Bible with Cross ShadowOur search for the lost foundations of our faith takes us now to “the elementary principles of Christ”. Why must we go here? Surely the Christian faith has grown beyond the elementary. Surely we know more now about Christ’s principles than we ever have. Check for yourself. Which of these do you understand and practice in your life?

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews 6:1-3

See what I mean? Unless you have been to Bible College, I am pretty sure there are at least a couple of these elementary principles that you have not been taught, much less encouraged to incorporate into your faith walk. Somehow, they have been lost to the church, in our day.

Furthermore, I suspect that what we do know, we do not know completely. Take “repentance from dead works” for example. We have all been taught about repentance from sin (or sins, or the sin); but, what is this matter of “dead works”? Are dead works and sin the same thing? If so, why did the Holy Spirit, through the writer of Hebrews, introduce a different descriptor?

What about “repentance”? What does it really mean to repent? Does it mean “to turn” or “make an about-face”, as so many have taught (you might be surprised)? How is repentance accomplished?

Let me suggest that it is very important to know the answers to these questions. It is necessary that we have a love of the truth here. The consequences are more significant than we may imagine.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:12-14

The writer of Hebrews encourages the church to move on to more advanced principles (i.e., solid food). It is this solid food that makes us skilled in the word of righteousness; to be a teacher of God’s word, and a discerner of good and evil. This may be the greatest need in the church today; so let’s be diligent to rediscover what has been lost, so that we might move on to meatier truth – truth that will make us free.

One final introductory comment: Since these are elementary principles, we will search them out in an elementary way. Guard yourself against presumption. Ask the Lord and the Spirit to reveal the fullness of the truth found in this foundation. Allow the word of God to have its full effect.

Searching Out the Matter

Let’s start our search with a few definitions:

Repentance (metanoia) – A change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done; especially the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effect of which are good deeds. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

There are a few interesting points to draw from this definition:

  1. It has been popular to teach that repentance is a turning from evil to good; or from sin to God. This is not wrong; but it is not exactly right, either. Repentance is “a change of mind”. This makes the object of repentance clear; it is the mind that must be changed.
  2. Repentance applies to more than our actions (i.e., “something he has done”). It also encompasses purposes that we have formed. Purpose is a function of the heart. Therefore, a change of mind affects the function of our heart.
  3. The effect of repentance is good deeds. This makes sense in light of the Hebrews 6 text; and a clue to the meaning of “dead works”.

Dead (nekros) – Properly: One that has breathed his last, lifeless; deceased, departed, one whose soul is in heaven or hell; destitute of life, without life, inanimate. Metaphorically: Spiritually dead; destitute of a life that recognizes and is devoted to God, because given up to trespasses and sins; inactive as respects doing right; destitute of force or power, inactive, inoperative. Outline of Biblical Usage,

Work (ergon) – Business, employment, that which any one is occupied; that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking; any product whatever, anything accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind; an act, deed, thing done: the idea of working is emphasized in opposition to that which is less than work. Outline of Biblical Usage,

Drawing from these definitions, we discover that “dead work” is any act, deed or accomplishment that lacks life and is, consequently, “inactive as respects doing right”. As we will see, these definitions help us greatly in our understanding of the work that is dead; including the force it can have in our lives.

Two Opposing Forces

Changing our mind (i.e., repentance) suggests two conditions: The old state of our mind and the new state. These states are opposed to one another. On the one hand, there are dead works; on the other, good deeds. Paul speaks to the power of dead works in a very profound way.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8

The way we live is in accordance with the direction that we have set our minds. If our mind is set on dead works (i.e., living according to the flesh), it will produce them; and they will produce death. In other words, dead works are not only dead in themselves, but they produce death in those that walk in them.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13

Here we see that in order to live, we must put to death the deeds of the body (i.e., fleshly works). We also discover that the Holy Spirit plays a prominent role in this endeavor (more on this later). This gives us great hope for our repentance to the new state of mind – a state that produces that which pleases God (v. 8).

It is important to recognize that there is no equilibrium or compromise between these two states of mind. They are forces vying for our heart, soul and strength.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. Galatians 5:16-17

The Spirit of God and the flesh of man have deep desires (lusts) against each other. Spiritual thinking and fleshly thinking are passionately adversarial (contrary) toward one another. To walk with one is to walk away from the other. The dead works of the flesh are an evil force that draws its victims away from live in the Spirit. Fortunately, the Spirit has other plans for the children of God.

The New State of Mind

As we alluded to earlier, the new, Spirit-empowered state of mind is also characterized by a type of work; work that is pleasing to God. This work is work of a different, virtuous and praiseworthy kind. Jesus, Paul and others call them “good works”; and there is more to them than most have considered or been taught.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

God has created us to walk in the good works that will bring Him glorify. These are not normal works, but works that others see, and come away thinking, “Isn’t God awesome!”

These are, in fact, God’s works. They must be for Him to receive the glory from them (He would not steal glory from His children). They are the working of His mighty power in and through the followers of Jesus Christ.

… for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ… Philippians 1:6

Not only has God created us for the good works that will glorify Him, but He is working in us to prepare us for that work. It is an ongoing work that He has promised to complete; continually applying His workmanship.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 2Corintians 9:8

He will not leave us lacking for the work we are to walk in.

… that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… Colossians 1:10

His work in us – our preparation for good work – results in fruitfulness (remember the abiding branch) that pleases Him and accompanies our increased intimacy with Him. This intimacy – our knowing Him – is eternal life.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3

The good works of God are a force for life. They stand opposed to the deadly force of dead works. Now that we understand the gravity of the situation, let us turn our attention to the repentance required for the life that we have been given.

The Mind of Christ

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5

We have learned, from this verse and its definition, that repentance is an issue of the mind. This would be an important discovery if it only helped established our course for correction and restoration. But, there is more! Not only are we correctly focused on the source of our problem, but we can now recognize God’s solution and provision for our deliverance.

For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.  For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1Corinthians 2:11-16

What was it that enabled Jesus Christ – the Son of Man – to only do the works that pleased His Father in heaven? He had received the Spirit who is from God; the Spirit who knows the things of God. He knew the mind of the LORD because He had set His mind on the things of the Spirit. This is His mind; and it is the mind that we have been given.

However – and this is a big “however”: What has been given must be received (v. 12). Furthermore, there is a “letting” that must occur.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… Philippians 2:5

To “let” and “receive” speak of a process; a process that requires our participation. Thankfully, it is not a process that we own. As we have already discovered it is a process of God’s good work. It is a work of the Holy Spirit – our Transformer.

The Holy Spirit’s Work (and Our Participation)

The process of transformation is not a complicated process. It is, however, a mysterious one. Only those who are followers of Jesus Christ have any hope of understanding it; and only His followers are called to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God. So, let’s stop now and ask the Father for revelation and understanding; that we might truly repent from dead works.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24

Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 2Timothy 2:21

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 1Peter 4:1-2

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14

In first step in our repentance is presenting our bodies to God. These are bodies that have put on Christ, through belief and baptism (Galatians 3:27). This presentation is accompanied by a decision and commitment: To not be conformed to this world.

Based on simple observation, this is a step that many in the church have missed. NOTE: It is not an optional step; but one that directly affects our repentance. The works of the flesh are the things of this world; and they stand passionately opposed to the mind of Christ. Conformity to the world for the Christian is nothing short of double-mindedness; an incredible handicap to our repentance from dead works.

Step three is the transformation that is accomplished by the renewing of our minds. As we see here, transformation is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2Corinthians 3:18

It is the Spirit’s work to renew our minds and transform us into the image of the glory of the Lord. Our transformation into the same image includes the renewing of our minds towards, or into, the mind of Christ. For this process to be effective, we must behold the glory of the Lord. In other words, He must manifest Himself to us. How does this happen?

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. John 14:21

A critical step in our repentance from dead works is our keeping of the commandments of Jesus Christ. It is an action of love that results in Him manifesting Himself to us. This is one of those “AHA!!” discoveries: Keeping the commandments of the Lord are good works that stand opposed to the dead works of our flesh.

Finally, it is important to understand that the process of our transformation is iterative (i.e., from glory to glory). As Paul confessed:

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:12

As we press on to perfection – our final glorification – we are to lay hold of that which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us – including His mind.

The Power of Logizomai

The laying hold of the mind of Christ is central to our repentance from dead work. The Holy Spirit called it logizomai; and used it 41 times in the New Testament. Here are a few examples:

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:11

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1Corinthians 13:11

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

Reckon is an accounting term, meaning to record something in a journal. Spiritual reckoning is the process of making true for me what God says is true – balancing my mind with His. It is laying hold of the mind of Christ.

Before we go on, it should be noted that reckoning is not a positive reinforcement technique. It is more than the power of positive thinking; because the power is not in our thinking, but in the thing we are thinking about: The word of God.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

For those that can hear, the word of God becomes faith. Now faith resides in our hearts.

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness… Romans 10:10

But how does faith become obedience – the keeping of Jesus Christ’s commandments? How do we avoid the premature death off good works (i.e., dead faith)?

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James 2:14-26 (select verses)

The penalty of dead faith is devastating to the individual that carries it around. To God, it is a terrible stench (think road kill). Thankfully, God has given us all we need for godliness and abundant living. We don’t have to live our lives in deception, forgetfulness and dead faith. God has made a way!

God has given us a way out of this devastating predicament. He has given us a key that bridges the gap from hearing to doing; from the hearing of faith to the work of faith; and from deception and forgetfulness to good work. He has given us the power of logizomai.

Works without Faith are Dead

Not only are there good works that die prematurely; at the hands of dead faith; but there are works that are dead for lack of faith.

Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.  But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. Romans 14:22-23.

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7: 21-23

“Whatever is not from faith is sin.” “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the work (rhema) of God.” So, can we deduce that sin is work done without the rhema of God? Absolutely!! Jesus makes this clear near the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Even the greatest works or prophecy, deliverance and wonders will lead to our total separation from the Lord – the loss of eternal life (John 17:3). Works without faith are not only dead, but they lead to death.


The study of repentance from dead works has led me to believe that dead works are sin; and most of our sin is dead works. More significant, dead works are not just without life, but they are a force that creates death. As for me, adding death to my life does not seem like a very wise choice. I have a greater appreciation for the destructive impact work without faith can have on my eternal future. I have a new and healthy fear of dead works; and a renewed desire to repent – and keep on repenting – from them. I hope and pray you have been encouraged, edified and equipped to do the same.


And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

Once again, in our study of the foundations, we have discovered the importance of community; and the strategic positioning of Christian Leaders. God intends for you to be a faithful steward of this mystery. He intends for you to harvest it for yourself and others – the His glory and kingdom. You are to lead in the consideration of one another, the assembling of ourselves together, and the exhorting of one another. The Day is approaching. There is no time like the present to get on with the good work you have been created to walk in.


  1. Go back and reckon the truths of this foundation for yourself and those in your spheres of influence.
  2. Invest the time necessary to learn the voice of God.
  3. Begin the process of transformation.

Recommended Reading

The following are some of my favorite books on this subject. Most can be found at your local Christian book store, or at one of the many online distributors.

They Found the Secret; V. Raymond Edman

The Elementary Doctrine Study Series; Sam and Nicholas Soleyn (

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Humbly Yours and Forever His,