Matthew 12:37
For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(37) 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.

12:33-37 Men's language discovers what country they are of, likewise what manner of spirit they are of. The heart is the fountain, words are the streams. A troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring, must send forth muddy and unpleasant streams. Nothing but the salt of grace, cast into the spring, will heal the waters, season the speech, and purify the corrupt communication. An evil man has an evil treasure in his heart, and out of it brings forth evil things. Lusts and corruptions, dwelling and reigning in the heart, are an evil treasure, out of which the sinner brings forth bad words and actions, to dishonour God, and hurt others. Let us keep constant watch over ourselves, that we may speak words agreeable to the Christian character.By thy words thou shalt be justified ... - That is, "words" are the indication of the true principles of the heart; by "words" the heart shall be known, as the tree is by its fruit. If they are true, proper, chaste, instructive, pious, they will prove that the heart is right. If false, envious, malignant, and impious, they will prove that the heart is wrong, and will therefore be among the causes of condemnation. It is not meant that words will be the only thing that will condemn man, but that they will be an important part of the things for which he shall be condemned. See James 3:3-12. 36. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment—They might say, "It was nothing: we meant no evil; we merely threw out a supposition, as one way of accounting for the miracle we witnessed; if it will not stand, let it go; why make so much of it, and bear down with such severity for it?" Jesus replies, "It was not nothing, and at the great day will not be treated as nothing: Words, as the index of the heart, however idle they may seem, will be taken account of, whether good or bad, in estimating character in the day of judgment."Ver. 36,37. Some understand by 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. For by thy words thou shalt be justified,.... Theophylact seems to take these words to be a passage of Scripture cited by Christ, in proof of what he had said, but does not point to any; nor is any such Scripture to be found. They are rather proverbial expressions, in common use among the Jews; or refer to the usual methods of proceeding in courts of judicature, upon the acknowledgments and confessions of persons.

"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.''

(e) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 30. 1.((f) Zohar in Num. fol. 53. 2.

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. [580]Ἐκ, κ.τ.λ., by, etc.) Words exhibit the righteousness or unrighteousness, which is in the heart.

[580] 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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