Living By Faith Blog


Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

Can A Believer Lose Salvation?

Lose salvation?

I recently preached from Matthew 5:28-30, where Jesus calls us to fight temptation and motivates us with a warning —

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”

He does not mean this literally — because elsewhere Jesus says sin is caused by our hearts, not our eyes (Mark 7:21).

So what Jesus means is — spare no effort to fight sin, because if you continue in sin you could end up in hell.


So how should we understand this?

Two wrong ways to understanding this warning

One wrong way would be — “This warning can’t apply to me, because I am already saved, and believers can’t lose salvation.”

The problem with this response is that Jesus gives this warning to believers — His disciples (Mat 5:1-2).

And many similar warnings are given to believers — like Rom 8:13; 1Cor 15:1-2; Gal 5:19-21; Gal 6:8; Eph 5:5-6; Col 1:22-23; Col 3:5-6; and Heb 10:26-27.

So this warning must apply to believers.

Another wrong way to understand this warning would be — “This warning means I could lose salvation — I can be genuinely trusting Christ and born again but still end up in hell.”

This is wrong because Scripture teaches that when God saves us He starts an unstoppable work in us which will certainly bring us to heaven.  So it’s impossible for a genuinely saved person to end up in hell.

I see that in passages like Jer 32:40; John 10:28-29; Rom 8:28-30; Phil 1:6; and Jude 1:24-25.

So how should we understand Jesus’ warning?

The warning is given to believers.  And it warns that if we continue in sexual sin we could face hell.

So how does this warning fit the truth that we can’t lose salvation?

Here’s how —

When God saves us He supernaturally changes our hearts so we repent of sin and trust Jesus as Savior, Lord, and Treasure.

But that’s not all.

He also changes our hearts so we fear Him and respond to His warnings.  You can see that in Jeremiah 32:40 —

I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them.  And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.

So one crucial difference between saved and unsaved people is that saved people have the fear of God in their hearts.

This fear causes them to tremble at his warnings — and to pay heed to His warnings.

How this works

So when saved people face temptation, they hear Jesus’ warning and say to themselves —

If I pursue sin, I could face hell.”

Then, because God has changed their hearts, this causes them to fear — and to cry out to Jesus for help.

And as they pray, and fight to trust God’s promises, the Spirit  strengthens their faith, shows them Jesus’ glory, and satisfies their hearts so they don’t sin.

But saved people are not perfect; sometimes they do sin.  And yet, because they have been saved, it won’t be long before they hear Jesus’ warning, and say to themselves —

If I continue in sin, I could face hell.”

And because God has changed their hearts, this causes them to fear and turn back to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing.

And when they turn back, confessing their sin, He loves them, washes them clean, assures them of their forgiveness, and strengthens them to fight again.

What about someone who doesn’t respond?

What if someone faces temptation, ignores Jesus’ warning, and sins?

And what if he continues with no repentance, no remorse, no confession?

Then — unless something changes — that would probably show he was never saved in the first place.

And — tragically — he will face hell.

Not because he lost salvation.  But because his continuing in sin without repentance, remorse, or confession shows he never had salvation.

Don’t misunderstand

We are not saved by how effectively we fight against sin.

We are saved only one way — by faith alone in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-9).

So to be saved we don’t first need to overcome sin.

To be saved we turn to Jesus as we are — in our sinfulness — and trust Him to save us, forgive us, change us, and satisfy us in Himself.

When we do that —

  • God forgives all our sin — past, present, and future (1John 1:9).
  • God changes our hearts so we desire Jesus more than anything (Luke 18:27).
  • God pours His love into our hearts, satisfying us completely (Rom 5:5).
  • God changes our hearts so we pay heed to His warnings, fight against sin, and turn back to Him when we sin (Jer 32:40).

So we don’t get saved by overcoming sin.  We grow in overcoming sin by becoming saved.

A long and windy road

Picture the road to heaven as a steep mountain road, with treacherous turns of temptation — turns with such steep drop-offs that — if we fall — would mean eternal destruction.

When God saves you, and places you on this road to heaven, He promises to keep you on this road — which means nothing can pluck you off this road — nothing can cause you to fall from this road.

