“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.” (Mat. 5:20)
In this verse of Scripture, Jesus begins to warn us of being like the scribes and Pharisees, who trusted in their religion instead of having faith in God.
“And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39)
The Pharisees were clean on the outside but they were wicked on the inside.
There was another time when Jesus told them that they were like a whited sepulcher full of dead men’s bones.
In the book of Isaiah chapter 64 and verse six we read,
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isa. 64:6)
The Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the day, refused to recognize that their thoughts were evil and they were unrighteous.
Like the religious folk of every generation, they failed to acknowledge that they were prideful. They failed to acknowledge the fact that they had evil attitudes towards one another and others.
They thought that by physically obeying the rules and regulations of their religion then their thoughts and attitudes didn’t matter. They thought they had attained righteousness by keeping the letter of the law when in reality they were failing miserably.
The Pharisees believed that they were righteous in the eyes of God. They went about making their own righteousness with their works and traditions and they ignored the fact that God had concluded all under sin.
The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory,
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Rom. 3:23)
This is why many of the religious leaders followed Jesus and His miracles. They believed that because of their righteousness and holiness, God was finally rewarding them by sending a deliverer to remove the Roman oppression and restore the Kingdom of David.
Their self-righteousness had blinded their minds to the words of the prophet,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9)
They believed that because of their religious deeds they had no sin and did not need the suffering Messiah described by Isaiah,
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
They failed to realize the need for a Savior to die on a cross and bear the penalty for their sins.
The Pharisees and religious sects of the day had come to the conclusion that they had no sin because of the religious traditions which they fulfilled.
Therefore, when it became apparent that Jesus was not going to remove the Romans and set Himself upon a throne, those who followed Him for that reason turned against Him.
The same people that a few days before had been crying “Hosanna” now were crying “Crucify Him.”
They refused to believe that they were sinners and needed a Savior.
Their pride and self-righteousness blinded them to their need for a redeemer to pay the penalty for their sin.
They did not understand that they were sinners in the eyes of God. No amount of religious works and traditions could establish their righteousness in God’s eyes.
Second Corinthians chapter five and verse 21 says,
“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.” (2Cor. 5:21)
Jesus came to establish His righteousness, and then to give us His righteousness in exchange for our sins at Calvary. He came to give us a new spirit, a new heart, a new attitude and will.
“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:” (Eze. 11:19)
“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)
The Pharisees were concerned only with the letter of the Law and their appearance unto men.
God is concerned with the spirit of the Law, our attitudes, our hearts, our will, and our emotions.
Hebrews chapter ten verses 16 and 17 tells us,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb. 10:17)
This is the righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees.
God is concerned with the heart. We must have a new heart. Man’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.
The Scripture tells us that the devil is the accuser of the brethren. (Rev. 12:10)
He is standing before the throne of God continually and likes nothing better than to see unrepentant sin in our lives that transgress the Word of God so that he can accuse us before our Heavenly Father.
He wants to accuse us as to why God shouldn’t answer our prayer or meet our need. He is the accuser of the brethren.
The Bible says he accuses us day and night before God.
However, when we repent of our sins and forgive others their trespasses, when we trust in the righteousness of Jesus Christ that God has imparted unto us, then we are washed in the blood of Christ and the devil has no case against us.
We stand in the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:31-32)
This is the righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees. This is the righteousness that opens the door to the Kingdom of God.