Repentance from Religious Rituals

Repentance and Salvation Pt #6 – by Ronald Shea 

Part #1 – # 5 can be found here

REPENTANCE FROM RELIGIOUS RITUALS

heb2-9ALLIn Hebrews 9:9-14 the Bible calls sacraments or religious rituals through which men try to reach God “dead works.

9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

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 (Gk. “nekron ergon“) to serve the living God?

There is only one other place in this epistle that this Greek term “nekron ergon” is used, and that is Hebrews 6:1.

“Therefore, laying aside the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works (nekron ergon) and faith toward God.  Of the doctrine of baptisms and laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”

Analysis:

The object of repentance in this verse is stated plainly as “dead works.”  As noted, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews uses this term as a reference to ritualistic religious works by which man seeks to reach God.

Is this passage soteriological?

The author offers three parallel couplets within verses 1-2 which he identifies as: the “first principles of Christ“–taes arxaes tou Xristou logon,” and the “foundational elements”–themelion, of the doctrines of Christ.

1.  “Repentance from dead works and faith toward God.”

2.  “the doctrine of baptisms and laying on of hands.”

3.  “resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”

The couplets are easily discernable by anyone who reads the context, and are further demanded by the Greek language.

There are at least three different words for “and” in Greek,” kai, te and de.  In the verses above, the two related elements in each couplet are held together by the word “kai,” a very strong connection, confirming the the relationship between these two concepts.

In contrast, the form of the word “and” used to begin the new couplet of verse 2, and again, to begin the new couplet of verse 3, is the word “te.”  (Technically, “te” is the second word in each of those phrases, “te” being a post enclitic particle.)  It is a “weaker” connector.

Imagine this distinction being shown by parenthesis around strongly connected words, and an ampersand & connecting strongly related words.  The word “and” connects less related words, and there are no parentheses where words are weakly connected.  The verse would read as follows:

(repentance from dead works & faith toward God),

and (the doctrine of baptisms & laying on of hands)

and (the resurrection of the dead & eternal judgment).

This probably doesn’t teach most of us anything new, since the arrangement of couplets is generally obvious to most readers form the English text, but it confirms from Greek grammar the conclusions we have drawn from English.  And the analysis of these couplets reveals another obvious pattern.

The first couplet deals with the doctrine of salvation, “of repentance from dead works, and faith toward God), an event that occurs at the very beginning of the Christian life.

The second couplet deals with the “journey” of the Christian life (of the doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands.)   Baptism and laying on of hands are ordinances of the church, which take place after one has been saved, but before one dies.

And the final couplet, “of the resurrection from the dead, and of eternal judgment) discloses eschatological (end times) doctrines at the close of the age. the resurrection from the dead (for those who are being saved), and eternal judgment (for those who are perishing).

The symmetry and movement of this tri-couplet structure demands that the first couplet is soteriological . . . dealing with eternal salvation.  And if it does deal with eternal salvation, then repentance is a requirement for salvation.

Summary:

  1. Is this passage soteriological?  Unquestionably yes.
  2. Is repentance a requirement for salvation?  Yes.
  3. Is the object of repentance stated implicitly or explicitly?  Yes, it is explicitly and plainly stated:  One must repent of dead works . . . religious rituals offered to attain a right standing  before God, and trust in Christ alone for that salvation.
  4. Is this doctrine consistent with other passages of Scripture dealing with eternal salvation?  Yes.  This very doctrine is taught throughout Scripture.  It is called the doctrine of grace. (Clarification by Holly: NOT the Calvinist doctrines of grace)

The Biblical command is clear. 

  • If a man believes that he can attain eternal life through religion, he must repent, (Matthew 3:7-9).
  • If he believes that obedience to the laws of God is the means by which he will avoid God’s eternal judgment, he must repent (Luke 13:1-5).
  • And if he believes that he must perform some religious ritual or sacrament to be saved, he must repent, and trust in Christ alone to save him (Hebrews 6:1).

Like the person on page 14 of The Gospel Booklet, he must put his “money” back in is pocket and accept eternal life as a free gift!

Faith in Jesus will not save you if, while believing that Jesus died for your sins, you also believe that you must be baptized, go to church, or obey the Ten Commandments to “help” get you to heaven.  You cannot simply add Jesus to a long list of other things that you must do or be to get to heaven.  You must utterly reject all of those other things as having no saving value whatsoever and trust in Christ alone.

IF FAITH IS THE HAND THAT ACCEPTS SALVATION THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, REPENTANCE IS THE HAND THAT REJECTS SALVATION BY ANY OTHER MEANS.

John 14-6Saving faith does not simply affirm that Jesus’ death is “necessary,” it must affirm that His death is enough!  That it is sufficient all by itself to pay for your sins apart from any human effort or good work, and that it is a free gift available only through faith, and apart from any human effort or good work.  (See Romans 4:4-5, 14; Galatians 2:21, 3:10-14, 4:5).