But if this road has treacherous turns of temptation — how can He promise to keep you on the road?

Two reasons —

One is because at every treacherous turn He’s posted a warning — “If you come near — you could fall to eternal destruction.”

The other is because He’s changed your heart so you pay heed to His warnings.

By God’s grace — every saved person will respond to God’s warnings and turn back before going over the edge to destruction.

Two take-aways

First, respond to God’s warnings.

Understand that if you are pursuing sin then you could face hell.  But also understand that the moment you turn back to Christ, pleading with Him for help, He is running to you with everything you need.

Second, rest in God’s promises.

If you are trusting Jesus as Savior, Lord, and heart-satisfying Treasure — know that He will keep you from stumbling, He will not let you stumble off the road to eternal destruction, He will surely bring you to heaven.

Your eternal destiny is secure.  You cannot lose salvation.

Comments?  Questions?  Feed-back?

I’d love to hear them — leave a comment in the box below.  Thanks.

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(Picture from everystockphoto by phillie casablanca.)

Category: Motivation for Obedience, Overcoming Sin and Temptation


35 Responses

  1. usama a. says:

    “So we don’t get saved by becoming more sexually pure. We become more sexually pure by becoming saved.”

    “First, respond to God’s warnings.”

    “Second, rest in God’s promises.”


    Thanks be to God



  2. Mr. Fuller,
    I so appreciate how you took one of those “tough” topics and made it so simple and clear! Many people have such different views on this topic, that sometimes it can set one’s mind to spinning! I have grappled with this before and know of other people that have really struggled with this. The question of “If I’m really saved, why do I keep sinning? Am I really saved?” I really appreciate how you simplified it and showed our assurance in Christ that rest in Him alone, not how much we can clean ourselves up. But also, seeing the fight against sin and importance in it, heeding God’s warnings. Also, how you showed what the difference is between those that have truly been born again and the one that has not truly been saved.
    Thank you, again, for such an encouraging post! If you don’t mind, I’d like to re-post this on our family blog, as I think other’s would be very blessed by it as well.
    God bless,

    Just as a note, if anyone would care to listen to this, I have been very blessed by this sermon excerpt by Paul Washer on this topic of assurance:

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I’m so glad this post was helpful to you, Breanna. I know how this perspective deeply changed the way I lived my Christian life — making me much more humble and earnest and vigilant.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts — and I’d be honored to have the post on your family blog.


      Steve Fuller

  3. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate your post! It reminds me of all of the nominal Christians out there that live in sin thinking they are saved. Could you do a post with advice on how to share the true gospel with them? This could apply to many people I know; I try to talk with them but they are stuck in their false beliefs. This is very discouraging to me.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’ll think about a post on that topic, but I’m not sure what to say except pray earnestly, urge them to listen to the warnings of Scripture, and even more urge them to see the heart-satisfying glory of Christ. But I’ll think more about it — and thanks again for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

  4. Erik Wells says:


    This month I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the ‘grace vs. works’ dilemma, praying to understand what my role is in pleasing Christ and obtaining salvation. I so much appreciate the insight your article has given me, especially your line:

    “And when they turn back, confessing their sin, He loves them, washes them clean, assures them of their forgiveness, and strengthens them to fight again.”

    It is encouraging to me that we can always trust Him, no matter what.

    God Bless,


    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Erik,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. I am thankful you found this post encouraging — and I appreciate you letting me know.

      I love how you sum it all up — “we can always trust Him, no matter what.” That’s it!

      I’m rejoicing in His grace with you,


  5. Dianne Mattison says:

    Dear Steve, I just found this on Mack Tomlinson’s blog. I needed this today. I’ve recently come to understand the gospel more clearly, but sometimes I swing back over to legalism and it takes something like this to get me up and going again. And thank you Breanna, what a help the Paul Washer video was for me today. Ahhh, I feel much better!

    Thank you and God bless you,

  6. Kevin says:

    Thanks Steve! Writing a paper about Apostasy today for one of my classes! This should help out a bunch! I’ll make sure to cite you 😉

  7. David Hyden says:

    Brother, your messages are always “right on”, and edifying to my soul. Thank you for this reminder.

