jesus Christ, says, Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the bedrock upon which these six elementary foundations are laid. And unless a man has put his trust in Jesus finished work at Calvary for the redemption of mankind, these studies will not advance him beyond bringing him to the foot of the cross for his salvation. Only after this salvation, can these elementary principles be laid and be beneficial to the listener. Another thing we want you to note is that the order of laying these foundations is sacrosanct; that is, the order from the bottom up, is repentance from dead works, then faith towards God, then baptisms, until finally, the teachings on eternal judgment is laid. This order is critical because, you cannot, for instance, be authentically baptized in any form, unless, you have first repented from dead works, which includes sin and sinful living, and have turned in faith towards God. This implies that your claim to have been baptized in water when you were a baby, or when you were too young to know what was happening to you, and, before you had repented of your sins and put your trust in God through Jesus Christ, you merely went for a bath! You were not baptized!
Now, let us begin. The first of the six elementary principles of Christ stated in Hebrews 6:1-2 is Repentance from dead works. Two things stand out here: the word repentance and the phrase dead works. We shall look at the word repentance now; the phrase dead works, shall be considered at a later time.

Repentance connotes a turning away from a course of action which you were pursuing, but which you are now convinced is wrong; and as a result you are now engaged in the right course of action. Repentance is much more than saying Im sorry or merely apologizing. It requires the action which speaks louder than words. People are asked to recite some words which, they are told that once these have been recited, they are saved from Gods eternal judgment; but that is not really correct. In Matthew 3:7-10, the bible records John the Baptists remarks to the religious leaders of his day, when he saw them coming to his baptism as follows: Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

As John the Baptist was preaching Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, the people who heard his message, would come forward to repent before God, and then he, John the Baptist, would dip them into the Jordan river; a sign to show that they have been forgiven of their sins, and are now free to worship God without fear of rejection by God. But then, some religious leaders (the Pharisees), and some politicians who arrogated religious authority to themselves (the Sadducees), also came to his baptism; possibly believing that that was all there was to the matter. This prompted John the Baptist to say to them, Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit worthy of repentance These were people who would ordinarily have been highly esteemed anywhere else, but John the Baptist referred to them as a family of snakes: meaning that they were all alike; slippery, cunning, crafty, and conniving; noting that if indeed they were repentant, it would show by the way they lived. For John the Baptist, as it was for the Lord Jesus, merely claiming to be Abrahams descendants was not enough to save them from the wrath of God to come on all sinners. The same is true of todays religious people who think that being born into a Christian home, regularly attending church, or, praying several times a day, is enough for them to escape the wrath of Gods judgment which is to come upon all sinners. But the message of God to you today, is Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance. In Luke 3:10-14, when the people asked John the Baptist, What shall we do then? that is, to show that we are truly repentant, John the Baptist said, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, do likewise. That is, manifest your repentance by being selfless, kind, and compassionate to others; sharing with, and caring for those who do not have what you have. To the publicans (those people who can be likened to todays local government licensing officials, court clerks, Customs and Immigrations officials), he said, Exact that which is no more than that which is appointed you. In other words, do not ask people to pay more than the official fees license fees, Excise Duty, Passport fees, or taxes, if truly you have repented of your ways. To the soldiers (people who can be likened to todays policemen, traffic wardens, JTF, etc.), he said, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. In other words, if you are truly repentant, it will show, because, you will not be violent towards the people you are meant to protect, like your colleagues who are not repentant would do; you will not violently seize bunkered petrol and diesel, only to turn around and sell it yourself; you will not accuse anyone falsely so that they can be at your mercy and so that you can exert a bribe from them; and, you should be content with your salary.

So you see, while a person may claim to have repented; it remains for that repentance to be clearly evident. In reality, when a person has truly repented of a wrong or of an evil act, he not only acts differently and in a right manner; but he also makes amends where necessary. For example, if you had obtained your certificate fraudulently, if indeed you have repented, you should have informed your employers or school authorities, as the case may be, that you used fake certificates to obtain the job or admission; and then you would leave the job or school. Therefore, repentance is not just saying I am sorry for doing the wrong thing; it also involves making right, as much as possible, every wrong done, and henceforth, living a life that proves that repentance.

