In our last post we shared with you the context of the seven foundational experiences for all believers in Hebrews 5:12-6:1-3. In this installment, we want to begin looking at the first of the seven foundational experiences which is “Repentance from Dead Works” (See Hebrews 6:1). Wuest Translation: “Therefore, having put away once for all the beginning word of the Messiah [the first testament in animal blood, i.e., the Mosaic economy], let us be carried along to that which is complete [the new testament in Jesus’ blood], not again laying down a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (Eerdmans). We are urged by the writer to not lay again the foundation of these seven experiences which are then listed beginning with “Repentance from Dead Works“.
“Repentance from Dead Works” actually features two distinct aspects: repentance from and then dead works. What is repentance? Before we delve into what repentance is, let’s take a quick look at what repentance is not. To confess one’s sin is not the same thing as repentance. It is true that proper confession of our sins is an aspect of repentance but confession of sins is not repentance. Also our being profoundly convicted of our sins is not synonymous with repentance. Many in scripture were convicted of sin but were never moved to repentance. The author Kevin J. Conner writes, “True repentance involves conviction of sin, contrition for sin, confession of sin, and abandonment or forsaking sin, being sorrowful enough to stop sinning! Conviction should produce contrition and sorrow for sin, then confession of it, then forsaking it. This is the test on all repentance, whether it is genuine or not.” See these scriptural references: Mark 1:15; Mt. 3:2, 8, 11; Luke 13:2-5; Acts 5:31; 17:30; 20:21; Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:10.
What is Repentance? Repentance (3341) (metanoia from meta = after + noéo = to understand) literally means “afterthought” or “to think after” and implies a change of mind. From the NT uses, it is clear that metanoia means however much more than merely a change of one’s mind but also includes a complete change of heart, attitude, interest, and direction. Metanoia is a conversion in every sense of the word. (Precept Austin)
Marvin Vincent states on the verb form (metanoeo) that this is “A word compounded of the preposition meta, after, with; and the verb noeo, to perceive, and to think, as the result of perceiving or observing. In this compound the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by after and different; so that the whole compound means to think differently after. Metanoia (repentance) is therefore, primarily, an after-thought, different from the former thought; then, a change of mind which issues in regret and in change of conduct. These latter ideas, however, have been imported into the word by scriptural usage, and do not lie in it etymologically nor by primary usage. Repentance, then, has been rightly defined as “Such a virtuous alteration of the mind and purpose as begets a like virtuous change in the life and practice.” Sorrow is not, as is popularly conceived, the primary nor the prominent notion of the word. Paul distinguishes between sorrow and repentance (metanoia), and puts the one as the outcome of the other. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance” (2Cor 7:10). (Vincent, M. R. Word Studies in the New Testament. Vol. 1, Page 3-23)
Kenneth Wuest writes, Repent is the translation of metanoeo which in classical Greek meant “to change one’s mind or purpose, to change one’s opinion.” The noun metanoia meant “a change of mind on reflection.” These two words used in classical Greek signified a change of mind regarding anything, but when brought over into the New Testament, their usage is limited to a change of mind in the religious sphere. They refer there to a change of moral thought and reflection which follows moral delinquency. This includes not only the act of changing one’s attitude towards and opinion of sin but also that of forsaking it. Sorrow and contrition with respect to sin, are included in the Bible idea of repentance, but these follow and are consequent upon the sinner’s change of mind with respect to it.” (Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament)
The late Derek Prince defined “repentance from” as “an inner change of mind resulting in an outward turning back, or turning around; to face and to move in a completely new direction.”
Paul’s description of the saints at Thessalonica gives us quite the visual of true repentance:“For they themselves (other believers in Macedonia and Achaia) report about us (Paul, Silvanus and Timothy) what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come”. (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10)
It is important to note that Jesus Christ and the Apostles’ message was “repent and believe”! It is also critical for us to see that repentance is the gift of our loving Father and that it initiates with Him and not with us. The Father in an act of grace toward man, engages His Spirit towards man, otherwise man is unable to repent. Psa. 80:3 illustrates the initiative of God: “restore us” means “cause us to turn back”. See also Lam. 5:21. Here are some additional verses which help us see that repentance is God’s gift to us: “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18, 16:14); “God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” = (2 Tim. 2:25); “the kindness (goodness) of God leads you to repentance“= (Rom. 2:4). As we can clearly see repentance is God’s gift. He moves towards man but we have the personal responsibility to create space for God’s wonderful gift.
Scripturally, repentance is commanded of us. See Acts 2:38. Several verses dictate repent or perish! All those who are born again should live a repentant life. Take a look at these key verses: 1 Kings 8:47-50; Ezek. 14:6; 18:30; Acts 5:31; 2 Cor. 7:9-10; 2 Peter 3:9).
The point of all this is to encourage us as believers called to mature in the Lord, to recognize that biblically defined repentance is required! Not only should we know what repentance is and is not. But we must also engage in it! It is not merely to be known as a doctrine but to be experienced as a reality for us. Tragically, under the coming judgments of Almighty God, there will come a time in history where repentance will no longer be available (Rev. 9:20-21; 16:9-11).
This leaves us to uncover what is meant by “dead works” – all acts & activities that are not based upon repentance & faith. We will save this for our next discussion. We will also soon see that true repentance must always precede faith and how minus repentance, faith by itself is an meaningless profession. These are necessary experiences for all those seeking to stay on target with the Lord!