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Bible Answers: How to achieve highest level of righteousness

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“What are we to make of Mt. 5:20? Do we have to achieve ‘excessive righteousness’ in our lives in order to receive salvation?”—Devin

Let’s consider very briefly the importance of the “Law and the Prophets” to which Jesus refers in this passage (Mt. 5:17-20).
The Law of Moses was critical to establishing the identity of Israel. Based in a covenant agreement with God, the Law scripted for the Jews the details of religious practice and expectations for holy living.
The Prophets further clarified God’s demand for obedience and undivided loyalty — as well as the consequences for disobedience and faithlessness.
When Jesus said that He did not come to do away with the Law, but to fulfill “all of it,” He was alluding to the unique role He, as Messiah, would play in completing what the Law had begun.
Indeed, New Testament writers repeatedly confirmed their belief that the Messiah was prefigured in the old Law.
The Christ (Greek for “Messiah”), they declared, took the place of the ancient tabernacle (He was the earthly dwelling place of God) and the sacrificial system (He became the final and complete sacrifice for sins) and assumed the role of the perfect high priest (see a lengthy presentation of these ideas in Heb. 7-10).
For New Testament writers, Jesus was the Christ who fulfilled all that the ancient Law had anticipated from its foundation.
You and I know that we cannot keep the whole Law — its demands are utterly impossible. We are lost before we ever begin. So, how do we achieve a “righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees (the experts in the Law)?”
Simply put, we come to see that the Law was designed to point us to the One who is its fulfillment.
Our faith in Him then, and not mere rule-keeping, is what makes us righteous — or right with God (Gal.3:19-25; cf. Rom. 4:13; 5:1ff).