The Superior Righteousness of the Kingdom of God


According to Matt. 5:20 Jesus says that our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of which person?

To appreciate fully what Jesus is saying here, you need to understand just how "righteous" this person was. As far as the kind of righteousness the world can produce, the righteousness of the Pharisee was the greatest of all. His righteousness affected the way he wore his hair, the clothes he wore, the food he ate, the religious services he observed, the use of his money (alms and tithes), etc. Moreover, this righteousness did not affect him just on Saturdays (his day of worship); it was a 24/7 kind of righteousness. The world never produced a more "righteous" person than the Pharisee.

Yet Jesus says that the righteousness of the Pharisee is not good enough to get you into heaven: "Truly I say to you, if your righteousness does not surpass that of the Pharisees, you will never, no never enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20). If the righteousness of the Pharisee does not get him into heaven and righteousness is required for entry into heaven, who then can enter heaven?

The answer of the NT is the Christian can because he claims for himself the righteousness of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21). On the cross Jesus took our sins upon Himself and placed His righteousness upon us. Although many Baptists stop at this point, Jesus does not. After the righteous Jesus has placed His righteousness upon us, He comes to live in us. Now the righteous Jesus is living His righteous life through His followers. Unlike the righteousness of the Pharisees which is all about making them look good, the righteousness of Jesus is all about others--our relationship with God and our relationship with others. As a result, it far surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees.

HATE VS. MURDER (5:21-26)

According to Jesus the sixth commandment ("You shall not murder") focused on a person's actions. Jesus though focuses on what (5:22)?

Is it always wrong to be angry? Many psychologists teach us that if you shut down anger, you will shut down your other emotions as well. If you don't feel anger, you won't feel love either. In fact the repression of anger can lead to depression. Now God does not want that because He is the One who made emotions. Moreover, at times God Himself has gotten angry. It is true that sometimes it is wrong not to be angry. A morally perverse person will not get angry when it hears about the genocide of any race or about rape rooms used even against Arab women. Not to get angry in these instances would be a sin. According to Jesus, it is wrong to focus your anger on (1) actions or (2) people (circle one)?

How did the angry person in v. 22 show that he was angry at people?

Be careful about belitting people or sneering at other people. It is OK not to like certain movies, certain styles of clothing, certain cars, certain ways of speaking, etc. It is quite another to sneer at those whose taste differs from ours. The person we sneer at is made as much in the image of Christ as we are.

Jesus does a little twist on this subject. You would think that we should focus only on our anger. In verses 23-25 though whose anger does Jesus want us to focus on?

Worship is important; however, it is not THE most important act. According to Jesus in Matt. 5:23-25 what is even more important than worship? How valuable is your worship experience if you have somebody in your life you have not reconciled with?

In Matt. 5:23-25 the Christian is to approach the person who is angry at him in order to reconcile with him. According to Matthew 18:15-17 if somebody has wronged to you, who is supposed to approach whom?

In other words, in every case whose responsibility is it to initiate the process of reconcilation?

Why do you think that Jesus always places the burden of reconciliation upon you (for help read Philippians 2:5-8)?

It is true that you cannot always reconcile with another person. That person may not be willing to reconcile no matter what you do (Satan is an example). How does Romans 12:18 relate to this issue?

Remember the example of Jesus on the cross though when you claim that you've tried to reconcile with somebody and yet they were unwilling to reconcile. Have you tried as hard as Jesus tried--on the cross?

In verses 25-26 Jesus gives us another motivation for reconciling with other people. What motivation does He give us in these 2 verses?


According to Jesus the seventh commandment ("You shall not commit adultery") focused on a person's actions. Jesus though focuses on what (5:27-28)?

According to verses 29-31 how serious is Jesus about this issue of committing adultery?

In verses 29-31 Jesus is not speaking literally. In the past men have actually cut off a limb or plucked out an eye in order to keep from lusting, only to find out that they still lust. Rather Jesus is using a common feature of language called "hyperbole." Hyperbole involves using exaggerated language in order to make a point. Because Jesus does not literally want you to pluck out your eye does not mean He is not serious about this. He uses hyperbole to stress to you and me that He is serious about this.

One area of adultery/lust is that of divorce. In v. 31 Jesus is alluding to the Mosaic practice of giving a woman a certificate of divorce whenever a man was about to divorce his wife. The certificate of divorce did not OK divorce; rather it was for the purpose of protecting the woman. It gave her the legal right to marry someone else (about the only protection a woman had in the ancient world.

According to Jesus if a man divorces his wife, what is he guilty of (Matt. 19:9)?

What is the one exception Jesus to this principle?

Would cybersex and/or pornography be an example of this kind of exception?

Do you think that Jesus means this is the only exception or that He is saying there are legitimate exceptions to this rule? For example, if a woman is being physically abused, do you believe that Jesus would OK her to divorce and remarry?

Every individual and every Christian has to decide for themselves under the Lord what this means. It does not though give people the right to open Pandora's Box and sanction divorce based on every whim--"can't get along," etc. To be safe, it is best to hold to the principle Jesus laid down, that we are not to initiate divorce proceedings except in the case of immorality.

Divorce does not simply affect the person initiating the divorce. What happens to the person who did not initiate the divorce (5:32)?

What happens to the person who marries a divorced person (5:32)?

Notice that Jesus is addressing God's people, the Jews. He is not dealing with the issue of a non-Christian married to a Christian. What is Paul's teaching on this issue (1 Cor. 7:12-16)?

Why is this issue so important? Read Ephesians 5:21-33. According to Paul the relationship between a husband and wife should reflect the relationship between Christ and the ________________ (Eph. 5:32). Your relationship with your spouse is one of the most powerful tools Jesus has to show the world His love for the church, and the love and submission of the church to Christ. Christ has a lot at stake in your marriage.