Matthew 5:20 (KJV) “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.”
The word righteousness means “holy or upright living.” In this passage Jesus used the outward righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees as a way of communicating to us the degree of righteousness required by anyone who claims to be on their way to Heaven. The scribes were men who copied the Law and interpreted the Law. They were perhaps the most educated men in the Old Testament. The Pharisees on the other hand were of the strictest religious order of Bible times. These men were “straight arrows.” And the point I believe that Jesus was saying, is that if any man expected to go to Heaven, they were going to need a righteousness that exceeds even the righteousness that the scribes and the Pharisees exhibited. There is a need for exceeding righteousness. A person must have a righteousness that is genuine and it must be something better than than just outward acts of kindness or goodness.
The Bible is not silent concerning our own righteousness. In Isaiah 64:6 the Bible says: “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.” This is what the Bible says about our very own righteousness. This is talking about you and me. So many people think they are OK, when the Bible describes our very own righteousnesses as “filthy rags.” Romans 3:10 puts it this way: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: “ How plain is that? There is none righteous, no not one. Not one among man is righteous. We are all sinners. If that is the case, and it is, then where can we find the righteousness that is demanded by the word of God? Where may we find this exceeding righteousness?
1 Corinthians 5:21 answers this for us: “For He (God) hath made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God.” It is through the Lord Jesus Christ, and His death and blood on the cross, and His resurrection that we can have the very righteousness of God applied to our souls. In other words, exceeding righteousness is found only in repenting of sin and self and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for Salvation. This verse teaches us the glorious truth that God transforms our empty and sinful account to His glorious and exceeding righteousness. As a Christian, my righteousness is literally the only one given to me by God through Christ. It is the very righteousness of God Himself. That is exceeding righteousness.
What are Christians to do with this righteousness placed upon us at Salvation? In 2 Corinthians 6:7 we are told that we have an “armor of righteousness.” The Bible says: “By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,” This means that we are to put on our righteousness every day. We are to live righteously in an ungodly world (see Titus 2:12). Today it seems that many Christians, or professing Christians, are doing away with their armor of righteousness. It may not seem significant to live righteously every day, but it does matter. It matters the most to God. Since He is the one who gave us our righteousness, we can guarantee it that He desires for us to use it every day. Old Bob Jones Sr. use to say: “Do right.” And how simple and practical and important that little sanctified common sense is, and yet how neglected is that from the average Christian’s conduct. The Bible puts it another way in Romans 6:13 “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Christians, genuine Christians that is, have the power to do what is right and be pleasing unto God. As Pastor Chris pointed out in his sermon last Sunday…it is only a matter of yielding. To whom are you yielding your members as servants to obey? God gave us exceeding righteousness, let us apply that righteousness and let it permeate every area of our lives. Doing what is right matters for two reasons, at least this is what I think of, I am sure there are more, but first of all for the glory of God, and secondly, souls are in the balance.