"For by Thy Words"
E. L. Flannery
"For by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:37.) The tree is known by the fruit it bears. The simplest way to identify the tree is to determine the fruit it produces.
The heart is known by the fruit it produces--the words it utters. Words are but the thoughts of the heart expressed. One's feelings, ideas, principle will eventually be spoken. If the heart is good the fruit will be good.
The Good Heart
When the heart is filled with love, kindness, goodness, faith and meekness, good fruit is as sure to be produced as the apple tree will produce apples. Such a heart can be tempted, can be provoked, but it will not become boisterous and abusive, and hurl idle words (meaningless, foundationless words). The good heart feels with awe the indwelling presence of God in his heart; remembers the solemnity and certainty of judgement; is keenly aware that eternity is and that he is in an eternity. Such heart "durst not bring... a railing accusation" even against a false accuser, but as Michael the archangel said to the devil in their dispute, the good heart says, "The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 9).
Our words are so extremely important for they either justify us or condemn us; they identify us as either God's child or a child of the devil!
The Pharisees' words, spoken to condemn Jesus, actually condemned themselves. For their words, without meaning or truth. They accused Christ of doing miracles by the power of Beelzebub. Idle words! Words ignoring the facts, the evidence. Words breaking forth from evil hearts, full of hate, void of sincerity, prejudiced. Stubborn words, spoken to discredit Jesus in the eyes of his audience.
In Stephen's trial the same pattern prevailed--false accusations and idle words (Acts 6:8-15). In contrast, Stephen made a great defense against the empty charges. Then, taking the offensive, he levels against these hypocrites charges and accusations proving them step by step. His arguments, like a great pyramid, were laid one upon the other, capping it wit4 the inevitable conclusion that his accusers were the real "lawbreakers"!
Speaking from a heart filled with wisdom, knowledge, love and zeal, Stephen having proved his case, having justified his own course of life, now erupts as a mighty volcano, to shower his hearers with the burning truths that must be drawn from his argumentation.
"Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it" (Acts 7:51-53).
Every word he spoke was true. Every accusation was so. Let them take the stand and refute Stephen's argument and his conclusions! They knew they could not answer him. His words had cut them deeply for nothing is sharper, more penetrating than words truthfully spoken. Unable to meet him in honorable discussion they stoned him to death. That was their "answer". But even in death we see the kind of heart this man had--filled with the spirit, praying for his slayers, with undimmed faith and hope, with joyful face, Stephen died! "By thy words thou shalt be justified".
Who in that frenzied mob could have believed that one of them would soon accept the religion espoused by Stephen, and become the greatest worker ever known in the kingdom of God? But Saul of Tarsus was present, consenting to his death (Acts 8), and his encounter with this young Christian martyr was forever etched in his memory He could end Stephen's life, but he could not end nor answer his arguments.
What an excellent example Stephen left for all the persecuted to follow. The ears of the crowd are listening to what we say and how we say it, especially when under provocation. Let us so speak as to be justified by our words. Who knows? There may be a Timothy present as he who witnessed Paul's persecution and Christian conduct at Lystra, and was favorably impressed. There may be another Saul present who deep in his heart will know that your words have justified your belief and your practice.
The sincere can detect a "Tertullus"--full of flattery, full of oratory, empty charges. Lots of sound and fury but no substance to his speech. Idle words! In seeking to condemn Paul he but condemned himself as a falsifier. By his own words he stood condemned, indentified as a child of the devil!
Tertullus is yet with us! He still is full of flattery, and makes groundless accusations and charges. The modern Tertullus tries not to meet arguments but prefers to misrepresent his opponent, to ridicule him, to destroy his influence. He charges some with being "orphan haters". He feigns to know brethren, "having no concern nor compassion for the unfortunate of earth". He asserts there are those who "think it sinful for churches to cooperate", etc. Idle words! One who thus speaks of his brethren with whom he disagrees condemns, not his brethren, but himself, for all his "idle words" condemn him.
Truth Magazine VII: 7, pp. 3-4