  8. Stu says:


    I may be wrong, but haven’t you contradicted yourself? If in Matt 5:28-30 Jesus is warning believers (Matt 5:1-2)of the possibility of hell and yet you can state that believers are kept by God ‘So it’s impossible for a genuinely saved person to end up in hell’. How can they then be so hardened by giving in to temptation and committing sin, that they lose their salvation? You can’t have it both ways.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Stu,

      Thanks for pinpointing a crucial question. Here’s my answer.

      You ask how a genuinely saved person can be so hardened that they end up not saved. I don’t believe this can happen to a genuinely saved person, because God will not let a genuinely saved person become that hardened.

      But then that raises the question — how do I know I am genuinely saved? The short answer is — because I am looking to Jesus by faith to forgive me, direct me, change me, and satisfy me. If I am looking to Jesus, even with weak faith, then I can be assured I am saved.

      And because I am assured I am saved, I can be confident that God’s promise of perseverance applies to me. Which means He will keep me trusting in Christ so I enter heaven to be with Him forever.

      But if I am willfully turning from Jesus to sin, without fighting, without remorse — then at that moment I have no basis for thinking I am saved.

      So at that moment I should say to myself: “If I continue on this path I could end up in hell.”

      But isn’t that a contradiction? No. Because IF (big IF) I did continue in sin — willfully and blatantly, without fighting it, without remorse — that would show I have never been saved.

      So the warnings are true for believers — because they say IF (big IF) I continue in sin without repentance I would not be saved. But if I’ve been saved, I will pay heed to the warnings, and won’t continue in sin without repentance.

      Maybe this will help. There are two things a believer should not say. One is “even though I am trusting Christ right now, I might end up falling away and in hell.” That’s not biblical (because of Scriptures I list in the article above).

      The other is “because I have trusted Christ in the past, I can continue in willful sin without risking hell.” That’s not biblical either (see Scriptures in the article above).

      Sorry for the length. I hope this helps you understand what I believe Scripture is teaching.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  9. Alyssa says:

    Hi Steve, thanks for putting so much thought into this. I know your heart is to teach God’s word, and I think there’s a lot of truth here.

    But bottom line, you’ve contradicted yourself.

    1) You said that Jesus’ warning is *to believers* (those who have already been saved).

    2) You said believers cannot end up in hell.

    3) You said Jesus’ intent was to warn believers “of the possibility…IF,” so when believers sin, they should be “scared straight” (so to speak).

    4) So basically, you’re saying that Jesus warned believers of a thing that could *never happen* to them, thereby misleading/lying to them.

    This is not Biblical. I know others have raised this point with you; your replies have circled back to your original argument, which is, again, a contradiction. Please don’t get so caught up in justifying the argument that you fail to see the core fallacy on which it is based.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Alyssa,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s true that I might be so caught up in wanting to be right that I can’t see my mistakes. I appreciate your expressing your honest concerns.

      But after reading and re-reading your comment, and reading my post again, I still believe that what I wrote above is what the Bible teaches.

      Maybe this will help. When it comes to this topic, I see the Bible teaching two truths which at first glance sound contradictory.

      Some passages teach that every saved person will certainly enter heaven because God will keep them persevering in faith and will not let them fall away (Phil 1:6; Jude 1:24-25; John 10:28-29; Rom 8:28-30; Jer 32:40-41).

      But other passages warn believers that if they continue in willful sin without repentance and confession they will not enter heaven (Mark 9:43; Rom 8:13; Col 1:22-23; Heb 6:4-6; Heb 10:26-27).

      These two truths can sound contradictory, but they are not.

      It’s accurate to say to a believer: “IF you continue in willful sin you will not enter heaven.” That’s not a contradiction, because it’s not saying they WILL continue in willful sin (that would be a contradiction). It’s just saying that IF they do they will not enter heaven.

      Your concern is that in my view Jesus is warning us of something that could never happen, which means he is misleading us.

      But I don’t see anything misleading about his warning.

      Here’s why: if you read a warning label that says “if you drink this you will die,” and you let that warning keep you from drinking, was the label misleading you? Not at all. What the warning said was true.

