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...
Hebrews 6:1

The phrase "dead works" can quickly become confusing, especially when we see verses like Revelation 3:1. It appears that the Bible talks about two kinds of dead works:

  1. Those works we do before we are saved as a means to try to please God (e.g.filthy rags as in Isaiah 64:6)
  2. Those works we do after we are saved that are not pleasing to God (e.g. wood, hay, and stubble as in 1 Corinthians 3:11-12).
To understand what is meant in Hebrews 6:1, let us go to the only other place that the phrase is used, which happens to be in the same letter in chapter 9, verse 14:

How much more shall the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God,
purge your conscience from dead works
to serve the living God?
Hebrews 9:14

Thus, from the only other place in the Scriptures that the phrase "dead works" is used, the context indicates that this means that man cannot be justified by the works of the law, but only by the blood of Jesus Christ. In other words "repentance from dead works" is the doctrine that we must repent from trusting in our own dead works to save us. Instead, we must trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

So, to get some more ideas about this, let's look up the following words in our concordances: "works", "dead", "repentance":

  • Galatians 2:16 - "man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ... for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 - "not of works"
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 - "not according to our works"
  • Titus 3:5 - "not by works of righteousness which we have done"
  • Romans 3:21-22 - "by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight"
  • Romans 4:4-5 - "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt."
  • Isaiah 64:6 - "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags"

We see that there are many verses that support the doctrine that man cannot be justified (or saved) by works.

Homework

Search the Scriptures and see if what is written here is true (Acts 17:11)

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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.
Hebrews 6:1-2

Know the Truth