The oft repeated phrase “once saved, always saved” is often criticized as condoning, or encouraging Christians to be lax and even carnal. After all, the argument goes, if people have the assurance that they will be saved regardless of how they live, there is no incentive to live a godly life; Christians can revel in iniquity with impunity. For this reason, the doctrine of eternal security, “once saved, always saved,” has often been better described as “the perseverance of the saints,” that is, true saints will persevere in holiness. They might have lapses in their spiritual journey to be sure, but the direction of their life is to seek holiness, and as they progress in their Christian experience, they become more and more conformed to the image of Christ.
In responding to this controversy and questions about it, we make the following points:
First, that those who are truly saved are kept by Christ until the day of redemption; in other words, God preserves the elect and thus their place in heaven is assured.
Second, conversion brings about a change in the life of all who believe. We have a right to question the salvation of those who bear no outward evidence of the wonderful work of God that is wrought in the hearts of all who truly believe.
Third, after we are initially saved by grace through faith, we should not give the impression that our salvation is somehow maintained and preserved by good works. We still rest upon grace through faith, till our dying breath.
Fourth, Christians might at times backslide, capitulating into many different sins and discouragements. No one can say when such have “crossed the line” that they are unbelievers. We must leave the matter to God.
Finally, even though good works are the fruit of saving faith, ultimately, our assurance is based on full confidence in the work of Christ and not our good deeds or lack thereof.
Regarding God’s preservation (our eternal security), John penned the emphatic words of Christ, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:37-39).
Read John 10:27-30 which contains a strong promise that Jesus will not lose any of His sheep. We could not respect a shepherd who began with 100 sheep in the morning but returned with only 98 in the evening. True, we, like sheep, can be very stubborn, but in the end, the Good Shepherd makes sure that all of His sheep will be safely in the fold.