Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:

Write the Key Verse from memory.
Define “repentance from dead works.”
Explain the origin of sin.
Recognize different names used for sin in the Bible.

“All have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory” – Romans 3:23

Hebrews 6:1-3 lists principles of the doctrine of Christ on which a believer is to build his spiritual life.

These principles are called the “foundations” of the Christian faith. They are the basic doctrines on which the Christian faith rests.

The first of these principles is “repentance from dead works.”

The basic meaning of the word “repentance” is a change in mind which results in a change in outward actions.

Some people associate repentance with emotions, like shedding tears and feeling sorry for wrong actions and thoughts.

Repentance is not an emotion. It is a decision.

Emotion sometimes accompanies true repentance. But it is possible for a person to feel great emotion and to shed many tears and yet never truly repent.

Other people associate repentance with meeting special religious requirements. This is sometimes called “doing penance.” It is possible to fulfill many such religious requirements and yet never repent in the true Biblical sense.

True repentance is a change of mind that results in a change in outward actions. Outward change is the act of turning away from sin towards God and righteousness. This “turning away” shows the inward change of mind which has occurred.

To summarize: Biblical repentance is an inner change of mind resulting in an outward turning away from sin to move towards God and righteousness.

There are some passages in the Bible where the word “repent” is used in a different way.


In Matthew 27:3-4, Judas Iscariot realized Jesus had been condemned to death. He repented of his part in betraying Christ:

“Judas, the one who had given Jesus to his enemies, saw that they had decided to kill Jesus. Then he was very sorry for what he had done. So he took the thirty silver coins back to the priests and the leaders, saying, “I sinned; I handed over to you an innocent man.” The leaders answered, “What is that to us? That’s your problem, not ours.” – Matthew 27:3-4

The Greek word used here is not the same word which means change. It is a word which people often misinterpret as true repentance. In many languages there are words which have more than one meaning. This is true in the languages in which the Bible was written. There is more than
one meaning to the word “repent” in the Bible. The word used in this passage about Judas means emotion, sorrow, and anguish.

Judas experienced sorrow over what he had done but he did not experience true Biblical repentance. He did not make a decision which resulted in change in his actions. He continued in sin and in the end, hung himself.


Esau was another man who made this tragic error. Esau sinned by selling his God-given birthright for a bowl of soup. The Bible records:

“You remember that after Esau did this, he wanted to get his father’s blessing, but his father refused. Esau could find no way to change what he had done, even though he wanted the blessing so much that he cried.” – Hebrews 12:17

Esau exchanged his birthright for a bowl of soup. In doing so, he rejected all the blessings and promises of God associated with the birthright.

Later, Esau regretted what he had done. He cried aloud and shed bitter tears. But strong emotion is not proof of repentance. Esau did not truly repent. He was just sorry he had lost the birthright and wished he could have it back. His “repentance” was not acceptable because there is a
difference between regret and true repentance.

If we are to fully understand the meaning of repentance, we must understand what it is from
which we are to repent. We must understand “dead works.”

“Dead works” are the actions of a life lived apart from God. These works may be wrong deeds or acts of self-righteousness. These are called “sin” in the Bible. The basic thing that causes sin is selfishness. It is the love of self as opposed to the love of God. This love of self results in man going “his own way”:

“We all have wandered away like sheep; each of us has gone his own way. for all the evil we have done.” – Isaiah 53:6

Jesus died for the sins of men in order that…

“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” – 2 Corinthians 5:15

When you repent from these dead works of selfishness it means you acknowledge the existence of the one true God, realize you are a sinner, ask forgiveness of your sin, and accept God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Evil existed before man was created. Sin was originated by Lucifer, also known as Satan. The Bible records that Lucifer was a special angel who was originally created perfect by God.

Lucifer sinned when he tried to stage a rebellion against God. Because of this sin, Lucifer was cast out of Heaven to earth:

King of Babylon, morning star, you have fallen from heaven, even though you were as bright as the rising sun! In the past all the nations on earth bowed down before you, but now you have been cut down. 

You told yourself, “I will go up to heaven. I will put my throne above God’s stars. I will sit on the mountain of the gods, on the slopes of the sacred mountain. I will go up above the tops of the clouds. I will be like God Most High.”” – Isaiah 14:12-14

“I appointed a living creature to guard you. I put you on the holy mountain of God. You walked among the gems that shined like fire. Your life was right and good from the day you were created, until evil was found in you. 

Because you traded with countries far away, you learned to be cruel, and you sinned. So I threw you down in disgrace from the mountain of God. And the living creature who guarded you forced you out from among the gems that shined like fire.” – Ezekiel 28:14-16

On earth, Lucifer, who became known as Satan, continued his rebellion against God. When God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, Satan led them to sin against God. This rebellion is sometimes called “the fall of man”, meaning that man fell from righteousness into sin. You can read about this in Genesis chapters two and three.

God warned Adam and Eve that the penalties of sin would include physical and spiritual death. Spiritual death was a loss of their relationship with God. Physical death was death of their actual physical bodies. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, death came on all men:

“Sin came into the world because of what one man did, and with sin came death. This is why everyone must die – because everyone sinned.” – Romans 5:12

Because of the fall of the first man and woman, sin passed on all mankind. That means everyone born inherits the basic nature of sin.

Just as physical traits are inherited, the spiritual trait of the basic sin nature is inherited. Each person has sinned and faces the penalties of physical and spiritual death.

Satan is responsible for all evil in the world. His rebellion towards God still continues as he tempts man to sin. There is a constant battle in the spirit world for the hearts, minds, and souls of men.

