Matthew 12: 36-37


Just wondering if someone can clarify for me how this passage can be used against someone’s “faith alone” argument? I’m listening to Tim Staples on catholic answers and taking notes… I can’t wrap my head around this one.

Is he referring to our words, in this instance, as works?


Okay. Yes, I’m a Protestant, but I want to help you… sola fide, from Luther’s view, does require good works, there is simply a “reversed formula.” The faith boosts the works (John 14:12). However, I’m not here to argue. John Calvin’s view, to me, is not compatible with very much in the Bible.

“And I say to you, that every idle word that men may speak, they shall give for it a reckoning in a day of judgment; for from thy words thou shalt be declared righteous, and from thy words thou shalt be declared unrighteous.” (Matthew 12:36-37, YLT)

So Jesus is saying that from your words you will be declared righteous (justified, saved, other synonyms can apply). We make a vow (“word” can be used to mean vow, so words must mean the fulfillment, the works) to follow Christ. This is faithfulness, not just faith in itself without fruit.

Our figurative words, which are our deeds and commitments to God with love, will be judged: in other words, our works, coming from our commitments to do them in one way or another.

If one denounces Christ, this is verbal, and through their words: they are apostates, not Christians, not saved. (Of course, they may just say that and not truly denounce Christ in their heart of hearts, and there were entire councils and synods convened in the Church about apostasy, libellus documents, and we can make entire threads on the topic.)


Thank you! I read it over and over again and that’s the only way I could possiby connect the dots (words = works). I guess if you think about it, your kind words could easily be considered good works too.


Matthew 12:34-36 NABRE

34 [a]You brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings forth evil out of a store of evil. 36 **I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak.


12:34 The admission of Jesus’ goodness cannot be made by the Pharisees, for they are evil, and the words that proceed from their evil hearts cannot be good.
12:36–37 If on the day of judgment people will be held accountable for even their careless words, the vicious accusations of the Pharisees will surely lead to their condemnation.

Haydock Commentary

34 O generation of vipers, how can you speak good things, whereas you are evil?* for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

35 A good man out of a good treasure bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of an evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

36 But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment.

37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Ver. 34. As the Pharisees were ever boasting of, and glorying in their ancestry, Christ here shews, that they have not much reason to boast, since their ancestors were but vipers. (St. Chrysostom)

Ver. 36. That every idle word.[3] By idle words, St. Jerome, &c. expound words that are neither profitable to the speaker nor the hearer: but St. Chrysostom says, false and abusive language. (Witham)

— If, of every idle word, how much more of blasphemy, as when you say in Beelzebub I cast out devils. (Menochius)

— This shews there must be a place of temporal punishment hereafter, where these slighter faults shall be punished. (Challoner)

— If of every idle word we must make account before God in judgment, and yet shall not for every such idle word be damned eternally, there must necessarily be some temporal punishment in the next life. (Bristow)

3: 1 Kings xxi. 6.**


I just wanted to point out that I personally wouldn’t go here to refute a faith alone argument. There is much better Biblical evidence that Matthew 12:36-37. I don’t know if saying words = works gives you much ground to stand on.

I think where he might be going with this ties in with other verses of scripture.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

Romans 14:12 So each of us shall give account of himself to God.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with[a] every secret thing, whether good or evil.

We can see that on the day of judgement we must appear before the judgement seat (2 Corinthians 5:10). Where we will have to give an account for ourselves (Romans 14:12) and God will judge our deeds (works) (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

If we take our understanding of these 3 verses and apply them to:
Matthew 12:36-37 I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Therefore, the logical conclusion would be in Matthew 12:36-37 the words are our account of the deeds (good works) that we did in this life.

I hope this puts a little more light on the subject.

I love listening to Tim Staples but also found John Martignoni easy to understand. He has some great talks on his web site.


That does help- thank you! I’ll look at the link you sent me a little later when i’m not working:)

The video I was watching was a short clip featured on Catholic Answers Live… he said he would give the caller 5 helpful examples- but that he could easily give her 25!

I’m fascinated lately with apologetics. After watching hat short clip, I decided to start a notebook. I’ve got the 5 he mentioned, and plan to try to find the other “20” he didn’t! Haha

I’m not out to create arguments with my protestant friends and family, I’m on a journey to understand why I’m Catholic. I am enjoying delving into scripture and understanding why we believe as we do- as well as why protestants believe as they do. I’m thrilled to no end, especially, when the Catholic answers I find seem to stand on their own and become irrefutable. There’s so much logic to it. I wish I had known this before. I’m on a mission now! :slight_smile:

Do you know of any other examples?

So far- this is what I have- but I plan to add to it with some research.

James 2: 24
Romans 2: 6-7
Galatians 6: 7-10
Matthew 12: 36-37 (noting what you said above:)
Matthew 25: 31-46


I to am on a similar journey. I listen to either Catholic Answers podcasts or audio courses about 3 to 5 hours a day. For me this is the best way to learn. I would search this site for more information on sola fide. To give you a list of verses won’t be of much benefit if you don’t understand why those verses are interpreted that way. You will find if you just start throwing around verses you will be told you are interpreting them incorrectly. You are at an exciting point in your faith journey, I’ve been there. You have all this new found information and if you don’t share it with someone you just might explode. I would recommend reading some of the following articles.

Listen to those audio courses I mentioned. Also, when you read an article read the comments. I have learned so much through the comment sections and of course on this forum.

God Bless


Yes, words = works, in the kingdom of God

John 14:10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

Great work is done when God speaks, mountains are being moved :slight_smile: Let God speak through you ! Let God do his works !


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