If someone believes they must be baptized to be saved, they must repent.  If they believe they must live up to some particular standard of morality to be saved, they must repent.  If they believe they must be a member of some particular religion to receive God’s salvation, they must repent.  They must stop trusting in any religious things they have done in the past or might do in the future, and trust on Christ alone.

Thank you to Ronald Shea.

Part 7, “Saving Repentance about the Work of Christ”.

9 thoughts on “Repentance from Religious Rituals”

  1. Kearcy Suzanne Hahn said:

    Thank you for this article. Religious rituals are what drives most people away from church and into blind thinking. Allot of people think that you have to be good to get to heaven when even our best as humans is as filthy rags. We simply cannot be good enough because of the curse put upon the human race by Adam and Eve. When we are walking with Christ he teaches us through the Holy Spirit and convicts our hearts to make good choices.

  2. Terry Parker said:

    Thank you for feeding the sheep real food and real drink!!

    • Terry, thank you for joining us. That is a special passage to me in John 21, it brings tears to me when I read it. The greatest commandment and so often we fail to love God the way we should, but this is one way I can show Him I love Him, thank you for the encouragement and reminder.

  3. Terry Parker said:

    Holly, I have been a Christian for 16 years and for at least 15 of them I have lived in confusion about the gospel of God. I have been to numerous churches over the years and did help spread false gospels….telling people to repent of their sins, go to church, give their tithes and keep the Sabbath holy and so on. I did find more of Gods grace along the way [or so I thought] through the grace movement mostly on t.v., I actually did get courage to go pray for the sick and attended many faith healing meetings…of which I really never seen results, either from myself or the leaders of those meetings. And…all the while I was motivated to go pray for people; I never shared the true gospel of God with them. I now believe that most people are trying to use their gospel for only earthly, physical reasons…their own personal gain. This might sound silly to you but I have struggled for years with the Sabbath day, I was getting literature from Tomorrows World and various other groups claiming that people are sinning because we are breaking the Sabbath by going to church on Sundays and not Saturdays. Well I wasn’t 100% convinced that the Sabbath was Sunday either…believe it or not this
    one confusion really kept me from clearly seeing the truth…….for years. So sad! A few months ago my neighbor shared with me that when we believed on the LORD Jesus Christ we have entered the true Sabbath rest….a rest from the works of our hands. Today is the day of salvation. My faith in the blood of Christ is really growing now…I tell people of your website and I am so thankful for your service to God. Terry

    • Terry, so thankful to hear of you coming out from some of these teachings, so have I. I thank the Lord for the way He will show us when we are trying to add to our faith, and continuing to submit to Him, and humble ourselves under His mighty hand, casting our cares on Him knowing He cares for us. You know, it’s so hard to ‘unlearn’ something, but learning to ask the questions, ‘what’ is being preached. ‘Who’ is being spoken to? Does it relate to others later, or is it for that time? Learning that the Sabbath day was given to the nation of Israel, that the law including the 10 commandments was given to them, made a difference for me. People would say, yes, but the law is written on our hearts. Which law? We are under the law of Christ, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Jesus (as you said) has given us rest. All we know of the church in the beginning is that they took up offerings for the believers in need on Sunday (first day of the week) but they assembled daily. The day doesn’t matter, all are made by Him. Some of us don’t even have faithful churches in our area (or at least that we’ve found), seems all have to add some sort of work to the gospel, or Calvinism or Arminianism and loadship doctrine has snuck in.

      I am just so thankful for although I was a believer, I was back under bondage and did not know that if I became a disciple/student/learner, I would be set free by abiding in His truth. I had lots of ‘unlearning’ to do, but I am so appreciative for His Word, and specifically Luke 10:38-42, Prov 22:17-21, Prov 3:5-6 showing me what I needed. Simple, but gets clouded because there are so many out there who are deceivers corrupting minds from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor 11:3-4).

      Keep open always with the Lord to unlearn anything that is tradition but may not be truth. He knows your heart, stay in the Word, pray always for understanding, be willing to study with His approval in mind only (2 Tim 2:15) and ask Him questions, you’ll do fine (1 John 2:27). Prove all things(1 Thess 5:21), before you take teaching from anyone, see what their gospel is (or if you can even find it). And anyone should think it’s a good thing that you are searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so (Acts 17:11) ❤ In Christ, Holly

  4. This is a good audio that Curtis sent. Tom says exactly what I have been saying. He says “Some people may need to change their mind that they are a sinner and then change their mind about who Christ is… ” he goes on to say “You must see yourself as a sinner and acknowledge that and then place your faith in Jesus Christ.” Yes, sometimes there is a duel repentance in salvation. One must acknowledge their sin before they place their faith in Christ. In Him, Brad

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=12416037312

    • I don’t quite see it as a ‘dual repentance’ Brad, but simply changing our mind about what we have not understood before. A part of the gospel of our salvation. Christ died for our sins…but He also rose again, proving He is God because He can take His life back up again, and as our firstfruit, assuring us that we too will be raised to life eternal. Thanks for sharing Tom’s sermon.

  5. Holly,

    Wow! a favourite page of mine to read over and over again.
    The Gospel message perfectly proclaimed.

    Thank you,
    Angela D.

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