MATHEW 5: 17-20
In this chapter of the book of Mathew, Jesus speaks about the law (given by Moses) and righteousness. Here we read;
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever
does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 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." Mat. 5: 17-20
The first part of these verses tell us that the purpose of Jesus' coming was not annul or make obsolete the law of Moses, but to fulfill it, or to complete it. Jesus did that by obeying the law perfectly. His coming and giving us the new covenant was a fulfillment of those things and to give us salvation by faith which the law did not provide. This is further shown to us in the book of Galations;
"What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in
Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." Gal. 3:19-25
We see here it says the law was given because of mans transgressions, because at time the law was all the people had for guidance. Jesus was not with them at the time of the giving of the law. When He (the seed) came, it was His coming that fulfilled the old covenant of the law.
Also, in the later verses of this chapter, Jesus says "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." ?
How can we be more righteous than the Scribes and Pharisees? To answer this we must have some understanding of who the Scribes and Pharisees were. These were the religious leaders at that time. They were held of high esteem within the people of the Israelites. They taught and upheld the Law of Moses. They gave direction to the people concerning all issues of Law and were supposed to be the ones who kept the spirituality of the church intact. However, many times we see in the New Testament that Jesus rebuked the actions of these religious leaders. Why? Because they took their position of authority and twisted it to their own advantage. Their focus was building up their own greatness. In chapter 23 of Mathew, Jesus says to them;
"Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." Mat. 23:28
We see even today, there are many preachers and professed 'Christians' that seem to show appearance of their righteousness but inwardly, they are living a hypocritical life. They do their 'deeds' for show. But as the Lord's word says, "They have their reward in full." So it is this teaching Jesus is speaking about; being righteous for the right reasons and with the right intent. When He says 'our deeds must exceed those of the Scribes and Pharisees', this will allow us to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.