95 theses on righteousness by faith

95 theses on righteousness by faith (apologies to Martin Luther)

A beloved university pastor once penned his version of the Ninety-Five Theses, based on justification by faith. Should these "95 theses" be fastened to the door of our hearts?

Morris Venden, deceased, was associate speaker at Voice of Prophecy and a beloved pastor of many congregations, including Southwestern Adventist University church, Keene, Texas, United States.

Editor's note: our editorial team has chosen to reprint this article from 1986, on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. As the Reformation continues, we need ongoing dialogue on righteousness by faith, the "one subject [that] will swallow up every other." We welcome the opportunity to hear from you on how this powerful truth functions in your daily spiritual experience and practical pastoral ministry. 


In these final hours of history "one interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other--Christ our righteousness." Sons and Daughters of God, p. 259. 

To help fulfill this statement we present these theses on Christ and righteousnessness by faith. Our author, Morris Venden, pastor at Southwestern Adventist College in Keene, Texa, presents these not as the last word but as a discussion stimulator. In particular we would appreciate your editing any of these theses. When you respond, please change or add supporting scriptural references if needed. If a significant number of changes are offered and accepted we will reprint the list in the fiture. So please write, act, react, submiting your views whether in letter or article form. We want to hear from you. 

1. A Christian does what is right because he is a Christian, never in order to be one. John 15:5.

2. Righteousness equals Jesus. We have no righteousness apart from Him. Romans 1:16, 17.

3. The only way to seek righteousness is to seek Jesus. Romans 4:4, 5.

4. Christianity and salvation are not based on what you do, but on whom you know. Romans 3:28.

5. Doing right by not doing wrong is not doing right. Being good by not being bad is not being good. Matthew 23:27, 28.

6. Righteousness will make your moral, but morality will not make you righteous. Matthew 5:20.

7. Our good works have nothing to do with causing us to be saved. Our bad works have nothing to do with causing us to be lost. Romans 3:20.

8. Everyone is born sinful (or self-centered) because everyone is born separated from God. Psalm 58:3.

9. God does not hold us accountable for being born sinful. Ezekiel 18:20; John 1:9.

10. We sin because we are sinful. We are not sinful because we sin. Romans 7:14-17.

11. Sin (singular)—living life apart from God—results in sins (plural)—doing wrong things. 1 John 3:4.

12. Whoever lives life apart from God is living in sin. John 16:8, 9.

13. The best definition for faith is trust. Faith is depending upon another. Matthew 15:21-28.

14. Knowing God results in trusting God. If you don’t know Him, you won’t trust Him. If you don’t trust Him, you don’t know Him. 2 Timothy 1:12.

15. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit, not a fruit of the person. It is not something we work on, or work up. Galatians 5:22.

16. Positive thinking does not produce genuine faith, but faith will produce positive thinking. Romans 10:17.

17. Surrender is giving up on ourselves, not giving up our sins. Giving up our sins is the result of giving up on ourselves and seeking God. Romans 10:3, 4.

18. Working to give up our sins can keep us from giving up on ourselves. Romans 9:31, 32.

19. No one can crucify himself or bring himself to surrender. Someone else must do that for him. Galatians 2:20.

20. We are controlled by God or Satan. The only control we have is to choose who will control us. Romans 6:16.

21. The surrender of the will is the surrender of the power of choice, but we use our power of choice to surrender it. We give up our power of choice toward behavior; we keep our power of choice toward relationship. Philippians 2:13; Romans 6:11.

22. The only deliberate effort in the Christian life is to seek God. Spontaneous effort toward other things will result. John 15:5; Philippians 4:13.

23. Growing Christians experience on-again, off-again surrender. Sometimes they depend on God, sometimes on themselves. Luke 9:54; Matthew 16:16, 17, 22, 23. 

24. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, which produces a change of attitude toward God and creates a new capacity for knowing God. John 3:3-8.

25. Conversion leads to a changed life. Ezekiel 36:26, 27. 4

26. Conversion and repentance are continuing experiences, not once only. Luke 9:23.

27. Repentance is sorrow for sin and turning away from sins. Repentance is a gift. Therefore, sorrow for sin is a gift, and turning away from sins is a gift. Acts 5:31

28. We do not change our lives in order to come to Christ. We come to Him just as we are, and He changes our lives. John 6:37.

29. God gives us repentance before He gives forgiveness. Acts 3:19.

30. Worldly sorrow is being sorry we broke a law and got caught. Godly sorrow is being sorry we broke a heart and hurt our best Friend. 2 Corinthians 7:10. 

31. The only known sin that can’t be forgiven is the one for which we don’t repent and ask forgiveness. 1 John 1:9.

32. Forgiveness does the sinner no good unless he accepts it. Psalm 86:5.

33. God’s forgiveness is not limited, but our acceptance of His forgiveness can be. Matthew 18:21, 22.

34. Those who are forgiven much will love much. Those who love much will obey much. Luke 7:41-43; John 14:15.

35. Forgiveness is free, but it is not cheap. It cost the life of God’s dear Son. John 3:16. 

36. God forgives sinners, not sins, but the Bible calls this the forgiveness of sins. Jesus died because sins could not be forgiven. Isaiah 53:5, 6, 8.

37. Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture. 1 Corinthians 15:3.