There are some things which people classify as repentance, but which in reality is no repentance. A situation in which nothing is done by way of word or deed to say I am sorry for the wrong I have done is no repentance! Some people may in fact be attending church regularly, but have neither said nor done anything to suggest that they are repentant about any sinful or wrong conduct or action whatsoever. Some biblical examples will help us understand this matter of people who dont repent when confronted with their wrong doing.
When Adam and Eve sinned as recorded in Genesis 3:1-13, neither of them repented. When God asked Adam, Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? Adams reply was, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And when Eve was likewise confronted by God about the matter, she blamed the serpent, saying, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. You will note that neither Adam nor Eve told God Yes, I ate of the tree; please forgive me. Rather, they each blamed someone else for their actions! Blaming someone for your own actions, rather than taking responsibility for it is one of the marks of the unrepentant: He made me do it She made me do it The devil made me do it are statements of people who are not repentant!
In Genesis 4:1-14, we read the story of Cain and Abel, and how Cain killed his brother, Abel. But when God asked Cain about the whereabouts of his brother, Cains response was, I know not: Am I my brothers keeper? This was a blatant and deliberate act to hide his deed or misdeed! His answer was a lie, and it was deceptive. When a child is asked a question like, Who ate the meat in the soup? he would first answer, Ehn? and when you ask the question again, he would have composed himself and would say something like, How should I know! But he was the only one at home! Clearly, this is not the response of a repentant child!
In 2 Chronicles 16:1-12, the bible tells the story of how King Asa was angry with a prophet whom God sent to ask him why he relied on the heathen king of Syria rather than on God? Not only was he angry with the prophet; he also imprisoned him! And when this king was diseased in his feet, instead of turning to God, he continued to go to doctors to heal a problem which clearly was the result of his sinful conduct. There are those who get upset with Gods messenger when their sinful acts are mentioned. Rather than get upset, the right thing to do is to repent! The reason why God sends anyone to tell you of your sinful life is to bring you to the place of repentance, but instead, many people see it as an affront and an intrusion into their privacy!
In 2 Chronicles 26:16-21, the bible gives the account of how King Uzziah became very powerful, and sadly, prideful. This king went beyond his duties to offer incense in the temple; a function exclusively reserved for the priests. And when he was challenged by the priests, he was incensed against them, but God inflicted him with leprosy. Unfortunately, this king never repented, but died in his sins!

From the instances we have given, it is clear that a person who blames others for his own actions, even if those people encouraged him take those actions is an unrepentant person. No one can make you do what you dont want to doyou are responsible for your own actions. Even the devil cannot make you do what you dont want to do. The devil may prod and entice you to do evil, but he cannot force you to do it; you do it because you want to do it! And getting angry at those who confront you with your sinful conduct is not only unhelpful, but it is truly prideful! Always remember that the reason why God is telling you that your conduct is sinful is so that you can realize your wrong actions and turn to God in repentance. And when you are going through pains which you brought upon yourself and you do not turn to God, but instead, you are trying to patch things up on your own, you are not helping yourself. Admitting that the pain you are going through is because of your sinful ways will bring you to the place of repentance before God.

Next week we shall look at another kind of response which some people think is repentance, but which is not. But for now, if you fall into the category of people who blame others for their sinful acts, who get angry when their sinful conduct is pointed out, or who are prideful and arrogant and who dont want to be told that they are wrong, and yet keep going to church, hoping that church attendance would make things better or make God to intervene on their behalf about a matter, you are badly mistaken. God knows everything that you are doing, and have done, including your motives for doing those thingsHe does not need anyone to tell Him. Indeed, when God asked Adam, Where are you? after he had sinned in the Garden of Eden, He was not ignorant of Adams sin, neither was He seeking information about Adams whereabouts; rather, He wanted Adam to come clean and admit that he had in fact acted in disobedience to Gods word. But Adam failed miserably. You shouldnt! instead of denying your faults, blaming others, or getting angry and attacking people maliciously, why not turn to God now, and admit your faults to Him. God is more than willing to show you mercy. In fact, He has been waiting for you to turn away from your sinful ways, and to return to Him all this while. Do that now!

Let us pray!