For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)By thy words thou shalt be justified.—Stripped of the after-thoughts which have gathered round it in the later controversies of theologians, the word “justified” means, as its position here shows, the opposite of “condemned,” the being “acquitted” either on a special charge or on a general trial of character. In this sense we are able to understand (without entering into the labyrinth of logomachies in which commentators on the Epistles have too often entangled themselves) how it is that men are said to be justified by faith (Romans 3:28 et al.), justified by works (James 2:24), justified—as here—by words. All three—faith, works, words—are alike elements of a man’s character, making or showing what he is. Faith, implying trust and therefore love, justifies as the root element of character; “words,” as its most spontaneous manifestation; works, as its more permanent results. Of the words and the works men can in some measure judge, and they are the tests by which a man should judge himself. The faith which lies deeper in the life is known only to God, and it is therefore by faith rather than by works that a man is justified before God, though the faith is no true faith unless it moulds the character and therefore enables the man to pass the other tests also.James 3:3-12. idle words here, lying and deceitful words; others, contumelious and reproachful words. But the best interpreters here extend the sense further, not only from the sense of the word argon, here used, but because they judge our Saviour is here arguing from the less to the greater, convincing the Pharisees what a dreadful account they had to give for their blasphemous and reproachful words, when all must give an account even for those words which they speak to no good purpose, but vainly, without respect either to the glory of God, or the good of others, or their own necessary and lawful occasions. Hence the apostle doth not only forbid filthiness, foolish talking, and jestings, Ephesians 5:1, and corrupt communication, Ephesians 4:29, but in the same verse commandeth that Christians’ speech should be to the use of edifying, that it may administer grace to the hearers; and to the Colossians, Colossians 4:6, Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt. Nor will this seem too strict to those who consider, that any thing is abused when it is not used to the right end and use. God hath not given unto man his faculty of speech to fill the world with idle tattle and impertinent discourse, but that by it;
1. We might bless God, by prayers and praises, talking of his words and wondrous works.
2. That we might communicate our minds to men, in their or our own concerns, and so be mutually helpful one to another.
For by thy words thou shall be justified, &c.: what justified here signifies, appears by the word condemned, to which it is opposed. God will pronounce sentence for or against men in the last day, not only according to their other actions, but accordingly as they have used their tongues. If there were no other text in the Bible to prove that we have need of another righteousness, than any of our own, wherein to stand before God, this text alone would be enough, for if a man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, Jam 3:2.
"Says Resh Lakish (e), such an one and such an one, they justify; and such an one and such an one, they condemn. R. Eliezer replies, , "by their words such an one and such an one are justified".''
The gloss upon it is,
"upon hearing the difference there is between them, and between their words, they are justified.''
Our Lord's meaning is, that not only works and actions, but words of all sorts, will come into account in the day of judgment, and will be evidences for, or against a man, to acquit or condemn him:
and by thy words thou shalt be condemned: according to these, the sentence of justification, or of condemnation, will be pronounced; as these will appear to be evidences for, or against a man's being in a state of grace and righteousness: thus for instance, a man that has spoken for Christ, and has freely confessed that all his hope of justification before God, and acceptance with him, is solely upon the account of the righteousness of Christ imputed; such a man will be declared a justified man according to the tenor of his own words: on the other hand, a man that has spoken hard speeches against Christ, and his righteousness; declaring he has no dependence on it, expects no justification by it; he will be convinced of these ungodly sayings, and out of his own mouth will be condemned. Some have thought, that Christ here strikes at a notion which obtained among the Jews, that little or no account would be taken of a man's words in the day of judgment; provided his life and actions were good, and regular; but whatever were the sentiments of the Pharisees, or of any of Christ's present hearers, it is certain, that it is the opinion of Jewish writers, that words, as well as actions, will be accounted for hereafter: they say (f),
"When a man dies, he lifts up his eyes and sees two come to him, and write before him all that he has done in this world, , "and all that has proceeded out of his mouth", , "and he gives an account for all"; and a little after, , "all the words" of a man in this world, are prepared before him, and not one of them lost; and in the hour he goes to his grave, they are all set before him.''For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 12:37. ἐκ γὰρ τ. λόγων σου. Judgment by words here taught; in Matthew 25:31-46 judgment by the presence or absence of kind deeds. No contradiction, for words are viewed as the index of a good or bad heart: bad positively, like that of the Pharisees, who spoke wickedly; bad negatively, like that of the thoughtless, who speak senselessly. On the teaching of this passage cf. James 3.37. by thy words] i. e. thy words shall be the ground of thy acquittal or condemnation. Character shews itself by words. We often say of a friend, “We know what he will say when he hears this or that.”Matthew 12:37. Ἐκ, κ.τ.λ., by, etc.) Words exhibit the righteousness or unrighteousness, which is in the heart.
 Ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως, in the day of judgment) Oh! what a great day!—V. g.Verse 37. - For by (ἐκ) - referring to, as it were, the source of the verdict - thy words (τῶν λόγοι σου); thy, individualizing. Ob-nerve the change from ῤῆμα (ver. 36), which might in itself refer to the utterance of a madman, or to a parrot-like quotation. But by here using λόγοι our Lord shows that he is thinking of utterances of the reason. sentences spoken with a knowledge of their meaning, and forming parts of what are virtually, though not literally, discourses. A ῤῆμα may be the merely mechanical utterance of the lips, λόγοι imply consciousness. The presence of λόγον in the preceding clause is probably entirely accidental. Thou shalt be justified (Matthew 11:19, note) - 'Quid enim aliud sermones sancti quam tides sonans" (Calovius, in Meyer) - and by thy words thou shalt be condemned (ver. 7, note).
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