How Could “Dead Works” Prove that You are Alive?

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Hebrews 9:14
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

You cannot use works to get assurance because works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. In John 3:17-20, the Pharisees like Nicodemus got assurance from their works. But the light of the gospel exposes our “good works” as “dead works”. And our “dead works” are sins.

Romans 8:13– “Put to death the deeds” includes putting to death assurance by works and blessing by works. Before I was converted by God to the true gospel, I had read this text only in terms of morality.

Certainly we are commanded to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh. But we should not use Romans 8:13 to create doubt and legal fear in Christians. To doubt that you are saved because of what you did or didn’t do is to take the focus off of what Christ did.

While we need to be warned of a “dead faith”, assurance is from believing on what Christ did for the elect with His death on the cross and NOT from our “mortification”. Living by the gospel is confidence in the gospel. So I agree that Christians have doubts and degrees of assurance, but I no longer think that we get assurance ALSO by works.

Romans 10:1-3. There are many Arminians who oppose “Lordship salvation” and assurance by works but these Arminians will not submit to the righteousness of God. They only want to talk about grace, but they don’t talk about for whom Christ died or about the fact that God does not give grace to everybody. These Arminian antinomians only want to talk about “no performance”, because they don’t believe the truth about Christ’s performance for the elect.

I would suggest that these Arminian antinomians inherently still think they have “established their own righteousness”. The difference between these Arminian decisionist and the Calvinist “neonomians” is only that the Arminians think they already did what they needed to do to make Christ’s death work for them. The neonomians, on the other hand, thank their god for continuing to prove to themselves that Christ’s work was for them.

When I was still unconverted, I spent all my time talking about “new covenant”. I failed to see the main thing. The only solution to our lack of performance is the death of Christ. This means we need to tell the truth. There is no solution for us if Christ did not die for our sins.

Our faith does not satisfy God. Only the death of Christ satisfies God. Only those sinners legally identified by God with that death will be saved. Those who don’t know or submit to that gospel won’t be saved.

We must learn to have our perspective agree with God’s perspective. Faith in the false gospel leaves people lost. Faith in the true gospel is a result of the righteousness, and the righteousness of God is the death of Christ for the elect.

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2 Comments on “How Could “Dead Works” Prove that You are Alive?”


    How big is the difference between justification by works and assurance of justification by works? 1. if we are looking to our works to see if we have faith, then we don’t have faith. 2. at the least we are NOT looking at Christ alone as the object of our faith, but rather at Christ AND also our works, which means 3 that we are thinking of assurance as something other than faith.

    How do you know God is accepting your works? By this I don’t mean accepting our works for justification, I mean accepting our works at all, instead of finding our works an abomination.

    Does God accept the works of Mormons? The object of Mormon faith is wrong, so their works cannot be good. But assuming that the object of our faith is the true gospel, do our works back up our faith? But to approach God in that way is to eliminate the “alone” from “faith alone”, and to have what God is doing in us also be one of two objects of faith.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Dr. T. David Gordon in his book “Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2009)
    “Some of the neo-Puritans have apparently determined that the purpose of Christian preaching is to persuade people that they do not, in fact, believe. The subtitle of each of their sermons could accurately be: “I Know You Think You Are a Christian, but You Are Not.” This brand of preaching constantly suggests that if a person does not always love attending church, always look forward to reading the Bible, or family worship, or prayer, then the person is probably not a believer…”

    The hearer falls into one of two categories: one category of listener assumes that the preacher is talking about someone else, and he rejoices (as did the Pharisee over the tax collector) to hear “the other guy” getting straightened out. Another category of listener eventually capitulates and says: “Okay, I’m not a believer; have it your way.” But since the sermon mentions Christ only in passing (if at all), the sermon says nothing about the adequacy of Christ as Redeemer, and therefore does nothing to build faith in Christ.

    “It is painful to hear every passage of Scripture twisted to do what only several of them actually do (i.e., warn the complacent that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven). And it is absolutely debilitating to be told again and again that one does not have faith when one knows perfectly well that one does have faith, albeit weak and imperfect…”

    “So no one profits from this kind of preaching; indeed, both categories of hearer are harmed by it. But I don’t expect it will end anytime soon. The self-righteous like it too much; for them, religion makes them feel good about themselves, because it allows them to view themselves as the good guys and others as the bad guys – they love to hear the preacher scold the bad guys each week. And sadly, the temperament of some ministers is simply officious. Scolding others is their life calling; they have the genetic disposition to be a Jewish mother.” (pp. 83-84)

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