What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,
Righteousness is the grand pursuit of humanity. It is what we are called to attain. The problem is that when we humans pursuit this righteousness, we become proud and self-righteous if we attain any measure of it.
God speaks to us through two books; the book of the law, and the book of creation. Both books are not meant to contain a righteousness that we can attain by works or self reflection. Both books contain a righteousness, but are meant to point away from themselves towards that righteousness and not to itself for righteousness. What do I mean?
The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky proclaims the work of his hands (Psalm 19). Also, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all man's unrighteousness so that we have no excuse if we don't pursue this righteousness the creation points towards (Romans 1).
The law of God is perfect, sure, true, clean, and righteous all together (Psalm 19). But this righteousness that humanity is to pursuit has been manifested to us apart from the law (Romans 3:21). It is the righteousness that the creation points to and the prophets witnessed. This righteousness is none other than the person of Jesus Christ. The law is our schoolmaster that leads us to Christ. It is not intended for us to obey so that we can attain a righteousness found in self. It is intended to show to us our unrighteousness, and point to the one and only righteous person; Jesus Christ. He is the righteousness that is found by faith. He is the righteousness that is found apart from creation and apart from the law.
The Gentiles did not pursuit a righteousness found in the law, but found the righteousness of Jesus Christ. They believed the gospel that they can be found to be righteous though faith in Christ, and not through faith in self. The Jewish people on the other hand were pursuing righteousness, but were pursuing a self-righteousness found in rule keeping. Christ became their stumbling stone who tripped them during their race of self-glorifying righteousness.
Righteousness is your grand duty before God. Where will you look to find yours? In creation; the law; in yourself; or in Christ?