Matthew 5:20

Read Introduction to Matthew


For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.


For I tell you,
This phrase in the Greek is an emphatic appeal to Jesus’ authority and ties verse 20 with verse 19.
unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,
The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was outward, ritualistic, and not from the heart. It was an external righteousness, a scrupulous legalism. They had profile and image in the eyes of the people but they did not have reality.
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus’ listeners cannot enter the Millennial kingdom with outward righteousness.
PRINCIPLE: God accepts only imputed righteousness from Christ rather than personal self-righteousness.
APPLICATION: External righteousness is not enough in Jesus’ eyes, for it is selective righteousness and superficial righteousness. Human righteousness can never match God’s righteousness.
God’s righteousness is “imputed” righteousness; that is, God puts this righteousness to our account because of Christ’s death for our sins. God puts the standard of His righteousness to our account.
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Ro 3:21-26
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Co 5:21

8 Responses to “Matthew 5:20”

  • Good. Confirmed my thoughts on this passage and cleared up the concerns I had. I liked how the extra verses at the bottom provided further clarification.

  • My righteousness better not look like the righteousness of the Pharacies because of their response to the commandments of God.

    Mark 7:8 “Ye leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.” They put their reason above God’s revelation- the sin of Adam and Eve.

    Not that they would disparage the commandments, but would feel free to modify, interpret, disregard, and enforce them to suit their taste, and for their purposes.


    The “smoking gun” or DNA evidence of their hypocritical and white-washed disobedience, and their teaching of others to do the same identifies them as from among the unredeemed.

    If we don’t see something very different in our own lives, we can also expect to be so identified by Jesus.

    Application: Don’t mess with the commandments of God, fear any personal tendency to bend the rules, lower the bar, look the other way.

    It may seem “better” to apologize than to ask permission in obtaining what I want, but such an attitude and behavior may also identify me with the Pharacies- and their same end.

  • The commentary above is much better than others I’ve read. However, it does not address the deeper message which is harder and more taxing to implement. The word exceeds in verse 20 means to go beyond the quantity off. Therefore, you must have the doing aspect (which the scribe and the Pharisees had) and the heart aspect which will be judged by God. This is what the scribes and Pharisees lacked. You need both, not one over the other.

  • Thanks for your comment William. I believe the word “exceeds” means to go beyond the legalism of the Pharisees to God-provided righteousness. This righteousness is the standard for a proper relation to God throughout the Sermon on the Mount. That is, the standard for a relationship to God is God’s own righteousness which man cannot attain on his own but must be provided by God.

  • Hello,
           Yes the Rightousness that Jesus is referring to is the righteousness of God or Christ….. Jesus is our righteousness , it is his righteousness that saves us…. when we believe on him his righteousness id transfereed to us because he paid for our sins and so he satisfied Gods anger against us … so when God the father looks at us he see's his son…. exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisee… they were very careful to do everything the law required outwardly speaking so being good enough was the measuring stick..people still use this philosophy today……. so we can't exceed that righteousness probably couldn't even match it……..

  • hello, the rightsouness of jesus is to our own account. as holy as moses was, he was dead flat b4 GOD when GOD wants to show him self to him, he was able to see GOD because HIS GLORY COVERS him, humans are nothing before GOD in rightousness. jesus is our cover, with him in our life GOD sees our rightousness.

  • The Pharisees and the scribes were the highest "Outward" standard at that time, Jesus is saying… one must even transcend this by applying divine rightousness in life.


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