WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
AUGUST 23, 2021
TOPIC: PHARISAICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS
BY T. O. BANSO
“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” (Matthew 5:20 New King James Version).
The Bible talks about two kinds of righteousness: self-righteousness and righteousness which is of God. The apostle Paul talks about these two in Philippians 3:7-9.
Paul said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9 New King James Version).
Paul also talks thus about the two kinds of righteousness in Romans 10:3-4: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (New King James Version).
Earlier, Jesus had, during His earthly ministry talked about two kinds of righteousness: the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and the true righteousness, which is the righteousness of those who will enter the kingdom of heaven. “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” (Matthew 5:20 New King James Version).
The scribes were “members of a learned class in ancient Israel through New Testament times who studied the Scriptures and served as copyists, editors, and teachers” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary). But the Pharisees were “a religious party or school among the Jews at the time of Christ, so called from perishin, the Aramaic form of the Hebrew word perushim, ‘separated’” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary). Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary says, “The Pharisees were known for insisting that the law of God be observed as the scribes interpreted it and for their special commitment to keeping the laws of tithing and ritual purity.”
In Matthew 23:2, Jesus said that the scribes and the Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat. In other words, they were the official interpreters of the Scriptures. They regarded themselves as the epitome of righteousness. But Jesus told His listeners that they are not a good example to follow. “So practice and obey whatever they say to you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach” (Matthew 23:3 New Living Translation).
He said that anyone who would enter the kingdom of heaven, his righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.
What was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees like? Their righteousness was external. It involved the strict outward observance of the Mosaic Law and the tradition of the elders. The Pharisee in Luke 18:12 said he fasted twice in the week and gave tithes of all that he got. The Pharisees were good at the outward observance of the law, which was what they considered as righteousness.
Talking about this, Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24 New King James Version).
In Matthew 15:1-2, the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, asking why His disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands when they ate bread. Because of this, they believed that the disciples of Jesus were not righteous. But their own righteousness was only outward righteousness.
This is how Jesus answered them: “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God’ — then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition” (Matthew 15:3-6 New King James Version).
In verses 10-11, Jesus called the multitude to Himself and told them that what went into the mouth did not defile a person but what came out of the mouth. Mark 7:1-16 also records the conversation between the Pharisees and scribes and Jesus and his explanation to the multitude that what defiled came from within, not without.
In the real sense of the word, the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was not real righteousness. In the introduction to Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, Luke 18:9 says, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (New King James Version).
In this parable, the Pharisee was righteous in his own eyes. But it was the tax collector who admitted he was a sinner that went home justified. As we have seen in Matthew 5:20, to enter the kingdom of heaven one must ensure that his righteousness goes beyond that of works.
Hear Jesus again: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28 New King James Version). The scribes and Pharisees tried to look righteous to people outwardly.
Self-righteousness will save nobody. Isaiah 64:6 says we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are like filthy rags. Paul was a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5). That means he strictly observed the law and traditions of the elders. He said that concerning the righteousness which was in the law, he was blameless (Philippians 3:6). Nevertheless, he added that this and other things that were gain to him, he counted loss for Christ (verse 7).
The righteousness that will save is that of the heart, not outward. It is not self-righteousness which is like empty rags. It is not Pharisaic righteousness. To enter the kingdom of heaven, your righteousness must abound above that of the scribes and Pharisees. “For I say to you, that if your righteousness may not abound above that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye may not enter to the reign of the heavens” (Matthew 5:20 Young’s Literal Translation)
The law cannot save anyone from sin (Romans 7:13-24). Nobody can truly be righteous by keeping the law. James 2:10 says whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, is guilty of all. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous 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 New King James Version).
Ephesians 4:24 says to put on the new man, which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Take note of the phrase “true righteousness” which is the main focus of this message. True righteousness doesn’t come from the observance of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9 New King James Version).
Galatians 2:21b says if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4). With the heart, one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation (verse 10).
2 Corinthians 5:21 says God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. Because those who believe in Jesus Christ have been declared righteous, they should pursue righteousness,
godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness (1Timothy 6:11).
1 John 2:29b says everyone who practises righteousness is born of Him. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous (1 John 3:7b). Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God (verse 10b). Don’t have your own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Father, thank You for making me the righteousness of God in Christ. I will not have my own righteousness, which is from the law, but the righteousness which is from God by faith. Holy Spirit, I receive Your help to pursue and practise righteousness. I am born of God, and I shall practise righteousness in Jesus’ name.
(For over 600 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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