January 21, 2024

Kingdom Righteousness

Matthew 5:17-20

Christ Jesus . . . has become . . . our righteousness. . . .

—  1 Corinthians 1:30

Here’s the main entrance requirement for the kingdom of God: You must have a righteousness that surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees. Well, good luck with that! The Pharisees were amazing. They kept the law of Moses better than anyone. The apostle Paul says that when he was a Pharisee, his law-based righteousness was faultless (Philippians 3:5-6). Who could possibly top that?

But could there be a different way instead of trying to do the Pharisees one better? There has to be, because Paul explains that the Pharisees’ way doesn’t work. We are all sinners, and none of us can keep the law perfectly—so none of us can claim to be righteous (see Romans 3-7).

But what if the purpose of the law was to point out our sin and show us that we need a Savior? And what if Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the law for us through his death on the cross? What greater righteousness could there be? And what if this righteousness could be ours through the gift of Jesus? What if Jesus himself is our righteousness? Well, he is. And he is the one who brings us into the kingdom!

No one enters the kingdom of God by having the best behavior, but only by having faith in the King, Jesus. That’s how the repentant tax collectors and sex workers entered the kingdom ahead of the Pharisees. Jesus was their righteousness. Now that’s good news!

Jesus, thank you for taking sin out of the way so that we can enter the kingdom of God. Help me to trust that. Amen.

About the author — Bob Arbogast

Bob Arbogast is the pastor of Celebration Fellowship church in Ionia, Michigan. In his spare time, he plays guitar in a West Michigan blues band. He and his wife Jan have been married forty years and have three adult daughters. Bob has been praying the psalms since 2002.

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