“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.”—Matt. 5:20.
The scribes and the Pharisees of the first century were people with whom Jesus had to deal often. To me they are an interesting case study. They, like a lot of people today, were very religious; but they were also very lost.
What they had was a version of the Old Covenant faith that they had somewhat reinvented for themselves. They were sincere, but they were not Heavenbound. They were religious by their definition, but not in line with the plan of God.
Jesus acknowledged that they had religion when He said “the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.” He then indicated that what they had was not enough to get someone to Heaven. He said, “That except your righteousness shall exceed…” Indeed, what we all need is something more than what they had. Furthermore, He made clear that what they had would “in no case” work for anyone.
Were the scribes and Pharisees religious? Were they dedicated? Were they good citizens? Were they moral people? Indeed, they were all of that and probably even more. What they had they treasured, but it was not enough.
So let’s take note and take heed. Joining a church, getting baptized, taking the Lord’s Supper, going to church faithfully, etc., are not enough. Living the principles of the Christian life and being morally clean are not sufficient to make you a Christian.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Later in that chapter He said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (vs. 36).
In John 14:6, He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
In Jerusalem the apostle Peter preached, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (vs. 36).
A couple of chapters later he asserted, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (4:12).
The apostle Paul defined the faith and works issue with this: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Rom. 11:6).
When all is said and done, nothing says it better than Ephesians 2:8 and 9.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
So, dear friends, it is imperative that we be converted, born again, saved. Whatever else we have and whatever else we do cannot suffice. However treasured it may be, nothing will get you to Heaven except the salvation offered to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
“And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”—I Cor. 15:3,4.