Repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God
When we come to faith, when we asked Jesus into our heart, we have a lot to learn.
Luckily the Lord helps us, by His Spirit, to teach us those things that are important to learn. It is striking that people who just came into faith, read quite a lot in the Bible. That is good but also makes sense, because everything we would like to know about our faith can be found in the Bible. It is the Word of God.
If you have read the Gospel of John, you probably have noticed that Jesus is being called "the Word." It was Him who spoke, and it was there. He created all, the whole creation. But the Bible is also His Word. What the authors of the Bible have written, they received from: the Word "by the Holy Spirit".
Everything, of which God wants us to know, is in the Bible. Very profound things or "high", it just depends how you look at them, but also the most elementary things. Paul, one of the disciples, calls this: the elementary teachings about Christ, also called the foundation.
Jesus Himself gave a nice story as example for a foundation. Among other things it is in Matthew :
24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
A clear story. Our faith must have a solid foundation. A rock is the best starting point to build a foundation on. Then everything can happen in our life but our faith will stand firm on the foundation that is build on the rock. That rock is Jesus. He is God.
There are a lot of texts that show that Jesus is The Rock, I will show a few from 2 Samuel:
2 Samuel 22:3,32 and 47
"3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my saviour--from violent men you save me."
"32 For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?"
"47 "The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Saviour!"
If we are to get busy with the foundation, that foundation has to be build on Jesus, The Rock.
Of what does this foundation consist?
Paul explains this in the letter he wrote to the Hebrews. It is written in chapter 6. He only hints at this indirectly because he doesn't want to talk about the foundation all the time. The house that is to be build upon it is of course more interesting. But still, since a foundation always has to be laid we are going to discuss this first. The text which shows of which the foundation consists is the following: (We will read it in two different translations)
" Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment." Hebrews 6:1, 2, NIV.
" 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, KJV.
The foundation consists of the following topics:
- Conversion of dead works and belief in God
- The teaching of baptism and laying on of hands
- The resurrection of the dead and of an eternal judgment
The good and bad works
We will now discuss the first part of the foundation: conversion of dead works and belief in God.
What are they, works?
We can of course take out a dictionary to find the meaning of "works" but that is not the way to look into Biblical Matthew rs. When we would like to find out about Biblical topics, we have to look for the answer in that same Bible. We have to steadily look up all texts concerning "works" and then ask God to give us wisdom to find those texts, which are important to this subject.
You can do this yourself, the concordance is a wonderful tool for this but for now I have already done some preparation. For this I use a computer program with different Biblical translations, Dutch as well as English/American. With such a program it is very easy to get all the texts, which contain the particular word we are looking for. I have worked through all these texts and it appeared to me that there are many kinds of works. There are only two texts, which talk about "dead works".
In the New Testament alone are 133 texts, which talk about "works". There are texts which discuss "good works ", others talk about "bad works" or "works of the law" but there are also texts which talk about "the works of God." We should read a few and try to understand what they are about.
The first text we come across is Matthew 5
"let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
Then there are a few like:Ephesians 2:10
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
1 Timothy 6:18
"Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."
But there are also works not that good, also from these texts some examples:
"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."
"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior."
"The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood--idols that cannot see or hear or walk."
Like this there are many more texts, which make it clear that there are good works and bad ones. The works that God likes can only be done if you let yourself be lead by Him. That in turn is only possible if you have been converted, if you said to God with whole your heart: "God, I am a sinner, would you please forgive me." You are asking Jesus to come into your heart; He will guide you also in good works.
Those who do not follow what God wants are doing the works that are bad and then it appears from the Bible that you automatically do the works of Gods opponent, the devil.
This kind of works leads to death, the eternal death, always being separated from God.
But, you might say, I am doing my best to do well!
That in itself is fine. The problem only is that you might do your best to do well but if you don't acknowledge God as the God in your life, you will never do it right.
What Paul really means with you having to convert from dead works is that you cannot earn the eternal life by doing well. Everything you try to do yourself is dead works in Gods eyes.
Man by nature has drifted so far away from God that nothing we do will reconcile us again with God. That is why God brought His Son Jesus into the world.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
Jesus became the way to God. "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me."
If we admit that all our good works are not enough to get to God, we admit that they are actually dead works. If we don't expect anything from that but put our faith in Jesus, then Jesus will be The Way to the Father.
Then we are going to do the works of God. And then what do we have to do? In the Bible we also come across this question. The people asked Jesus:
"... What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
In short it amounts to us having to admit that nothing we do- as long as we didn't accept God in our lives as Lord of our life- has eternal value. God wants to be your heavenly Father but He can be this only if you believe in Jesus. Turn yourself to Him and He will come into your life and help you to live according to His will. From that moment on you are a child of God and have eternal life. That doesn't mean that you can no longer die in this life but that after this life you will have eternal life in the kingdom of God.
What a wonderful life that must be!
Peter also gives this appeal:
"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,"
In another letter Peter says:
2 Peter 3:9
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
These calls are addressed not only to the people who really did their best to do well in this life but surely also to those who made a mess of things. Even to those who wilfully wronged.
Jesus has, when he hung on the cross for our sins, given forgiveness to a murderer and promised him that after this dying he would pass on to the paradise.
It is never too bad what you have done. Jesus already took on all your sins. If you repent and ask Him forgiveness He will forgive you. But it could be too late to ask forgiveness! You can only ask for forgiveness in this life. Do it now! God wants to be your Father too.
Israel is a special people to God. He had and has His plans for them. God gave them a law. The main point is the Ten Commandments. They too had to sacrifice. Those sacrifices pointed to the great sacrifice that Jesus, on the cross, would bring. The people who repented something they had done wrong went to the priest and sacrificed an animal. By their repentance and that (replacing) offering, the relationship between them and God was being restored.
There is a fragment in the letter to the Hebrews, which explains how this is set in proportion to the sacrifice of Jesus.
"When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"
Jesus did not bring the blood of an animal into the heavenly sanctuary before Gods throne, but His own blood. He sacrificed Himself to God as an offering!
If you repent your life until now and accept that this sacrifice was made for you, then from now on you can serve the living God. The blood of Jesus cleanses you from all sins, also from your dead works.
Isn't it great what Jesus has done?!
Belief in God
In the letter to the Romans Paul writes:
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
When you say to God "Lord God, my life is not like you had meant it to be, will you forgive me?" Then you say this because you believe that God exists.
You can talk to God because you believe that Jesus died for you.
By saying such things to God you are building your faith in Him. The Bible promises that then you will not be ashamed. You will be saved.
It is good to share your faith with others like the afore mentioned text shows. But you also have to live by it.
The Lord Jesus encourages us to shine our light and do good works.
"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
A few verses further on Jesus warns us:Matthew 6:1
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."
Also the apostle Paul made some remarks on good works:
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
In the letter he wrote to Titus, he very eloquently explains why we should have a great desire to do well.
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
So we keep on working. Before our conversion we did "dead works". After our conversion we do "good works." We cannot earn eternity with it but by our good works we show the love of God working through us.
In the second part of this study about the basics we will get into the teaching of baptism.