Having looked at the work that Christ does on our behalf, we now turn to what sometimes becomes the elephant in the room: assurance.
I list the problem as assurance because that is the way most people deal with the doctrine of perseverance in their day-to-day lives. Most people want to know how they can know, for certain; believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are saved. Not teaching a right understanding (usually through deficiency in detail) has led to many people looking away from Jesus and to other things.
So let’s get the right understanding out-of-the-way: Those who are saved are secure in Christ and cannot be taken from Him. This is why understanding justification and sanctification (along with regeneration) first is so important. The Bible is clear that those who have been redeemed by God are His. 1 Peter 1:3 – 5 reminds us our salvation is secure in heaven and we are kept and shielded by God until salvation’s final revelation. Romans 8:31 – 39 points to the power of God’s keeping His people in spite of whatever else in all creation may wish to the opposite. God’s work (begun by Him) will continue as Philippians 1:6 shows us because Christ daily intercedes for us as Hebrews 7:25 teaches. The “Good Shepherd” passage of John 10 further points out how Jesus cannot be overpowered and those given Him by the Father are secure in His grasp.
Now that we know this, let’s make sure we phrase it rightly: Christians will persevere until the end. They will produce fruits in keeping with repentance (Luke 3) and will manifest the proof of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling by growing in holiness (Galatians 5:22 – 23). We have a tendency to phrase this as “once saved, always saved”, because the statement is true; but it leads to unintended outcomes. What do we mean by saved? Is it when they walked the aisle? Prayed the prayer? Signed the membership card? Got baptized? Ultimately it is when God regenerated them and declared them justified, which is why we exhort people regularly to repent. Salvation is not a one-time event, but a lifelong endeavor; “once saved, always saved”, has a tendency to reduce salvation to a moment and can give unrepentant people a false hope.
This is why we take the warnings seriously; if they went out from us, it is because they were not of us (1 John 2:19—paraphrase). The New Testament repeatedly warns us of false prophets who will lead people astray while purporting to be Christian teachers. Does that mean there will be people who profess Christ, and do not make it? Yes, yes it does; which is why we: exhort unto holy living, encourage Kingdom service, and teach of the greatness of Christ and His work. Because the regenerate heart leaps with joy at these things because God has changed it and aligned that heart with Him. Those saints whom He has poured out His love will grow, because they grow through Him and God cannot fail. Those saints whom He has poured out His love will have joy, because the Spirit will bring it. Those saints whom He has poured out His love will persevere, because God will lose none that belong to Him.
So what?!?? You said this stuff was going to be important to my life!!!!!
God has loved us in a way that leads to our redemption in Christ. While this has been a quick look at perseverance, the doctrine leads to joy and satisfaction in a world where those things are often hard to find. How do I know? Do you love God and hate your sin? If yes, then you know already and the sin which entangles you is dragging upon your soul. Trust that Jesus is who He has promised He is. Trust the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) and remember the work. God will complete, we can have joy and peace; all because God is God.