We would not be looking at this if not that our life of faith and confidence towards God depends on this. This is what we need to know to see great results in our walk with God. A successful prayer life depends on this as well.
We had a plan from the last blog to start looking at God’s standards and his perception of how critical sin is. We are also looking at what Jesus intended to achieve with these very hard sayings, and how we must view it in the light of the new covenant instead of the way some so-called holiness teachings are trying to portray it. Of course, holiness is a must for anyone who is in Christ. However, we don’t want this concept of holiness and righteousness to be hijacked to the point of puncturing our faith by those who want to have a show in the flesh.
Off we go……………………
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
All this came after the famous sermon on the mount. We are going to look at this verse from all possible angles. It would make a bit of sense to consider first the righteousness of the Pharisee in order to appreciate the uphill task of exceeding them. Well, you and I would not want to take this lightly as Jesus said this is a pre-requisite to enter the kingdom.
What are the properties or characteristics of the righteousness of the Pharisees?
Well, the Pharisees were well vast in the law. They knew both the moral and ceremonial laws. The moral laws are the ten commandments while the ceremonial laws were the ones that had to do with washings, cleansings etc. The Pharisees knew the demands of the law were so serious and hard to fulfil by someone with the nature of humanity. Read Romans 8:3
Romans 8: 3 …the law was weakened through the flesh…… .(KJV)
Yet they claim they could by adjusting it to fit their own lives and telling people to do as the law actually demanded in some cases.
Matthew 23:3…. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not after their works……..
So, the Pharisees were teaching things from the law of Moses that Jesus agreed were correct. But you know what? they since found out some were not either convenient or practicable for them, so they created an adapted version for themselves called the ‘’tradition of the elders’ .
Read Matt 15:4-6 (NKJV)
4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; [a] and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’[c] Thus you have made the commandment[d] of God of no effect by your tradition.
See they created a convenient version of the law for themselves in some certain situations to make the commandment possible to live by and to achieve selfish ends. They never wanted to be caught napping about not being able to satisfy the demands of the law to the point that they would rather adapt what the law said. Worse than that, they still go ahead and tell people they must do exactly what the law said. The goal was to justify themselves before God and men that they were righteous, perfect and holy.
This is where a good number of preachers are in a bid to counter the ideology of Christians who have become lascivious and have taken the grace of God for granted. These legalistic and so-called holiness preachers come up with ‘’biblical’’ rules and standards they tell their listeners to follow as these can guarantee that they are holy enough for heaven and for God to answer their prayers of protection, provision and so on. This is a wrong and unspiritual motivation as we have established in this previous post. As this preachers flip through the bible, they find some scriptural injunctions or law requirements that are way beyond their reach, they either keep silent about this or tell their members to fulfil them while they themselves break them.
Years ago, I have heard some preachers say that the way to fulfil Jesus demand of not looking at a woman lustfully is not to have a TV at home. However, this same church uses projectors for its members to watch transmissions from the church headquarters. Now that we have computers with the internet, what do they have to say? Well, asking people not to use computers seems impossible for them since some people’s daily job or schooling require a computer with an internet connection. Some even claimed that we only need to come to church with printed bibles and not bible apps on our laptops or smartphones so that we can prove our concentration on the lord. In some places, males and females don’t sit together, women have to be dressed in a certain way, prayers must be said in a particular way………. The list goes on ……… Since they have taught their members that God’s favour could only be on them as much as they keep to these things. So, everyone tries very hard to meet up with them. Do more, evangelise more etc. Well, the sad news is that no one can meet God’s demands if they knew what it is. It is higher than we think. If you think we are advocating for laziness and inactiveness as a Christian, you miss the point altogether. The question is what would you do if you know there is nothing you can do or not do to make him think less of you since he is not looking at you anyway but at christ. Would you go and sin or love him to keep his word. You are actually standing in his stead on earth. That is what it means to pray in the name of Jesus as you exercise your faith in the way God sees you.
Jesus said the pharisee’s teachings though correct in some cases were still a great burden on people. What did you expect? God’s standard is so high and perfect that anyone trying to justify himself to God through meeting up the standard is in for an unbearable burden. If anybody claimed they could fulfil so as to be justified, they are either crazy or don’t know what the demands are.
So, how do we exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees then? Well, you would need to meet the exact demands of the law and not your own customized version. But you know what, if you ever claimed you can or that you already did by making a checklist of both the moral and ceremonial laws that you have kept, then you have yourself become a Pharisee as well. Your list must have been of the ones you kept or the adapted version of the ones that you could not keep. How did I know that?
Read Romans 3:20
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law, we become conscious of our sin.
So, the Pharisee hypocritically claimed they could, so you become one if you claimed as well. Even if you are a Christian and you still seek to be justified by this, you stop living by faith and you turn to sight.
So, when Jesus asked us to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees? What did he mean? Was he asking us to do more than them? Justify ourselves in a much deeper and sincere way than them? Well, that would run contrary to Mathew 23:4….where Jesus said even though people should listen to the Pharisees teachings as being right but these teachings were already burdensome and grievous to the people. Was Jesus then inviting us to more burdens and grief when he said in Matthew 11:30 that his burden is easy and his yoke is light?
When Jesus said …you must exceed the Pharisees’ righteousness, he expected someone from the crowd to scream and talk this way
”…..Master, how can we? If the Pharisees found it so hard that they had to bend it for themselves in order to be able to hypocritically claim that they can keep it. Well, I guess If I am in their shoes, I would do the same. If I don’t, I guess life would be hell trying to dot the ‘’I’s ‘’ and cross the ‘’T’s ‘’ of the law more so that I know that if I break one of them I am guilty of them all (James 2:10). So, Jesus tell me you have a better plan”
Well, he had a better plan. The frustration in the response was all he wanted so that as men look forward to a better plan as he establishes the new covenant in his blood, they would then find his death and resurrection quite handy to solve the problem. In our last post, we clearly stated that the new covenant did not start until Jesus shed his blood.
Only Jesus fulfilled the righteous demands of the law. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 said he knew no sin. Read 1Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5, Hebrews 4:15, 1Peter 1:19, John 8:46. All these scriptures agreed that Jesus lived in the flesh perfect and completely righteous according to the demands of the law. At the cross, there was a transaction, he paid the price for the sins of the whole world. He has only asked that we believe and have faith in that transaction and that righteousness is imparted to us.
Of course, we often claim this when we become born again but do we always believe it even in the midst of daily living when we seem to fall short. One of the operations of the holy spirit is to continually convict us of our righteousness ( John 16:8). The only time some Christians have used or heard the word conviction is in regard to falling into ”sin”. Do we continue to tell ourselves and the enemy that we are fully convicted of our righteousness no matter the situation instead of succumbing to the temptation of measuring ourselves using the yardstick of experience which either leads us into religious pride or condemnation? In whichever case, we walk in unbelief. A life of the spirit is just not possible without faith ( Hebrews 10:38, Romans 1: 17, Galatians 3:11).