“What shall we say then?–that the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness obtained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith, but Israel even though pursuing a law of righteousness did not attain it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but (as if it were possible) by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,” (Romans 9:30–32 NET)

I like the way the New English Translation translates vs. 32 here: “Because they pursued it not by faith but (as if it were possible) by works.”  It is a good translation of Paul’s thought here.  Paul the Pharisee who was zealous for God and worked hard to smash up the cult of those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah was running hard down the path of works and self-righteousness until he had an encounter with the living Christ on the road to Damascus.  He would never be the same.  The world would never be the same.

He had been pursuing righteousness by works; he gave that up and followed Jesus by faith.  He had been relying on his tradition and training and sheer Jewishness, he began to trust in the finished work of Christ.  By the time he gets to Romans 9, he can say: “It is not even thinkable that Jews or Greeks can pursue righteousness by works, righteousness can only be obtained by faith in Christ and his work.”

Don’t, dear reader, stumble over the stumbling stone of Jesus.