Firstly, what does righteousness mean? It means to be in right standing with God as a result of Jesus being made sin for us, dying on the cross for us and our acceptance of Him and His work for us makes us accepted as righteous before God – 2 Corinthians 5:21
All have sinned – Romans 3:23 – but we cannot by our own strength be righteous before God – Isaiah 64:6 – because they are like filthy rags before Him. Our Adamic nature makes it impossible for us to be righteous apart from God – Romans 9:30.
So, what does the topic mean? Dimension and dynamics of righteousness has to do with the different angles or measurements of righteousness and the action or activities associated with it. Jesus made us to understand that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees – Matthew 5:20 – which was steeped in self-righteousness due to their knowledge of the law, their obedience to the oral tradition of the Jews and the Mosaic law, and their ability to measure up even the minutest details of the law, like tithes of herbs like mint etc. – Matthew 23:23-24.
In today’s world, a lot of people are more concerned with the doctrines and traditions of the Church they attend than what the Word of God is saying – Matthew 15:1-9 and Mark 7:1-13. Just as Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because their oral traditions were more important to them than the Word of God, how much more we who are under grace are upsetting God by adhering to dead traditions, doctrines and laws that are devoid of life, do not bring us closer to God and cause us to know God less, become self-righteous and hypocritical.
A classic example of self-righteousness as exhibited by the Pharisees is seen in Luke 18:9-14. A Pharisee and a Publican went into the temple to pray. Whilst the Pharisee was extolling his own good works and debunking the so called “evils” of others before God, the Publican saw himself as he really was and as human beings really are: sinners and unable to be clean apart from God. The Publican was the one justified before God and God expects us to realise our hopelessness without Him.
What are the manifestations of the righteousness of the Pharisees?
1) “Do as I say, not as I do” – Matthew 23:1-4 – The Pharisees put yokes and heavy burdens on others which they themselves cannot and will not carry. As Christians, we should not put expectations on people that we ourselves are not willing to meet. Calling Jesus “Lord lord” doesn’t mean anything if we are disobedient to God`s will – Matthew 7:21 – It is the doers of the Word that are justified. We might fill ourselves with God`s Word, quote it, speak it but if we don’t obey it, we are self-righteous – Romans 2:13 and James 1:22. Don`t do things to get man`s applause and don’t work in eye-service to be seen by others – Matthew 23:5-7 and Matthew 6:1-8.
2) Those who neglect some aspects of God`s Law – Matthew 23:23-24. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for majoring on minor issues. We cannot pick and choose the aspects of the Word of God to accept and obey and those to ignore or push aside.
3) They are lovers of money – what you love, you cannot easily give out but what you do not love, you can easily give out. Those who love money cannot give to God or others. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 – The love of money is the root of all evil and can become a snare to those who love it. The Bible clearly states that we cannot serve God and Mammon – Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13. Pharisees are only after what they can gain to feed their own desires – Philippians 3:18-19 – and they do not care about those who are in lack – James 2:14-17. Pharisees are worldly and think that they are better than others because of their wealth and status. I John 2:15-17 warns against worldliness. The standards of the world are not of God. A worldly person can never be righteous. The lust of the things of the world can cause one to become self-righteous. When we depend on the righteousness of God, pursue after righteousness by having a living relationship with Christ, obey the Word of God by being separated from the world; we will give glory to God with our lives as He has always intended.
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