Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Biblical Yardstick

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

We are justified by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone. Good works are absolutely necessary to the Christian life, not as a means of salvation, but as proof of it. A man who claims to be saved by faith but who lives an immoral life is a counterfeit believer whose future is revealed in Matthew 7:21–23.

The scribes (teachers of the Law) and the Pharisees sought salvation through the Law, seeking to justify themselves before God. Jesus said that unless our righteousness surpasses theirs, we are not true believers but hypocrites. In other words, our behavior must be more righteous than the behavior of people who have made a religion out of behavior.

If we measure the behavior of Christians against that of moralistic “Pharisees,” it sometimes appears that Christians do not measure up. This may indicate that some who claim to be Christians are not true Christians. However, it may also indicate that we are using the wrong yardstick by which to measure righteousness. Some things that our society frowns upon (like corporal punishment for children or capital punishment for murder), the Bible says are righteous. Christians are sometimes intimidated by the false morality of the secular world around them.

The biblical yardstick of righteous behavior includes our actions but looks also at our motivations and the attitude of our hearts. True good works spring from a heart of faithfulness and love toward God. This is something no “Pharisee” had. Thus, even the most feeble good work of the true believer is worth more than the heroic good works done by an unbeliever.

When we see some of the heroic deeds done by unbelievers, we can be intimidated. We need to ask why they do these deeds. If they are not acting in faith, then they are simply acting out of ego, making their own statements as heroic mini-gods. Such heroic good deeds may in the providence of God be useful to society, but they have to be regarded as evil in that they reinforce man in his sinful self-sufficiency.

Has a moralistic unbeliever or a member of some cult like the Mormons ever caused you to reconsider your lack of zeal for good works? Are you measuring yourself by their yardstick rather than by the yardstick of the Bible? Strive to deliver yourself from the bondage of false moral standards to the freedom of biblical obedience.