July 28 I Thursday
“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” —Romans 3:22
If we are absolutely honest, some of Jesus’s teachings just seem unattainable. But if we take the Word of God seriously, we will find ourselves asking, “Did Jesus really mean what He said? What do I do with this teaching because it just sounds unreasonable?”
In Jesus’s teaching on righteousness and the Law, He says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus meant every word that He said, so there is no mistake.
Jesus is calling our attention to the Law of God, which He states is timeless, eternal and in effect until all things have been accomplished for every generation in every age. There are three aspects to the Old Testament law. Firstly, there is the ceremonial law that outlines how we are to approach God. Secondly, there is the societal or constitutional law that outlines rules for orderly life that are unique to Israel as a nation. Thirdly, there is the moral law of God—the Ten commandments and other commands throughout Scripture—that outlines God’s standard. In Jesus’s time, the rabbis, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law created additional laws known as the Talmud; these were teachings that were to further explain the Old Testament laws and assist people in living a righteous life.
With Jesus’s affirmation of the Law and the righteousness of God, He shocks His listeners by saying, “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). The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were the most devout members of Israelite society; they were relentless in their adherence to God’s command. What is Jesus’s teaching here? Is He calling us to higher standards? Is He saying for people to try harder and do better? For Jesus to set the bar so high, it seems unattainable for anyone to be considered righteous.
From the opening verse of this devotion and throughout Scripture, we find that righteousness is not something that we can produce of ourselves, it is actually a gift that God gives to us when we believe what He has done for us. May we realize that our righteousness is not something we can attain by human efforts but comes only from God.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your Word that is without mistake and ever true. I am grateful that my righteousness is not gained by my obedience to the Law, but by faith in You.