The Work of Mastering Paul's Gospel:
The Role of Epignosis

The Pauline Bootcamp: Session X

Trinity Grace Fellowship

Bible Studies Index | Pauline Bootcamp Index | TGF Home Page

1 November 1997


Definitions and Concordance

Epignosis and its Content - Paul's Gospel and the Hope

Epignosis and the Prayers of Paul

Epignosis and Progress

Epignosis and Behavior

Epignosis and the Doctrine of Reprobation


In this module we are to study the Biblical and Theological ramifications of the Greek word family EPIGNOSIS and in particular how this word family relates to Paul's gospel.

EPIGNOSIS is a compound Greek word from EPI (meaning - upon) and GINOSIS (meaning - knowledge). Thus, "upon knowledge" or more specifically "detailed knowledge" is intended. This word family occurs 62 times in the New Testament. The verb (EPIGNOSKO) occurs 42 times while the noun (EPIGNOSIS) occurs 20 times. The following is a complete concordance of this word family:

Mat 7:16,20; 11:27(2); 14:35; 17:12; Mk 2:8; 5:30; 6:33,54; Lk 1:4,22; 5:22; 7:37; 23:7; 24:16,31; Acts 3:10; 4:13; 9:30; 12:14; 19:34; 22:24,29; 24:8; 25:10; 27:39; 28:1; Rom 1:32; 1 Cor 13:12(2); 14:37; 16:18; 2 Cor 1:13(2),14; 6:9; 13:5; Col 1:6; 1 Tim 4:3; 2 Pet 2:21(2)

Rom 1:28; 3:20; 10:2; Eph 1:17; 4:13; Philp 1:9; Col 1:9,10; 2:2; 3:10; 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Tim 2:25; 3:7; Tit 1:1; Philemon 6; Heb 10:26; 2 Pet 1:2,3,8; 2:20

Back to top


If we are to be given EPIGNOSIS, then what are we to know about? Of what are we to have a detailed knowledge? For the Body saint he is to master Paul's Gospel! The world (order) is to be judged by Paul's gospel (Rom 2:16), placing Paul's gospel into a unique position. Paul EXPLICITY commands that Body saints follow his footsteps (1 Cor 11:1) as Paul was the chief architect of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 3:10).

EPIGNOSIS includes a detailed knowledge of our hope (Eph 1:17) and to enter into a detailed understanding of the Body's doctrinal statement as outlined in the Seven Ones (Eph 4:4-6,13).

EPIGNOSIS includes having a detailed knowledge of Paul's gospel as the Mystery (Col 2:2 ñ see also Eph 3:1-12).

Back to top


Paul's prayers indicate that Body saints are to progress in understanding the details of their hope. These prayers are found in Eph 1:16-21; Phil 1:9-11; Col 1:9,10.

Eph 1:16-21
This importance of this prayer can not be overstated. Paul never ceases to mention the Laodecian saints in his prayers and by extension ALL Body saints (vs. 16). Moreover he enumerates his desires for the saints in the next several verses. (Verse 17) The Father would give to every saint "a spirit of revealed wisdom". The Greek text contains the Figure of Hendiadys "wisdom and revelation". This ought to have been translated as "revealed wisdom" emphasizing the nature of the wisdom. The fact that it is "revealed" wisdom means that the source of this wisdom is from God and is thus linked to regeneration. The working out of this "revealed wisdom" is sanctification. This revealed wisdom is directed toward having a "knowledge of Him". The Greek word for knowledge is EPIGNOSIS and means "detailed knowledge as stated in section (0). Thus, Paul's desire for Body saints is to come into a ëdetailed knowledge" of Him. (Verse 18) He continues to enumerate the subject of this EPIGNOSIS. [1]That Body saints may come to know specifically what is the HOPE of the Fatherís choosing - that God has ordained certain ones to be the righteous extension of Christís Righteous Humanity (i.e., to be the Body of Christ). [2] And to know specifically what be the riches of the glory of His Inheritance in the most holy heavenly place. [3] And specifically what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward the Body saints.

