"For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Matt 12:37 NAS
I believe that Christians regularly misinterpret this topic. I did for years, thinking it was talking about profanity or even talk of sin or plans to sin. To understand it in context, we simply need to remember that the Bible teaches the only way we are justified, is by grace through faith. The thing that brought us condemnation before Christ was the law. The law can only condemn us in our minds and thoughts.
So as believers, are we speaking words of grace that build up others in their faith of God’s promised salvation? Or, are we speaking words that corrupt the faith, scatter, cause doubt, condemnation, and death? It is only faith in Jesus that leads to life.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9 NAS
Those in Christ are no longer under the law and condemnation; they are under grace.
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Rom 6:14 NAS
The only thing that brings a believer condemnation in their thoughts and mind is if they still think they are under the law. If we lead other believers to think they are under the law and not under grace, we corrupt the faith and do Satan’s work. The letter of the law is the ministry of condemnation and death.
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 2 Cor 3:7-9 NAS
This is why believers are not qualified to be ministers of the letter of the law. God does not want us to minister condemnation and death. We are qualified to be ministers of the Spirit of all of God’s laws, love.
who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor 3:6 NAS
Matthew 12:37 is spoken to the Pharisee’s by Jesus.
He was saying that by their very words they would be condemned. The words they were speaking corrupted the faith and brought condemnation and death. The words they were speaking were scattering the lost, pushing them away from God. They were the bad trees producing bad fruit. They were sinners themselves trying to play the judge and justify themselves. Jesus was warning that they would be judged by the same standard they were using to judge, but they refused to listen.
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. "The good man brings out of [his] good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of [his] evil treasure what is evil. "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." Matt 12: 33-37 NAS
Christians have been shown mercy and judged by grace. We are supposed to show the same mercy and grace to all others. The story of the King who forgave the huge debt of the beggar and then found him judging and condemning another beggar who owed him just a little - (Matt 18:21-35), is a story for believers who have been forgiven for everything, but want to judge, condemn and hold accountable others for a little. In that story, the King decided to hold the forgiven beggar to the same standard he was holding others. He put him back in prison until he could repay every penny. Jesus told the Pharisee’s that by the standard we use to judge, we will be judged.
"For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2 NAS
This is a stark warning for all believers who want to corrupt the faith by preaching the law that scatters, condemns and kills, instead of building each other up in the faith. In context, the corrupting or unwholesome talk that is referred to in Eph 4:29, is about words that cause doubt in Gods promised salvation and harm the faith. Talk that tears down and does not build up a person’s faith in Jesus promise of salvation in John 3:16. Talk that brings doubt and fear instead of peace in Christ.
Let no unwholesome (corrupting) word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment], so that it will give grace to those who hear. Eph 4:29 NAS
The word used for unwholesome, corrupting in some translations, in Eph 4:29, is used eight times in the New Testament. Seven of those times it is comparing good and bad fruit. The other time good and bad fish. Every time, it associates the corrupting talk with speaking the law that points one to themselves and their own righteousness, as the Pharisee’s did. Not once does it refer to people sinning or using profanity as I used to think. It is always talking about words that corrupt the faith by bringing doubt, guilt, and condemnation, instead of building up others in the faith about God’s promise. Jesus called those preaching the law, the Pharisee’s, bad trees producing bad fruit, even though they were preaching that people needed to keep God’s law to be right with God. He said the Pharisee’s were scattering instead of gathering by their words. We see the same thing today as most outside of the church think Christianity is about law keeping to appease an angry God. This keeps people away; it scatters instead of gathering. It points to self-righteousness to be right with God and away from Jesus. Pointing the finger of the law at other believers by our words and actions, while we certainly still sin ourselves, is the only thing that ever got a believer (Peter in Gal 2:11-21) called a hypocrite in the Bible. It points them to their flesh and away from Christ. It leads them to doubt their salvation and brings guilt and condemnation that is nonexistent from God’s point of view. It corrupts the faith. Under the New Covenant, God is not counting or imputing the sins of those who believe – (Heb 8:12). Pointing believers away from Christ and back to the law is doing Satan’s work by tearing down the faith and creating disciples who go out and do the same thing, produce bad fruit. Good fruit mixed with bad fruit can only produce bad fruit. The law never has, and never will be of faith.
