For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20.
Many people have misunderstood what it means to be righteous before God. However, God is concerned with the state of our hearts. Matthew 5:20 is a well-known Bible verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was criticizing the Pharisees’ understanding of righteousness.
Although the Pharisees strictly followed the law on the outside, they did not have a proper inner attitude toward the law in their hearts. People perform religious acts and consider themselves righteous, but this is not the righteousness that appeals to God. God desires that we rely on his grace for righteousness rather than our actions and strength.
This article will explain the significance of Matthew 5:20. It will demonstrate how others interpret the verse and how you can apply it in your own life. Continue reading to learn more about the context of the verse.
How people interpret Matthew 5:20
Matthew 5:20 is part of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. Many people have misinterpreted this teaching. Most believers take it at face value, believing that if they strictly follow the teachings, they will see the Kingdom of Heaven. However, this is not the point of this entire lesson.
Outward righteousness, or being righteous by performing certain religious acts, is specifically mentioned in Matthew 5:20. Because of their strict adherence to the Mosaic laws, the Pharisees were regarded as the holier-than-thou group of people during Jesus’ time. They were doing it on their own, without the help of God. Many people interpret Matthew 5:20 to mean that if you diligently practice religious acts, you will be righteous and enter God’s kingdom.
However, theologians believe righteousness comes only through faith and belief in Christ Jesus; no matter how many good acts you perform, they are meaningless without Jesus. The Bible clearly states in 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus Christ is our righteousness. The standard of righteousness is Christ. Only through Him can we be considered righteous.
Bible scholars have interpreted this verse to mean that we must have a superior righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we gain righteousness through faith. According to 1 John 2:1, My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense, Jesus Christ, the righteous one. Christ is the righteous one. The Pharisees are seen to have righteousness due to their moral uprightness. Scholars believe righteousness can only be obtained through salvation and faith in Jesus. If Jesus is not at the center, no amount of good work will get you to heaven.
The context of Matthew 5:20
This verse’s deeper true meaning is embedded in the verses that precede it. Matthew 5:20 is a quotation from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was preaching to the large crowds that followed him from city to city, attempting to explain the essence of following Him and what believers were expected to do.
In verses Matthew 5:11, Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Jesus addresses those willing to follow Him wholeheartedly and do His will regardless of the consequences. The verses preceding Matthew 5:20 accurately reflect the context of this verse; Jesus was teaching how to walk the Christian walk and what it meant to follow Christ and live a life radiating His righteousness as the salt and light of the world.
The meaning of Mathew 5:20
In this verse, Jesus teaches us how to live a righteous life and have a relationship with God. God expects us to be completely reliant on Him. No one is righteous; in fact, the Bible says in Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. Only Jesus is Holy, and we must rely on Him to be considered righteous.
Matthew 5:20 teaches us how to live holy lives as God’s children. It emphasizes the importance of believing in Jesus by faith to be redeemed and gain righteousness. It teaches that good works do not equal righteousness in God’s eyes. God examines the state of our hearts. When we accept Jesus Christ as our savior, we begin the work and transformation of our hearts.
Matthew 5:20 demonstrates that salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ. According to John 14:6 which says, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, nobody can see the kingdom of heaven unless they first accept Jesus. Jesus also refers to Christians as His representatives on earth, referring to us as the Salt and Light of the world, implying that people can only see evidence of Jesus in us once we accept Him by faith.
This verse is powerful because it depicts what it means to be righteous before God. It is not through morally upright actions but through God’s grace once we accept Him. Jesus Christ became sin for us to be considered His righteousness, which is done through faith, not good works. The Pharisees took it out of context, which is why Jesus emphasizes the need to have a righteousness that surpasses the scribes, as theirs was a self-reliant righteousness.
Closing Thoughts on the Meaning of Matthew 5:20
Matthew 5:20 is a textbook example of righteous living. It discusses our inability to be redeemed from sin and achieve righteousness through our efforts. It solidifies Jesus Christ as the moral standard. God’s righteousness is obtained by relying entirely on salvation’s grace. Many of us have bought into the myth that righteousness and salvation are obtained through good works. This, however, is not the case. We can only achieve righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.