Exceeding Righteousness

See full series: 2020-recent-sermons
See full series: the-teachings-of-jesus-2020-21

Exceeding Righteousness

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Matthew 5:20


MP3 PPT Outline

Sunday, March 15, 2020 am



Sermon on the Mount (8)


We are continuing to examine the “Sermon on the Mount” in our study about the teachings of Jesus.  Having examined the beatitudes and our influence, last week we noted how Jesus came to fulfill the LOM.  Today we notice a warning of Jesus to those listening, 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.  In our lesson today we want to talk about righteousness, both the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and how our righteousness ought to exceed that.


The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees

    1. Briefly review – what is righteousness. We already addressed this in the beatitudes.  Righteousness is being right based upon one’s actions.
      True righteousness is being right with God based upon submitting to His standard.  Jesus emphasized that we ought to “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), meaning we ought to strongly crave being right with God.
    2. The concept of the Pharisees (of which most scribes were part of that sect – they were the “lawyers” of the Law and also scribes – copying the LOM) began during the years of silence, along with the Sadducees and other Jewish sects. They were the result of Jews being spread throughout the world as a result of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities and ensuing empires.  The different sects were the result of different viewpoints about how to deal with Greek culture.  There were liberals who had no problems compromising with Hellenism (these became the Sadducees) and there were others who saw such as dangerous to the purity of their Jewish faith (these were more conservative and sought to find ways to ensure purity – the Pharisees and Essenes came from this background).
      We can clearly see similar comparisons today politically (which doesn’t matter) and in the religious realms.
      To preserve the purity of the Law of Moses the Pharisees sought to separate themselves from Hellenism as much as possible (The word Pharisee means, “separated ones”).  This resulted in very strict interpretations and applications of the LOM, which would come to be described as the oral law.  In time, the Oral law would be treated with equal authority as the written LOM (though not in the eyes of God).
    3. The idea of the Pharisees was actually noble. It originated with a desire to preserve the LOM.  This is a serious concern we have (which is WHY we need to understand the Pharisees and what they were condemned for).
      NEVER do you read of Jesus condemning one for simply being a Pharisee, in fact Nicodemus was a Pharisee and ruler of the people (John 3:1-2).  Also, Paul was a Pharisee (Philippians 3:4-5, Acts 23:6) which is why he was so versed in the LOM.
      ALSO, you NEVER find Jesus condemning the Pharisees for keeping the LOM, even strictly.   Again, in Matthew 23:23, Jesus noted their tithing of spices should be done. NOTICE also Matthew 23:2-3 where Jesus said to observe whatever they tell you to observe.   More on this later.
      Jesus taught obedience – Matthew 7:21-27, John 14:15 (also Hebrews 5:9, etc.).  He also rebuked those who disobeyed the truth or misapplied the Law on numerous occasions.
    4. During the time of Jesus the Pharisees were more numerous and influential with the common people.  It is said that at the time of Herod the Great (when Jesus was born) there were about 6000 Pharisees.  It was the Pharisees who more often challenged Jesus concerning Sabbath worship and breaking their traditions.
    5. Why was their righteousness condemned? There are many reasons for this.
      1. They didn’t practice what they preached – They were hypocritical.
        Matthew 23:2-4 – they taught one thing and did something else.  As we have noted, some 10 times in the gospel of Matthew the word hypocrites is used to described the pharisees and scribes, along with other strong words. Luke 12:1, Jesus warned, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
        This hypocrisy is really summarized in many of the other qualities Jesus condemned in Matthew 23.  In fact toward the end, Jesus described how outwardly they appeared clean and beautiful, but inwardly they were corrupt and defiled (23:25-28)
      2. They were prideful – loving the praise of men – Matthew 23:5-7, 6:2, 5, 16, etc. They wore clothing to draw undue attention to themselves (phylacteries, enlarging borders of their garments, etc.).  In fasting, they would cast dust on themselves to be noticed.
        Also, they thought they were better than others, especially the uneducated.
        We don’t know what they did for the poor, but we know that many did whatever they did to be seen by men and praised.
      3. They were materialistic – Luke 16:14 notes that they were lovers of money.
        Matthew 23:14 speaks about how they devoured the houses of widows.
        23:25 while outside they were “clean”, on the inside they were full of extortion and self-indulgence.
      4. They were prejudiced – they excluded those who would not fit their mold. Matthew 23:13. They wanted nothing to do with Samaritans and Gentiles. They frequently looked down on the poor and the common people.
        Matthew 9:10-13, when Jesus at with Matthew and his friends, the Pharisees condemned Him for eating with “tax collectors and sinners.”
        Matthew 23:16-22 – speaks of the words they used which entitled them deceive others.  It was said that one could lie to a Gentile, but not to a Jew.
      5. They wrongly justified themselves – they compared themselves with those they judged to be worse or despicable (cf. Matthew 7:1-5, Luke 18:10-11, the way they treated Jesus as He taught, etc.)
      6. They perverted the law of God – Matthew 15:3-9 where they created a loophole to free one of the obligation to take care of his parents. Their worship was therefore vain.
        They catered the law to justify what they wanted to do – they added to the law and took away from it.  They bound and loosed where they had no authority.
      7. Their obedience was superficial and merit based as opposed to faith based – the Pharisees acted is serving God was a check list that they could follow day in and day out.  Motives such as compassion and sincerity were irrelevant.  That could be why they would create loopholes to the commandments – they could TELL THEMSELVES that they were still following the Law “technically”, even though they completely missed its intent.
        This attitude is why we find the bragging Pharisee in Luke 18:9-12, and obsessing over details to the neglect of their purpose throughout the gospels (cf. Luke 13:14 where the ruler of the synagogue said, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and no on the Sabbath day.”)
  • In summary – they established their own righteousness – Romans 10:1-3, Luke 18:9.
    It was THIS TYPE of behavior that Jesus was addressing AND rejecting in the Sermon on the Mount.

Our exceeding righteousness

    1. Understand, as previously noted, we MUST do what God commands of us in His law. That is what righteousness is about.  Are we hungering and thirsting to be righteous before God?
      The doctrine of “faith only” is not only false, it is harmful as it removes accountability for the one who chooses to do nothing.  Consider James 2:14-17 – faith without works is dead!
    2. The point – our righteousness needs to come from the heart. It MUST begin there.   Our righteousness need to be genuine and the motivation to act.  Romans 10:9-10 – with the heart one believes unto righteousness.
      It needs to be about glorifying God and not ourselves – Matthew 5:16, 6:33.
      Philippians 3:8-9 – Paul speaks of being found “in Him, not having my own righteousness…but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…”
      Romans 6:13, do not present yourselves as instruments of unrighteousness, but rather as instruments of righteousness to God.
      When the heart is right, the deeds will fall into place easily.  We will do them because we love Him, not because we have to (cf. 1 John 4:19).
      UNTIL that is the motive behind our striving for righteousness, it will be inadequate.
    3. Without this you will BY NO MEANS enter the kingdom of heaven.
      Matthew 25:41, 46 pictures a judgment scene where those who did not do good things for other will face eternal condemnation.
      Matthew 7:21-23 also illustrates this as Jesus equated our eternal salvation with more than mere actions, but complete obedience.
      1 Corinthians 6:9-11 warns that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.


And thus we contrast the righteousness of the Pharisees (and that of many even today) with that which is pleasing to God.   Is it important that we be righteous? Absolutely.  But it must be His righteousness that we strive for.  What about you?   Are you righteous in the site of God?  How can we help you?