Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Frankly, verse 19 has given me the most trouble of any verse in the whole NT, and it is directly attributed to Jesus! There are numbers of things in the Levitical code that haven’t been practiced by Christians since Pentecost. Jesus Himself was clear, on such issues as the Sabbath, that it was made for man, and not the other way around. (Mark 2:27). Paul was very clear that the dietary restrictions don’t apply. I find myself wondering if there is a distinction between the Law and various regulations. Here again Jesus lambasted the Pharisees for “nullifying the Word of God for the sake of tradition.” (Matthew 15:6) How much of the material on “leprosy” fits into that?
There is much I don’t know, and that I won’t until I am before the Throne, and then it won’t matter! This verse actually supplies the key, because the whole point is to serve God from our hearts and not from external rules and regulations. Jesus indeed fulfilled the sacrificial system through His death on the cross, so that is not an issue. My focus, and the focus of my teaching, has got to be on who Christ is and responding rightly to Him. That certainly means obedience, but it means far more than the nit picking of the Pharisees, and that is what Jesus is talking about here. I cannot wrap my mind around the totality of it all, so I’ve got to trust God to lead me by His Holy Spirit, because I have no other hope of getting it all right. Paul wrote about this extensively in Romans and Galatians, and I’ve got to listen to the Holy Spirit as he did.
Father, I don’t want to seek excuses not to obey, but at the same time, I fear legalism because I’ve seen the destruction it causes. Help me hear and obey You aright, and teach others to do the same. May we as a church indeed operate by the law of liberty (James 1:25), for Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Praise God!