Matthew 12:37 MEANING

Matthew 12:37
(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.

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).

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.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.

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