Troublesome Topic: Righteousness/Holiness

Lesson 8 of 15

The New Covenant had much to say about righteousness. It is the most predominant theme in the Sermon on the Mount because the thread that runs through the entire discourse has to do with what kind of righteousness God desires. He is looking for a righteousness that is from the heart, not just on the outside.

Matthew 5:20


For I say to you, that if your righteousness is not in excess above that of the Scribes

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and Pharisees,

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you shall no not

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enter into the kingdom of the heavens.

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Listen to what I am about to say: if your righteous living is not greater than that of

those know-it-alls who interpret and teach the Law in light of the writings of many Jewish scholars, and those arrogant, pompous, self-important peacocks who focus on outward demonstrations of how well they follow every little rule or tradition, you will definitely not be allowed to enter the kingdom of God.

Stop and think about the reaction those words must have drawn from the disciples and common people listening to Jesus that day. Most of them probably thought, “What? No way! How can we be more righteous than the Pharisees? That’s impossible. I wouldn’t even want to try to be more righteous than they are.” This reaction would demonstrate that most people looked at outward, visible evidence of holiness rather than looking at the heart. Through the course of this discourse the truth Jesus was communicating would have slowly sunk in, namely, that He was not talking about outward holiness. What a relief! The common people finally realized that they did not have to compete with the Pharisees in order to be considered holy by God.

Matthew 6:1


Beware to not carry out

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your righteousness before men in order to be seen by them, otherwise you will have no reward in the presence

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of your Father who is in the heavens.


Be careful to refrain from doing righteous-looking actions in full view of others just to be seen by them,

for if you are not careful to refrain from this, you will not be rewarded when you stand in the presence of your Father who is in heaven.

I consider the two verses given above to be the best summary of the message of the entire Sermon on the Mount. They demonstrate that the only righteousness God will accept is righteousness of the heart; He wants no part of hollow, self-aggrandizing, external displays.

The next lesson in all three series on Covenants is: Mercy/Compassion



Originally the scribes were only copyists who reproduced copies of scrolls. Later they became interpreters of the text who taught people what the text meant. They began to also study and teach many of the writings of various Hebrew scholars, thus going well beyond what was taught in the Torah itself.


The name “Pharisees” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to separate” because they stood out from the rest of the people by how strictly they observed the requirements of many traditions created by men. Jesus came down hard on them because they had added so much to the Law, and they judged others for not being as careful as they were about these additional rules.


Double negatives are not allowed in English, but they are in some other languages, including Greek. Here the double negative serves to provide greater emphasis.


The phrase “kingdom of Heaven” was synonymous of “kingdom of God.” Why would one make such a substitution? The Jews had (and still have) such high regard for the name of God that they would not pronounce the most revered name of God but would always substitute the name Adonai. There were other ways that they used to show high respect for the name of God. This is another example of the same. Therefore by substituting something like heaven in place of one of the names of God they were actually showing greater honor to that name than if they had just used the name itself.

“Heavens” is plural because the writer was a Hebrew who happened to be writing in Greek but thinking in Hebrew. There are some nouns in Hebrew that only appear in a plural form and heaven is one of them.


The verb I have rendered as “carry out” can mean “to do, to make, to perform, to build, to carry out, to act, to produce,” etc. It is focused on action that produces a result.


When this preposition is used in conjunction with a dative noun, as it is here, it does not mean “from” but “with, or in the presence of.” The latter makes the most sense in this situation.