My wife and I were discussing theology over lunch earlier today. I shared with her my thoughts on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints to the effect that even though our final salvation is assured, it is still necessary for us to strive towards the goal (see Philippians 3:12-14). And then she said – I’m paraphrasing here, but this is essentially what she said – “Reaching the destination requires that you finish the journey.” Of course! Just because it’s divinely certain that you’ll arrive at the destination set by God for you doesn’t mean you can dispense with the hard work of “journeying” all the way up to the finish line. The journey is an integral part of reaching the destination. No journeying, no arriving at the destination. No perseverance to the very end, no final salvation. Thus, a person cannot sit still on the road or, worse, turn back towards where he came from, and still expect that he’ll arrive at the place he’s destined for. Just because God has promised that we will certainly arrive at our heavenly destination someday does not mean we should no longer strive with all our might to reach it.
There’s really something static about the concept of salvation that many proponents of eternal security hold to. Something like this: Have faith, sit back and relax ( or, worse, sin all you want!), arrive. I think salvation involves a dynamic element – the element of perseverance – which in no way diminishes the absolutely certainty that all those who have truly believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will finally be saved (i.e., glorified, see Romans 8:23-25). Something like this: have faith, persevere to the very end, arrive.
I prefer the term perseverance of the saints over eternal security. The saints will persevere. If they do not, it means they were never saints to begin with. The saints persevere because God preserves them. But God preserves them (in part, at least) in and through their perseverance!
P. S. Just to be clear: The fact that we still need to persevere in order to be finally saved doesn’t convert salvation into something we earn or merit by means of our works. Salvation is a free gift of grace received by faith, not earned by works, from first to last. Perseverance is simply one of those “better things” that inevitably accompany or belong to the state of being truly saved (see Hebrews 6:9), the lack of which only shows that one never really belonged to Christ in the first place (1 John 2:19).
P.S. Although on the surface, we do the hard work of persevering, it’s still God who mysteriously and powerfully works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12, 13).