What is the difference between eternal security, once saved always saved, and perseverance of the saints?

The three different terms (eternal security, once saved always saved, and perseverance of the saints) are often used interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences between them even though they basically mean the same thing - that a person cannot lose his salvation. Critics of eternal security in Christ often assert various challenges to the position, including misrepresentations and incomplete representation of the position. Nevertheless, though I cannot find any "official" definition for each of the three terms, by looking through theological dictionaries, various websites, writings, etc., I've come up with the following information.

  1. Eternal Security is the teaching that all who are Christians and are truly regenerated are eternally secure in their salvation and will never fall away because their salvation is dependent on Christ's faithfulness and work. It was Jesus who completely redeemed them of all their sins and their actions, and goodness does not maintain their salvation. It is God who secures the believer. But, this does not mean those thus saved will not fall into sin. Instead, though they may backslide, they will never fully turn from God and fall out of the state of his grace. Furthermore, it means God will work in the conviction and discipline of the believer who backslides.
  2. Perseverance of the Saints is often equated with eternal security. It means that once a person is truly born again, God will work through the person so that the person will persevere throughout his life and not lose his salvation. It emphasizes God's work and ability to perfect the Christian (Philippians 1:6) and that Christians are sealed permanently with Him (Ephesians 1:13-14).
  3. Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) is the position that no matter what a person does he will remain saved. He is always saved once he is saved. This position also includes the reality of regeneration since anyone who is truly saved is also truly regenerated. Regeneration produces in the person a desire to serve God and avoid sin (Romans 7:18-25). However, like eternal security, those who adhere to once saved always saved acknowledge that Christians can backslide.
Term Synopsis License to Sin?
Eternal Security Salvation is dependent on Christ's faithfulness  - not man's. No
Perseverance of the Saints God will cause the Christian to persevere to the end. No
Once Saved Always Saved No matter what, a person stays saved. No

Since all of the terms listed above teach that we cannot lose our salvation, I will refer to all of them under the single phrase of "eternal security."

Critics of eternal security often cite various verses in an attempt to show that a Christian can lose his salvation. The logic is that a Christian can turn his back on God and stop believing, or do enough bad things to disqualify him from being saved. These verses are addressed in the CARM section dealing with eternal security. Furthermore, these same critics often state that if a person believes he cannot lose his salvation, then it is a license to sin. This is not the position of those who hold to eternal security. We are regenerated; and because of regeneration from God, we war against our sin (Romans 7:18-25). We do not consider it a license to sin. Furthermore, anyone who claims to be a Christian and purposely uses God's grace in order to sin is demonstrating that he is not regenerate because he is acting in a manner that contradicts regeneration (1 John 2:4).




About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.