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Reformation Study Bible – Matt 5:20
Matt 5:20

5:20 unless your righteousness exceeds. Jesus did not criticize the Pharisees for their strict observance of the law but for their emphasis on outward conformity to it without a proper inner attitude (ch. 23). By focusing on externals they avoided the real intent of the law and so obscured its real demands. The Qumran texts refer to the Pharisees as “seekers after smooth things” because they accommodated and compromised the law to fit the realities of life. Such accommodation removed awareness of the need for grace and dependence on God. In the following verses, Jesus restores the true nature of God’s law as demanding total and radical holiness. Jesus demands a deeper obedience, not disregard of God’s commands.