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Before beginning the article let us establish a couple of points that we all can agree on quite easily. truth matters. A Christian friend, a pastor in his sermon, Bible scholar in an exegetical commentary, an inspired, fully inerrant Bible author tells us that a born-again Christian can or he cannot lose his salvation, who is correct. All of us without hesitation should say that it is the Bible author who has absolute truth. Even so, we can also say that if the friend, pastor, or Bible scholar is giving us what the author meant by the words that he used; then, they are absolutely correct as well. There have been many goodhearted self-declared Christians from the second to the twenty-first century, who have held to the unbiblical position that once a person has accepted Christ and is truly born-again, he cannot lose his salvation.
Does It Really Matter?
In the Greek New Testament, the Greek noun gnosis means knowledge and epignosis means accurate knowledge. The first (gnosis), according to the Greek scholar W. E. Vine, means “primarily a seeking to know, an inquiry, investigation,” especially of one being in pursuit of spiritual truth in the context of the Scriptures. On the second, W. E. Vine states that epignosis “denotes exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition.” He adds that it expresses “a fuller or a full knowledge, a greater participation by the knower in the object known, thus more powerfully influencing him.”  (Italics mine) We should take note that, this last expression is of crucial importance to the Christian.
There are only two of the eight New Testament authors who use the Greek word epignosis. They are the apostle Paul and the apostle Peter, who use the word a total of 20 times. It is only Luke, Paul, and Peter, who are the only ones to use the word gnosis. The apostle Paul using it 23 times and the apostle Peter 4 times. It serves use well to focus in on their writings to guide us as to the importance of accurate knowledge with a view to whether a born-again Christian can lose their salvation. As Paul stated to Timothy: “This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4) Again, Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context.
Jude 5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Now I want to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
Matthew 24:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Here, Jesus clearly states that a person’s salvation is not guaranteed at the moment that they accept him, have faith in him, and dedicate their lives to him.
Philippians 2:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
Paul, here was writing to born-again Christians, “the saints” or “holy ones” at Philippi, for Philippians 1:1 states, “Paul and Timothy, servants pledged to Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus that are in Philippi …” Paul in 2:12 is urging them not to be overly confident, as their final salvation was not assured as Jesus had stated, only those who survived to the end. (Matthew 24:13) True, God is at work in us enabling us to carry out his will and purposes, but we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit by, as Paul said, working out our salvation.
Hebrews 6:4-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then [after that] have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to public shame.
Fall Away, Forsake, or Turn Away: (Gr. parapiptō) The sense of parapiptō is to fall away or forsake the truth.–Heb. 6:6.
Renew, Restore, or Bring Back: (Gr. anakainizō) The sense of anakainizō is to cause change to a previous state, to start anew.–Heb. 6:6.
On this text M. R. De Haan in Studies in Hebrews correctly observes,
If that is not a description of true, born-again believers, then language means nothing, and we cannot understand anything in the Word of God any more. Five marks of the believer are given:
- They were once enlightened.
- They had tasted the heavenly gift.
- They were partakers of the Holy Ghost.
- They had tasted the good Word of God.
- They had knowledge of prophecy.
Hebrews 10:26-27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 For if we [Paul and the born-again Jewish Christians] go on sinning deliberately after receiving the accurate knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
This clearly states that one can lose their salvation. Paul says “we” meaning that he is including himself and the born again Jewish Christians that he is writing to, both needing to remain faithful, which suggests that they have the free will to be unfaithful.
2 Peter 2:20-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 For if, after they [born-agaain believers] have escaped the defilements of the world by the accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
If the born-again believer who has been made righteous through “the accurate knowledge the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” cannot lose their salvation, why are there so many warnings about their falling away or turning back? Again, there are many Bible verses that show that those who have been saved; are still obligated to endure faithfully. (Matthew 24:13; Hebrews 10:36; 12:2, 3; Revelation 2:10) The Christians in the First-century showed joy when they saw that fellow born-again believers were enduring in their faith. (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3; 3 John 3-4) So, does it seem logical that God through the Bible would emphasize faithful endurance and warned of falling away (leaving the faith, leaving Christ) if those who did not endure and fell away would be saved anyway?
Ephesians 2:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not from works, so that no man may boast.
The complete provision for salvation for a born-again Christian is God’s grace. There is no way that any human can gain salvation on their own, regardless of how man good Christian works they may do. Salvation is an undeserved gift from God to all who put faith in the sin-atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let’s look a little deeper at Ephesians 2:8-9.
For by grace are you have been saved – By an undeserved gift from God. It is not by your Own merit; it is not because we have any claim.
Through faith – Grace bestowed the underserved gift of salvation through faith, or in connection with believing into Jesus Christ.
And that not of yourselves – That is, salvation does not proceed from yourselves. The word rendered “that” – τοῦτο touto – is in the neuter gender, and the word “faith” – πίστις pistis – is in the feminine. The word “that,” therefore, does not refer particularly to faith, as being the gift of God, but to “the salvation by grace” of which he had been speaking.
It is the gift of God – Salvation by grace is his gift. It is not of merit; it is wholly by favor.
Not from works – The entire provision for salvation is an expression of God’s undeserved kindness. There is no way that a descendant of Adam can gain salvation on his own, no matter how noble his works are. Salvation is a gift from God given to those who put faith in the sin-atoning value of the ransom sacrifice of the Son, Jesus Christ.
