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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. Matthew 5:20. What does this mean?

The Lord is speaking to His disciples about the Pharisees. They were the same people He later referred to as whited sepulchres who appeared as righteous to men but were full of dead men bones. (Matthew 23:27-28).

They had a twofold righteousness. First, they had a legal righteousness by observing the ten commandments. This was not sufficient to make them right before God because they fail to keep it completely. James says in 2:10, For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. Paul writes, Galatians 3:10, For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

If you are seeking to be saved before God by legal righteousness you will not make it. Romans 3:20,Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight:

Secondly, the Pharisees had a self righteousness. They had several rules and laws apart from the Bible that they lived by. This was a self orientated righteousness. Jesus gave a parable about that in Luke 18:9.

The application Jesus is making to the disciples is that they must have a righteousness exceeding that of these Pharisees. Since man is not able to produce this righteousness God has provided it for the sinner, so that when they realize their helplessness and turn in their sins to Christ and trust Him they are right with God.

2 Corinthians 5:21, For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

You can be made right with God only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what Acts 16:31 means. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

All comments and questions to: Harold Smith

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Updated March 13th, 2014 by Sandra Felix