The First Principle of the Doctrine Christ
Repentance from Dead Works
By C. Eldon McNabb
All of mankind, in their time, are physically alive, but stand in this condemnation that they are dead in trespasses and sins. (Eph. 2:1; Matt. 8:22) The Apostle Paul mentioned this condition in 1 Tim. 5:6. "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." This condition exists, because of Adam's disobedience to God in the garden. Thereby, "Sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:12) Since that time every person is born with a carnal nature; living in service to the flesh instead of to the inner spiritual man. The carnal mind is always out of step with God. A person who is carnal will not be, nor can be, subject to the law of God.
For this reason, God has devised a plan by which we can be reconciled to Him and break loose from the bondage of sin. For the first two thousand years after the fall of Adam, God let men sort of do as they pleased, and thereby allowed the terrible effects of sin to be demonstrated. After about sixteen hundred and fifty years, when man's iniquity had become so bad that He could not bear to hear of it, God sent a flood to rid the world of all of that corruption. However, He saved a few men alive and told them to replenish the Earth.
God waited until the end of that first two thousand years, which was still before Earth's population had again grown to any great numbers. Then God began a two thousand year program to reveal His plan for the reconciliation between Himself and His alienated creation. First, God chose Abraham and gave him a covenant of the circumcision of the flesh. In doing so, God revealed that man has a growth over his heart which has changed his nature and prevents him from being righteous and pure before God. That veil of carnality blinds our spiritual eyes. Because of it, we sin and separate ourselves from God, unable to do the good that we would do, nor refrain from the bad that we know we should not do. Therefore, that veil of carnality must be removed by a divine act of God: a spiritual circumcision.
Fewer than five hundred years after His visitation with Abraham, when men had, once again, began to multiply upon the Earth, God raised up Moses to lead us in the next step toward our reconciliation with Him. God gave to Moses a code of law which was twofold in its purpose. That law was designed to show all men, everywhere, how bad sin actually is and to impose a just punishment for each sin. At the same time it provided a prophetic shadow of what God was going to do to restore men to a pure conscience. That law, being a shadow of the work of God to come, prophesied of the atonement for sin which was to come by Jesus Christ, God's Son.
Almost four thousand years from the creation of Adam, God sent forth His son, Jesus Christ, into the world to execute the final step to our reconciliation with our heavenly Father. Jesus came as the reality of what God was showing to us by the law of Moses. Under Moses, the Israelites were commanded to offer, for a sin offering, a lamb without blemish. When Jesus came, He offered himself as a sacrifice which was pure, perfect, and sinless for the forgiveness of our sins. The plan to reconcile man back to God was complete. Jesus has come, and He is "the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus also said that He had come "so that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly."
One day the Apostle Paul was in Athens, speaking to the philosophers on Mars Hill. As he spoke, he explained to them how God viewed the idolatry and other sins of that first four thousand years of man's life on Earth. He said, "The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead."
God was very displeased with the errors of mankind for all of that time before Jesus came. He corrected them in various ways, and made examples of some of them, such as Sodom and Gomorrah, as a warning "unto those that after should live ungodly." But God knew how men were and how they had gotten to be that way. Therefore, the Psalmist David prophesied in Psalm 103, "He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him."
"When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" (Gal. 4:4-9)
Now Jesus has made peace between through the blood of his cross, to reconcile all things unto God. And you, who before were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, He has now "reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight." (Col. 1:22, Eph. 2:1-5,8)
No matter how sorry for their sins someone might have been before Jesus Christ came, they could not change their nature. They continued to sin, and to bring sorrow upon themselves, their families, and others against whom they had sinned. But now Jesus has come, and by the sacrifice or His life upon the cross, we can receive a change in our nature. We can be rid of our carnal nature and put on the nature of God our Father. But, if we are to do so, we must accept the sacrifice which Jesus made, by His death on the cross, as the atonement for our sins, and ask God for forgiveness..
We have no excuse now. The way has been made, and God now commands us all to repent and be cleansed from our iniquity. We must acknowledge our wayward condition, and repent of the ungodly deeds which we have done. We need what the Apostle Paul called "godly sorrow" that "worketh repentance unto salvation." When we become truly sorry for our offences against God, and turn from our ungodly ways, seeking His forgiveness, He will change our hearts and fill us with a love that only He can give. (2 Cor. 7:10)
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," because He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (1 John 1:9; 2 Pet. 3:9) John the Baptist pointed the way, when he told some candidates for baptism to "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance." (Matt. 3:8) True repentance from dead works is readily seen in the altered actions of the worshiper.
Again I say, God now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man, Jesus Christ, whom He has ordained. (Acts 17:30,31)
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," and that you may be a partaker of all of the benefits which God has given us by this new and living way in Jesus Christ. (Acts 3:19)