“…unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 5:20
The Pharisees were characterized as letter-of-the-law keepers—
…they put heavy burdens on others (Mt 23:4) “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
…tithe mint (Luke 11:42) “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God.”
…white-washed tombs— they looked good outwardly but corroding inwardly (Matthew 23:27) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
How can our righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees?
Fortunately, our righteousness is not our own. It is not based on our actions, because left to our own devices we would look no different than the scribes and Pharisees. But, we are NOT left to our own devices.
2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Romans 3:21-22 “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.”
We – who believe – have been given the righteousness of Jesus Christ- through faith. The very righteousness of Christ.
The only way our righteousness can exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
“You are as righteous as Jesus Christ.” I gasped when I heard these words, but as I thought about the truth, since Jesus’ righteousness is given to each child of God, it is a true statement. It doesn’t mean I ACT as righteous as Jesus Christ, but I am righteous because Jesus became sin for me, that I might become the righteousness of God in Him. You, too, if you know Christ personally.
Diane Hunt is a Biblical Counselor, Women’s conference and retreat speaker and author. She serves as the Director of Partner Care and Director of Women’s Ministries at America’s Keswick. She and her husband John have two married children and four grandchildren. She loves reveling in warm sunny climates and playing with her grandchildren.