What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” – Romans 9:30-32, NIV
The “stumbling stone” was none other than Jesus. Because Jesus did not meet many of the Jews’ expectations for their Messiah, they rejected Him as God’s Son. Although the Jews pursued a worthy goal of honoring God, some became short-sighted and dedicated themselves more to the Law than to God. They either didn’t see—or want to believe—their Old Testament Scriptures that salvation (righteousness) comes by faith, not by human effort (Gen. 15:6).
Paul had reminded his readers earlier in chapter 9 that: 1) The Jews couldn’t earn God’s favor through their national heritage, 2) God’s ways are not bound by human ideas and plans, and 3) The Jews were responsible for rejecting Jesus as Messiah.
On the other hand, Paul explains that some Gentiles acquired God’s righteousness, but not on the basis of perfectly following the Law. Rather, their righteousness was given from God as a gift because they accepted Christ and His message.
Like the Jews in Paul’s day, it’s human nature to try and get right with God by being good. This can take many forms: faithful church attendance, church work, giving, being nice, volunteering, good sportsmanship. Although these are worthy pursuits, according to Scripture they won’t make us right with God.
Some people stumble over Christ because salvation by faith goes against all they’ve experienced and been taught. Some think because God is love He will overlook their sins. Some stumble over Christ because He asks for humility and requires obedience.
But Scripture makes it clear: There is only one way to obtain righteousness and become right with God. It boils down to accepting or rejecting God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” -John 3:36
If you haven’t placed your trust in Jesus, and the work He did for you on the cross to forgive your sins, why not do it now? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. And eternal life is at stake. Simply admit to Him your sins and ask His forgiveness. Tell Him you believe He is all He claims in the Bible. Ask Him to come into your life and indwell you through His Holy Spirit. Then follow Him by obeying His commands.