Thoughts on the Way Home

Monday, December 10, 2007

By your words you will be Justified

Matthew 12:36-37 is one of the strongest warning passages in the New Testament.

"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." - Jesus

Every careless word you speak will be taken into account... every one. And the outcome of this judgment is not more or less rewards in heaven, the passage says the outcome leads to justification, Heaven, or condemnation, Hell.

How many times have Christians trembled under that verse? But the verse deserves another look, and the topic in general deserves more thought. Is it right to think of the judgment day as being a fearful thing for the Christian? Surely unbelievers have reason to cower and groan, but does the Christian? What about justification, and peace with God, and "no condemnation?" How does the joy of peace with God fit with what the bible says over and over about God "rendering to each man according to his deeds" at the last day? Are they even compatible? Doesn't our being judged by our works cast a gloomy light over the course of our life?

Here are three biblical teachings that I think help clear things up quite a bit.

  • 1) Yes, all Christians are unchangeably justified, on earth, at a point in time, by faith, apart from works, because of the blood of Christ.
    • We all know this.
  • 2) However, as verses like this make clear all Christians need to take their obedience to God seriously as the criteria for examination on judgment day will not be their profession to be in Christ, but the fruit of their lives proving that they are in Christ (and thus justified by his blood). Your fruit, determines whether or not you go to heaven or hell. So this is indeed serious and sober. Just like Matthew says here.
    • This is so true scripturally, but often misunderstood or overlooked by many.
  • 3) However, all Christians will live godly, pure, and yes even "blameless" lives on earth so as to prove their profession.
    • This is the one that I hear taught the least.

You would think that if we are indeed "justified" in a real sense on the last day by our works, surely then, all is lost. After all who can't think of a plentiful number of "careless words" that they have said. Maybe the bible does indeed hold up a standard of blamelessness, but isn't the sincere objection in everyone's mind, "But I'm not blameless!?"

This is where point three comes in. You are blameless. At least, if you're a true child of God then you will be by the time you die. I'll prove it.

1 Cor. 1:8 (blameless in the day...)

2 Cor. 11:2-3 (present you as a pure virgin... purity of devotion to Christ)

2 Cor. 13:7-9 (do no wrong... made complete)

Eph. 1:4 (that we would be holy and blameless)

Eph. 5:27 (present to himself the church... holy and blameless)

Phil. 1:10 (sincere and blameless)

Phil. 2:15 (blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach)

Col. 1:22 (holy and blameless and beyond reproach)

1 Thess. 3:13 (without blame in holiness)

1 Thess. 5:23 (sanctify you entirely... preserved complete, without blame)

1 Tim. 6:14 (keep the commandment without stain or reproach)

2 Pet. 3:14 (be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless)

Jude 1:24 (keep you from stumbling... blameless with great joy)

Now, read the above verses carefully and in context. You'll find them to almost assuredly be referring to the Christian's blamelessness in terms of their personal holiness, that is, their "lived-out righteousness" not their "righteousness of God, as a gift, by faith." And you'll find it interesting that in context they're all referring to what is examined on the judgment day.

If this all seems unbelievable then know that what's important to keep in mind is that "blameless" in these verses, and in the bible in general does not mean perfectly righteous and having never sinned. It is more or less a matter of the heart. People can commit sins and repent and be blameless in God's sight, if they are pure in heart.

Daniel was blameless, Job was blameless, Noah was blameless, David was blameless, Asa was blameless, and you, as a born again Christian are to be blameless too. And (as the above verses show) God will work it in you.

After all the verse in Matthew says:

"For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

It doesn't say:

"For by your words you will be condemned, and by your words you will be condemned."
The verse refers to two groups of people in context, those of bearing good fruit and those bearing bad. Christians then will actually be justified by their words! All the love for God truly deep down in your heart will be manifested on that day to the vindication of God's work in his people.

Fear then, for the Christian will usually take the form of something more like soberness, and only the Christian living a life of willful unrepented sin will need to have the heart-wrenching kind of fear that is often inspired by these verses, and rightly so. They may not be a true child of God at all. The bottom line is, if you are a Christian you are indeed holy, and blameless, and pure in heart and God sees to that. He takes it upon himself to make that a reality in your life before the judgment day. He died to make that the case.