Summary: A devotional for young believers
“FOR I SAY TO YOU, THAT UNLESS YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS SURPASSES THAT OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES, YOU SHALL NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.”
This may very well be the original “Good news/Bad news” line.
Waddya want first? Good news, or bad news? The bad news? Good choice. Well, the bad news is this. As to the righteousness of the Mosaic Law, the scribes and Pharisees were unsurpassed. Paul, himself a Pharisee, was confident to say that according to the Law he was blameless. That is how conscientious he was in the keeping of it. And that is a good thing. In Romans 10:5, Paul reminds his readers that according to Moses, ‘...the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness’. So if someone is going to make a claim to God’s favor based on his keeping of the law...of do’s and don’ts and rules and regulations and religious ritual, then he must keep that law perfectly; so it’s a good thing to be very, very conscientious indeed! But that’s why this is the bad news. Jesus said that if our righteousness doesn’t surpass them, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now here is where someone might think, ‘Well, they were human too. So if I try hard enough, I have as much chance as anyone else.’ But you’d be thinking wrong. Because the very first time you break one of those laws, you’ve blown it for good.
That’s why James (2:10) said that “...whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all”. I can’t remember who it was (I think D.L. Moody) who asked, “If a man hangs over a precipice by a chain of ten links, how many links must be broken in order to dash that man to his death?” The answer, of course, is only one.
And since the wages of sin is death, and since you’ve probably already transgressed God’s law many times before you ever got around to reading this, then what Jesus said in Matthew 5:20 is for you, my friend, bad news.
Now the good news. Jesus did it. ‘Jesus did what?’ - you ask.
Surpassed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. There is really very much that I could say about this, but I’m quickly running out of space. So here it is briefly. “He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin...” There. The Scribes and Pharisees may have been very righteous according to the law, but they knew sin. Jesus didn’t .
“...to be sin on our behalf...” We don’t have to keep the law in order to be righteous. The wage of sin (death) has been paid by Jesus. He bought us back.
“...that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” So, if you’re in Christ, you stand by grace IN the righteousness that surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees.
(And THAT’S the way (uh-huh, uh-huh), I like it!)
Bad News: “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified”
Good News: "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe;..."
Whose righteousness are you counting on? Yours, or His?