FOUNDATIONAL FRAMEWORK. PART 50
Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.
The glory of God is the centerpiece and goal of all existence.
God’s glory is maximally realized in the promised, coming Kingdom.
In Matthew 12, Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees is heated. Being perfectly God, Jesus was perfectly indignant about the spiritual state of Israel. Unbelief, and anti-belief in the case of the Pharisees, had served in leading the nation of Israel into religiosity and legalism, with the people striving to gain acceptance with their God, offering the same routine sacrifices, and promoting their own self-righteousness as a reason why God should look favorably upon them (Luke 18:11-12). Jesus’ anger is justified. The heart of Israel’s leaders had been publicly revealed with pride, corruption, and denial being its manifestation. Now that this critical moment had come into play, the offer of the kingdom would fall to the wayside with Jesus’ focus turning to the events surrounding the cross of Calvary.
It is in the midst of this turning point that we pick up the conversation.
Matthew 12:30-37.This section will find the repeated emphasis in what one speaks and because of this emphasis, it is important to focus on the nature of one’s speech and what it says about the person speaking. It is important that we don’t miss Jesus’ point and that we do not allow our minds to drift toward issues of “heaven and hell” if the text is not pointing us there.
In verse 30, Jesus gives a general statement that if one is not with Him, that person is against Him. There is no middle ground here. One is either in line with the Messiah or they are not. He then proceeds with the word “therefore.” Every Bible student should take a moment when coming across this word and ask the question, “what is that ‘therefore’ there for?” In other words, the use of this linguistic device is meant to elaborate on the statement or concept just conveyed. What details are learned by connecting the following sentence with the previous statement?
Since the lines were clear that one is either with Jesus or against Jesus, the dividing lines are found in one’s speech. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, as just committed by the Pharisees (12:24) would have no means of forgiveness, neither in the present age, nor in the Millennial Kingdom (12:31-32). Blasphemy is something that is pronounced, leaving the emphasis on one’s words.
The contents of verse 33 could be taken in one of two ways.
The first view would be that Jesus is telling the Pharisees that the “tree” that produces good fruit must logically be a good tree and cannot be a bad tree, otherwise there would be bad fruit. Jesus could be relating Himself as that tree with His miracles (healings) giving the testimony that He is good because His works are good. MacDonald writes, “Here He exposes their inconsistency and says, in effect, ‘Make up your minds. If a tree is good, its fruit is good and vice versa.’ Fruit reflects the quality of the tree that produced it. The fruit of His ministry had been good. He had healed the sick, the blind, the deaf, and the dumb, had cast out demons and raised the dead. Could a corrupt tree have produced such good fruit? Utterly impossible! Why then did they so stubbornly refuse to acknowledge Him?”
In this view, Jesus is pointing out the logical conclusion of the evidence provided and the incongruent conclusion that the Pharisees were promoting. However, seeing that Jesus has already pronounced an unforgiveable judgment against them, why would He be telling them to “get in line” with the evidence? They had already rejected the heightened revelation granted to them to their own detriment.
The second view understands the use of the word “fruit” as being a description of a person’s words, which is something that is consistent
with the immediate context and elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew (7:16-20). In this case, the Pharisees are the tree and Jesus is showing them that it is a basic, consistent, and logical fact that a good tree brings forth good fruit and a bad tree brings forth bad fruit. This view fits better with the surrounding context.
Since Jesus calls the whole lot “evil,” they cannot speak good, therefore they are in no position to judge matters regarding what is from God and what is not, much less in leading people in the direction that they should go in following and worshipping God. They are corrupt men with foul motives, to which the “brood of vipers” comment attests (see also Matt 3:7b). This truth is seen in the second sentence of v. 34 which begins with “for” (GR gar) which is a causal conjunction that functions much in the same way as “therefore” in providing further details on the statement previously made. The truth that Jesus communicates is raw: it is out of the contents of one’s heart that a person speaks. How do you know if one is good or bad, trustworthy or a liar? Their words will always give them away. This is an age-old truth seen as far back as Deuteronomy when one performing signs and wonders comes upon the camp (Deut 13:1-4). It is not their signs that should be the convincing factor, but their words. Does their message line up with the words of YHWH?
This thought continues on as Jesus gives a further elaboration on what is manifested in one’s speech as it proceeds from the heart. A good man brings out from his good “treasure” good things, while a bad man brings out from his bad “treasure” bad things. The “treasure” in each instance is the heart. This further emphasizes the Pharisees’ corrupt and destitute state. They were completely self-absorbed, wallowing in the prestige of condemning others and falsely representing God in doing so. How tragic, seeing that Jesus has already condemned them.
