Derek Prince - Repentance From Dead Works
Then it's summed up in the 10th verse: Having been designated [or addressed as or called as] a high priest. Having been called by God a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. So we see that to become a high priest Jesus had to be qualified. It was not automatic. I pointed out in the previous session that His appointment was by God's decision, not man's. But, God chose Him because He met the requirements. So there's two sides to that truth. I think that's something that needs to be emphasized. Jesus had to earn the place He now occupies. He did not get it because He was a favorite son.
I think this is clearly brought out in Philippians 2. We just need to read verses 8 and 9. To get the complete sense we would need to go back a little further to the beginning of the self-humbling of Jesus beginning in verse 6. I only want to come to the climax so I'll read only verses 8 and 9. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The next word is what? Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.
Notice the "therefore". He earned His exultation. He fulfilled the requirement. It was not arbitrary. Likewise, in this passage in Hebrews that we're looking at in Hebrews 5, He fulfilled the requirements to become a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Now we're going to look in verse 11. Hebrews 5:11. Concerning whom [that is Melchizedek] we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become sluggish [dull or lazy] in your hearing. It says here "dull of hearing," but that's a spiritual dullness. I've learned by experience that in most cases the arbiter of what people get from a preacher is the Holy Spirit.
Let me explain that. I can go to two different conventions or conferences or congregations. I can have the same message, the same note outline. I can spend the same amount of time in prayer. In one place I'm hardly able to get through what I have to say. In the other place I just can't stop. I say things and I say to myself, "How did I ever know that"? I've come to realize the difference isn't in me. The difference is in the people. The Holy Spirit is jealous of the treasures of God's Word. He doesn't cast His pearls before swine, even though we might try. It's an amazing thing.
Where I'm familiar with a congregation, as I am partly with this one, there are many other factors. But if I go to a congregation that I simply don't know at all and speak to them two or three times, merely out of what the Holy Spirit pours or does not pour through me, I can have a pretty good idea whether that congregation is walking in the blessing of God or not. Because, if people can't hear, what's the good of talking? I've said to people sometimes in my rather simple phraseology, "What's the good of trying to pour water into a bottle that has a cork in the mouth"?
These people were really not able to hear. They were rebuked for it. What's really remarkable to me is that a major part of this epistle centers around the high priesthood of Melchizedek. But if you look in the Old Testament (and the references are there if you want them), there are only three verses in the Old Testament, maybe you could say four that speak of Melchizedek. Three in Genesis and one in Psalm 110. The carnal mind would say, "Well, then, Melchizedek isn't very important". That's quite incorrect. He's extremely important. He's uniquely important. He's really the only picture we have of the kind of high priesthood that Jesus has.
So be careful when you read the Old Testament. Another remarkable example is that the apostle Paul, in a way, really bases the whole doctrine of justification by faith on half a verse in the prophet Habakkuk. You might not even know where to find Habakkuk. It's good that Paul knew where to find him, isn't it? That's a kind of hint about how to approach the Old Testament. Going on now in Hebrews 5:12: For when by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you what are the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God. There's various different ways of translating that. The way I think I would choose is "what are the basic elements of the oracles of God".
It's important to see that there are basic truths in the Bible. Some truths are basic and some are more, shall I say, advanced. One of the lessons of this passage which will come out is you can't really advance to higher truth until you've mastered basic truth. Again, I don't wish to appear negative, but from what I understand, the basic truth, from my perspective of the people in this nation who call themselves saved, I doubt whether ten percent have any grasp of basic truth that's worth mentioning. I think ten percent would be a generous estimate. I am not without experience, because I travel widely and meet people from many different backgrounds.
These people that I pointed out in the introduction had all the privileges. They were Jewish by background, they were familiar with the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, the temple service, the requirements of holiness. But, they had stagnated; they just made no progress. When they should have been in a position to be able to minister God's truth to others they found themselves back in grade one, needing someone to teach them. Where do you stand? I'm trying to speak in such a way that I don't look at anybody individually. Where do you stand? Do you know enough to teach somebody else? I'll tell you one thing, and here is my experience with training teachers, it stands me in good stead. You don't know how much you know till you try to teach somebody else. That's when you find out.
