What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
From verses 24 onwards, Paul has been proving that God sent Jesus not only to save Jews, but also to save Gentiles. In fact, that has been one of his key themes throughout the whole book of Romans: that salvation is for all people, not just the Jews.
This was offensive to the Jews for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons was that they believed that the Gentiles didn't deserve God's mercy. Non-Jews did not have the law, they did not know God, they did not have the prophets or the promises. Throughout the Old Testament (OT) they hadn't been God's people. Yet Paul is saying that God had always planned to save them, and that they have been made righteous through Jesus.
The problem with the Jew's method of being righteous was that it was based on their works. They tried to obey the law completely and thought that they could achieve that goal. They wanted to be righteous and they worked hard at it, but they wanted to be righteous because of their own works. They were self-righteous, thinking that could please God by their own efforts.
In contrast, the Gentiles were 'sinners'. They did not obey the OT law, they did not submit to God and they did not worship him. They were truly unworthy. But that's the whole point of the gospel. In Mark 2:17, Jesus says:
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."Jesus came to save those who knew that they could not save themselves. He died on the cross to take the sin of everyone who would turn to him in repentance and faith. When we turn to Jesus he takes our sin and he paid for it on the cross. he suffered God's wrath which we should have suffered (if we are Christians). Not only that but Jesus rose again and proved that he had truly paid the price for us sin. He came back to life and he is in heaven with God, and he will return to Judge.
The Jews believed that they could make it on their own effort and therefore they did not attain their goal - they were proud and arrogant and rejected Jesus. The Gentiles likewise did not have any hope against a just and pure God, but they knew it because they could clearly see that they had not obeyed his law. As a result they would turn to Christ and be made righteous through faith in him. (Note: this is only general - not all Jews rejected Jesus, and not all Gentiles turned to him to be saved)
So what does this mean for us?
- We cannot please God by our own efforts. Everyone sins (Romans 3:23) and therefore we all deserve God's wrath.
- Therefore we cannot trust in what we do. We need to be humble and turn to Jesus. He alone can save.
- If we truly are sorry for our sins and put our faith in Jesus (Repentance and belief) then he will save us. Once saved we need to obey him - not to add anything to what he has done, but as a way of showing our thankfulness and because we should be truly sorry for our sin.
- If you are a Christian, it isn't about you. It's about God and what he's done. We need to obey him, but we cannot we saved by obedience. Jesus is the only way, he has done it all, so be humble and trust God!
- If this is true for us and we have been completely forgiven through Jesus, we should be telling people.
Have you accepted Jesus as the only way to be righteous before God? Are you a Christian?