It would completely mar the apostle's argument, we cannot doubt, to attach the same meaning to "the righteousness of God" here as in verse 21, 22. The order of the words is, in fact, different. In every case where it sets forth God's action in grace, but in consistency with all that He is, on the ground of the death and resurrection of Christ, it is "righteousness of God" (chaps. 1:17; 3:21, 22; 2 Cor. 5:21); here it is "God's righteousness." It is a very distinct proof of the minute accuracy of Scripture in distinguishing between things that differ. This is all the more remarkable here, because fundamentally, the same meaning must be ascribed to the phrase, whether in our scripture, or in the other passages cited; for whatever the sphere or character of God's actings, whether in grace or in judgment, He must act in harmony with all that He is, according to the revelation He has made. And this is God's righteousness - God displaying Himself in what He does in consistency with all His attributes. In the commencement of Rom. 3, the apostle is taking up the Jew on the ground of his privilege and consequent responsibility. Possessing the oracles of God was indeed a privilege, "and if some did not believe, their unbelief would not make the faith - that is, the faithfulness of God, of none effect. God would be true if every man were a liar. He would fulfil His word. But if His accomplishing it, in spite of man's unfaithfulness, only the more proved His faithfulness, so that He was more glorified through man's unfaithfulness, this did not hinder His judging the evil. Were it so, He could not judge the world at all. If man's unrighteousness made God's righteousness more conspicuous, why should God judge him for it? . . . But it is a general principle (here affirmed) that man's unrighteousness, commending or proving God's righteousness, did not make it unjust to judge." This concise presentation of the apostle's argument explains very clearly the sense in which he uses the phrase, "God's righteousness," in this part of the chapter; and also the difference from its use and application when dealing in verse 21, 22, with the subject of justification. Here all the world has been proved guilty before God; by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified, but, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, God can step in, and justify, and righteously justify, freely by His grace every one who believes in Jesus. Therein is His righteousness seen in that, on the ground of the death and resurrection of Christ, He can righteously account us righteous, "if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." God is light, and God is love; and light and love are blended in all their perfection and excellency in our justification. To see this enables us all the more fully to understand that "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Solomon's Song 7:9.
A French version, well known to some of our readers, gives a striking meaning to this verse by dividing it after the words, "the best wine," and making the remainder the language of the Shulamite. If we accept this, it will run as follows (the bridegroom speaking, continues the expression of his delight), "And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine." Here the bride breaks in, and says, "That goeth down sweetly for my beloved, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak."* The "best wine" here will be a symbol of the joy begotten by the sense of the Lord's delight in His bride, and when this is experienced, the soul is awakened, and moved to speak, in response to such unutterable love. This, indeed, is the secret of all praise and adoration, for where the heart is filled through the contemplation of His love, it must overflow in worship. Hence the bride proceeds to add in the next verse, "I am my beloved's, and His desire is toward me." She no longer thinks of herself, nor does she dwell upon the fact that she possesses her beloved, but she is now lost in the blissful thought that she belongs to Him, and that, loving her, He finds His joy and delight in her. This is very blessed, and it is at the same time a very precious foretaste of heaven and heavenly joys.
*See for an alternative translation the Revised Version.