Perry Duggar |

In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus says He came to fulfill God's laws, not to get rid of them. He teaches that people must follow God's laws and have greater righteousness than the teachers of the law to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus at the Center of the Kingdom
Righteousness • Message 3
Perry Duggar
July 7, 2024

I. Introduction (Romans 3:20)

Continuing Jesus at the Center of the Kingdom.

A. Today’s title is Righteousness; it focuses on how to be right with God relationally.

Theme verse: Romans 3:20b (NCV)—…no one can be made right with God by following the law.

We will consider whether we must obey the law of God (His commandments in the Bible) given through Moses to be accepted by Him into His kingdom. 

All of us want to receive eternal life so we will be allowed into heaven after we die.

Some of us think we will gain God’s approval if we do more good works than bad deeds; others believe heaven is inherited by avoiding any truly terrible sins, and many assume that a good God would not deny access to heaven to anyone; after all, none of us are perfect! (Which is true!)

So, how can we be right with God?


B. Being right with God… (Matthew 5:17-20)


1. Requires fulfilling the law. (Matthew 5:17-18. C/R: Matthew 5:48; 24:35; James 2:10)


People who followed Jesus were interested in His attitude toward the law.

They had been taught by rabbis that the law was given for them to follow to become justified (righteous, same Greek word) before God through their obedience.

Their problem was that no one could satisfy the demands of Moses’ law, no one could reach the standards the Scripture set.

The religious teachers (scribes and Pharisees) declared that there were 613 laws in the Torah (1st 5 books), 248 positive and 365 negative commands (1 for each day).

There were also extensive oral traditions which applied the laws to ordinary life which also must be obeyed (compiled into 63 books of the Mishnah in 3rd century).

The common Jewish people didn’t even know all of these laws and traditions, so they could not possibly satisfy all of these demands.

These people gathered beside the Sea of Galilee hoping this man, who many believed was the Messiah, would explain God’s standards and bring them down to something they could attain.

Matthew 5:17a (NLT)“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets…” (Hebrew Scriptures).

Jesus disappointed the hearers, then said something puzzling.

Matthew 5:17b (NLT)"…No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” [Greek plērŏō - fulfill, satisfy, finish, complete] [I doubt they understood His intent at this time.]

Jesus declared that He did not come to eliminate, reduce or diminish the law, but rather, to uphold, obey, and fulfill it—all the judicial, ceremonial and moral laws.

His teaching throughout this sermon would be that God’s true standard is even higher than the Jewish rabbi’s interpretations and traditions—and this standard would be applied to every person (which I think disheartened them)!

Matthew 5:18 (NLT)"I tell you the truth [Gk. amēn, stated absolutely, with fullest authority], until heaven and earth disappear [end of earthly history], not even the smallest detail [NIV: not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen] of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” [Matthew 24:35]

The smallest letter in Hebrew is yodh and the least stroke refers to a tiny mark that differentiates between two similar letters. [KJV: jot and tittle]

Jesus was saying that no part of the Bible given by God would be removed until its purpose is achieved and life on earth as we know it ends. (John 10:35)

Every person had to obey every law perfectly to meet God’s standard (Matt.5:48).

James 2:10 (NLT)For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. [No exceptions!]

APP.: Who hasn’t broken one (today)? So we are all guilty! Is there any hope?


2. Rejects disobedience. (Matthew 5:19. C/R: Romans 6:1-2,14-16; 1 John 3:4-6; Jude 4)


Jesus knew obeying laws and traditions was not the way to be accepted into God’s kingdom (and His teaching would reveal that to these people) but He didn’t want them to make the mistake of thinking the commands of God didn’t matter.

Matthew 5:19a (NLT)“So if you ignore [Greek luō, to loose, break, disobey, annul] the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Jesus stated that citizens of His Kingdom weren’t free to ignore God’s commands and should not influence others to disobey them either. (This applies to us today!)

He knew that fallen human nature resents limitations, prohibitions and restrictions.

Jesus knew that people would disregard God’s Word in areas they disagreed with.

Some Christians today claim that, because God's grace covers every offense, every sin a believer can commit, there is no need to be concerned about holy living.

They hold on to the teaching that promises forgiveness of sins and eternity in heaven, but reject the instruction about moral matters, though the same Bible is the source of our information about all that God said and Jesus taught!

Today, some people say the Bible is outdated or irrelevant; scientifically antiquated and socially archaic—a historic document out-of-touch with modern thinking.

But the Bible is not a collection of men's religious and moral ideas, it’s God's revelation of divine truth which includes His understanding of humanity that He created; His opinions are not suggestions to consider, but instructions to obey.   

God's moral law is a reflection of His character, so it is changeless and eternal.

Scripture is given by God for people, so nothing could be more relevant to men and women than this revelation which is all-knowing and timeless.

People proclaim the privilege of determining right and wrong for themselves, particularly about matters involving their lives and bodies—which they own!

Even professing Christians will sometimes modify or lower God's standards for their moral or sexual behavior, ignoring God’s direction in this area.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NLT) Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Some Christians claim that, because God's grace covers every offense a believer can ever commit, there is no need to be concerned about righteous living.

Jesus warns us not to disobey any of God’s commands and not to influence others to disobey them; if you do, you’ll be regarded as least in the Kingdom of heaven.

We won’t lose our salvation, but will sacrifice the blessing of obeying the God we love and forfeit the respect we would receive in the Kingdom for righteous living.

Matthew 5:19b (NLT)But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

APP.: Do you want to be regarded as great in God’s Kingdom (earth and heaven)?


3. Relies on Jesus. (Matthew 5:20. C/R: Acts 13:38-39; Romans 8:3-4; Galatians 2:16)


Matthew 5:20 (NLT)“But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

This may have been Jesus’ most shocking, most discouraging, statement!

The people were intimidated by teachers and Pharisees who they saw as models of righteousness because they knew and carefully, meticulously, obeyed God’s laws.

This hillside audience was convinced they had no chance of exceeding the religious leaders in righteousness, which was precisely the point Jesus was making!

Neither these people, nor the teachers and Pharisees, nor us, can attain the level of righteousness required by God for acceptance; He requires absolute perfection!

No sin is allowed, whether committed intentionally or completely unaware of committing wrong. (God defines right and wrong. We may be oblivious.)

The law was given to show our inability to live righteous, holy, in ourselves.

Romans 3:20 (NLT)For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

The purpose of the law (commands) was not to teach us how to make ourselves acceptable to God, but rather, to reveal how utterly helpless we are in ourselves.

The law requires moral perfection, which is impossible for any person to achieve.

Galatians 2:16 (NLT) “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” [We cannot be made right with God through our own efforts!]

The righteousness God requires, He gives—through faith in His Son’s sacrifice.

Our faith is believing God supernaturally credited the perfect, holy life of Jesus to us; He received our punishment, we received His righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

When God looks at imperfect, sinful believers, He sees His perfect, sinless Son.

Acts 13:38-39 (NLT)"…We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in Him is declared right with God—something the law of Moses could never do.”

Have you trusted in Jesus by faith, so you have become right with God?

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