Have you ever been working on a problem and found yourself frustratingly stuck? No matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t make any progress, and then somebody shows up and effortlessly solves it. That can feel so frustrating!

That is just how some of the Jews who didn’t put their faith in Jesus felt about Paul’s gospel. Paul taught that we are all sinners and can’t be saved by our works (Romans 3:20–23). We can only be saved by faith in Jesus. The Jewish faith taught believers to work very hard and earnestly to pursue the righteousness of the law. Still, Israel had “not attained to the law of righteousness” (Romans 9:31). On the other hand, the Christians who weren’t pursuing righteousness found it, because they sought righteousness by faith in Christ rather than by works (Romans 9:30).

This created intense feelings of frustration. Many Jews considered Jesus a “stumbling stone” and a “rock of offense” (Romans 9:32, 33). They did not resonate with the idea that simple faith in Jesus was enough for righteousness and that works and dedication to conforming to God’s law could do nothing to save them.

How could these Jews make such a mistake? The effort to establish their own righteousness by obedience to the law reveals their ignorance of God’s righteousness (Romans 10:3). God’s righteousness is His holiness and perfection of character. God’s righteousness is higher than the highest human thought can reach. By underestimating the righteousness of God, the Jews imagined that they could reach the low standard of their own imagination. This is a fatal mistake. God’s righteousness, His perfection of character, is beyond our wildest imagination. When we understand the true beauty and holiness of God’s righteous character, then we will realize that no human effort could ever meet the infinite standard of an infinite God.

As a result of their ignorance of God’s righteousness, the unbelieving Jews sought to establish their own righteousness through obedience to the law. They failed to submit to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3). To submit to the righteousness of God means to receive the gift of righteousness through faith in Jesus. Because they thought they could achieve the righteousness of the law by their efforts, they saw no reason to submit to the righteousness of God as a gift.

Have you truly appreciated the beauty of God’s righteousness? Has this led you to trust less in self and pursue righteousness by faith rather than by the works of the law?