The writer of Hebrews goes on with this reproof, and it's a very stern rebuke. Going on in verse 12 he says: you've become those who need milk and not solid food. [verse 13] For everyone who partakes of milk is inexperienced in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. It's very obvious there that you can be a spiritual baby and gray headed. Or, have known the Lord for twenty years and still be a spiritual baby. It isn't measured by chronological age. Going on in verse 14: But solid food belongs to the perfect [mature, grown up, that's the same word], those who through use [or practice] have their senses exercised to discern between good and evil. So that tells us the only way we can achieve mature spiritual understanding is through regularly exercising our senses so as to distinguish between good and evil. Not our physical senses but our spiritual senses.
There's a passage in Philippians which I think really relates to this. Keep your finger there in Hebrews and turn to Philippians 1. I'm going to translate it myself because I don't find any English translations I've looked at that have really brought it out. I'm not sure I can do it either but I'll try. Philippians 1:9–11. And I pray this [whatever it is he's been praying], in order that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment. I don't know what word to use.
Let me tell you that the Greek word is aisthesis, which gives us the English word aesthetic. It's that kind of a word. What's an aesthetic person? It's a person who is very sensitive to the fine points of art or music. It's a person who's cultivated his powers of perception. He walks into a picture gallery and he immediately picks out the ones that are worth looking at. Or, he's listened to music to the point where he can discern music that really is of a high quality. I think you'd agree that it does not come quickly. It has to be practiced. Going on. We're in Philippians 1:10. That you may be pure [or sincere or guileless] and not the cause of offense. How does it translate it in the other versions there? "Blameless and sincere". That's the NASB. Who's got the NIV? "Pure and blameless".
But you see, I don't want to spend a lot of time on this, but the word means somebody who doesn't offend somebody else. You're not a source of offense to somebody else. If you don't cultivate refinement of spiritual perception you will not be able to avoid offending others. I'm sure most of us can look back at times in our experience when we've done that, when we've been spiritually coarse. Sometimes I hear preachers make jokes which are all right, they're not vulgar, but I don't think they indicate spiritual refinement. Let me say there are times when preachers are witty and it's given by the Holy Spirit, and it's very liberating.
So I'm not narrow-minded. There are times when our attitude towards somebody who needs help is legalistic and harsh and unresponsive. We haven't cultivated that spiritual sensitivity. I would say about myself, and of course, I don't have to say it but I think I'm more sensitive to God than I am to people. I know others who are more sensitive to people than to God. We need both. Let's go on in Philippians. I believe the Holy Spirit has got me, as it were, in a groove here. that you may be pure and blameless and sincere [and not the source of offense] until the day of Christ; being filled with the fruit of righteousness which is through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
One of the points that emerges is that in order to be filled with fruit of righteousness we have to cultivate this spiritual sensitivity. Going back now to Hebrews 5:14: Solid food is for those who are mature [grown up, perfect], those who have their spiritual senses exercised. And the word is the word that gives us gymnastics in English, or gymnasium. through use or practice to the result of discerning between good and evil. One of the things that grieves me with Charismatics is that they can be fooled by almost anything. Sometimes when I've done my best and given them the very best I can I'm grieved that they can be so easily fooled by something else.
A friend of mine who is a preacher as a matter of fact, he's the one who is going to be here tomorrow. He was preaching in a certain place and at the end a dear lady came up to him and said, "Brother so-and-so, I just love your preaching. You and Brother-so-and-so are my two favorite preachers". Well, if I name Brother so-and-so, those of you that know them both would see how totally incongruous it was. It was intended as a compliment, but it was an insult. That woman had not cultivated her powers of spiritual perception to any perceptible degree at all. People deserve to be fooled. If there's one way I see people fooled, this is going to touch some of you! It's in the matter of offerings. A certain kind of preacher can stand up, put a tremor in his voice, describe the poor somebody somewhere that needs help desperately, and "God has shown me there are five people here that will give $1000 each".
Brother or sister, if you fall for that, you deserve to! But it makes me sick inside. I've been in places where I've wanted to get up and walk out. I thought, How dare anybody play with spiritual power and exploit it for mercenary means? Well, the solution is: exercise your senses. If you get fooled once, make up your mind you're never going to be fooled that way again. Okay. We're going on to chapter 6. That's a real victory. We've got through one chapter in less than two sessions! Unheard of! Mind you, it was a short chapter. We're now in chapter 6, verse 1. Wherefore leaving behind [or moving on from] the word of the beginning of Christ, let us be carried on to perfection [or maturity]. This is this if the fifth "let us" passage.
If you turn back to 0/3, you find a list of twelve "let us" passages. Okay? And the fifth one is Hebrews 6:1. It is also the second passage of practical application. The practical application it recommends is going on to maturity or perfection which is right in line with the whole tenor of this epistle. Now we're going back to the text. Wherefore leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us be carried on to perfection [or maturity], not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God. Let me pause there because we'll look at those six foundation doctrines together as a whole. Let me just point out what is implied by that word "let us". I think your translations say "press on". But the Greek is in the passive, "let us be borne along".
And if you want a corresponding passage, it's in 2 Peter 1:21. 2 Peter 1:21: For not by the will of man was prophecy ever brought; but men of God spoke as they were borne along by the Holy Spirit. What does it say in your translations? Moved? Carried. Okay. Well, that's the same word that's used in Hebrews 6:1. Why I say that is because I think it makes it clear that it's not simply dependent on our will whether we go forward. We can only go forward if the Holy Spirit bears us on just as people can only prophesy if they're borne along by the Holy Spirit. And as you'll see, if we are going to go on and if the Holy Spirit is going to bear us on, we have to meet a condition. If we don't meet the condition I don't think we qualify for going on.
Now, let's look at the verses 1 and 2 which list these foundation doctrines: Not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, of instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. Many, many years ago God made it clear to me that there is a doctrinal foundation to the Christian faith and that this is it. At that time, around about 1964, when I first got involved with the Charismatic movement, one thing I realized was a lot of people were coming into the realm of the Spirit who didn't have this foundation. So I started a radio program in which I taught these six foundation doctrines.
Out of that because there was a secretary in Boeing in Seattle, Washington, who didn't have much to do, her boss permitted her to start typing my script out and it ended up in seven books which are called the Foundation Series. I want to just remind you that they are available here tonight. I just read a beautiful letter from a young Jewish believer of 20 who's been listening to my program on the radio for the past six months and he is obviously a young man of great discernment because he really thinks the sun rises and sets on Derek Prince! In particular, why should anybody read anything else but the Foundation Series and Faith to Live By? It's really a most beautiful letter. I'm saying it in a jesting way, but it's one of the most impressive letters I've received from a radio listener of what simple, basic teaching can do for people.
Ever since I've become a Christian I have been absolutely sure that if I can get people to listen attentively to systematic Bible teachings they would be changed. I'd discovered this when I'd been a Christian just a few months in the British Army. I came to know the Lord in an Army barrack room in the middle of the night in July of 1941. By November I was in the North African desert. I was the only Christian that showed any signs of life in my entire unit which numbered about 200 persons. And after a little while I thought to myself, What do I do about this? So I said, "I'll start a Bible class". I'd never been in a Bible class; I didn't know which way up to hold the Bible or anything.
So I announced to my fellow soldiers that I was going to hold a Bible class. Then I thought to myself, Where do I start? I'm always one of those people who start at the beginning so I thought, Start at the beginning of what? I thought to go all the way back to Genesis is a little bit too far, so I started at the beginning of the New Testament in Matthew with the genealogy and everything, we just plowed through it. We were meeting in the open desert in the shelter of a three-ton Army truck. My closest friend at that time was a man of just about my age who had actually been the first one to find me a Christian because he woke up in the middle of the night and found me lying on my back in the middle of the floor laughing. That was how I became a Christian.
It's not the way everybody becomes a Christian! It took me quite awhile to realize there was another way of becoming a Christian! I just checked on people's experience. If they hadn't ended up on the floor laughing I couldn't believe that they were really saved. Anyhow, he was a good friend of mine and fortunately was not religious. If he'd been religious I would have had a miserable life, but his attitude was, "Well, everybody does his own thing. So if that's what he does, he's still my friend". So when I started this Bible class, he attended. And we plowed all the way through the first seven and a half chapters of Matthew.
And the very next thing I was going to teach on was Matthew 7:13 and 14, "Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few they be that find it". And he came to me in his very British accent and he said, "Derek, old chap, I'm sorry to say I won't be coming to your Bible class any longer". I said, "Why not"? And he said, "Because I know if I do, I shall be converted". You can smile, but it's one of the most tragic statements anybody ever made to me. Years later after the war I met him in an underground station in London. Lydia and I visited his home, led his wife to the Lord, she became and is a committed Christian. I got a strange letter from him. He said, "I don't know what it is you're doing to me, but don't do it". I was praying for him. Whether I was right or wrong, I stopped praying. After that we drifted apart and I didn't see him for at least twenty years.
One day when I was here in Fort Lauderdale I got a letter. He had obtained my address from an Assemblies of God minister in Britain and he wrote. I think Ruth saw the letter. He chronicled the most miserable list of failures. He's a gifted man, could succeed in various avenues but his life had gone steadily downhill. And he wrote to me to say, "Do you think you can help me"? I took time and made an appointment and met him in a hotel in England. His wife was like a flower that blossomed when she met me again. She just came spiritually alive in a few moments. But I was not able to help him. I don't know what the end of that story will be.
But at the end, after I sat and counseled with him and talked with him I said, "I just have to tell you one thing. You're a rebel at heart". He said, "It's true". His wife said that's right. He was a good man, a good husband, a good father, and a failure. I don't know that I've ever been more impressed with the solemnity of how you respond to God. He had his opportunity and he deliberately turned God down. I trust that God will yet have mercy on him, but I can't say I'm sure he will. See? Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him by the Spirit". Don't imagine that just any time you feel like it you can put things right with God, because you can't. If God doesn't help you, you can't even start. That's a long interpolation, but I think maybe the Lord wants that in this message because it seems to me somehow that no matter how hard I try I end up being very serious.
And I think, really, God is serious. Do you know that? I think God is probably much more serious than most of us. And those of you that know me will know I'm not a particularly mournful or gloomy person. There's a difference between being gloomy and being serious. What shall I do? Recommend you to the Foundation Series! I don't intend to go into these six foundation doctrines at length because they are really seriously available in the books. If you've never read them, they are there. Let's begin and just look at the first two and then, God helping us, we'll continue with the list at our next session. The first one is what? Repentance.
Let me tell you that that is inevitably and invariably the first step in approaching God. You cannot bypass it. You can get superficial results in the spiritual life without sincere repentance, but further down the road they'll catch you up. I think in counseling people, with all their problems, financial, marital, spiritual, demonic, my impression today is that fifty percent of those problems are caused by a failure to truly repent. It is the first foundation stone and there is no substitute for it, there is no way around it, there's nothing that will take its place. What is repentance? Repentance is primarily a decision. It's not emotion. I've seen people get very emotional and fail to repent. I've seen people who've repented without any obvious sign of emotion. Although there is such a thing as "godly sorrow," which does lead us to repentance. I've seen that too.
Repentance is not in the realm of the emotions, it's in the realm of the will. It's a decision of the will. The Greek word means "to change your mind". The Hebrew word used in the Old Testament means "to turn around". That's typical. Greek will always focus on the inward, Hebrew will always focus on the practical and the outworking. Put them together. Repentance is changing your mind and turning around. You have been going your own way. You have been making your own decisions, setting your own standards, doing your own thing. You may have been doing it in a very religious context. You may have said, "Praise the Lord" every other sentence, but you've never repented because you've never changed your mind. Then you have problems. You come to some preacher, "Cast this demon out of me; straighten my wife out; help me with my finances".
What I have learned is all that secondary help is vain if it isn't preceded by repentance. Because, get you out of your problem, you'll be back again in a little while deeper. Repentance from dead works. What are dead works? I understand that anything that is not done in faith is a dead work. Romans 14:23 is the only Scripture we have time for tonight: Romans 14:23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. Whatever does not proceed out of faith is sin. So everything you do that is not done out of faith is what? That's right. Therefore it has to be repented of. It's a dead work, there's no life. The only basis for righteous living is what? Faith. "The righteous will live by faith". "Whatsoever does not proceed from faith is sin". That's why everybody has to repent. We'll close for tonight, the Lord helping us, we'll continue.