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Repentance from dead works in Hebrews 6:1

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  • Repentance from dead works in Hebrews 6:1

    Does the concept of repentance from dead works as mentioned as an elementary part of the faith in Hebrews 6:1 refer to a general repentance from sin, or does it refer to a moving beyond the ineffectual system of animal sacrifice? Or does it mean something else beyond this?
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

  • #2
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    Does the concept of repentance from dead works as mentioned as an elementary part of the faith in Hebrews 6:1 refer to a general repentance from sin, or does it refer to a moving beyond the ineffectual system of animal sacrifice? Or does it mean something else beyond this?
    It appears to be sin. 9:13-14 provides important context:
    For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Paprika View Post
      It appears to be sin. 9:13-14 provides important context:
      I know the insufficiency of animal sacrifice is a theme throughout Hebrews, but the clause from Hebrews 5:11-6:2 seems somewhat detached from the rest of the book as a parenthetical explanation of what the author would rather not spend his time talking about; some of the other topics mentioned there are either not mentioned or only tangentially mentioned.
      "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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      • #4
        Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
        some of the other topics mentioned there are either not mentioned or only tangentially mentioned.
        This really doesn't make sense since faith is discussed to a great extent later; so is judgment.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Paprika View Post
          This really doesn't make sense since faith is discussed to a great extent later; so is judgment.
          I'm thinking most particularly of baptism, which I at least don't think is discussed elsewhere in Hebrews. But I underestimated the extent to which judgment was discussed there upon reflection. I was thinking of a similar tangential subject, which led me astray slightly.
          "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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          • #6
            Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
            I know the insufficiency of animal sacrifice is a theme throughout Hebrews, but the clause from Hebrews 5:11-6:2 seems somewhat detached from the rest of the book as a parenthetical explanation of what the author would rather not spend his time talking about; some of the other topics mentioned there are either not mentioned or only tangentially mentioned.
            It seems that Heb 6 is a continuation of the author's goal to lead the Hebrew believers into adherence to the Messianic teaching rather than just assimilating back among the common non-Messianic people. We see in the Hebrews letter that the believers were forsaking the assembling together as Messianic believers; they were hiding their new beliefs and apparently were even starting to forget the greater glory and benefit through Christ -- a glory that outshined the prototype found in the temple worship.

            In your OP, you ask about the "ineffectual system of the animal sacrifices." The author may have been rebuking the audience for reliance on the animal sacrifices, in light of the greater sacrifice of Christ. However, there is no indication that the animal sacrifices where overall ineffectual -- it doesn't seem that an argument is being made simply against the "old system." Instead the argument of the letter focused on Christ as the fulfillment of what was planned. Christ is the true way for reconciliation with God, cleansing our sin. The author wanted to rekindle the Hebrews' attentiveness to all that had been provided to them through Christ.

            So the "dead works" seems to be speaking of actions proscribed within the pre-Messianic culture ... of seeking righteousness through their own actions. There were many things to repent from: the rejection of God, the rejection of Jesus, their sins, and their own idea of works. The culture of the first century appeared to be focused on doing works described by the Pharisees ... but these works did not really show loving regard for their neighbors. The repentance then would involve more kindness and concern for each other.

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            • #7
              Okay, so i guess im new to theologyweb. I've browsed this site and read debates/discussions for months but i have decided to register and begin participating in these discussions.
              So the first thing i want to point out, is that the book of Hebrews is expository of the Old Testament teachings. Therefore we should consider the context of whats being said. What I mean is understanding the allusions helps us understand the teachings in Hebrews.

              Ezekiel 18:4 teaches us that, "the soul who sins will die." Hence the meaning of dead works, the author is emphasizing actions, works that lead to death.
              He brings to light OT teachings in vs. 1-8, yet establishes true sanctity in vs. 9-12. Simply expounding upon New Covenant doctrine.
              Look at Hebrews 9:14, this verse sheds light on dead works, and just after that verse, speaks of the new covenant.
              So the author is opposing OT covenant theology with Christ's death being the redemption for our dead works, now we can live with the assurance of hope to be diligent imitators of Christ who died for us.