James 2:14-26 is no contradiction with Paul here in Ephesians 2:8-9, it is a compliment. James makes it clear that faith is not just some head knowledge alone, but true faith is manifested in the fact that it produces appropriate actions consistent with what one claims to profess. James here asks the question for his audience to ponder and think about to come to their conclusion as he states can such faith save him?
Faith does not just begin and end at a mere profession of Christ. Good works in one’s life then must evidence it. These works are not done as a way to earn salvation, but rather out of gratitude of a heart that has been changed by the power of Christ that made one a new creation in Christ. Good works are to be done out of the overflow of the heart that has been redeemed by the power of God through Christ. The answer to James’ question, as he explains in verses 15-26, is faith without works is not true saving faith.
The fact that one does not act in accordance with his words, therefore, proves his words to be dead and false. To just claim to have faith but has no works, is dead in itself. The word that James uses for dead is nekros that means “inactive, inoperative.” (Vine 1996, 148) This believer’s mere lip service to faith without the outward expression of faith through works is inactive. James is making it clear that without works, his faith is dormant and dead and, therefore, proves that he truly does not have faith. Jesus himself said that many would be judged for the supposed claim of faith without works on judgment day with the parable of the sheep and the goats. – Matthew 25:31-46.
For the body apart from the spirit is dead. The Greek word (πνεῦμα pneuma) is commonly used to denote spirit, wind, breath, and life force. The meaning here is the obvious one, that the body is animated or kept alive by the presence of the (spirit) life force, and that when that is withdrawn, hope departs. The body has no life independent of the presence of the spirit. The Greek pneuma represent the life force from God that was given to Adam and Eve, which is introduced into every child thereafter, which animates the human soul or person. As James 2:26 states: “The body apart from the spirit [pneumatos] is dead.”
So also, faith without works is dead. It is just as essential that faith and that works should be animated by faith, as there is that the body and spirit should be united to form a living man. If good works do not result from faith, there is no true faith. No justification does not put a person on the path of salvation. There is no being declared righteous by God. If faith does not generate works, a truly Christian life, it is dead. It has no power, and it is worthless. James was not making some argument against real and genuine faith. In addition, he was not making an argument against its significance in justification. He was arguing against the idea Christians only needed faith alone to be on the path of salvation, and it need not come with good works. James argues that if there is genuine faith, it will always follow that good works are there. Just as you cannot have a body without the breath of life, you cannot have faith without works. It is only faith that can justify and save. But if that faith does not have works, it is not really faith. It is pseudo-faith, so no justification, no salvation. If the faith does not result in a genuine Christian life, it is like the body without the spirit (breath of life). It is meaningless.
James and Paul are not at odds with each other, as they both agree that the person needs true faith to be justified, declared righteous, and enter the path of salvation. Both James and Paul agree that to have genuine faith, one must have works as well that evidence a holy Christian life. Both believe the opposite of that is true too. If a Christian does not have a holy life; then, their faith is a mere facade. The entire New Testament makes these things clear. If we do not believe in Jesus Christ, we cannot be justified before God, and if our faith is not genuine, it is impossible to lead a holy life. Claiming that no works are necessary for having faith is like saying a dead body of a living man. It is just ridiculous.
When a person (a soul) dies (beyond clinical death), there is no longer any animating force or “spirit” within any single cell out of the body’s one hundred trillion cells. Many of us have seen the animation video in science classes at school, where the cell is shown to be like a microscopic factory with an enormous amount of work taking place. Therefore, no work is taking place within the lifeless body, as all of the cells that were animated by the spirit are dead. The body is not good for anything. This is the similarity that James is trying to draw our attention to, as a faith that lacks works is just as lifeless, producing no results and of no use as a corpse. The literal eye cannot see faith; however, works demonstrate that faith can be seen. When one is not moved to good works, it is clear that this one has no real faith. Alternatively, any Christian that is motivated to do good works, he possesses a genuine faith.
We have spoken about works for many pages now. So, the next question is what are some examples of works that should be evident in a Christian life? The works are the fruitage of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23), and the Great Commission (Matt. 24:14; 28;19-20; Acts 1:8), as well as obeying such things as love your neighbor, helping those who need it if it is within your power, living a holy life, etc.
What about the Following Bible Verse?
John 6:37, 39 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
This verse does nothing to undo the fact that born-again Christians have free will and can choose to reject Jesus Christ. It only says, Jesus will never cast the born-again believer out and that he will not lose any believers but it does not say that believers are unable to exercise their free will, choosing to leave him.
The argument that some make is that true born-again believes in Christ cannot lose their salvation. Their argument is that if anyone professing Christian rejects Jesus Christ; then, he simply was not truly a born-again believer in the first place. Their verse to support this is,
1 John 2:19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, so that they would be revealed that they all are not of us.
This is not dealing with born-again believers as to whether they can lose their salvation or not, it is dealing with the antichrist.
1 John 2:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; whereby we know that it is the last hour.
The context for 1 John 2;19 is 1 John 2:8, which is talking about the antichrist, not whether true believers can or cannot lost their salvation. It is not talking about whether believers were really believers at all, it is talking about the antichrist.
See longer more detailed article EXPLAINING SALVATION
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 346.
 M. R. De Haan, Studies in Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 104–105.
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