How can our righteousness exceed the Scribes and the Pharisee’s?
Mt. 5:20 "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Pharisees had invented their own system of law expanding on Moses law, thus sitting in his seat. Their laws became priority over the Law written in Scripture, and they thought of themselves as righteous because of the obedience to their own laws. Matt 15:1-3 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” He then proceeded to explain further how they disobeyed. Throughout his ministry the Pharisees (and Saducees) continued to plot how to trap entangle Him in His talk. (Matt 22:15, 34) Jesus explained that they have replaced Moses law by their own traditions enforcing the people to obey the tradition of the elders (Mk.7).
Paul explains in Rom. 9:30-32 that even the Gentiles “who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.”
Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness, the requirements of the law (Mt. 3:15 beginning with his baptism)
Paul makes it clear “For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom. 10:3-4) V.10 “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (it involves our whole being).
2 Cor. 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
As believers, our righteousness comes from Christ, it is imputed to us by what he did on the cross. The Pharisees came from their law keeping. Their main complaint was that Jesus did not keep the Sabbath. So they trusted in what they did to be justified before God.
This is how our righteousness exceeds the Pharisees. By trusting the one who came to fulfill all the law; perfectly.
It is Christ we have imputed and practical righteousness –by faith only. Phil 3:9 “ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith”
Rom. 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Rom. 3:21-22 “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. “
The Pharisees depended on their works, especially those seen to justify them. But it justified them before men, not God.
Rom. 4:5-6 “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works”
Rom. 5:17 Speaks of “those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness “ that comes by Jesus Christ.
Eph 4:24 “that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
As we allow Christ’s new nature to rule through us submitting our “members as instruments of righteousness to God (Rom 6:13), our works become acceptable because they are done in Christ (Eph.2:10)
Righteousness is both a fruit of the Spirit and part of our armor.
Eph. 5:9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), Phil 1:11
Eph. 6:14 “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
Though we have the righteousness of Christ in a legal sense we are being changed, it becomes part of our everyday life by allowing the word to change us by the instruction of the word 2 Tim.3:16
As Peter sums it up “To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: (2 Peter 1:1)