What’s up everyone!
During our last installment in this in depth look at Hebrews 6:1-3 and what are known as the Seven Foundational Experiences for all Believers, we briefly delved into what is meant by “laying the foundation” and started to unpack the first of the seven foundational experiences which is “repentance from dead works“. Remember that “the foundation” we are exhorted to not lay again is considered to consist of the “elementary principles” of Christ. Kevin J.Conner in his work the Doctrine of Christ, refers to these as “steps” or “elementals” and as “the first principles of the oracles (sayings, Scriptures) of God (Heb. 5:12), the Principles of the Doctrine of Christ (Heb. 6:1) and the Word of the Beginning of Christ (Heb. 6:1 margin). He says, “these are the steps unto perfection. It is the walk of the believer ‘in Christ’. Step by step (Psa. 119:133). And the steps of the doctrine of Christ are to bring the believer to the very throne of God, the throne of perfection.” I also value the perspective of Sam Soleyn, who in describing the culture of the family of God, says that these “Elementary Doctrines are the building blocks of this culture, meant to be cultivated in the life of every believer. From infancy to maturity, these principles unfold with greater and greater complexity throughout the believer’s life. The result is a unified corpus, with many parts, that is capable of presenting a standard of righteousness in the earth.” One can obviously see how critical these all are and the importance of going on from them to maturity or perfection in Christ.
Recall that the third of this particular series of posts for our insight pertained to “repentance“. Here we will invest our time looking at what are “dead works“. We are told specifically to repent of these; of “dead works“. Here are a few cross references for this phrase (Heb 9:14; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 2:1,5). But what are these “dead works” from which we are to repent? Let’s look at each word separately.
Dead (3498) (nekros from nékus = a corpse; English – necropsy, necrophobia, etc) refers to that which lacks life and spiritually speaks of works that “have no life” for they will not endure the test of God’s refining fire. They are works wrought by the flesh not by faith.
Works (2041) (ergon; used 10 times in Hebrews) refers to toil as an effort or occupation . Hebrews 9:14 gives us insight into what the writer is speaking of here. It reads, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” As humans we tend to resort to fleshly works to alleviate our guilty consciences hoping we can do something that will make us acceptable to the Lord. But this verse warns us to trust in the finished work of Christ knowing that His blood will satisfy the requirements of the Father and by faith in Him cleanse our conscience from dead works and enable us to serve the Living God by and through His means.
Conner in his exposition of the Book of Hebrews says “dead works” have a twofold aspect: a) The “dead works” of the sinner concerning recovery of self, works of the flesh (Gal. 5:17-21) and b) The “dead works” of the religious, but unregenerate, at recovery of self, the works of the Law. All are lifeless forms, works of self-life. Dead works are works done before salvation in order to earn salvation and righteousness by works. The works of the Law, ceremonies, rituals, ordinances – dead works – could not produce righteousness or life.” So, in essence a dead work is anything not done in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A dead work is anything we do, even though they may be good things, in any effort to win the favor of God. All of our works, which are not done in union with Christ or from our dependence on the Holy Spirit are nothing more than works of the flesh! Any effort or attempt we make in and of ourselves and minus Him is a dead work!
So, the writer to the Hebrews was instructing his hearers to turn away from dead works and to put their faith in God! They were being told not to trust Old Covenant rituals and beneficent acts as a means of making or proving themselves worthy before God. Christ had done the work! They now had to accept His work and live out of its reality and no longer attempt to “work” their way into salvation or the good pleasure of the Lord.
Several places in scripture address this as well. The Apostle Paul wrote in Gal. 3:3-6, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Paul also writes in Eph. 2:8, 9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
The bottom line becomes visible to us: we are cease from doing anything not born of faith and place the gift of faith that we have been given in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Anytime we find ourselves engaging in dead works, those not of faith in Christ, we must REPENT to God. One more way, we can all stay on target!