What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Do we attain righteousness, which by definition is :
characterized by, proceeding from, or in accordance with accepted standards of morality, justice, or uprightness; virtuous: morally justifiable or right, the quality or state of being just or rightful,
by what we do? Can we attain this defined place in self, by our own works? The early Jews believed so and attempted to follow the law. If it had been possible in our own strength to abide by the law, this righteousness would have been achieved. But it wasn’t and so the sacrificial offerings were required. This is no less true today. We are not able to achieve this status on our own, by our own works. Paul is pointing out to us that the Gentiles received this righteousness, but not through their works, since they did not have the law to follow. They received righteousness because when presented with Jesus and what he had done for us, they simply believed. They accepted his gift on faith and it was counted to them for righteousness, God’s righteousness, not their own. So Paul is saying here that if we try to achieve righteousness simply by our own good works, we will stumble over the stone, that is Christ. The mind-set that tries to achieve by doing will find it difficult to simply receive. Even in the ‘world’ of believers, working under our own strength causes confusion. We try to achieve an image of righteousness by what we do or don’t do. But it is just that; an image. Genuine righteousness that is pleasing to God is given to us, we don’t achieve it. It comes to us as a result of believing that Jesus is the Christ, that he died for our sins, that his death is an atonement we receive, that he rose from the grave alive, that he paid for our sins in full. If we believe, we have faith that all of this is true and the truth of it sets us free; free from working to achieve righteousness, free from obligation to work to pay our debt, free to live as he instructed, a life of abundance.
“the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”