The text states that Paul's prayer is a prayer prayed by Paul. He is praying this prayer IN THE TEXT. The prayer being in the text means that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and thus can be viewed as a prayer of the Holy Spirit. If the prayer is a prayer of the Holy Spirit then it MUST be answered in the affirmative. Thus, every Body saint will sufficiently succeed in each of these areas so as to fulfill the desire of the Third person of the Trinity ñ the Holy Spirit.

Phil 1:9-11
As in the case of Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1, this prayer can not be understated. (Verse 9) Here Paul explicitly links AGAPE love with EPIGNOSIS. Indeed, he categorical states that the love of Body saints abound in EPIGNOSIS. The connection between EPIGNOSIS and love is also seen in Eph 4:13 (context). (Verse 10) That this EPIGNOSIS document those things that are excellent.

Col 1:9-11
Yet another prayer that can not go understated. This prayer contains Paul's request that (Verse 9) Body saints be filled with the EPIGNOSIS of Godís will with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Thus, if we are to be filled the "detailed knowledge" of Godís will, then it follows that Godís will must be able to be know by us. (Verse 10) That in every good work growing in the EPIGNOSIS of God. (Verse 11) The appropriation of EPIGNOSIS is intrinsically linked with perseverance and eternal security.

To summarize Paul's prayers, because they are prayers in the text and therefore prayers of the Holy Spirit-- they must be answered in the affirmative. Therefore, every Body saint progresses to some degree in EPIGNOSIS.

Back to top


There are those that say that within the concept of EPIGNOSIS that there is no sense of progress; that once regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the saint possesses EPIGNOSIS in total. In this section we show that this notion is utterly false and that EPIGNOSIS contains the very notion of progress.

For the Jewish saint, progress in detailed knowledge and behavior is clearly seen in Mat 11:25-30. Christ gives to the Jewish saint detailed knowledge (EPIGNOSIS) of the Father. But it is clear from the context that this does not happen over night. Those to whom Christ gives the EPIGNOSIS of the Father are said (vs. 28) to be the heavy laden ones (Present Tense, Active Voice) and those that are laboring (Present Tense, Active Voice). These people are described by participles that are in the Present Tense and Active voice, clearly showing that the work of EPIGNOSIS is an on going adventure. Indeed progressive in nature for they are to learn - a progressive activity - (vs. 29) the details of Christ as Messiah.

For the Body saint, the context of 1 Cor 13:12 seems to shut the case does it not? For the very discussion in which Paul is involved details the progressive nature of EPIGNOSIS. That process he describes as being similar to the maturing process from child to adult. Having put away childish things the Body saint becomes an adult.

Regarding the aspect of progress within EPIGNOSIS, Eph 4:13 (and its attending context) can not be ignore for a moment. Paul EXPLICITLY states that certain offices within the local assembly (vs. 11) have been given to the saints for the EXPRESS purpose of progressively maturing in EPIGNOSIS. Today these offices (or gifts) are the evangelist (the roving teaching-pastor who sets up new assemblies) and the teaching-pastor (bishop) who is officially responsible for the teaching ministry of the local assembly to which he is associated. Indeed, this is one way (the fundamental way), by which the saints show their love for one-another. By edifying each other in the EPIGNOSIS of Christ as Head of the Body.

As seen above, Paul's prayer in Col 1:9 makes no sense if EPIGNOSIS is not progressive. To "abound more and more" does more than simply imply the notion of progress, it EXPLICITY states the case.

In light of Paul's prayers and the progressive nature of EPIGNOSIS, we make a very important observation in 1 Tim 2:4. This passage has usually been ripped from its wonderful context and made to teach that damnable Arminian heresy ñ that God wishes that all men without exception be saved. The context however, clearly teaches that the passage is discussing "salvation" in the sense of progressing in EPIGNOSIS. For Paul states that God wills all men (in context His Elect) to come unto a "detailed knowledge" (EPIGNOSIS) of the truth. This passage is NOT teaching that God wants everyone to be saved from hell-fire, but rather that each saint is to progress in EPIGNOSIS. Salvation in the sense of REAL sanctification!