      In the same way, when Jesus warns us that if we continue in willful sin we will not enter heaven, and we let that warning stir us to fight sin and we do enter heaven, was his warning misleading us? Not at all. What his warning said was true.

      I hope that helps explain what I’m trying to say. And thanks again for your comment.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  10. Carrie says:

    I am so happy that I found this! My friend just raised this question about her husband: is he really saved? He continues to sin (adultry, etc), is unremorseful and tells her to stay out of it because it is between him and God and God has already forgiven him. He often picks things out of scriptures that supports his view but does not acknowledge the obvious (eg.Hebrews 10:26-31 He didn’t “get it”, he instead used it to tell his wife that he doesn’t need to be accountable to her, only God) . you could speak to this particular situation?

    Thank you!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Carrie,

      I’m so glad you found this helpful, but I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s situation.

      Based on what you said, I would encourage your friend to follow the steps Jesus lays out in Matt 18. The first step would be for her to go to her husband privately and, for the sake of his salvation, urge him to repent of his sin and turn back to Christ.

      If he is not willing to do that, then she should humbly explain that, for the sake of his salvation, she is going to take the next step in Matthew 18, which would be to bring someone else with her so together they can appeal to him to repent and turn back to Christ. It might be helpful to have this second person be an elder in the church.

      And if the husband still does not respond, then take the third step and have the elders step in and talk with him and proceed from there. They would also give her counsel about what steps to take if the husband is not willing to repent.

      And it’s so good she has a friend like you to pray with and for her, and encourage her.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  11. Carrie says:

    Thank you so much for your reply, Steve. Unfortunately, all the steps that you outlined above have already been followed wirh the exception that her husband has ‘admitted’ (not repented) what he has done to his wife and elders in their church. And since then, he continues to commit the same sins and when is confronted by his wife, he keeps saying that it is not between the 2 of them but between him and God. The pastor knows about the subsequent incidents but as far as my friend knows, has not talked to her husband. I’m not sure what to tell her or even what to pray for anymore. Thank you for any guidance that you can give.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I don’t know all the details, but it does not sound like he has repented of his sin. If he has not, then the elders should be taking a stronger stand with him. Have they taken any steps of church discipline along the lines of Matthew 18?

      I would encourage her with God’s promise that He will sustain and satisfy her no matter what her husband does. What she is going through is tragic and heart-breaking — but God will comfort and help her in Jesus Christ.

      If he continues without repentance, then God could lead her to stay with him, as a display of the worth of Jesus; God could lead her to separate from him, as a way to wake him up to his sin.

  12. nathalie says:

    Hi Steve, I just stumbled into your post and realized this is an old post but I hope you’ll reply me anway. Will appreciate it.

    Recently in my country, a Christian public figure, just fell into temptation by cheating on his wife. Now the he’s divorced he’s gone public about his new relationship with his new girlfriend (he’s a priest).

    That made me sad and made me down. And that also encouraged me to sin. So I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but then I decided to go sexual with my ex. Now I feel terribly bad and I know God doesn’t like what I did. I stopped doing sexual immortality a year ago and got really serious with Christ. Recently I felt like He put me down by not granting what I desired.

    I wanna believe He’s got something better in store for me and sinning because of disappointment is not an excuse.

    I’m now terrified that I’ll be doing the same sin again. I really don’t wanna live in sin but it really tempts me.

    Oh fyi I studied aboard for 2 years and never met anyone else besides my ex and I clearly understand that it’s not love just lust. Please pray for me to overcome this sin. Any tips?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thank you for sharing your story, Nathalie.

      The best counsel I can give you is to read other posts on this blog regarding sexual temptation.

      And I will pray for you right now –

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  13. Dewayne says:

    Sounds like your saying it’s freewill .
    You can’t get saved more than once right?
    This is my life. I think I got saved at 12.
    I felt clean, happy joyful.
    I went told my teacher at school, even led a friends to the lord. got older not living the way I should. I repent, then for a while, I try, then do it again I have no joy no peace don’t feel like God is hearing me I want to do better I struggle so much to quit what I’m doing buti go right back. Now it’s to the point Im saying why try. So what this is telling me I’m lost . I’m starting to have no remorse. no tears no feelings but go to church every service .need help need pray need God to speak to me.