              If in verses 5:11-14, the author discusses that the ones addressed in this letter should be teachers, yet can't be because they require teaching, like a baby who needs milk because they have not yet matured enough to be able to ingest solid food, then what is he explaining in verses 6:1-2? Vs. 5:11-14 states these people are not accustomed to righteousness, and in 6:1-2 the author tells them to leave elementary teaches, such as repentance, and move on from milk to solid food. Because if they do not move on to maturity, they are only "laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." However, The repentance and faith, is merely a foundation, yet these people are not building off of it, they are not becoming accustomed to righteousness, and are not learning to discern good from evil.

              So yes, the concept you're uncertain of is exactly referring to repentance of sin. Notice that when written it's coupled with faith toward God. Because one is to repent of their works that were leading them to death, and move on from their wicked ways by faith in Him.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by IamLives View Post
                Okay, so i guess im new to theologyweb. I've browsed this site and read debates/discussions for months but i have decided to register and begin participating in these discussions.
                Welcome to tweb as a new member.

                Originally posted by IamLives View Post
                So the first thing i want to point out, is that the book of Hebrews is expository of the Old Testament teachings. Therefore we should consider the context of whats being said. What I mean is understanding the allusions helps us understand the teachings in Hebrews.

                Ezekiel 18:4 teaches us that, "the soul who sins will die." Hence the meaning of dead works, the author is emphasizing actions, works that lead to death.
                Are you saying that the author has made a clear allusion to Eze 18:4 or that we should just infer one? In Heb 6:1 we just have a mention of works , not of sin nor of dying.


                Originally posted by IamLives View Post
                If in verses 5:11-14, the author discusses that the ones addressed in this letter should be teachers, yet can't be because they require teaching, like a baby who needs milk because they have not yet matured enough to be able to ingest solid food, then what is he explaining in verses 6:1-2? Vs. 5:11-14 states these people are not accustomed to righteousness, and in 6:1-2 the author tells them to leave elementary teaches, such as repentance, and move on from milk to solid food.
                The writer is not telling the audience to lay aside teachings. The writer was saying he would try avoiding discussion on the basics so he could address the powerful distinctions that should be of compelling interest to the audience.

                Originally posted by IamLives View Post
                So yes, the concept you're uncertain of is exactly referring to repentance of sin. Notice that when written it's coupled with faith toward God. Because one is to repent of their works that were leading them to death, and move on from their wicked ways by faith in Him.
                It seems that your first point here is roughly true. But their 'works' should be seen as 'dead' ... not particularly their path. I think we properly infer that the audience was keeping busy on the wrong actions. However, Hebrews doesn't say that the audience was actually facing death here.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by mikewhitney View Post
                  Are you saying that the author has made a clear allusion to Eze 18:4 or that we should just infer one? In Heb 6:1 we just have a mention of works , not of sin nor of dying.
                  Not necessarily that Eze 18:4 was a clear allusion, but rather we can use the verse to define his meaning of "dead works," though you make a valid point. However, there is not a mention solely of works, but "dead works." What are dead works? If works are actions? Then what are dead actions? Meaningless? Insignificant? Or is the word "dead" elaborating the end of the classified actions. For a work or an action to be classified as "dead," that would by default mean the actions are lifeless. They do not produce fulfillment, life, they in fact reach a bitter end.
                  Your question is the reason I alluded to vs. 9:14.

                  Originally posted by mikewhitney View Post
                  The writer is not telling the audience to lay aside teachings. The writer was saying he would try avoiding discussion on the basics so he could address the powerful distinctions that should be of compelling interest to the audience.
                  No, he is not telling them to lay aside teachings, but to build on the foundation which was the teachings of repentance from dead works and faith toward God.
                  So that they may learn new things beyond the fundamentals.
                  He still reinstates a message accompanying salvation, so where do you see him avoiding basic principles? They weren't understanding it, so he gives them understanding.

                  Originally posted by mikewhitney View Post
                  It seems that your first point here is roughly true. But their 'works' should be seen as 'dead' ... not particularly their path. I think we properly infer that the audience was keeping busy on the wrong actions. However, Hebrews doesn't say that the audience was actually facing death here.
                  Works affirm the walk. Good trees bear good fruit. Dead works lead to death because a wrong action is a sin, and the wages of sin is death, unless you think that wrong actions can be justified. Why would we need to repent and turn away from dead works if they didn't lead us to death? Why would we need the Messiah to clear our conscience from dead works if they weren't going to lead us to death? And why would there be so much emphasis on imitating Christ?
                  We can't properly infer anything, or we have nothing but a supposition, we must stick to the infallible teaching of the text, what it is exactly saying, or we change the meaning and intent to what we want it to, that being said, what does the text say?