Back to top


EPIGNOSIS results in a behavior and life-style that is pleasing and honoring to Paul's gospel (Col 3:1-4:6), i.e., Christ as Head of His Body. Every item that Paul mentions in this text is within the context of EPIGNOSIS:

  1. Keeping from fornication, uncleanness, etc. (vv. 5,6) is a necessary consequence of EPIGNOSIS.
  2. Putting off anger, wrath, malice, etc. (vv. 8,9) is a necessary consequence of EPIGNOSIS.
  3. Meekness, humbleness of mind, forbearing each in love, etc. (vv.12-14) are a necessary consequence of EPIGNOSIS.
  4. Teaching each other via songs and hymns (vs.16) is a necessary consequence of EPIGNOSIS.
  5. Wives submitting to their husbands, husbands loving their wives, children obeying their parents, servants obeying their masters, masters properly treating their servants (vv. 18-4:1), are a necessary consequence of EPIGNOSIS.
  6. Speaking and preaching Paul's gospel (the Mystery) is a necessary consequence of EPIGNOSIS.

Women are exhorted (1 Tim 2:9-15) in the context of EPIGNOSIS (vs. 4) to behave in such a way that is honoring to Paul's gospel.

Philemon was a brother whoís behavior was admirable because of EPIGNOSIS (Philemon 6).

The consequence of having no EPIGNOSIS is seen in Rom 1:28.

Back to top


Perhaps no greater doctrine is as sobering as that of Manifest Reprobation. By "manifest" reprobation we mean the "mechanism" by which an individual today manifests himself/herself as a reprobate (i.e., one who will NEVER be saved.

An equivalent statement of this great doctrine is the word APOSTASY. Apostasy, is from the Greek word APOSTASIS which itself is a compound word from APO (meaning from) and STATIS (meaning state). So that the intention within this word is "from a state", i.e., departed from a state.

This fundamental principal is seen in Luke 9:62:

"No man having placed his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God"

The context here is within the Jewish earthly kingdom, but the general principle is intact. The notion here in Luke regards an individual who publicly identifies himself with the truth (in our case - Paul's Gospel) and then turns around and denies (or preaches against) that Gospel has IN THIS LIFE manifested himself to be a reprobate. Indeed, the word for "having placed" is a very poor translation of the Greek word EPI-BALLO that means to "cast" or "throw" upon. The intention in the Greek is to "cast one's lot" with the ministry. Thus, manifest reprobation is another way of stating the notion of "traitor-hood". An individual who manifests himself as a traitor manifests himself as a reprobate.

Two comments are in order here. No where in scripture is it the job of the saint to generate ministries in looking for reprobates. Nevertheless, if a saint is aware of individuals that he/she believe through rigorous and careful examination has manifested themselves as reprobates, that saint can ONLY make an operation decision regarding the alleged reprobate. We are not to judge (in the sense of condemn), but we are compelled to judge (in the sense of discern), i.e., make operational decisions so that we know how we are to behave.

Moreover, Biblically there is a distinction between traitor-hood and enemy-status. An enemy is someone who is AGAINST you, but who has NEVER allied himself WITH you. In this way, this individual is NOT (necessarily) a reprobate for he has not manifested himself as a traitor for he never identified himself with the truth in the first place. We (the Body) were once called enemies, but NEVER traitors.

Paul discusses the characteristics of the religious conservative community at the end of the Age of the Body of Christ (2 Tim 4:1-16). A characteristic of the so-called "anti-body" is provided for us in verse 7.

(They are for)"ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

The reprobates at the end of the Age of the Body of Christ are described as always learning new things, but they are NEVER able to "nail things down". Indeed, the Greek text actually reads EPIGNOSIS for our English word knowledge. They are not able to grasp the "detailed knowledge" of the truth (in context Paul's Gospel). Yes, they excel in ascertaining "generic' knowledge, but are incapable of ascertaining the "detailed knowledge" of Paul's gospel. Indeed, they hate it!

There seem to be two ways in which a reprobate manifests himself.

  1. To openly display his traitor-hood with respect ot Paul's gospel
  2. Never to persevere in understanding in a detailed way (EPIGNOSIS) Paul's gospel. The first is easier to nail down, the latter requires much more observation.

Back to top | Bible Studies Index | Pauline Bootcamp Index | TGF Home Page