Each person has inherited the basic sin nature. Each person sins individually when he is drawn by this sinful nature to rebel against God:

“But people are tempted when their own evil desire leads them away and traps them. This desire leads to sin, and then the sin grows and brings death.” – James 1:14-15

All have sinned, but God has provided a way to escape the penalties of sin. Through repentance from dead works and accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you can be “saved” from the penalties of sin.

The Bible uses several different names for sin:


“She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21

The actual meaning of the word “sin” is to miss the mark and be in error. It is like shooting a weapon and missing the target. It is falling short of what you should be and God’s perfect plan for you.


“All these evil things begin inside people, in the mind: evil thoughts, sexual sins, stealing, murder, adultery, greed, evil actions, lying, doing sinful things, jealousy, speaking evil of others, pride, and foolish living.” – Mark 7:21

Evil means bad, worthless, corrupt, wicked, and morally sinful.


“It will be this way at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the evil people (“wicked” in the KJV) from the good people.” – Matthew 13:49

Wickedness means to have an evil mind set to do mischief. It is a mental disregard for righteousness, justice, truth, and virtue.


“So what was the law for? It was given to show that the wrong things (“transgressions” in the KJV) people do are against God’s will. And it continued until the special descendant, who had been promised, came. The law was given through angels who used Moses for a mediator to give the law to people.” – Galatians 3:19

Transgression means breaking the law. It is like a man stepping across a line over which he has no right to step, invading forbidden territory, and crossing the boundary between right and wrong.


“Doing wrong (“unrighteousness” in the KJV) is always sin…” – 1 John 5:17

This word means injustice, wrong, iniquity, falsehood, and deceitfulness.


“God’s anger is shown from heaven against all the evil and wrong things (“ungodliness” in the KJV) people do. By their own evil lives they hide the truth.” – Romans 1:18

Ungodliness means dishonesty, wickedness, and total disregard of God. It is treating God as if He
did not exist. Ungodliness is not the same as atheism, which believes there is no God.

Ungodliness is knowing there is a God but totally ignoring Him and His laws.


“Then I will tell them clearly, ‘Get away from me, you who do evil (“iniquity” in the KJV). I never knew you.'” – Matthew 7:23

Iniquity means to be lawless, either without the law or violating the law.


“One man disobeyed God, and many became sinners. In the same way, one man obeyed God, and many will be made right.” – Romans 5:19

Disobedience is the opposite of obedience. It means to ignore God and His law.


“In the past you were spiritually dead because of your sins (“trespasses” in the KJV) and the things you did against God.” – Ephesians 2:1

Trespass means to leave the right path and cross the boundary from right into wrong. It is like being on another man’s property where you do not belong.

Just an Introduction…

This chapter is only an introduction to the subject of repentance from dead works. From it, you learned the definition of repentance, the origin of sin, and the names and definitions of sin.

The next chapter continues this discussion of the first principle of the Christian faith, repentance from dead works.

    1. Write the Key Verses from memory.

    2. Define "repentance from dead works.”

    3. List the nine words used for sin in the Bible.

    4. How many in the human race are sinners? Give a Scriptural reference to support your answer.

    5. Describe the origin of sin.

    6. Name two people in the Bible whose repentance was ineffective.


    Please use this section to reflect or comment on what you learned. Applying the lesson to your own life will help you remember what you learned.

    Reflection One


    Reflection Two


    Reflection Three


    May we pray for you about anything?

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    If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new! - 2 Corinthians 5:17

    (Answers to tests are provided at the conclusion of the final chapter of this study.)

    This chapter discussed the origin of sin and defined its Biblical names.  But what does God consider sin?  Sin is any violation of God’s laws:

    “The person who sins breaks God’s law. Yes, sin is living against God’s law.” – 1 John 3:4

    God’s laws are recorded in the Bible. In addition to His laws, God has also listed specific sins we must avoid.

    Sins Listed in Scripture:

    The New Testament lists specific sins, identifies the source of these sins, and reveals special judgments for them. The following references identify a total of 103 different sins. Some are repeated in more than one list. There are:

    Seven which come from the mind and make them unclean: Matthew 15:18-20

    Thirteen which come from the heart and defile: Mark 7:21-23

    Twenty-three which bring the judgment of God: – Romans 1:29-32

    Seven which believers cannot do: Romans 13:13,14

    Six with which believers should not associate: 1 Corinthians 5:9-11

    Ten which prevent entrance into the Kingdom of God: 1 Corinthians 6:9,10

    Seventeen more which prevent entrance into the Kingdom of God: Galatians 5:19-21

    Four which bring wrath and prevent entrance into the Kingdom of God: Ephesians 5:5-6

    Eleven  from  which  believers must turn away: 2 Corinthians 12:20-21

    Nine in which the unsaved live and in which  believers should not live: Ephesians 4:17-19

    Six which must not exist among believers: Ephesians 5:3,4

    Nine which believers should put away: Ephesians 4:25,28,29,31

    Six which believers must put off: Colossians 3:8,9

    Six which believers must mortify and which bring the wrath of God: Colossians 3:5-6

    Fourteen for which the law was given: 1 Timothy 1:9-10

    Nineteen from which believers must turn away: 2 Timothy 3:1-5

    Nine from which believers are saved: Titus 3:3-5

    Five which believers must lay aside: 1 Peter 2:1

    Seven sins of the flesh in which believers no longer live: 1 Peter 4:2-4

    Eight which condemn to the lake of fire: Revelation 21:8

    Six which prevent access to the tree of life and the holy city: Revelation 22:14