The foundational elements are found in Heb 6:1-2. The focus is on repentance, faith toward God, baptisms and laying of hands. The other elements -resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment are found under ‘Doctrines.’
B153 - Repent and have faith in Jesus (Both must be present)
Heb 6:1 says,
‘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, and of instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.’
The writer of Hebrews listed down these elements as FOUNDATIONAL, starting out with repentance and faith towards God.
Jesus began his ministry with these words, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15). Throughout the Gospels, you will hear the same theme from Jesus.
His disciples carried from where he left.
In Acts 3:19, Peter addressed an audience and said,
‘Repent therefore and turn back that your sins may be blotted out’
and when Paul testified before the Ephesian elders, he share that his message covered both the elements of
‘repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21).
The first sentence a believer should share with a new convert involves the elements of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and repentance. The Greek translations are as follows:
- ‘Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’ – The word for ‘faith’ is pistis and it means trust, belief, and confidence. It is the word, pisteuo, in Mark 1:15 which means ‘have faith in’/ ‘trust in’,
- ‘Repentance’ – The word is metanoeo and it means changing of one’s mind, and thinking differently after. It is the changing of one’s mind for the better and heartily amending with abhorrence of one’s past sins. It is the equivalent of a mental decision to ‘go (and from now on), sin no more’.
There are TWO NECESSARY STEPS to be a convert of Jesus Christ and these are:
- Put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only solution to restore our relationship with God, and
- Repent and leave our past life of sins behind, that is the same as saying, ‘Sin no more’.
B154 - Sin no more
1 John 2:1 says it simply,
‘I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin’
and John repeated it in 1 John 3:9,
‘No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.’
When does a Christian continue to sin? There can only be THREE possibilities:
- The Christian is unaware of it but if s/he is aware of that condition, then s/he should repent of it,
- The Christian is aware of the sin and is trying to overcome it but may not have been successful. God promises that each time the believer repents, He will always forgive (Matt 18:22); some sins and habits are harder to break than others, and finally
- The Christian is aware of the sin but takes it likely and chooses to brush it off. There are potentially grave dangers associated with this believer. Please see S139, Unpardonable sins/ Continue sinning deliberately and willfully even after knowing Jesus.
B155 - Acknowledge the condition of our heart with godly sorrows
Repentance is about the condition of our heart and it is not a checklist of dos and don’ts.
Jesus told the story of two men going up to the temple to pray – one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
While the Pharisee recited openly a checklist of what he had achieved in terms of his moral well-being, the tax collector simply cried out for mercy from God. Jesus commended the tax collector, an abhorrent profession of his time, relative to the Pharisee, the face of piousness and religiosity (Luke 18:9-14).
It is what Paul equated as ‘godly grief’ in 2 Cor 7:10, and one that produced repentance.
B156 - Go and bear fruit once repented
Repentance must be followed by action to demonstrate a repented heart.
John the Baptist was the first person to mention,
‘Bear fruit in keeping with repentance’ (Matt 3:8).
The concept of fruit bearing had been used repeatedly by Jesus. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus spoke about a fruitful tree that produced yields of up to a hundred-fold (Matt 13:23). And when Jesus encountered a fig tree that bore no fruit, he cursed it (Matt 21:19).
In John 15:8, Jesus explained, ‘By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples’; notice that the proof of discipleship is ‘much fruit’.
Paul confirmed the concept of fruit in Acts 26:20 when he was before King Agrippa –
‘that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.’
Nonetheless, our good works are not for the purposes of showing off. In fact, Jesus warned us in Matt 6:1 to
‘take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.’
In v2, he said,
‘do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may have glory from men.’
Here is what we know about repentance:
- We do not do good works to earn our way to heaven,
- The first step is to place our faith in Jesus Christ,
- Repentance follows after our faith is placed in Jesus,
- Our repentance must come from our heart,
- Good works follow after our salvation,
- We are not to do these good works as a matter of showing off but as a natural outflow of who we are as born-again believers.
B157 - Be a doer of the Word
Jesus related a story of two sons, one who promised that he would work in the vineyard but did not, and another who said he would not but actually went to do so. Jesus commended the second son, the one who said he would not but actually did (Matt 21:28-32).
Again, in the story of the faithful and wise servant in Matt 24:46, Jesus praised the servant
‘whom his master find so doing when he comes.’
Paul encouraged the Thessalonians ‘not to grow weary in doing good’ (2 Thes 3:13).
Repeatedly, you will find stories and themes in regard to the importance of ‘doing good’ until the Master returns.
That is our role on earth – doing good while fulfilling his will.
B158 - Judge ourselves in regard to sin
We need to self-check to ensure that we are not sinning against God.
Paul said that it was important because if believers had partaken communion while sinning (even if it was not known), then this may result in them being weak, ill, and even dead (1 Cor 11:30).
B159 - Possess a soft heart that repents of sins when they are revealed
In Hebrews, the writer related the story of how the children of Israel ‘hardened their hearts’ rather than listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit (Heb 3:7-11). As a result, the Lord ‘swore in his wrath’ that ‘they shall not enter his rest’.
Continuous non-repentance leads to a grave consequences. The flipside of that is really continuous repentance every time a sin is revealed to us. Instead of having a hardened heart, we must possess a soft heart, one that listens and obeys the Holy Spirit.
What does the Lord require from us?
David, after his adulterous activity was made known, said,
‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise’ (Ps 51:17).
Prov 24:16 (NLT) says,
‘The godly may trip seven times but they will get up again.’
Continuous repentance is the hallmark of a believer and that is reflected in the Lord’s Prayer – ‘Forgive us our debts (sins/ offenses) as we also have forgiven our debtors‘ (Matt 6:12).