Jesus draws the matter out to its eternal conclusion in verses 36-37, noting that every “careless word” that one speaks will need accounting for in the day of judgment. The word “careless” can be understood as “idle.” Barnes notes, “This literally means a vain, thoughtless, useless word that accomplishes no good. Here it means evidently, wicked and injurious, false and malicious; for such were the words which they had spoken.”Fruitless conversation and trite banter have no place among those who represent God to this dying world. The significance of language should not be underestimated.
Scripture is replete with the importance of “words.” Within our hands is the very Word of God. It does not contain the truth about God, it ISthe truth. It is by the word of God that everything was made (Gen 1:1-31; 2 Pet 3:5-6) and it is by the same word that everything will be destroyed to make way for the Millennial Kingdom of Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Pet 3:7). It is the words of God that were to be the basis for the hope of Israel. When drawing near to the mountain that raged with fire, the Israelites heard YHWH speak and surely saw no form. It was God’s words that were to be central to their understanding. The reason for such a demonstration is understood as twofold in Deuteronomy 4:10-12. It was for fear of Him and the instruction of future generations that YHWH communicated as He did. The emphasis was to be on His word. This is reiterated in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 where the diligent teaching of God’s Word is shown to be what penetrates the heart. Reflecting on Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:34b, the matter holds an even greater weight. God’s Word is to be taught continuously so as to penetrate the heart, so that when one speaks they are speaking the Word of God. This is seen in the New Testament as well.
In Matthew 6:7-8, Jesus warns His disciples against the use of “meaningless repetition” that is characteristic of pagans who believe that their babblings will draw a deity’s attention. It should not be this way with those who can call God their Father, for He is omniscient and to conclude that “many words” will gain His favor is to forget that He is all-knowing. Our actions can be found to be a denial of who God is! InPhilippians 2:14-16Paul warns against the dangers of “grumbling or disputing,” which bring fault in our behavior and keep us from radiating the truth in this dark world. Our speech will be accounted for “in the day of Christ” (Phil 2:16b) being the Bema.
In Hebrews 3:12-13we are given the prescription for battling an “evil, unbelieving heart” among the brethren, which is the offering of daily encouragement to one another. Sin will deceive the saints, but it is the encouragement of the truths that we share in Christ Jesus that keep our hearts sensitive to the things of God and able to love one another with a selfless love.
In Ephesians 4:29, the Church is warned not to allow for rotten speech to proceed from our mouths. This is both a heart issue and a self-control issue. The goal within the Body of Christ is that we are to be building one another up (Eph 4:12, 16) and speaking the truth to one another in agapē(Eph 4:15). All things, but especially our words, are to be used for edification. Such a principle should serve as a guard against what might “naturally” (being of the flesh) come out of our mouths as opposed to what can now come out of our mouths due to the availability of the Newness of Life that is ours in Christ. Those saints who have resorted to sordid language are either ignorant or negligent of the New Life that is in Christ. They are not allowing for Christ to live His Life through them, and as such, the flesh promotes itself controlling our words in a manner that is contrary to Christ. The believer is to be one whose speech gives grace to all that he or she comes in contact with. Our words are to be merciful and uplifting.
In the case of the Pharisees, their flippant words in denying who Jesus is will be something that they will have to account for at the judgment, which in their case would be the Great White Throne Judgment. A quick read of Revelation 20:11-15 shows that one’s works are taken into consideration by the Divine Judge to see if they merit any form of right response to the revelation that was given them. This is a consistent concept found in Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:37 when He notes that one’s speech will either justify or condemn them.
It must be clarified that one’s works (or words) do not merit any righteousness before God as if one could escape an eternity in the us
Lake of Fire by having good works in their life. The Judge Jesus Christ considers these works because He is a fair and just Judge, giving each one their fair hearing, but also accounting for the level of revelation that each person was given and their diligence or failure in responding to that revelation. Though unregenerate (not having Life), those who lacked revelation will not suffer to as great a degree as those who had great exposure to the revelation of God and denied it. The examination of their works in the “books” that are opened (Rev 20:12b) will determine the degree of their punishment.
Some could understand this as one’s words playing a vital role in whether or not one goes to heaven or hell, but this is not the point that Jesus has in mind. Every person will be held accountable for their works (words) regardless if they are at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15) or the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom 14:10-12; 1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10). The judgment to which one goes is determined by whether or not they believed in Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with one’s works. These two judgments must remain separate and clear if we are to properly discern Jesus’ words.
An application of this concept must be made. What is our speech consumed with? What words come out of our mouths? What are the frequent topics of conversation that we seek to participate in? What areas do we express ourselves as most knowledgeable in when conversing with others? Is it matters regarding the Lord Jesus, personal holiness, clarity of how one is saved, the joys of eternal security, the reality of our future glorification, or His glorious return when He will draw us to Himself? Is our speech riddled with four-letter words, anger, abusive language, complaining, sarcasm, or backbiting? Are we gossips? Do we lie? Or are we “grace givers” and lights to a dark world?
Our words reveal our heart.
MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, p. 1251.
Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament(Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1962), p. 59.