    • Cameron McElroy says:

      It’s time for YOU to FAST! 🙂 take a day to go on a fast and pray to God and read his word for help and for Jesus to save you from it. 🙂
      Also I recommend doing some research on water fasting. It can really benefit you.

  14. Rebecca says:

    I feel frightened about eternity. I have been sinful and the sexual area of my life. This was after I became a Christian. I know you are not God and can’t guarantee me of anything. I need to get some answers.

    • Cameron McElroy says:

      Have you ever fasted? Try doing that for a day and pray and read his word and ask for God’s help.

  15. Dewayne says:

    I apreacate all the comments above, I was at work last night an decided to try to pray again after reading the article.
    I read the part again and again about feelings an the just shall live by faith.
    I repented an repented confess my sins to God.never felt his presence but just told him I just trust him. You see I’m a preacher I was a dried up pastor till today . I was going to resign so I trusted in the Lord one more time, God gave me a message on the laodician church. Where I was. neither hot or cold. 6 people came back to the Lord he let me know that he was always with me I just wasn’t trusting him. it’s not about me it’s all about him!!!
    Thanks for your help.

  16. Amanda says:

    Hi steve,I hope you can respond to me.I have a few questions.
    I was raised in church and believed in Jesus Christ even as a little girl.however, I went on the wrong path for many,many years.
    Recently, I woke up in panic, scared to die and go to hell.I realized how far I have fallen from God.I have repented..but became obsessed with trying not to sin and felt condemned every time I opened the became more like “good works.”
    I questioned gods existence and ever since then I feel like I can’t be forgiven for pops up in my head even now,and for a believer since a little girl to think this, I question my salvation and eternal destination. I kick myself every time I think don’t want to believe that.I’m trying to live for Christ and go to church because I believe..but why would I have them thoughts then??

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Good question, Amanda.

      Every believer will have wrong thoughts popping up into their mind from time to time.

      Those thoughts do not show you have not been saved, and that fact that you turn your heart from them, and back to Christ, shows that you have been saved.

      So keep turning back to Christ, and rejoice that the day is coming in heaven when you will be completely free from those thoughts.

      I hope that helps.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

    • Sabrina says:

      Hi Sweetheart. I was totally drawn to your comment. From the outside looking in, I see you are saying your heart desires the Lord but your mind is codeming you and causing you much fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind! Our mind is our battlefield! As believers, Satan attacks our mind because our minds are carnal, knowing he has no control over our hearts and spirits because they have been crucified with Christ and he can’t touch that. Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. The enemy knows if he can keep you caught up on your previous mistakes and sins he can keep your from your God-given peace! I see you acknowledging your sin and your saying your desire to turn and to please God. Think about 1 John 1:9; Of we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! It’s that simple! Praise God. So, immediately you have been forgiven and God not longer holds that against you but doesn’t even remember it! Don’t beat yourself up. I feel impressed to remind you of Romans 8:21. “There is therefore no condemnation to those who in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit. That’s awesome! John 10:10 gives us the reminder that Satan comes to kill, steel and destroy us but Jesus came so we could have life and life abundantly! God has a plan, purpose and a life set aside for each of us and if Satan can kill, steal and destroy you, he knows he is not only robbing you of your purpose and your life but your eternity as well!! So, hold on to this! Know who you are Christ! Remind yourself and the enemy of it daily!! Take back what he has taken from you and use it for Gods glory! What an awesome testimony you have. Hope you don’t mind that I stopped by, I just felt led to. Lots of love in Christ!!

    • Cameron McElroy says:

      You sound like a Romans 7 christian. We all have this fleshly body while on this earth. Fill your mind with God’s word. That’s where the power is! 🙂

  17. Anonymous says:

    Pls,i feel bad when i browse about porn on net,but sometimes,i just love to keeping on looking.anytime i stop browseing,i would plead for his mercy upon my life.sometimes,i start to browse about sex again.just praying that God will have mercy on me.i am hoping to make that as one of my new year resolutions

    • Cameron McElroy says:

      Try fasting about it. Take a day to fast and ask for God’s help. And take time to read the word more. 🙂

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