The truth has been known historically as the perseverance of the saints.
No doctrine has been more savaged by the system of theology that advocates merely intellectual faith as the condition of salvation,because the doctrine of perseverance is antithetical to the entire system that is so oriented. In fact, what proponents of this system have pejoratively labeled "lordship salvation" is nothing other than the doctrine of perseverance!
Perseverance means that "those who have true faith can lose that faith neither totally nor finally." It echoes God's promise through Jeremiah: "I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me" (32:40, emphasis added).
That flatly contradicts the notion entertained by some who teach that faith can evaporate, leaving "believers" who no longer believe. It opposes the radical easy-believism teaching that genuine Christians can choose to "drop out" of the spiritual growth process and "cease to confess Christianity." It is the polar opposite of the brand of theology that makes faith a "historic moment," a one-time "act" that secures heaven, but offers no guarantee the "believer's" earthly life will be changed.
The Westminster Confession of Faith has defined perseverance as follows:
- They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved (chap. 17, sec. 1).
- Nevertheless [believers] may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and for a time continue therein; whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit: come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves (sec. 3).