Summary: In Matt. 5:17-48, Jesus challenges his audience to have a righteousness that flows from the heart and thus surpassess the external righteousness displayed by the Pharisees.

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Surpassing Righteousness

Matt. 5:17-48


In the beginning verses of Matt. 5, Jesus is preaching to the multitude and is sharing revolutionary thoughts. He has taught them how to be blessed by God by changing from the inside out. He has told them how to establish a relationship with God and with others through positive heartfelt service. No doubt many in his audience, particulary the Pharisees, were wondering how these teachings fit into the Law of Moses. Jesus will deal with that issue in the remainder of this chapter.

I. My purpose in coming.

A. Not to abolish the Law or the Prophets. (Vs. 17)

1 KATALUO = To destroy utterly, to overthrow completely.

2 Law = Law of Moses

3 Prophets = The remainder of the Old Testament.

The Pharisees would accuse Jesus of trying to abolish the Law. Illustration: John 5:8-9, 16-18. Jesus “broke” the Law by healing the paralytic on the Sabbath (a part of the Law)

B. But to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.(Vs. 17-19)

1. The Law is absolute and unchangeable. (Vs. 18)

a. “Jot” (IOTA) is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

b. “Tittle” (KERAIA) is the smallest accent mark in the Hebrew alphabet.

c. “...until all is accomplished.”

(1) Until prophecy is fulfilled

Luke 24:44... “...all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”

(2) Until the Law’s demands are fully kept.

C. The relationship between the Law and the Kingdom.

Man’s position in the kingdom will be in direct correlation with his respect for God’s Law. No command is unimportant.

1. Those who annul will be least in the kingdom.

(Matt. 15:1-9)

2. Those who keep will be great (honored) in the kingdom.

II. Requirements for entering the kingdom. (Matt. 5:20)

The Scribes and Pharisees had a righteousness that was external, ceremonial, ritualistic, and formal, with little or no attention paid to the condition of the heart. To enter the kingdom, one must have a “Surpassing Righteousness.” This is a righteousness that includes a right heart, not just right actions. Jesus then proceeds to illustrate the principle he has just presented.


A. An absence of hate. (Matt. 5:21-26)

1. Matt. 5:21 quotes Ex. 20:13, the fifth commandment.

2. The righteousness of the Pharisees would exclude the act of murder but not the condition of the heart that leads to murder.

3. Hate is the source of killing.

Clarence Darrow... “Everyone is a potential murderer. I have not killed anyone but I frequently get satisfaction out of obituary notices.”

4. Jesus calls on us to resist the beginnings of hate. (Matt. 5:22)

a. Anger...Basic anger... “short madness”

“guilty before the court”.

b. Raca... Insulting words. “empty headed, good for nothing”...Guilty before the supreme court.

c. Fool...Accusing someone of being ungodly or immoral. Judgmental or contemptuous. Guilty enough to go to hell

5. Acceptable worship is impossible when hate exists between brethren. (Matt. 5:23:24)

“So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you, Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Isa. 1:15)

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