19 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. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19–20 ESV)
In light of yesterday’s blog, I sensed the need for further clarification regarding Jesus’ statement that the believer’s righteousness must exceed that of religious leaders. This would include the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day and pastors, missionaries and seminary professors in our own.
The following are some insightful quotes I discovered from several qualified biblical scholars; both past and present. I pray that you will find them edifying and beneficial.
“As the sermon progresses, we realize that Jesus did not expect His disciples to surpass the scribes and Pharisees at their own game; rather, He redefined righteousness. The scribes and Pharisees sought to codify righteousness, prescribing proper behavior in minute detail for every foreseeable situation,” explains commentator Daniel M Doriani. “Jesus protested this view of righteousness, which was legalistic. He addressed the heart, the mind, and the motives of obedience.”
“Whoever shall break, Christ here speaks expressly, of the commandments of life, or the ten words, which all the children of God ought to take as the rule of their life, He therefore declares that they are false and deceitful teachers. They do not restrain their disciples within obedience to the law. They are unworthy to occupy a place in the Church. They weaken, in the slightest degree, the authority of the law; and, on the other hand, that they are honest and faithful ministers of God, who recommended, both by word and by example, the keeping of the law,” explains John Calvin.
“Neither Jesus nor Paul had a problem with the law. Paul wrote that his gospel of grace upholds and establishes the law (Rom. 3:31)—even God’s laws in their negative form, since the “grace of God . . . teaches us to say ‘No’” (Titus 2:11–12 NIV). And remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17–19? Our attitude to the law is a litmus test of our relationship to the kingdom of God,” pastor and teacher Dr. Sinclair Fergusson expounds.
“So what is the problem? The real problem is that we do not understand grace. If we did, we would also realize why John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace,” could write, “Ignorance of the nature and design of the law is at the bottom of most religious mistakes.” There is a deep issue here. In Scripture, the person who understands grace loves law,” concludes Dr. Ferguson.
May each of us today who identify ourselves as believers in Christ echo the words of the psalmist who wrote, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97 (ESV)
Soli deo Gloria!