Friday, August 19, 2022

Beware of Hypocrisy (Matthew 5)

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addressed them as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” All Christians are called to be holy. God sets us apart by His Holy Spirit and enables us to conform to the image of Christ in holiness and righteousness. We bring glory to our Father in heaven when we submit to His ways and grow in holiness. The person who follows God’s ways in Christ pleases Him.

Yet this righteousness and holiness must not be merely external conformity, it must flow from a heart that loves God and serves Him in sincere devotion. When Ralph Cudworth spoke to his congregation about holiness, he said, “I do not mean by holiness the mere performance of outward duties of religion, coldly acted over, as a task; but our habitual prayings, hearings, fastings, multiplied one upon another (though these be all good, as subservient to a higher end); but I mean an inward soul and principle of divine life (Rom. 8:1–2), that spiriteth all these.”

Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. While we exceed their righteousness in one way through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, we are also to exceed their righteousness in our daily lives. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they were hypocrites. They conformed to the law outwardly, but their hearts were dead. They kept the letter of the law but not the spirit. True holiness involves not only the outward conformity to God’s law, but an inward conformity. Jesus emphasized this by stressing that adultery went beyond the act, that lust in the heart was also adultery. He said anyone who is angry with his brother has committed murder, thus undercutting the Pharisees confidence that they had kept that commandment. Our obedience must exceed the Pharisees by reaching to the heart, by bringing the truth of God to the inward parts.

In your pursuit of holiness, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Guard against the tendency to fulfill the outward duties of the law, without having the grace of mercy and love in your soul. Be holy in your heart and in your duties.

How have you “neglected the more important matters of the law” in your life (Matt. 23:23)? Name one area that you would like to improve upon (i.e. tithing, praying, etc). Commit it to God and make a conscious effort to please God in that area by exhibiting authentic righteousness.