38. The Cross made it possible for God to be just and yet to forgive anyone. Romans 3:23-26.

39. The death of Christ was necessary in order for us to be forgiven. John 3:14, 15.

40. We can add nothing to what Jesus did at the Cross, but God can add plenty. Hebrews 7:25; 9:11, 12.

41. Staying with Jesus is just as important as coming to Him. John 15:4.

42. Assurance of salvation continues through the daily personal relationship with Jesus. 1 John 5:11, 12.

43. Christians should know that they have the assurance of salvation today. John 6:47.

44. The Bible teaches once-saved always-saved as long as you keep saved. Matthew 24:12, 13.

45. Peace does not come from victory, but victory comes from peace. John 8:11.

46. One reason we keep sinning is that we don’t believe we are forgiven. Assurance leads to victory. Uncertainty leads to defeat. 1 John 3:2, 3. 

47. Righteousness by faith is an experience, not just a theory. Philippians 3:9, 10.

48. The Christian’s devotional life is not optional. The relationship with God is the entire basis of the ongoing Christian life. John 17:3.

49. If we don’t regularly take time for the Bible and prayer, we will eventually die spiritually. John 6:53.

50. Just because you read the Bible and pray doesn’t mean you’ll have a relationship with God, but if you don’t, you won’t. John 5:39.

51. The primary purpose of prayer is not to get answers, but to know Jesus. Revelation 3:20; John 17:3.

52. The primary purpose of Bible study is not to get information, but to know Jesus. Revelation 3:20.

53. Things often become worse when we pray until we learn to seek Jesus for His sake, not ours. Job.

54. Anyone who gets discouraged with his relationship because of his behavior is a legalist. Romans 7:14-24.

55. True obedience is a gift from God. (The robe is free!) Matthew 22:11-14.

56. Real obedience comes from the inside out, not from the outside in. Matthew 23:25, 26. 6

57. Genuine obedience is natural and spontaneous. It comes only through the faith relationship with Christ. John 14:15.

58. One who is depending on God for power doesn’t have to try hard to obey. He would have to try hard not to obey. 1 John 3:6.

59. Obedience that is only external is false obedience. Matthew 5:20.

60. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our lives will be lives of continual obedience. 1 John 2:3. 

61. Anyone who tries to live the Christian life apart from Christ is not a Christian. He is a legalist, whether conservative or liberal. Galatians 3:1-3.

62. There is no power for genuine obedience in the law. Mount Sinai is no good without Mount Calvary. Romans 8:3.

63. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, but not the end of the law. Romans 10:4.

64. Good works done apart from Christ are bad works. Matthew 7:22, 23.

65. The purpose of good works is not to save us, but to bring glory to God. Matthew 5:16.

66. When it comes to genuine faith and works, you can’t have one without the other. James 2:17, 18, 26.

67. Faith grows in quantity, not quality. Growth is in the constancy of dependence upon God. Luke 17:5, 6.

68. You don’t grow by trying to grow. Matthew 6:27.

69. Christians grow stronger by realizing their weakness. When they are weak, then they are strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10.

70. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, but without Him we can do nothing. Philippians 4:13; John 15:5.

71. Satan has no power to cause those who depend on God to sin, but those who depend on themselves are easily defeated. 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5.

72. The abiding, daily relationship with God leads to an abiding surrender, moment-by-moment dependence on Him. John 15:1-5.

73. Looking to self is always the point of separation from God and breaks the moment-by-moment dependence on Him. Matthew 14:28-30.

74. God will never separate from us, but we can choose to separate from God. Romans 8:35, 38, 39.

75. The reason God wants us to witness is primarily for our good. Matthew 11:29.

76. The desire to share comes naturally for the genuine Christian (although methods may vary). 2 Corinthians 4:13.

77. The happiest person in the world is the one most involved in serving others. The most miserable person is the one most involved in serving self. Mark 8:35.

78. Christian service in the spiritual life corresponds to exercise in the physical life. Acts 3:6-9.

79. We cannot give to others that which we do not ourselves possess. Mark 5:19; John 3:11. 

80. The real issue in tempation is whether to live life apart from Christ. John 16:8, 9.

81. Temptations become sins when we consent to them in our minds. Matthew 5:21, 22, 28.

82. Jesus was tempted to do right, but in His own power, and so are we. Matthew 4:2, 3.

83. The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, but not the ungodly. 2 Peter 2:9.

84. Temptations are not overcome at the time of temptation, but always before. Hebrews 4:16. 

85. Victory is not something we achieve. It is something we receive. 1 Corinthians 15:57.

86. In the Christian warfare we are active toward the fight of faith and passive toward the fight of sins. Ephesians 6:10-18. 8 

87. Real victory is getting the victory over trying to get the victory. 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17. 

88. Perfection of character is not our work. It is God’s work in us. Hebrews 13:20, 21.

89. Perfection can be a dangerous topic if it focuses our attention on ourselves and our own works. Galatians 3:3. 

90. Jesus was like Adam before the Fall in that He had a sinless nature—He was not born separated from God. Jesus was like Adam after the Fall in physical strength, mental power, and moral worth (backbone). Luke 1:35; Hebrews 2:17, 18.

91. Jesus had no advantage over us in overcoming temptations. Hebrews 4:15.

92. Jesus overcame temptations the same way we can overcome: by power from above rather than power from within. John 14:10.

93. Jesus found sins repulsive. So long as we depend on God, we also find sins repulsive. Hebrews 1:8, 9.

94. We can never be as Jesus was, but we can do as Jesus did. John 14:12.

95. The problem of sin is a broken relationship between God and man. The goal of salvation is to restore the relationship between God and man. Revelation 19:7-9.

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Morris Venden, deceased, was associate speaker at Voice of Prophecy and a beloved pastor of many congregations, including Southwestern Adventist University church, Keene, Texas, United States.

October 2017

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