Perseverance of the saints, as well as the corollary—though distinct—doctrine known as "Once Saved, Always Saved", is a Christian teaching that once a person is truly saved they can never lose their salvation.
Sometimes this position is held in conjunction with Reformed Christian confessions of faith in traditional Calvinist doctrine which argues that although individuals are free and responsible, they cannot choose salvation of their own accord. Rather, God selected certain individuals before the world began to whom he would draw to faith. According to Calvinism, since faith is not something they choose to do, but rather a work that God performs in them, it cannot be walked away from.
There also are many non-Calvinists who also maintain that once a person is saved they can never be lost. This Free Grace or non-traditional Calvinist doctrine is found predominantly in Baptist theology, but also other Protestant churches of the evangelical tradition.
In a sense, both can describe Christian believers as "once saved, always saved", but the two forms attach a different meaning to the word saved—namely, whether or not it necessarily involves sanctification, the process of becoming holy by rejecting sin and obeying God's commands. Because of this difference, traditional Calvinist Christians tend to prefer the historical term "perseverance of the saints", which is one of the five points of Calvinism, and advocates of the Free Grace doctrine usually prefer the less technical terms "eternal security", "unconditional assurance", and "once saved, always saved" to characterize their teaching.
The two views are similar and sometimes confused, and though they reach the same final conclusion (namely, eternal security in salvation), they reach it by different paths. Free Grace advocates seek to moderate the perceived harshness of Calvinism as it is found in the Reformed confessions and to emphasize that salvation is not conditioned on performing good works. Traditional Calvinists maintain that the Free Grace doctrine ignores certain key Bible passages and would be rejected by Calvin and the Reformed churches, which have both firmly advocated the necessity of good works and with which Free Grace has sought to align itself historically to some degree. Other Christians such as Catholics and Orthodox reject both versions of the doctrine.
The doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is distinct from the doctrine of Assurance which describes how a person may first be sure that they have obtained salvation and an inheritance in the gracious promises of the Bible including eternal life. The Westminster Confession of Faith teaches on Perseverance of the Saints in its Chapter 17 and on Assurance of Grace and Salvation in its Chapter 18.
Doctrines of apostasy and "falling away" are common in the Holiness Movement within Evangelicalism and are contrary to doctrines of "perseverance of the saints", "eternal security" and "once saved, always saved".
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