Lesson 71—June 28, 2015
It Doesn’t Get More Radical Than This
Scripture: Matthew 5:20
Lesson Goal: To better understand the kind of righteousness possessed by the scribes and Pharisees compared to the true righteousness that Jesus offers.
(V20) The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was essentially a self-righteousness established by an external adherence to a set of rules and regulations. Now in verse twenty, Jesus states that “entry into the Kingdom is impossible without a conformity better, much better (the Greek expression is very emphatic) than that of scribes and Pharisees” (Stott).
For Jesus’ listeners, because of their backgrounds and traditions, their first reaction to Jesus statement was shock. How could this be? How could anyone ever make it into the Kingdom, if the righteousness of the Pharisees was not enough? Again, the thought and truth which Jesus was giving to His listeners rested on the importance of what true righteousness was.
• Based upon our previous lessons, how would you describe the Pharisees’ righteousness?
• In your own words, explain the true righteousness Jesus spoke of.
John Stott offers:
Pharisees were content with an external and formal obedience, a rigid conformity to the letter of the Law; Jesus teaches us that God’s demands are far more radical than this. This righteousness, which is pleasing to Him, is an inward righteousness of mind and motive. For the Lord looks on the heart. It was a new heart-righteousness which the prophets foresaw as one of the blessings of
the Messianic age. (Read Jeremiah 31:33) How would He do it? He told Ezekiel. Read Ezekiel 36:27.
The Pharisees were content to outwardly obey the Law without any regard for the attitude of the heart. The Pharisees appeared pious, but in actuality they were far from God. True followers of Jesus Christ understand that they cannot do enough, or keep enough law, in order to become righteous, enough to enter the Kingdom of God. The righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees’ is the righteousness that rests upon God. The righteousness that rests upon God comes because of a personal relationship with Him. Jesus was declaring that external piety, showy external and rigid keeping of law and traditions, was not the way into the Kingdom of God. Instead, the truth of righteous was found in a different way. Jesus spoke of this different way in John 14:6. Once again, Jesus was offering a different way, a new way! He was not offering a more intense form of adherence to a set of rules, but He was speaking about a new kind of righteousness that is shown not by a love for law keeping, but by a love for God who gave the Law.
The righteous of which Jesus spoke was not a self-made righteousness gained by human effort. It was not a righteousness earned by human work or achievement. Jesus was talking about a righteousness “that is so godly it cannot be a product of human effort but must be the gift of God. The righteousness Christ would establish in His life and death would be made available as God’s free gift. This is the righteousness that would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Hindson).
• Please describe self-righteousness.
• Describe Jesus’ righteousness.
• Please explain the meaning of these words from the great hymn by Edward Mote “The Solid Rock”:
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothes in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
Our natural self-righteousness, the kind of righteousness displayed by the scribes and Pharisees, has to be repudiated (rejected, refuse to accept or support). In its stead, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us when we believe (truly trust Him as Savior); it is implanted in us and imparted to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit. No unregenerate (lost without Jesus), however religious or righteous he may be in his own eyes or however impressive his reputation as a holy man may be, can produce the kind and degree of righteousness demanded by Christ. In kind, it is His kind; in degree, it is what mathematicians would call the nth degree. It is beyond calculation. Without His kind of righteousness, no one will enter the Kingdom of heaven (Phillips).
For a better understanding of the kind of righteousness that the Pharisees possessed, please read Matthew 23:25-28. Notice the contrast Jesus makes between what is on the “inside” and what is on the “outside.”
The righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees was purely an external righteousness. But Jesus says that it’s not enough to be righteous on the outside if you are not righteous on the inside. What Jesus is demanding is not more righteous deeds by human effort, but more righteous hearts by divine grace. This righteousness is not an outward righteousness to show everyone how good we look, but an inner righteousness that shows how gracious and powerful God is (Platt).
Jesus was teaching that we must have a righteousness that extends beyond externals and legal rule-keeping. This kind of righteousness is only made possible by God’s gift of grace—a new heart.
In the light of the truth of Matthew 5:20, please read John 3:1-9.
We must understand the importance of the truth that salvation is not earned by self-effort. Please read Romans 4:3
and Luke 18:9-14. I hope you are beginning to understand that Jesus’ words were radical. He teaches that the kind of righteousness exemplified by the Pharisees was not sufficient for entrance into His Kingdom. In the words of John MacArthur: “This was doubtlessly the most radical thing He had taught. If the meticulously religious and moral Pharisees could not get into heaven, who could?”
As we come to the close of today’s lesson, let me give you four ways that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees differed from God’s true righteousness:
1) The scribes and Pharisees concerned themselves entirely with external observance of the Law and tradition. In their own minds, it did not matter how much they hated an individual, if they did not kill him, they were righteous. It did not matter how much they lusted, they did not consider themselves guilty of adultery or fornication as long as they did not commit the physical act.
2) The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was so very incomplete. See Matthew 23:23. They were carefully meticulous in tithing the smallest plants and seeds from their gardens. Yet they totally disregarded matters of much greater importance.
3) The scribes and Pharisees, because of their manmade traditions, made laws to make themselves appear holy by the meticulous care and attention they gave to keep those laws and traditions in the public areas of life.
4) Their righteousness was a self-centered righteousness. It was produced and accomplished by self to promote and glorify self.
Please prayerfully read Philippians 3:4-11.
• In your own words, explain “true righteousness.”
Lesson 71—June 28, 2015