32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
Why did not Israel attain God’s absolute righteousness (v. 31)?
Because they did not seek [pursue] it by faith,
Justification by faith is the theme of 3:21 through chapter five, and the idea of God’s absolute righteousness is the argument of the entire book. The faith principle is an offense to proud people who want to depend on themselves and no one else. It offends self-righteousness.
but [strong contrast] as it were, by [out of the source of] the works of the law.
Israel used the wrong system for attaining God’s righteousness, exercising a scheme of self-effort rather than God’s way of faith. Jews did not concede their inability to keep the law flawlessly. Human effort cannot attain to God’s standard.
For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
After a long wait for the promise of the Messiah, Israel rejected Him when He came. This was a gross failure. Because the Jews did not admit their failure to keep the law, they stumbled over the “stumbling stone” (Jesus’ death on their behalf). They did not see a need for a Savior. That is why they could not accept justification by faith. Salvation depends entirely on another person, not on self.
Jews stumbled over Jesus because of their bias about their proprietary system of salvation.
People choose cheap substitutes to replace God’s protocol for salvation.
Although people pursue personal righteousness with all their might, they will never arrive at the standard of God’s righteousness. The only way we can obtain God’s righteousness is by faith.
Salvation by grace is offensive to people who want to achieve salvation on their own works. They do not want to admit that they are totally depraved, from God’s viewpoint, and have no capability to attain salvation on their own. They cannot merit salvation by anything they do; they must stand on Christ and His finished work alone.
1 Pe 2:6-8, 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.