And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
You are those who justify yourselves. The Pharisees, although good and God-fearing, were also self-righteous hypocrites.
It would have been understandable for any Pharisee to have a high opinion of themselves because they were more devout and law-abiding than others. If our righteousness was based on the comparative performance of others, the Pharisees would have been the most righteous people around. But Jesus was not impressed (Matt. 5:20). Because he loved the Pharisees and didn’t want to see them lost, he spoke harshly to them about their self-righteousness (see entry for Luke 18:9).
“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.
(a) The Law refers to the Law of Moses, the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.
(b) The gospel revealed in the Bible goes by several names. There is the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1) or the gospel of Christ (Rom. 15:19, 1 Cor. 9:12, 2 Cor. 2:12, 9:13, 10:14, Gal. 1:7, Php. 1:27, 1 Th. 3:2). There is the gospel of God (Mark 1:14, Rom 1:1, 15:16, 2 Cor. 11:7, 1 Th. 2:2, 8, 9, 1 Pet. 4:17), gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim. 1:11), and the gospel of his Son (Rom 1:9). There is the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Luke 16:16), and the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). These are different labels for the one and only gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). See entry for The Gospel.
“But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.
(a) Heaven and earth. Some believe the “heaven and earth” phrase refers to the temple, the earthly habitat of the heavenly God. If so, Jesus is prophesying its destruction, an event which came to pass in AD70 long after he had fulfilled the law. Alternatively, Jesus is employing a figure of speech as in, “heaven and earth are more likely to pass away that my words fail to come true.” See entry for Matt. 5:18.
(b) The Law; see previous verse.
The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.