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                  • #10
                    unfruitful works

                    Originally posted by IamLives View Post
                    Works affirm the walk. Good trees bear good fruit. Dead works lead to death because a wrong action is a sin, and the wages of sin is death, unless you think that wrong actions can be justified. Why would we need to repent and turn away from dead works if they didn't lead us to death? Why would we need the Messiah to clear our conscience from dead works if they weren't going to lead us to death? And why would there be so much emphasis on imitating Christ?
                    We can't properly infer anything, or we have nothing but a supposition, we must stick to the infallible teaching of the text, what it is exactly saying, or we change the meaning and intent to what we want it to, that being said, what does the text say?
                    Indeed, we must seek what the text says. And where certain terms are not explicitly defined (e.g. 'dead works'), we must seek out the meaning as best as we can.

                    We can therefore look at the term 'dead' as a simple negation of life -- not living. A similar analogy would be between something which is fruitful or unfruitful (dead).

                    In Heb 6 we won't find the answer whether a person who is saved or born again will thereby remain a benefactor of eternal life. However, if we assume this point, it would be fallacious to say that any of their works were leading to an end of death for them. While I don't think 'wrong actions' can be justified , I do think that 'wrong acting people' can be justified.

                    Originally posted by IamLives View Post
                    Why would we need to repent and turn away from dead works if they didn't lead us to death?
                    Certainly we can speak of the natural outcome of certain actions. For example, the wages of sin is death -- Yet, God can take away such wages. Indeed God has taken away such wages through the gift of Christ. There was also a similar aspect of dead works; these were like the dead branches which were to be cutoff. Yet the testimony of the gospel against the 'works' of the Pharisees ... and the searching of works among the Jews ... was a strong message of the gospel -- a message focused toward Jews. The message focused on Jews because they were the ones seeking out works.

                    Originally posted by IamLives View Post
                    And why would there be so much emphasis on imitating Christ?
                    The emphasis was that, having become new creatures who are found to be righteous through Christ, we simply ought to reflect that new nature and we should seek to glorify the Lord. However, even bad works are not noted as something which is too powerful to be fixed by the love of God. The epistles were written to people who were messing up their lives. But we don't see these letters telling them -- "you've gone too far. you lost your salvation." Umm. Maybe those church locations just never got a letter.
                    Last edited by mikewhitney; 03-23-2014, 06:48 PM. Reason: not worth mentioning. It is just one of those things where you miss a simple word and upon rereading the text you say OMG I missesd that. It was due to dynamic editing of the text I was trying to wr

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                    • #11
                      The NCV version of Hebrews 6:1:
                      Originally posted by NCV version of Hebrews 6:1
                      So let us go on to grown-up teaching. Let us not go back over the beginning lessons we learned about Christ. We should not again start teaching about faith in God and about turning away from those acts that lead to death.
                      Originally posted by EnglishStandardVersion
                      Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God
                      Do these quotes help any?
                      Last edited by Truthseeker; 03-23-2014, 10:51 PM.
                      The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

                      [T]he truth Iím after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -ó Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by IamLives View Post
                        Not necessarily that Eze 18:4 was a clear allusion, but rather we can use the verse to define his meaning of "dead works,"
                        Possible, though I would argue that without a clear allusion we should first turn to other instances, if any, of the phrase nekron ergon in the same text, which is what I've done above.

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                        • #13
                          Hebrews 9
                          13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
                          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?


                          This passage could just as easily be teaching that the sacrifice of goats is a dead work, and that Christ's blood eliminates the need to perform any more sacrifices. Notice the word "serve." They need to get past the "dead works" of Judaism, to get into the real service of God.

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                          • #14
                            Let me further say that the book of Hebrews frequently uses the word "sin." If the author wanted to say "repent from sin" and "purge your conscience from sin," nothing was stopping him from doing so. Furthermore, I don't believe that the Bible ever refers to sin elsewhere as a "work." Think about it: work is hard. But sin is easy. The analogy would made no sense.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
                              Furthermore, I don't believe that the Bible ever refers to sin elsewhere as a "work." Think about it: work is hard. But sin is easy. The analogy would made no sense.
                              He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
                              The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
                              Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
                              Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
                              The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
                              etc.

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