Concerning the keeping of the commandments found in the Law and Prophets, Jesus couldn’t have made His point more forcefully. He expected His disciples to obey them. They were as important as ever. In fact, how they esteemed the commandments would determine their status in heaven: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (5:19).
Then we come to verse 20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Notice that this is not a new thought, but a concluding statement that is connected with previous verses by the conjunction for. How important is keeping the commandments? One must keep them better than the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again we see Jesus was keeping with His theme—Only the holy will inherit God’s kingdom.
Lest he contradict Christ, the disciple-making minister would never assure anyone of possessing salvation whose righteousness did not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees.