Jesus said, “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete… Unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the [religious teachers] and the [religious extremists], you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”1
In the same passage, Jesus also said:
For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the Torah, until all things are accomplished. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven”.2
In other words, every command in the Torah matters. The religious teachers of Jesus’ days understood this and further encapsulated the commands into oral traditions to help them keep the command. They were the masters at legalistically obeying those commands.
But no matter how good those religious teachers are, Jesus explicitly said that our righteousness needs to far exceed that of the religious teachers and the religious extremists. He meant this literally. We are each accountable for every command in the Torah and will be judged for how we measure up to them. And we need to be better than those religious teachers. If our righteousness does not exceed theirs, then we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. No “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts.” Full stop. This makes sense that there is no other way into Heaven, because God is holy. Being religious on the outside does not make us holy in God’s eyes. The performance of religious deeds, no matter how perfect, does not transform our heart. Only the love of God can transform our heart.
And this is why I believe that salvation can only come by grace alone.
Jesus’ righteousness far exceeds those of the religious teachers and religious extremists. When we accepted Jesus as our Saviour and LORD—through his death on the cross—Jesus’ righteousness subsumed ours and we are made righteous in heaven’s view. God does not consider our sin anymore, but instead Jesus’ righteousness engulfed us so completely that Jesus’ righteousness becomes ours. And because of this, we will “enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The ultimate blessing of salvation can be had freely through accepting Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins.