Did you know there are 6 principles of the doctrine of Christ, listed in Hebrews 6:1-2, which are so important the Bible calls them “the foundation?” 

    These topics are required for every believer, and repentance from dead works is (intentionally) the first one listed by God. Though it’s NOT people’s favorite message, repentance is absolutely necessary if you want to have a relationship with God or make heaven your home. Here are 10 things you have to know about repentance!

    1. Repentance from dead works is the first principle of the doctrine and the first step in order.

    God purposely put repentance from dead works first because if you’re starting a relationship with God or building anything spiritual, the first thing that has to happen is turning from sin, the world, and dead works and to Him. If we still want to go our own way and see wrong as right, it is impossible to start this walk with God, let alone go forward to believe Him or be baptized in water and spirit. First, we must turn and repent!

    Imagine if we skipped repentance and went straight to faith: if our mind is set to think and do it our way, we cannot believe (let alone obey) God. Baptisms (both water and spirit) require repentance first and it would be a terrible day if we got to the fourth principle, laying on of hands, and had people serving, working, and ministering in offices without changing. Without repentance, we’d never get to the resurrection of the dead, let alone see God’s face in peace during eternal judgment. Repentance HAS to be first! The principles are in the right order. 

    2. Repentance is a change of mind and change of direction. 

    While Hebrews 6:1 calls this principle “repentance from dead works,” Acts 20:21 calls it “repentance toward God.” When we are born, thanks to Adam (Rom. 5:12, 19), every one of us is a sinner, facing the wrong direction, but when we repent we acknowledge that we’ve been going the wrong way and decide to stop, turn, and face God. This sets us up for the second principle, faith toward God, with which we can hear what He says, believe it, and obey but first we must turn. 

    Repentance isn’t just changing the direction but still thinking what we used to do is okay. It’s also a change of mind. In Greek, repent is the word metanoe (Strong’s G3340), which is defined as thinking differently, but the word literally speaks of a change in understanding or perception. When you repent, with God’s help you don’t think the same or go the same way.

    3. Repentance in the Old Testament pictographs speaks of cutting something off and destroying it.

    As explored in the “What is Repentance?” class, the Old Testament uses two words for repent, Nacham (H5162) and Shuwb (H7725), but one thing that is awesome about the Hebrew words is how they were originally, in the oldest Biblical writings, drawn as pictographs. While we could look at each letter, it’s interesting that in Nacham there is a picture of a fence (which spoke of covering or a separation) and Shuwb starts with a picture of teeth (that represented devouring and destroying something). 

    The pictures confirm what we see in scriptural commands, Biblical examples, and modern life: true repentance means we must put distance between us and sin (put up a fence), and like teeth devour something, we have to completely destroy what was wrong in our lives so we never go back!

    4. Repentance is an action word and thus should have fruit or works that show one has repented.

    “Repent” is a verb! Yes, there has to be a change in our mind and in our hearts, but that change must be evident in our actions too. If you repent, you must turn and DO something! This is why when people came to John the Baptist to be baptized, he preached they had to bring fruits worthy of repentance (Luke 3:7-8). There needed to be some works or fruit! 

    The hearers of his message understood because the people, publicans, and soldiers asked John the key question when someone wants to repent: they said, “What shall we do?” They knew if they were going to repent before baptism, they needed to do something that showed they were serious about change. John answered their questions in Luke 3:10-14 with specific instructions based on the required action(s) they needed to take. They all needed to START or STOP doing something, and much of it was about how they dealt with other people. Repentance is an action! 

    5. Repentance was central in the ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist.

    According to Jesus, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28). The greatest ever (Jesus) and the one He calls the greatest prophet (John), both preached the message to REPENT! John preached in the wilderness saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat. 3:2). After John was put in prison Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). They both let people know – this is the time to repent.

    Repentance was a key part of why Jesus came! He wanted us to acknowledge our wrong and turn to Him. He said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32; Mat. 9:13). In His farewell command to His disciples He told them that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Those disciples got it and obeyed, and that is why Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and said to thousands, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Don’t let anyone (including your flesh) lie to you: repentance is IMPORTANT!

    6. Repentance prepares the way of the Lord and makes His path straight.

    Jesus considered John the Baptist the greatest prophet ever born (Luke 7:28). Though people didn’t like it then (imprisoning and ultimately beheading him for it – Matt. 14:3-12; Mark 6:17-29) and still don’t want to hear it today, His repentance message and assignment was critical. His job, prophesied in Isaiah 40:3, was to prepare the way of the Lord and make His path straight (Mat. 3:3; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 1:76; 3:4; 7:27). He did this by being a voice crying to all who would hear: REPENT!

    When we repent, turn, and change, getting rid of anything wrong, we create a clear path for the Lord to come in and do all He wants in our lives. Just like if someone extremely important was coming to your house, you’d clear anything in the driveway and clean every room of your house, since we know Jesus is coming and want a relationship with Him now, we must repent and make room for Him. If you know you’ve wronged someone, repentance clears the air in the relationship and allows the possibility of reconciliation. Repentance allows us to be closer to God and Him to be closer to us!

    7. There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents.

    Though sometimes people feel like they’ve done too much wrong to ever be right, we have to understand that heaven rejoices over one sinner that repents! Repentance is a reason to rejoice! In Luke 15 we learn about three things that are lost – a sheep, a coin, and a son – and all three prove this point.

    The lost sheep was 1 out of 100, but the shepherd left the 99 to go find the one and once he got it, he rejoiced, and called his friends and neighbors to his home to rejoice with Him (Luke 15:6-8). The Bible lets us know that is literally what happens in heaven when someone repents. The lost coin was 1 out of 10 but the woman lit a candle, swept the house, and sought diligently because even though she had nine others, she didn’t want the lost to stay lost. Once she found out, she did the same as the shepherd and invited her friends and neighbors together to rejoice with her. Can you imagine the angels doing the same rejoice in heaven? They really do (Luke 15:9-10)! Finally, the lost (prodigal) son is 1 out of 2 and after leaving and wasting his father’s substance living riotously, when he came back, his father embraced him then had a celebration at which they were merry (Luke 15:20-24). Heaven rejoices when just one person turns, and we should too. True repentance is a reason to celebrate.

    8. Repentance is commanded by God; so that man does not perish, He wants all to come to repentance. 

    In 2 Peter 3, the Bible teaches us that scoffers will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Others have wondered the same thing – why hasn’t Jesus come yet? 2 Peter 3:9, after addressing how there is a day of judgment coming, answers that question, saying, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 

    How amazing is our God! He promised He’d come (and He is still coming!) but He is being longsuffering to US, patiently giving people a chance to repent! Though God has given mercy and so many chances, according to scripture, He “now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). Repentance is the way we avoid perishing, because it starts us on a path to salvation and eternal life, but we have to choose to obey His command and repent. Now’s the time to repent!

    9. Godly sorrow and goodness can bring about repentance in a person’s life.

    Everyone should repent but what helps us to get to the point where we actually repent for real? The Bible lists a few things that can produce repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” Sometimes people are sorry only because they get caught or have consequences, but when we have godly sorrow because we hurt God it will work repentance to salvation and we’ll we start making some serious changes in our lifestyles (2 Cor. 7:10-11). It’s a good thing when we feel bad when we do wrong; we must let that sorrow push us to CHANGE! 

    The Bible also says, “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). If we define God being good like the world does, thinking His goodness is all about riches, getting what we want, and material things in life then we’ll be confused when the wealthiest people are not the first to repent. God’s goodness is evident when He, like a good parent, chastens us or allows things to happen when we do wrong to push us to repent. This happens a lot in scripture when consequences for people like David, the children of Israel, and others helped them to turn and do right! The Psalmist says it like this, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word… It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psa. 119:67, 71). Affliction can help us stop going astray and start repenting. God is good!

    10. Repentance is the first step but it is also required at different stages of one’s walk with God.

    We established that repentance has to be first but after we continue on our journey, is repentance solely a thing of the past? Absolutely not. Repentance is continually required. When we see that there is something in us that is not like God, we repent. When there’s something we should have done but didn’t, we repent. When we did something we shouldn’t have, we repent. Though God is able to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24) and preserve us blameless (1 Thess. 5:23), if we fall short, sin, or make a mistake, God is willing to forgive (1 John 1:9) but we must choose to repent, confess, and forsake.

    In the last book of the Bible, John was commanded to write to 7 churches in different places (Rev. 1:11). Notice, these were CHURCHES, not groups of sinners or people who never knew God, but when God addressed them, 5 out of 7 were instructed, commanded, required by God to repent (Rev. 2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19) and if they didn’t, He told them there would be consequences. That’s 71% told to repent, an overwhelming majority. They had different issues (all of which we can learn from today) with some particular instructions, but the common solution, no matter the problem, was repentance.

    We’ve reviewed some key points about repentance in this blog (and there are even more in The Requirements study) but let’s end this blog with the words of Jesus to the final (and arguably worst) of the seven churches. He said to the church of the Laodiceans, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:19). The call to repentance from dead works, the first principle (required for sinners and saints), is out of love. He does not want us to perish, but He does want us to change. REPENT.

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