Matthew 5:20 – For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
This is a powerful statement by our Lord that draws a line in the sand regarding righteousness. Jesus came to establish righteousness as God intended. The Holy Spirit was sent to produce His righteousness in each one that puts their faith in the work of Christ. Titus reminds us, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The “surpassing righteousness” of which Jesus is speaking became established in the work of the cross as He bore our sins. Our Father in heaven accepts the righteousness of Christ on our behalf. A believer is accepted by God as one fully fulfilling the Law of God, and its entire requirement for dealing with the penalty of sin. The Holy Spirit raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11), and He is now given as God’s gift to all who trust Christ. He washes us, causing “regeneration” that is, He makes alive what was dead. The Holy Spirit “renews” us to the original purpose of God when He had created man.
As soon as we receive the work of Christ we are ushered into the kingdom of God. Some think that the kingdom is a future event. The Scriptures make it clear “the kingdom is now, in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). In the future, there will be a greater manifestation of God’s kingdom. Presently, each believer is to live under the reign of King Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Jesus was teaching two important principles. First, it takes a righteousness which exceeds the attempt of keeping the Law. This righteousness is connected to entering Jesus’ Kingdom. Second, in the Romans passage above, Paul teaches that we enter the kingdom by receiving the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit of God supplies the grace of righteousness and only the Spirit of God can usher us into the kingdom where Christ Jesus reigns as Lord.
Be renewed today in the righteousness of God. Let go of your own attempts to please God. Fully trust in Christ, that is in all He has done. Enjoy His kingdom rule, and walk in His righteousness through the power of His Spirit.