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Repentance from dead works in Hebrews 6:1

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  • mikewhitney
    replied
    It should be noted that 'works of the law' was not any sort of requirement to be found in the Old Testament. The idea of doing 'works of the law' appears to have been a concept of Judaism formed in the centuries prior to Christ. A good way to look at the idea of 'works of the law' is to elaborate on the words. So we could speak more clearly of 'works of the law', as 'discreet discernible actions done in connection with the Jewish laws.' And the explanation would be expanded with the idea that such actions established one's righteousness with God. (We could start with a loose meaning of 'establish' as meaning 'confirm' )

    In a sense then, the 'works' were something distinct from obedience to the Law of Moses. Instead, the emphasis was on doing certain actions. In many respects, this was superfluous with respect to the Law of Moses which, in most respects, just involved anti-works -- the avoidance of certain actions. Don't murder. Don't steal. Don't eat unclean animals. There were no 'credits' given for the number of times someone avoided murdering another person or the number of times they avoided eating unclean animals.

    So there was a perversion of the law of Moses so as to shift priorities from obedience to God into the seeking of 'actions' to demonstrate their righteousness. Then such actions also included additional laws (and interpretations) which put a focus on doing more rules -- the focus then became a focus on these laws and rules rather than on God.

    By the time we reach Heb 9:14, it seems that the Jewish believers were focused on the rule-based lifestyle -- probably more through their return to emphasis on the animal sacrifices, even as their primary source of a 'pure conscience.' However, the OT system was already coming to its completion and the reason for the Jewish believers' adherence was apparently out of weariness of the continuing persecutions.

    I think the OT animal sacrificial system was fine for the earlier years of the covenant but had been inadequate both for the 1st century degeneration-level of Judaism and because the greater sacrifice of Jesus had been done.

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  • Paprika
    replied
    Originally posted by Pat Ferguson View Post
    “Dead works” are such as cause defilement, and require purification (Heb. 9:14) because they are sinful (Gal. 5:19-21), and because their wages is death (Rom. 6:23); but “the works of the Law,” as having no life in them ..., may be included under the epithet. (F. W. Farrar in Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, Vol. 16)
    The works of the law have no life in them, but do they defile and require purification? Before Jesus came, the sacrificial and some other rituals were the ones that purify.

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  • KingsGambit
    replied
    Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
    ["dead works" may include touching corpses] I doubt that!
    Yes, that doesn't seem at all to fit the context of that clause of Hebrews. As Robertson is a serious scholar, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and seek a rational explanation for that cite. I have to wonder if what he meant was defilement in general, such as what might result from touching a dead corpse.

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  • Truthseeker
    replied
    Originally posted by Pat Ferguson View Post
    Moreover:
    ["dead works" may include touching corpses] I doubt that!

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  • Obsidian
    replied
    Originally posted by Paprika
    So the Jews couldn't "really" serve God?
    Not by killing animals. Not after the death of the real lamb of God.

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  • Pat Ferguson
    replied
    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 mean something else beyond this?
    Marvin R. Vincent, D.D., explained:
    Not sinful works in the ordinary sense of the term, but works without the element of life which comes through faith in the living God. There is a sharp opposition, therefore, between dead works and faith. They are contraries. This truth must be one of the very first things expounded to a Jew [not a Gentile] embracing Christianity. (Word Studies)
    Also:
    “Dead works” are such as cause defilement, and require purification (Heb. 9:14) because they are sinful (Gal. 5:19-21), and because their wages is death (Rom. 6:23); but “the works of the Law,” as having no life in them ..., may be included under the epithet. (F. W. Farrar in Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, Vol. 16)
    Moreover:
    What is meant by “dead works” (apo nekron ergon) is not clear (Heb. 9:14), though the reference may be to [e.g.,] touching a corpse (Num. 19:1; 31:19). (Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT)
    Last edited by Pat Ferguson; 04-04-2014, 03:43 PM. Reason: retype quote.

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  • 37818
    replied
    The false hope in works as opposed to God's gospel of grace.

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  • Paprika
    replied
    Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
    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.
    It is certainly possible, but that does not an argument make.

    Notice the word "serve." They need to get past the "dead works" of Judaism, to get into the real service of God.
    So the Jews couldn't "really" serve God?

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  • Obsidian
    replied
    Well that is odd. I guess I was thinking of passages like James 2, where "works" is used by itself, and where it is assumed to be referring to good works rather than bad.

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  • Paprika
    replied
    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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  • Obsidian
    replied
    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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  • Obsidian
    replied
    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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  • Paprika
    replied
    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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  • Truthseeker
    replied
    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, 09:51 PM.

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  • mikewhitney
    replied
    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, 05:48 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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