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Matthew 5:20 – BibleTools.info

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Matthew 5:20

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.
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.

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
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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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, 193

The love of Christ reaches to the very depths of earthly misery and woe, or it would not meet the case of the veriest sinner. It also reaches to the throne of the Eternal, or man could not be lifted from his degraded condition, and our necessities would not be met, our desires would not be satisfied. Christ has led the way from earth to heaven. He forms the connecting link between the two worlds. He brings the love and condescension of God to man, and brings man up through His merits to meet the reconciliation of God. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. It is hard work to follow on, step by step, painfully and slowly, onward and upward, in the path of purity and holiness. But Christ has made ample provision to impart new vigor and divine strength at every advance step in the divine life. This is the knowledge and experience that the hands in the office all want, and must have, or they daily bring reproach upon the cause of Christ. 3T 193.1

Brother G is making a mistake in his life. He puts too high an estimate upon himself. He has not commenced to build in a right way to make a success of life. He is building at the top, but the foundation is not laid right. The foundation must be laid underground, and then the building can go up. He needs a discipline and experience in the everyday duties of life which the sciences will not give; all his education will not give him physical exercise to become inured to the hardships of life. 3T 193.2

From what has been shown me, there should be a careful selection of help in the office. The young and untried and unconsecrated should not be placed there, for they are exposed to temptations and have not fixed characters. Those who have formed their characters, who have fixed principles, and who have the truth of God in the heart will not be a constant source of care and anxiety, but rather helps and blessings. The office of publication is amply able to make arrangements to secure good helpers, those who have ability and principle. And the church, in their turn, should not seek to advantage themselves one penny from those who come to the office to labor and learn their trade. There are positions where some can earn better wages than at the office, but they can never find a position more important, more honorable, or more exalted than the work of God in the office. Those who labor faithfully and unselfishly will be rewarded. For them there is a crown of glory prepared, compared with which all earthly honors and pleasures are as the small dust of the balance. Especially will those be blessed who have been faithful to God in watching over the spiritual welfare of others in the office. Pecuniary and temporal interests, in comparison with this, sink into insignificance. In one scale is gold dust; in the other, a human soul of such value that honor, riches, and glory have been sacrificed by the Son of God to ransom it from the bondage of sin and hopeless despair. The soul is of infinite value and demands the utmost attention. Every man who fears God in that office should put away childish and vain things, and, with true moral courage, stand erect in the dignity of his manhood, shunning low familiarity, yet binding heart to heart in the bond of Christian interest and love. Hearts yearn for sympathy and love, and are as much refreshed and strengthened by them as flowers are by showers and sunshine. 3T 193.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 309-10

The rabbis counted their righteousness a passport to heaven; but Jesus declared it to be insufficient and unworthy. External ceremonies and a theoretical knowledge of truth constituted Pharisaical righteousness. The rabbis claimed to be holy through their own efforts in keeping the law; but their works had divorced righteousness from religion. While they were punctilious in ritual observances, their lives were immoral and debased. Their so-called righteousness could never enter the kingdom of heaven. DA 309.1

The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ's day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jealous regard for what is termed theological truth often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life. The darkest chapters of history are burdened with the record of crimes committed by bigoted religionists. The Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham, and boasted of their possession of the oracles of God; yet these advantages did not preserve them from selfishness, malignity, greed for gain, and the basest hypocrisy. They thought themselves the greatest religionists of the world, but their so-called orthodoxy led them to crucify the Lord of glory. DA 309.2

The same danger still exists. Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological tenets. But they have not brought the truth into practical life. They have not believed and loved it, therefore they have not received the power and grace that come through sanctification of the truth. Men may profess faith in the truth; but if it does not make them sincere, kind, patient, forbearing, heavenly-minded, it is a curse to its possessors, and through their influence it is a curse to the world. DA 309.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 268-70

The Lord God of Israel is hungry for fruit. He calls upon His workers to branch out more than they are doing. He desires them to make the world their field of labor rather than to work only for our churches. The apostle Paul went from place to place, preaching the truth to those in the darkness of error. He labored for a year and six months at Corinth, and proved the divine character of his mission by raising up a flourishing church, composed of Jews and Gentiles. Christ never confined His labors to one place. The towns and cities of Palestine resounded with the truths that fell from His lips. 7T 268.1

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