Summary: In Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, He says that we need to be more righteous than the Pharisees and the Scribes in order for us to enter the Kingdom. These were the people who were perceived to have been the most righteous. How can we compete with them?
We are busy with a series on The Sermon on the Mount.
We looked at the theme of the sermon, which is the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.
We looked at the character and the blessedness of the citizens of heaven - The beatitudes.
We looked at us needing to be the salt and the light of the world.
Then last week we looked at the relationship between Jesus and the Law, where He said that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it.
Today we will be looking at one text found in Matthew 5:20.
I believe that this is the central idea of the sermon.
Today we will be talking about what our righteousness should be like.
So let’s read from:
Matthew 5:20 ESV
(20) For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Let us pray
I want you to listen to these words again: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”
Do you know who the Pharisees and the Scribes were?
We, as modern day Christians, are not too well informed about the Pharisees and the Scribes.
We perceive them to be bad people.
So let’s quickly look at who they were.
During the time of Jesus, the Pharisees and the Scribes were considered to be the most holy and the most righteous people on earth.
If we had to compare them to today’s people they would have been in the same league as Billy Graham, Reinhardt Bonnke and TJ Jakes.
The Pharisees, meaning the separated ones, one of three major religious societies, were mostly middle class business men, but they had a very big impact in the decision making in the Sanhedrin.
Unlike the Sadducees, who were aristocrats, the Pharisees were in contact with the common man.
They accepted that the written Word was inspired by God (The Old Testament)
But of importance to them also was the oral traditions, which they defended by saying that it could be traced to the time of Moses.
So they added some of these traditions to God’s Word and obeyed the Word of God together with these traditions.
In other words they treated these traditions as equal to God’s word.
So let’s look at what they believed:
• They believed that God controlled all things, yet decisions made by individuals also contributed to the course of a person's life.
• They believed in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6).
• They believed in an afterlife, with appropriate reward and punishment on an individual basis.
• They believed in the existence of angels and demons (Acts 23:8).
Is that not what we believe?
Paul was, before his conversion, also a Pharisee.
The Scribes were learned men.
They studies the Law, transcribed it and wrote commentaries about it.
We can say that they were also like lawyers today, helping people with the writing of documentation, at a fee off course.
One of the jobs they did was to preserve Scripture.
They took this job very serious, so much that they would copy and recopy the Bible, ensuring that the copy was correct by even counting the letters and spaces of each copy.
These were people who taught the scriptures to others.
However, they did not just stick to the law in the scriptures.
They also added some man-made traditions to the mix.
They knew the written word but they ignored the heart of the word.
So we can see that these were learned men who knew the scriptures and who could interpret the scriptures to others.
These were men who were perceived to have been the most righteous of all men.
And then Jesus says that our righteousness should be more than theirs.
That must have been a shocking statement in those days.
But note that Jesus never said that He had a problem with the fact that they knew the Scriptures.
He never said that He had a problem with their knowledge.
He never said that He had a problem with the works they did.
What He did have a problem with was their holiness, their righteousness.
He stated that their righteousness was not enough to get them into heaven.
Jesus said that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
That means that their righteousness was not enough to get them into heaven.
So what does it mean to be righteous?
Righteousness is the condition that God will accept.
It is a right standing before God.
And there is only one way to be righteous and that is to be without sin.