Although, understood rightly, I believe once a person is truly saved, they will always be saved. Understood rightly, I believe in eternal security. We really are eternally secure in the father’s hand, no one can snatch us out (John 10:29). There are no dropouts in what is often called the golden chain of redemption found in Romans 8:28-31, everyone who is chosen, called, and justified will be glorified. But for me, though, the term “perseverance of the saints” is way more helpful. As the term “eternal security” can be easily misunderstood, as it connotes a passive security. Whereas the Christian life is not passive, and anyone who is not actively living out there faith should not have any security in it. The only reason we should be secure is because we are presently following Christ. Yes, God is the one underlying it all. It is really him doing it, but if he is doing it, we must do it. If he is working in us, we must work it out (Phil. 2:12-13). If he has taken hold of us, we must take hold of him (Phil 3:12). And we must keep doing this. So I think think the term ‘perseverance of the saints’ is more helpful, because the bible describes the christian’s life as the christian actively taking part in it.
I have often thought of it like this, “We can be eternally secure in our salvation because all those who are saved, God will keep, preserve, and work in them, so that they will persevere all the way to the end. And all those who do persevere to end, were truly saved.
Eternal security underlies perseverance. But perseverance is the fruit, and without fruit, we have nothing, because it just exposes there was no root. Does the doctrine of eternal security lead to license? It can, especially the way it has often been taught, and that is that a person can pray a prayer to one day to accept Christ, and now they are told that no matter what happens, they are going to heaven because of it. Yes. I can see how this would lead to license. It’s like having your cake and eating it too. In fact, sometimes I think if we think of salvation this way, it is actually us who are in control. We made a deal with God, and now he has to keep it, as if he is a genie in a bottle out to fulfill our wishes. And which our wishes here usually boil down to, us living anyway we want and don't have to experience any of the consequences. In this view, salvation is just a get out of hell free card, because we still love our sin, and God is just somebody to be used. In fact in this this view it would be great if God were not even in heaven when we got there. At least not the God of the Bible with all his rules and stuff. He just ruins things. Often in this view, God is more of just a cosmic bellhop to us, or an old man who could never really harm anyone. Oh, I can do whatever I want, because he has to forgive us. The problem with this view, is though it sees some aspects of the beauty of the security in Christ, it doesn’t see the beauty for the right reason. It sees the beauty of security for self centered, self motivated, self aggrandizing, sinful reasons. It is not we who set the terms of the covenant. Ok, God I prayed this prayer, now you have to serve me, and be there for me, so I can go about living life the way I want to. No, it is God who sets the terms of the covenant. When we repent of our sins, and put our trust in his finished work, we are literally giving our allegiance to him. He is Lord. It is him we confess. It is him we bow our knee to. It is him we submit to. If you have never submitted your life to Christ, it is not the Christ of the Bible, that is the one who died on the cross, crucified for sinners, because of sin, you have believed on, but rather a false Christ you have made up in your head, so that you could go on being your own God. Christ died because of sin. How could you go on loving the very thing he gave his life for, if you say you love him. But thats another story. It really does boil down to, do you love him, and have you surrendered your life to him? For those are the terms of the agreement. Those who have been born again, will want to love God, and will want to follow him. So in order to see the beauty of eternal security, we have to realize this, we have to see the sovereign Lord in whom we are secure and how he works out that security in us. There is a why to our security, not based on who we are and what we think but based on who God is, what he has done, but also what he has said. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Jesus says, “ I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:5-6, 8) Paul tells the Colossians that they will be saved on the last day, “provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard” (Col. 1:23). The author of Hebrews says, “We share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3: 14) and encourages his readers to be imitators of those “who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6: 12). So, though it is true, that once we are saved, we will always be saved, salvation is not here today, and gone tomorrow. We did not cause ourselves to be born again, and we cannot cause ourselves to be unborn again. And though we are eternally secured in the fathers hand (John 10:29), and those whom are the fathers will be raised up on the last day (John 6:40), without teaching of the need for persevering enduring faith, as evidence and basis for our security, we will unwillingly create many false converts and in so doing hurt the health of our churches. This only makes sense. Sinners who will be made to feel good and secure in their sinning, will go on sinning and feel good about it the whole time. On the other hand, those who understand what it means to be a Christian, have come to love the things of God, have been set free from sin and to Christ, and it is their delight to walk in submission to him, and follow after him, will be severely emboldened by the precious reality of their eternal security in Christ. In other words, for those who are persevering in Christ, through good times and bad, through times of plenty and times of want, through times of adversity and times of abounding, they will come to a point, where they will realize that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them (Phil. 4:13) I mean if we, that is we who love God, we who have been called according to his purpose, we who are content in him, if we realize that nothing will be able to separate us from Christ. That not tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Or anything, not even death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. If we truly realize that we are secure in him, what else can it do, but create bold warriors for Christ. It will cause people to cross oceans for him to bring the gospel to cannibals. It will cause people to let good and kindred go. It will cause people to devote their whole lives to him and encourage others to do the same, because Jesus is worth it, and nothing can separate us from him. What are they going to do to us, kill us. We get to go be with Christ then. And if they don't kill us, well, they get to hear about him then, and we get to live for him. But either way Christ is the prize. So, the doctrine of eternal security rightly understood creates bold warriors for Christ for those who are in Christ. The doctrine of eternal security wrongly understood creates licentious living for those who are not in Christ. No maybe they would have been licentious anyway. Not sure. But giving those type of people false assurance is certainly not helpful. So yes, perseverance of the saints is more helpful, but both are true, we are eternally secure, but there is absolutely one hundred percent no way to know we are secure, unless if we are persevering in the faith. Apostate, unbelievers do not go to heaven. You will not find anywhere in the bible such a teaching. Rather you will find many warnings against such thinking. So don't let anyone ever teach you such a thing. The Bible teaches that those who are truly saved will persevere in believing. Our assurance is not so much that we believed once upon a time, but that we are believing now. In fact, the most famous verse in the entire Bible uses a present tense verb that may be translated, “whoever continues believing in him” may have eternal life (see John 3:16) And not only that, but our assurance that we will keep believing comes from the fact that God will see to it, that we keep believing. Your only hope that you will wake up tomorrow still being a christian is that God will see to it that you will wake up tomorrow still being a christian. Your hope is in him, not in yourself. Don't ever fall for that trap of thinking you're all that. Christian, it is him that works in us to will and do his good pleasure (Phil 2:13). Count on that. He is your assurance. It is him who will present you faultless before the throne (Jude 23,24). It is him who is the author and finisher of your faith (Heb. 12:2). It is him who does all these things, so now do it. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Tim. 6:12)