Sermon on The Mount
How is Your Righteousness?
Throughout Jesus’ ministry here on earth He dealt with those who were religious but failed to have a personal relationship with Him. Our study today is one of those cases.
Matthew 5:17-20 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The first thing we see in this passage is that Jesus did not come to abolish the law. In verse 17 Jesus says “Do not think that I have come to abolish or destroy the law or the prophets” To understand this passage we must understand the meaning of “abolish.” The word “abolish or destroy” means to deny their authority or to set people free from the obligation to obey them.
Instead of abolishing the law He came to fulfill the law – This means he came to complete the design of the law; to fulfill what was predicted; to accomplish what was intended in them. Additionally, the word “fulfill” can mean “to teach.” The law of Moses contained many sacrifices and rites which were designed to shadow forth the Messiah. These were fulfilled when he came and offered himself a sacrifice to God. Romans 3:31 states “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
A review of the Old Testament reveals that there were two sets of law:
- The moral law was that law established in the Ten Commandments and other vital laws that taught believers how they should act and honor God in their lives. In essence, Jesus did not destroy the moral law but He came to fulfill this law as He, through His death gave the power to overcome the very reason the law had been established and that was to overcome sin. He came to fulfill the moral law which means to establish, illustrate, and explain its highest meaning, both by my life and doctrine.
- The second set of laws established in the Old Testament was the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law looked to the day of the coming Messiah. The ceremonial law set forth a series of acts that the Jew was to participate in to have their sins forgiven. But in the New Testament Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross took the place of the ceremonial so that we no longer have to bring bulls, goals or birds into church to be offered as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sin. In Eph. 2:14-16 Paul defines this when he said For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
The problem with the ceremonial law was that it powerless to do anything about the sin in our life. That is why the veil between the Holy Place and the Holies of Holies was torn into two pieces because upon His death there was no need for the sacrifices of the Old Testament.
The Jews believed that the words of Jesus were contrary to the religion and faith of his followers, who assert, that the Law of Moses was being abolished. The rule which Christ came to establish exactly agreed with the scriptures of the Old Testament, here called the law and the prophets. The prophets were commentators upon the law, and both together made up that rule of faith and practice which Christ found upon the throne in the Jewish church, and here he keeps it on the throne.
Our Righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. The Pharisees of the day believed that they had a corner on the law and that they had some unique ability to establish the law but they themselves could not keep the very law they instituted.
All of the law will be fulfilled.
The righteousness of the Pharisees exposed – Jesus in this passage points out that the righteousness of the believer must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisses. To understand the issues the Pharisees had one must turn to Matthew 23. It is here that Jesus exposes who the Pharisee really was.
- The Pharisees did not practice what he preached. They expected everyone else to obey the law but they themselves were filled with excuses. (Matt. 23:2-3). Once again this speaks to the idea of being authentic and real. In other words we will not ask anyone to do anything that we ourselves are not willing to do. The Pharisees were critical and judgmental but they refuse to obey their own preaching.
- The Pharisees burdened the people with rules and regulations that they themselves could keep. (Matt. 23:4). Rather than preaching liberty and life they actually add chains and bonds to their converts. In other words, they are always adding to what it takes to be a believer thereby complicating the process and making conversion works based rather than grace based. (Matt. 23:13-15) The Pharisees were critical and judgmental of others who attempted to keep the law according to God’s purposes and His plans. You could never be good enough. It was easier to set a law than to deal with the issues of the heart.
- The Pharisees were more concerned about their outward appearance but inwardly they were cold and dead. All of their deeds were to be done to be seen by others. They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love they place of honor at the feasts and the best seats in the synagogues. They love being greeted in the marketplace and they love the idea that they are known as a rabbi. They kept the outside clean but inwardly they were filled with dead men’s bones and all sorts of evil. (Matt. 23:5-7 & Matt 23:25- 28). They would dress the part and act the part but they were not close to God at all. It was an act. They were hypocrites. Hypocrites were those who were play actors. They wore masks to hide their true character and true intent.
- The Pharisees aimed to gain the praise of men rather than the applause of God. They tithed regularly but they neglected justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Matt. 23:23-24). The Pharisees priorities were out of order. They worshipped the temple more than the God of the Temple. When you accomplish things for God do you do gain a reaction from people or do you do them for God. There is a difference.
What about you today? Are you exhibiting Pharisaical attitudes? If so ask for God’s forgiveness and He will restore you to right thinking.