Pharisees, not righteous enough

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Pharisees are out with the rest of us.

In Matthew 5:20 Jesus stated, “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.”

He stated this after saying that He did not come to take away any part of the Law, but that He came to fulfill all of it.  The practical outworking of this declaration is that unless our “works of righteousness” outshine those of the Pharisees we would never qualify to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Granted, many Pharisees were corrupt but they were men who prayed often, fasted regularly, tithed faithfully and meticulously obeyed the commands of the law. What can we say about the accepted pattern of the modern day Christian who confesses Christ and appeals to grace to cover his failings?  Does he pray often?  Does he fast ever?  Does he tithe faithfully and correctly?  Is he truly a student of the scriptures?  These are the very things that Christ was laying out as requirements for entering the Kingdom of Heaven!  Certainly, He was not referring to their piety of heart, since He often exposed them as hypocrites.

Many of the Pharisees were religious in their practices but lacked a heart for God, although not all of them because Paul was devout and really believed that he was serving God before he had his conversion experience.

If we are to understand that Christ was speaking of salvation here, then however we state it, we must make it clear that no one will make it into heaven who does not maintain a strict regime of works of righteousness.

Yet how can we rightly divide this scripture with the words of Titus 3:5: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

To be fair and honest with both texts we would have to combine the two somehow.  We could state it something like this:  We do not initially receive salvation by any act of righteousness of our own, but if indeed we do receive salvation, at any given moment there must be enough practical works of righteousness manifested in our life, sufficient to out-shine any devout Pharisee, in order that we may enter the kingdom of heaven.  I would estimate that over 90% of those who confess Christ, according to His apparent qualification, would in His words, in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

No Responses to “Pharisees, not righteous enough”

  1. ToddR says:

    The way I understand the definition of the word used for righteousness used in Matthew 5:20 it means the condition acceptable to God. It does not mean the things a person does.

    • vinebrancher says:

      The bible teaches of imputed righteousness but there are also passages that reveal that God expects “works of righteousess”. All Christians have been made “the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus”. However, not all Christians walk in this righteousness and God does make a distinction bettween those who do and those who don’t. I will cover this in future posts.
      Thanks Todd for your input.

  2. ToddR says:

    Would that mean a person who became “saved” and never had a chance to do work of righteousness would not be saved? And what kind and how many works of righteousness must one do to be saved? Oliver B Green said we don’t do good works to be saved. We do good works because we are saved. I agree with him.

    • vinebrancher says:

      We do good works because we are saved, I agree. The doubt is how much is enough if we are going to involve any type of human performance (which I don’t think we should) in salvation we had better establish clear boundarys defining the minimal point. This is not to suggest that we are encouraging minimal Christianity but if we hope to establish any “real” definition of what saves us, we have to know where the line is.
      Since I don’t believe that is possible, I reject works whether few or many, small or great, as a basis for salvation.

  3. Mike Hatcer says:

    Love your argument and your logic. It’s interesting that this is such a hurdle for most believers. I find it interesting that this type of discussion gets so quickly heated when discussing it with “mature” believers too. Blessings.

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