Foundations of Christian Faith – Unit 2: Repentance from dead works

Repentance is a key part of the Gospel. This is Jesus’ own summary of the task His disciples are entrusted with:

Luke 24:47 “…that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations.”

Let’s go back to the beginning of His incredible 3 ½ year ministry. “Repent” means confess, be sorry for, and turn away from sin. That was what John the Baptist ordered the people to do when he knew that Jesus was about to appear. And crowds of people went to John:

Matthew 3:1-6 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’”

Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

Jesus Himself took up the message of John:

Matt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The attitude of repentance is opposite to the attitude of self-righteousness:

Luke 18:9-14  Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

True repentance involves restitution.  If you are truly repentant about stealing $100 from another person, the first thing you will want to do is to pay back the $100 if you can:

Luke 19:8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” (If you do not know the story of Zacchaeus read Luke 19:1-10)

True repentance includes change. Paul shows the difference between “sorrow of the world” and “godly sorrow” which leads to repentance. “Sorrow of the world” doesn’t produce change, and is only sorrow at “being caught”:

 2 Corinthians 7:8-12  For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.  Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.  For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.

Repentance is a gift from God:

Romans 2:4 ….the goodness of God leads you to repentance….

Hebrews gives the example of Esau, who was unable to find a place of repentance:

Hebrews 12:14-17  Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:  looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

“Repentance from dead works” also means our turning away from anything that has not been motivated by faith in God. It includes anything we may have done in an effort to please God, but not through faith in Jesus. We must realize that the only way to make ourselves acceptable to God is to believe in His Son.

Isaiah 64:5-6 You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
In these ways we continue;
And we need to be saved.

But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;


“Righteousnesses” is a translation of the Hebrew “Tsedaqah”, pronounced “tse-daw-kaw”, meaning “virtues” or “righteous acts”

 Does everyone need to repent? Yes, because all have sinned

Romans 3:23…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

If someone thinks they have never sinned, you can turn to Exodus 20:1-17 and go through the ten commandments, asking them if they have ever broken each one.

How important is repentance?

Luke 13:1-5   About this time he was informed that Pilate had butchered some Jews from Galilee as they were sacrificing at the Temple in Jerusalem. “Do you think they were worse sinners than other men from Galilee?” he asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And don’t you realize that you also will perish unless you leave your evil ways and turn to God? “And what about the eighteen men who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem?  Not at all! And you, too, will perish unless you repent.”

We have two options: (1) repent or (2) perish!                                   


  1. What are the two main parts of the Gospel according to Jesus in Luke 24:47?
  2. What was the main message of John the Baptist in your own words?
  3. What was Jesus’ main message when He started to preach?
  4. Describe the attitudes of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the story.
  5. Which one pleased God? Why?
  6. Is your attitude more like the Pharisee or the tax collector?
  7. How does Zacchaeus show that he has truly repented?
  8. How can Paul tell that the Corinthians have truly repented in 2 Cor 7:8-12?
  9. What are the two different types of reaction when we realise we have sinned?
  10. Why do you think Esau was unable to find a place of repentance? What lesson can we learn from his example?
  11. What does Isaiah mean when he writes “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags”? How does this relate to true repentance?
  12. Does everybody need to repent? Why or why not?
  13. Have you truly repented? Discuss the points of this lesson with your group or friends and pray for one another. Encourage each other to be sure you have found a place of repentance. Be sensitive – these are obviously very personal issues.   
  14. Set a goal to speak to both believing and non-believing friends about repentance.
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap