Jesus was in constant conflict with the religious rulers as to the intent of the Law. The problem was not the Law. It was the purpose of the Law. They were misusing the Law to establish a righteousness based on self-effort instead of allowing its perfect and holy demands to drive them to the Savior.
Matthew 5:20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
This was a staggering statement for a first century Jew. It was said that “if only two men are allowed to enter Heaven then one will certainly be a teacher of the law and the other a Pharisee.” With some 248 regulations and 365 prohibitions to deal with, salvation was certainly for the professionals!
The Scribes were religious teachers. The scribes were men who spent their time in teaching and expounding the law; they were the great authorities on the law of God. They gave their whole life to the study and illustration of it. They were the men who made copies of it, exercising great care as they did so.
The Pharisees were separatist. The Pharisees were known for their religious devotion. The very word, “Pharisee” means, “Separatist.” They were people who set themselves apart because they had formed a code of ceremonial acts/rules more rigid than the law of Moses itself. They had stringent rules and regulations for life that went far beyond anything we find demanded in Old Testament Scriptures.
Pharisaical righteousness is only skin deep. They were proud of their obedience to the law and religious traditions. They hated Jesus because He revealed their hypocrisy. They said they loved God but decided to kill Him rather than admit their own desperate need of a Savior. Their religious pride blinded their hearts and minds to God. The righteousness, which men are so proud of, is an external righteousness and God will never accept it.
Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
Only Christ righteousness secures us in the kingdom. External self-righteousness will never satisfy God. God is not impressed with appearances. He offers righteousness as a gift of grace received through faith.
1 Corinthians 1:29-30 “that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”
Jesus is everything you will ever need. Let the law do its work in your life; showing you your sin and your need of a Savior. Let the Law drive you to the feet of Jesus and you will have honored the law. Come to Him broken and He will heal you with His love and life and give you the gift of righteousness. Though not an external righteousness, worried about appearances, but a transformed heart and spirit brought to life with the life of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
I hope you’ll go through the week and the rest of your life remembering you are truly righteous because of what Christ has done to and for you. He sets us free from the treadmills of modern-day Pharisees. Live in rest and allow Him to express His righteous life through you.
Pastor Wayne had a heart incident on Saturday morning and has been hospitalized since. He’s hoping to be home by Wednesday but is going to have to make some lifestyle changes. Please keep him and Sandy in your prayers. I’ll be covering his Wednesdayevening Bible study for a few weeks.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day remembering those who gave their lives for our freedom.
You are loved!