Sometimes confusion arises over various theological terms. For example, many Christians hold to a doctrine called “eternal security” which states that man, once saved, can never again be lost. A very similar doctrine known as the “perseverance of the saints” teaches likewise that true believers can never be lost again. Both of these doctrines are a correct way of stating a believer’s eternal status before God. But both phrases are subject to misunderstanding; and the two phrases (while similar) are not identical in what they teach.
Some misunderstand the doctrine of eternal security by thinking it means that once they have “been saved” then they are free to indulge in sin all they wish. After all, they are saved and cannot be lost again. Right? The Bible would teach us that any so-called believer who has this type of mindset is no believer at all. Because if a man is truly saved, and has been “born again” (John 3:3) by the Spirit then he no longer craves a life of sin like he did before. This “new creature in Christ” longs to be like Jesus and to be with Jesus. Sin is now a hindrance to him, not a joy. And while he fights the flesh he does so with a changed heart that loves God and loves others. The truly converted are secure. But the truly converted no longer want to live a life of sin.
Eternal security is a true and biblical doctrine when understood correctly. But the doctrine of Christian perseverance, or “perseverance of the saints” further explains a practical aspect of eternal security. When a man is saved he doesn’t sit around like a bump on a log enjoying his “security.” Rather, he lives a life of active obedience to Christ. He faces trials and tribulations and he endures, looking to Christ. Sometimes he stumbles and sometimes he falls; but he never quits in his pursuit of the Lord. For as a true, born again believer, it is the Lord himself who carries him and empowers him by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit that lives inside of each and every Christian. “Perseverance” as a verb, means that you continue on and “keep going” as a Christian. Perseverance as a “doctrine” states that all true Christians will never fall away from the faith or renounce Christ.
Of course the term “saints” needs to be defined as well. A “saint” in Biblical terms is any and all Christians. All true believers are “sanctified” which means to be “set apart” in Christ. Christians are “holy” in the sense of being declared righteous by God based on the work of Christ. Even though Christians are sinners by nature, they become saints by divine calling. Jesus came and lived a life of sinless perfection that is credited to the believer’s life, by faith. While the sin that separated them from God was also dealt with by Christ, as he hung on the cross absorbing the wrath that the sinner, turned saint rightfully deserves. So it might be said that eternal security is true for the genuine believer, it is better explained and “fleshed out” by understanding the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints.”
The Bible teaches that all true Christians will persevere until the end. This does not mean that Christians never sin; nor be wrong on some doctrinal issues. Nevertheless, a true Christian will not renounce the Lord and “go another route” spiritually speaking. Any so called Christian who abandons Christ in such fashion gives proof that he never was a true Christian at all.
The reason for this is rooted in the sovereignty of God over salvation. If salvation truly was a work of man’s will, then man could easily change his mind the next day and declare himself “un-Christian” once again. Some Christians even adopt an odd hybrid of theological beliefs that state that salvation is man’s choice, but eternal security is God’s decree. They say that while they were saved by something they did; it then becomes impossible for them to undo it. This grants them peace that they will never be lost again. But it’s a peace based on unbiblical teaching.
Indeed, the true believer will never be lost again; but it isn’t due to the fact that the man “chose” Christ. But rather, this security is rooted in the fact that Christ chose the man (John 16:15; John 6:44). The only way for a person to be truly secure from beginning to end is for salvation to be an absolute and complete work of God. And this is what the Scriptures teach. The Bible explicitly and repeatedly declares salvation to be a gracious work of God, not in accordance with man’s works, lest man should boast. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB) The Apostle Paul reminds us that “it is by His doing that you are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) And once you are “in Christ Jesus” then the Lord promises, “no one shall snatch you out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
Genuine, born-again believers are eternally secure in Christ because the salvation they have is the gift and work of God. It is not their doing and therefore it can’t and won’t be undone. If it was their doing, then they could change their mind tomorrow. But when God changes a man and grants spiritual life to his heart, then no desire to renounce the faith ever develops. The true believer will persevere in following the Lord until the end. They are secure; but this security is manifested in their spiritual perseverance.
The professing Christians of our world today need to examine God’s Word to determine if they are truly saved or not. Salvation involves a change of heart and life. The sinner who comes to Christ has a newfound love and undying commitment to follow Jesus come what may. Does this describe you? If so, then don’t take the credit for something God did in you. Praise Him eternally! And if you don’t know the Lord, then repent of your sin and come to Him today. Believe in Jesus and submit to His Lordship. Be forgiven. Be saved. And rejoice in a supernatural, sovereign work of God that called you, changed you, and will “keep” you unto the end (1 Peter 1:5)