Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, was teaching His disciple about the law and the importance of keeping the law. Then he said something that probably shocked everyone (from Matt. 5:20):
For I say to you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
I am taking (summarizing) this teaching from the book, Studies in the Sermon of the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. We will look at the following points.
Jesus Was Uniquely Different Than the Scribes and Pharisees
Jesus was unusual. He was a teacher of the Law, but He didn’t belong to the order of the Scribes and Pharisees—who were the recognized teachers of the people. Yes, Jesus taught the law with authority, and at the same time He didn’t hesitate to boldly criticize the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus told His disciple to listen to their teachings but not to follow their example. In effect, he was telling them that they were phonies, hypocrites.
Jesus taught His disciple (and us) that all the commandments of God, the Laws of God, are very important. He said that His purpose in coming to us was to enable us to keep the Law, not to abrogate it.
What is the Law? It is the biblical doctrine of holiness—of being holy. Thus holiness is keeping and fulfilling the Law of God.
The Scribes and Pharisees appeared to be the most holy people. But Jesus knew better. They were lacking in holiness because they did not understand the Law and misinterpreted it. So Jesus tells us that our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees if we are to enter heaven.
The Scribes and Pharisees and Jesus’ Charges against Them
The Scribes and Pharisees set themselves apart. They had codes and rules and regulations for life and conduct that went beyond what Moses demanded. They fasted twice a week while the Old Testament asked for only one fast a year. Everybody looked up to them as holy—and they loved it!
But Jesus says we must exceed their righteousness! He presented the hollowness of their teaching, and then presented the true teaching. He criticized their whole attitude toward God and toward religion. From Matthew 23:
- They don’t do what they preach (v. 3)
- They do works to be seen by men (v. 5)
- They take the best seats in the synagogues (v. 6)
- They love to be called “Rabbi, Rabbi” (v. 7)
- They make long prayers to be heard by everyone (v. 14)
- They clean the outside, but inside they are unclean (v. 25-28)
They were hypocrites but didn’t realize it. Their religion was all external instead of being of the heart. In contrast, Jesus was full of love and holiness. And it is part of holy love to unmask the false, which He always did. Jesus charged that the Scribes and Pharisees…
- Neglected the inside—the heart
- Were concerned more with the ceremonial acts of the Law then the moral Law
- Rationalized their sins and would explain them away
- Had a self-righteousness not a righteousness toward God
- Did not have a proper attitude toward others. They failed to love God and others.
Our holiness, true holiness should not be merely to avoid certain things, or even to avoid thinking certain things. It should also include love toward others and God.
How Is the Christian to Live?
- We must show our faith by our works.
- We must demonstrate that Christ is in us and that I am a partaker of the divine nature.
- We should know that the biggest thing in our life is to glorify God no matter what the cost to us.
- We are to live our life for Him, to love Him and others for His glory and not for our own.