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Matthew 5:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Except your righteousness shall exceed - περισσευση, Unless your righteousness abound more - unless it take in, not only the letter, but the spirit and design of the moral and ritual precept; the one directing you how to walk so as to please God; the other pointing out Christ, the great Atonement, through and by which a sinner is enabled to do so - more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, who only attend to the letter of the law, and had indeed made even that of no effect by their traditions - ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This fully explains the meaning of the preceding verse. The old English word is right-wiseness, i.e. complete, thorough, excellent Wisdom. For a full explanation of this verse, see Luke 18:10, etc.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Your righteousness - Your holiness; your views of the nature of righteousness, and your conduct and lives. Unless you are more holy than they are, you cannot be saved.

Shall exceed - Shall excel, or abound more. The righteousness of true Christians is seated in the heart, and is therefore genuine. Jesus means that unless they had more real holiness of character than the scribes and Pharisees, they could not be saved.

The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees - See the notes at Matthew 3:7. Their righteousness consisted in outward observances of the ceremonial and traditional law. They offered sacrifices, fasted often. prayed much, were punctilious about ablutions, and tithes, and the ceremonies of religion, but neglected justice, truth, purity, and holiness of heart. See Matthew 3:2. Shall not be a suitable subject of his kingdom here, or saved in the world to come.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Let none suppose that Christ allows his people to trifle with any commands of God's holy law. No sinner partakes of Christ's justifying righteousness, till he repents of his evil deeds. The mercy revealed in the gospel leads the believer to still deeper self-abhorrence. The law is the Christian's rule of duty, and he delights therein. If a man, pretending to be Christ's disciple, encourages himself in any allowed disobedience to the holy law of God, or teaches others to do the same, whatever his station or reputation among men may be, he can be no true disciple. Christ's righteousness, imputed to us by faith alone, is needed by every one that enters the kingdom of grace or of glory; but the new creation of the heart to holiness, produces a thorough change in a man's temper and conduct.
Ellen G. White
Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 53-5

The scribes and Pharisees had accused not only Christ but His disciples as sinners because of their disregard of the rabbinical rites and observances. Often the disciples had been perplexed and troubled by censure and accusation from those whom they had been accustomed to revere as religious teachers. Jesus unveiled the deception. He declared that the righteousness upon which the Pharisees set so great value was worthless. The Jewish nation had claimed to be the special, loyal people who were favored of God; but Christ represented their religion as devoid of saving faith. All their pretensions of piety, their human inventions and ceremonies, and even their boasted performance of the outward requirements of the law, could not avail to make them holy. They were not pure in heart or noble and Christlike in character. MB 53.1

A legal religion is insufficient to bring the soul into harmony with God. The hard, rigid orthodoxy of the Pharisees, destitute of contrition, tenderness, or love, was only a stumbling block to sinners. They were like the salt that had lost its savor; for their influence had no power to preserve the world from corruption. The only true faith is that which “worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6) to purify the soul. It is as leaven that transforms the character. MB 53.2

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 239.5

The converting power of God must come to every soul who has any connection with the work and cause of God that each one may be filled with the love and compassion of Christ or many will never see the kingdom of heaven.—Manuscript 62, August 18, 1894, “Home Missionary Work.” TDG 239.5

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 114

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20. TMK 114.1

The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was of a selfish character, consisting of external forms. The righteousness which God requires is internal as well as external. The heart must be purified, else Christ cannot be enthroned there. The life must be conformed to the will of God.26 TMK 114.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 158

Wrong Ideas About the Marriage Relation—Dr. Q, your mind has not been healthfully exercised at all times, since you came to the Health Retreat. Your ideas in regard to the marriage relation have been erroneous. Nothing but the violation of the marriage bed can either break or annul the marriage vow. We are living in perilous times, when there is no assurance in anything, save in firm, unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. There is no heart that may not be estranged from God through the devices of Satan, if one does not watch unto prayer. TSB 158.1

Your health would have been in a far better condition had your mind been at peace and rest; but it became confused and unbalanced, and you reasoned incorrectly in regard to the matter of divorce. Your views cannot be sustained on the ground from which you reason. Men are not at liberty to make a standard of law for themselves to avoid God's law, and please their own inclination. They must come to God's great moral standard of righteousness. TSB 158.2

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