Throughout the Old Testament and during Jesus’ earthly ministry it was to the Jew first God’s righteousness was offered. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). When the Jews rejected God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah, the Gentiles were afforded the opportunity to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” (Acts 16:31). The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans wrote of the Gentiles’ righteousness coming by faith, whereas the Jews sought righteousness through the keeping of the law (Romans 9:30-32).
Earlier in Paul’s letter he had written, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight,” (Romans 3:20). The Jews based righteousness on their futile attempts to obey all of God’s laws along with the hundreds of other man-made laws the priests had added to them throughout the centuries, not understanding God’s purpose “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” not salvation. The Law shows the need for a Savior, for no man can keep the whole Law. Paul wrote to the Galatians “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” (3:24). To the Jews, Christ became a stumblingblock to them; they stumbled at laying aside their “works salvation” for a “righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ Alone salvation” as was preached to the Gentiles. Paul wrote of the Jews, “Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” He further wrote, “they… going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” (Romans 9:32; 10:3-4).
Paul tells us Moses described the righteousness which is of the law, “That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. BUT the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise… That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him,” (Romans 10:5-13).
Righteousness by faith in Christ which the Jews would not accept as the New Covenant, is a righteousness of grace through faith; “not of yourselves… not of works.” It is Christ, the Perfect Lamb of God, who brings salvation to the whole world both Jew and Gentile, to everyone that believeth on Him and commits their life to Him (Luke 22:20; Romans 10:3; Ephesians 2:8-9).