SOTM – EXCEED THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES

“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19-20)

People seem to have a measure towards sin. We hear the term “white lie” and others stating that some sin does not bear the same weight as others. When we look at the translation for the word annul in the Greek its meaning is to loosen, put off or dissolve. When we loosen the truth of a law, when we put off the truth that it is disobedient to God’s Word, and dissolve the truth that sin leads to the wage of death, then we have dismissed the famous verse that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:26) This is the truth that there is no measure to sin, as all sin bears the same weight upon our eternal destination. We have been told by the half-brother of Jesus James that if we strive to keep the commandments that we feel are necessary and excuse the ones we wish to hang onto it is the same as if we broke all the commandments of God. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)

People also have a tendency to try to pull others into their own dismissal of commandments so they can put forth the argument that others are violating it as well. We often hear our children say, “But Johnny does it why can’t I?” But this does not make it right and it does not make it acceptable. Driving on the wrong side of the road is deadly.

If we as followers of Jesus Christ teach His word and commandments to others and do not practice them in our own lives, then we have made a mockery of God and His Word. They have destroyed their testimony, lost the trust of their disciples, and made God a lair. Jesus is telling us that this lacking of true conviction carries consequence in the coming Kingdom of Heaven. The false teacher has forfeited his position in that Kingdom. He will find himself as the least among the saints. I have heard many say they will just be satisfied to get there but do they really want to forfeit their privileges for eternity. If one is to teach the truth of God’s Word then give it proof and live in God’s Word. The one who teaches the truth of God’s Word is held to a higher accountability. “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1) Walk the talk and you will be great in His Kingdom.

As Christian followers we have the privilege to be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, filled with its spiritual rewards and benefits that we in our finite minds cannot imagine. That being said it is as we have always heard we are in this world but not of the world. If we are not of this realm and not of the kingdom of the world, then we should live as we are citizens of the Kingdom we are bound to. While we labor to bring in to the fold the sin sick of this world we also eagerly await the coming of our Savior. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)

The intention of the law was to reveal the sin nature in man. To provide for man a standard of righteous living in unison with the Word of God. The law shows were we fall short that we may confess and repent to find forgiveness. The law was not a way that man could be saved but a measure to show man that he needed to be saved from his sinful ways. “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20) It is not possible for a man to be completely obedient to the law of God for we all fall way short of His glory. God knew this for we are but men and of His creation. Adam fell even as he did not have a sinful nature but was tempted with twisted truths from that serpent of old. Through the Son of God, Jesus, God has provided a way to the perfect relationship that man can have with his Creator can be restored. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4) Through the righteousness of Jesus we are free from the wages of our sin and not bound by our trespasses of the law.

The Pharisees missed it! They strived to be obedient to the law and even created more laws for their followers to follow. To them it was a physical relationship lived for their on self-pride and outward appearances. It was they who divided the law into greater and lesser distinctions because they themselves could not keep the law. If the lesser law was violated then the penalty was trivial to the full wage of sin. Jesus had harsh words for this attitude of the Pharisees. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 10:10) The Pharisees missed the point of the full purpose of the law of God. It was all very physical for them but they missed the spiritual implications that we are not on a physical journey but a spiritual one.

Man is born in sin and man will sin. Even a blameless man will sin. We all stumble as we travel through this world. There are those who throw up their hands in hopelessness and surrender to what they believe to be inevitable. There are those who believe that they are good enough by their judgment of those who live around them and across the world. Surely a God of love will not punish me as He would others who are so much more evil. The measure of our righteousness is not that of our neighbor but that of our Lord. How is our righteous living compared to the righteousness of Jesus? God is a just God and no evil shall enter into His Kingdom. No man can on his own achievement as, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

There is only one way, one path, one cross that bridges us in the world to our home in the Kingdom of Heaven, and that is through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ our only Savior the “Lamb of God.” He came into the world and lived a righteous life obedient to the will of His Heavenly Father. He willingly sacrificed Himself on the cross of Calvary to pay the wage of our sin. He shed His holy blood and died that we might live through Him. He rose from the grave to secure our victory over death that we through Him might have eternal life in His Kingdom. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

We must at all times be mindful of ourselves in relationship to the word of the Holy Spirit within us. “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:28) Who is renewing our minds and bringing us into a perfect union with the righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are sealed by His presence that on that day we shall be amongst the number. We are growing nearer to God by our growth in the work of His Spirit. “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” (1 Peter 1:2)

We must not be as the Pharisees were and know that the spirit of the law of God matters most. When we examine ourselves it is the intentions of our thoughts and actions that will lead us to obedience in the law. The true purpose of the law of God is to bring us into a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 3, 2016

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