However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM." Gal 3:12 NAS
and whatever is not from faith is sin. Rom 14:23 NAS
In the following verses, James tells us that we are to keep the royal law, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the Spirit of all of God’s laws. The only thing that can fulfill all of God’s laws –(Rom 13:8-10). In verse 9, James speaks of showing no favoritism, in this case for ourselves. This is what believers do who judge the sins of other believers. They show themselves love and favoritism by justifying the sins they know are in their own life, but see as smaller while pointing to the sins they see as bigger in other believers. James tells us that even if we break one law we are lawbreakers and God shows us grace. We are supposed to extend this same grace and mercy to all other believers when we see them sin. We judge them by the royal law of love like Jesus judged us.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:8-13 NAS
If we are not speaking and acting towards others as those judged by grace, we are speaking words that corrupt the faith. While we can try and stop others when we see sin in their life that will harm them or others in the natural, we cannot be their judge in the context of salvation, even if we cloak it as though we are trying to help them. Remember, the law is never of faith. Their salvation is like ours and does not need man’s help; it is all of God who justifies the ungodly by making us righteous by faith in Jesus. We are to do as Paul did with the Corinthians and other saints caught in sin, remind them of who they are in Christ and build up their faith in Gods promise. Right believing is what will produce the real fruit of right living. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if our eyes are permanently fixed on the author and finisher of our faith. Fixed on the finished work of Jesus and our righteousness in Him that cannot be shaken. He is the Rock, the firm foundation that our faith is built upon.
Our ministry is to point others to this truth, not point out the sins of their dead flesh. No one can save the flesh. Sin has been condemned in the flesh and the flesh will die. Jesus circumcised us from the flesh when we first believed. He cut off the flesh and gave us a new perfected born-again Spirit that is sealed by the Holy Spirit. When we die our redemption will be complete when we receive our new glorified body that is free from an inherited sin nature. Then, we will have no desire to sin. But until that day, a believers perfected Spirit still resides in a flesh that feeds on sin. We are all going to fall short in the flesh until the day we die. So we need to show grace and mercy to one another, not the law and judgment that corrupts the faith.
The Bible talks about the curse of the law, not the curse of sin. The law brings a curse. When we preach the law, we preach the curse that Jesus died to set us free from – (Gal 3:13). When Paul says to let the Galatian deceivers be accursed, he is saying let them stay under the law if that is what they want. James tells us to pay attention to our tongue. He tells us that we should not curse men with it. He is referring to putting them back under the law, corrupting the faith.
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. James 3:8-10 NAS
Words that corrupt the faith are careless words that we will be called to account for on the day of judgment.
“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.” Matthew 12:36-37 NAS
Will you speak life or death? Will you build up the faith or corrupt the faith? When you see a brother or sister caught up in sin, will you point them to the law, condemnation, and death? Or will you point them to Jesus and build up their faith in God’s promise by reminding them of who they are in Christ? What will you do going forward?
More New Covenant Bible Studies that apply:
How to Stop Making Bricks for Satan and Walk Freely Into The Promised Land
How Much Law Does it Take to Make Grace of No Effect?
Can We Really Identify a False Christian?
Questioning Another's Salvation, Creates Doubt, Does Satans Work
How Grace Defeated Sin in My Life
How to Examine Yourself and See if You Are in the Faith
Paul's Method for Talking to Christians Caught in Sin
How to Defeat Temptation Under Grace
Misconceptions About Not Being Under the Law as a Christian
Many more New Covenant Bible Studies HERE. Jesus poured out His blood for the New Covenant of grace and truth, replacing the Old Covenant law of Moses. Believers are exclusively under the New Covenant, the last will and testament of Jesus that began after the cross.
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. Luke 22:20