The expression “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) can simply mean that all who have been called out by the gospel of Christ, granted true faith, and saved from his wrath and the condemnation they had been under, will never more be in peril of eternal damnation, but will be saved by God's sovereign and immutable grace for all eternity. If this is all that is intended by the expression, then it is complementary to the Reformed doctrine of perseverance, which teaches that all true saints will persevere in the faith, by God's keeping power, until they finally reach their blessed end in heaven.
Unfortunately, the phrase “once saved, always saved” is sometimes used to promote a false sense of security, suggesting that a person who has made a profession of faith can continue to live a life of unrepentant sin and still be saved. This view is inconsistent with the teachings of Scripture, which make it clear that those who have truly been born again will persevere in faith and good works until the end.
Antinomianism is a heretical view that denies the necessity of good works in the Christian life. Antinomians believe that Christians are freed from the moral law, and that obedience to God's commands is an unnecessary fruit of salvation. This belief often leads to a misunderstanding of the doctrine of perseverance and the idea that once a person has been saved, he can never lose his salvation, regardless of how he lives his life.
Antinomians hold to the belief that a person need not persevere in faith to be saved. This belief is at odds with the doctrine of perseverance, which teaches that true believers will continue in faith and obedience to God until the end. According to this doctrine, those who do not persevere in faith and good works show that they were never truly saved to begin with.
Antinomians also hold the belief that true believers can lose their faith. While it is true that believers can struggle with doubts and unbelief, the Bible teaches that those who have been genuinely saved by God's grace will persevere in faith and obedience to the end. This perseverance is evidence of their salvation, and those who do not persevere show that they were never truly saved.
The most dangerous aspect of Antinomianism is the belief that those who lose their faith are still saved simply because they once professed belief, or raised their hand. This belief is contrary to the biblical teaching that true believers will persevere in faith and obedience to the end. Those who do not persevere are not true believers and will not be saved.
In summary, Antinomianism is a dangerous heresy that denies the necessity of good works in the Christian life. This belief leads to a misunderstanding of the doctrine of perseverance and the idea that once a person has been saved, he can never lose his salvation. The Bible teaches that true believers will persevere in faith and good works until the end, and those who do not persevere were never truly saved to begin with.
The Perseverance and Preservation of the Saints
The doctrine of perseverance of the saints teaches, rather, that those who are truly saved will persevere to the end, not because of their own strength, but because of the sovereign and preserving grace of God. Believers are kept secure in their salvation by the power of God, who is able to keep them from falling away and present them blameless before the throne of grace.
The Reformed doctrine of perseverance teaches both the requirement of believers to persevere until the end and God's preservation of His people. On the one hand, believers are called to persevere in faith and godliness, as seen in Colossians 1:21-23, 1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6, Hebrews 10:26-31, and Hebrews 12:1. These passages emphasize the need for believers to continue in their faith, to strive for holiness, and to avoid falling away into sin and unbelief.
On the other hand, the doctrine of perseverance also affirms that God will preserve His people and cause them to persevere until the end. This is seen in passages such as John 6:38-40, John 10:28-29, Romans 8:28-39, Philippians 1:4-6, Philippians 2:12-13, and 1 John 2:19. These passages emphasize that God has chosen and called His people, and that He will sustain and keep them in their faith until the end, regardless of any challenges or obstacles they may face.
It is important to note that the doctrine of perseverance does not teach that believers will never struggle with sin or doubt, nor does it teach that they will never experience times of spiritual dryness or difficulty. Rather, it affirms that true believers will ultimately persevere in their faith and that God will sustain them through any trials or challenges they may face. This doctrine encourages believers to strive for holiness and to trust in God's faithful preservation, knowing that He will never let them go and that He will ultimately bring them to their blessed end in heaven.
Arminians, Antinomians and Calvinists Contrasted
Arminians hold the belief that salvation can be lost by sinning it away, which begs the question as to whether Christ's atoning sacrifice is sufficient. Does it only provide for initial salvation and not preservation also?
Antinomians, who adhere to the doctrine of cheap grace, hold that salvation cannot be lost. However, this belief leads them to ignore the importance of believers living a life of godliness.
The Calvinists hold a different view, based on the belief that union with Christ produces both the desire to persevere until the end and God's preserving grace. In other words, they hold that the preservation of the saints is both a divine promise and a human responsibility.
The biblical doctrine of preservation teaches that the salvation of the elect is based on God's sovereign and gracious will, and not on any merit or works of their own. They also believe that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of the elect, giving them a new desire to live a life of godliness and obedience to God's commands. This desire to live a holy life is seen as evidence of true conversion and a sign that God is working in the heart of the believer.
At the same time, Calvinists also believe that believers have a responsibility to persevere in the faith and to live a life of obedience to God's commands. They believe that believers are called to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, not in order to earn salvation, but as evidence of their faith and love for God. They also believe that God's preserving grace will enable believers to persevere to the end, and that nothing can separate them from the love of God.
In short, the Calvinist view of perseverance combines both divine sovereignty and human responsibility taking into account all the Scriptural evidence. The believer's desire to live a life of godliness is evidence of God's work in their heart, while their responsibility to persevere to the end is evidence of their faith and love for God. Ultimately, the preservation of the saints is seen as a work of God's grace, which ensures that the elect will persevere to the end and be saved.
Here are some more biblical references that support the Calvinist view of perseverance and preservation of the saints:
Romans 8:28-39: This passage speaks of God's sovereign work in the lives of believers, assuring them that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ.
Philippians 1:4-6: Paul expresses confidence that God, who began a good work in the Philippians, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:12-13: This passage speaks of the believer's responsibility to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, while acknowledging that it is ultimately God who works in them to will and to act according to his good purpose.
John 6:38-40: Jesus speaks of God's will that all who look to the Son and believe in him shall have eternal life, and that he will raise them up at the last day.
John 10:28-29: Jesus speaks of his sheep, who hear his voice and follow him, and how no one can snatch them out of his hand or the Father's hand.
Colossians 1:21-23: Paul speaks of the need for believers to continue in the faith, being reconciled to God through Christ, and being presented holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6: John speaks of the importance of believers walking in the light and confessing their sins, and the relationship between sin and the knowledge of Christ. He also speaks of the relationship between righteousness and being born of God.
Hebrews 10:26-31: The author of Hebrews warns against deliberate sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, saying that it brings fearful judgment and punishment.
Hebrews 12:1: The author of Hebrews speaks of the need for believers to run with perseverance the race marked out for them, fixing their eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of their faith.
These are just a few examples of the many biblical references that support the Calvinist view of perseverance and preservation of the saints.