God commands you (are you ready for it?) to be angry.
MAY 8, 2023
Justin Holcomb: God commands you (are you ready for it?) to be angry? Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life. We are here to let you know that because of what Jesus has done, God will never be angry at you again. Steve invited our friend Justin Holcomb to do the teaching this week. Justin is an Episcopal priest, an author, and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary.
Justin Holcomb: Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb, and I have the joy of teaching this week, and our topic is going to be anger and forgiveness. And we’re going to explore that through some passages from Ephesians 4 and 5. Now, despite popular understanding, Scripture does not always describe anger as sin. As a matter of fact, the angriest person in the Bible is God, Isaiah 9:17 says.
When he sees sin, his anger does not turn away.
The word wrath is used over 600 times in reference to God’s response to sin and evil, John 3:36 says.
The wrath of God remains on those who do not believe in Jesus Christ.
In Romans, Paul mentions God’s anger over 50 times. Paul features the anger of God prominently in his letters. God’s anger against sin and its effects is justified and displayed. Look at Romans 1:18, Romans 2:5, Romans 9:22, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:6, I Thessalonians 2:16. I’m giving you those, just so you can see that I’m not making this up. This is littered all throughout Scripture and Paul just refers to it throughout his letters. So, it’s in the Old Testament, it’s in the New Testament, it’s in the gospels and in Paul’s letters and others. That God is angry, tells us something very important. David Powlison tells us.
Anger can be utterly right, good, appropriate, beautiful. The only fair response to something evil, and the loving response on behalf of evil’s victims.
That is a helpful quote to move us away from the idea that anger is always sin. God’s people can also express godly anger, Ephesians 4:26 says.
Be angry, but do not sin.
And this teaching today, we’re going to focus on those first two words of Ephesians 4:26.
This passage is from Psalm 4:4 and quoted in Ephesians 4:26. And it shows that anger need not, and should not be only understood as sinful. Legitimate anger should be felt and expressed in an appropriate manner. The fact that Paul distinguishes between anger and sin indicates that there is an anger that is not sinful. Anger at the evil done to you and to others, and the betrayal you may have experienced or loved ones have experienced, falls into the realm of godly anger. God is angry and he actually calls you, commands you, that’s an imperative.
He’s not describing when you are angry, he’s saying.
God is angrier over the sin committed against you than you are. Godly anger is participating in God’s anger against injustice and sin. God is angry because what happened to you was evil and it harmed you, the apple of his eye. To those who are ignoring their anger or settling for weak distortions of anger, which are known as bitterness or hatred. God invites you to participate in his anger for the sins done against you. He’s moving you away from bitterness and hatred and inviting you to anger. Not only are you invited to be angry at evil, but you’re also expected to be angry. As an image of God, you were made a moral being. Princeton theologian, B.B. Warfield tells us this.
It would be impossible for a moral being to stand in the presence of perceived wrong, indifferent, and unmoved.
What he’s saying is, if you are in the presence of sin because you are an image of God. You will not be indifferent, you will not be unmoved by that. So, we are created with the capacity for anger at wrongdoing, and that’s an expression of love for God and for those harmed by sin. This is the opposite of denying, ignoring, or suppressing anger. Expressing godly anger with God is not a sin, but actually it’s encouraged. In the Bible there are many examples of Godly anger, in which anger is directed at the right objects. Again, I’m going give you some passages just so you can look them up as examples: Exodus 16:20, Leviticus 10:16, Judges 9:30, II Samuel 12:5, Jeremiah 6:11, Nehemiah 5:6. And anger against sin or injustice, we learn from those passages is considered appropriate, good, and it’s summoned by God. God is angry at sin and at human suffering and oppression that is the result of sin. It shows us that he is the defender of the wronged because he is holy and just, his anger is always legitimate. One Old Testament scholar tells us this about God’s anger.
Yahweh can be angry because of human cruelty, or he can be angry exclusively because of the idolatry or pride of human beings. That Yahweh can be angry because of humans disregarding their common sense of justice demonstrates that he cares about how humans treat humans. He is concerned about the lives of human beings and whether justice takes place among them. This concern is not merely a passive interest.
It’s a very helpful quote on actually understanding God’s anger without it actually being just only threat. But there’s actually some good news in his disposition because he loves us and hates sin and its effects. God loves the good and hates sin. And because God loves, he’s angry at what harms. Theologian Stanley Grenz tells us.
We dare not confuse God’s love with sentimentality. As the great lover, God is also the avenging protector of that love relationship. God’s love has a dark side, those who spurn or seek to destroy the holy love relationship God desires to enjoy with Creation, experience the divine love as protective, jealousy, or wrath.
There you have it. Love and anger somehow are connected and related to one another. Jesus was angry because of his great love for people. B.B. Warfield tells us that Jesus burned with anger against the wrongs he met, when, when he saw his people suffering, he met them with pity, but he also met sin with angry. He was angry that when he encountered people who perverted the worship of God and contributed to or were callous to the sufferings of others. Mark 3:5 is the only passage where Jesus is clearly said to be angry. His anger was fueled by compassion for a man with a withered hand. Jesus’ reason for anger fits the pattern for God’s anger at sin, oppression, and injustice. Even when anger is not attributed to Jesus, there are times when it’s implied. Jesus felt godly anger about injustice, and for God’s honor. However, in his teachings, anger that divides and fosters personal hatred against another person is completely prohibited. God’s anger is a response to sin and rebellion. John Stott writes.
His anger is neither mysterious nor irrational. It is never unpredictable. It’s always predictable because it is provoked by evil and evil alone.
And so, what we’re learning is that at the same time God is anger, he is slow to his anger and quick to forgive. Our anger is similar to God’s anger when it has the same cause, an object. The problem we often face in our anger is that our standards are not God’s. Thus, our anger is like God’s in form, yet we do not have the character to feel it for the right reasons and execute judgment in the right way. Numerous Psalms like, Psalm 9 and 10, and 37 through 40, connect God’s steadfast love and mercy to his loving wrath by which he does and will deliver his children from their sins and from those who harm them. David Powlison again tells us this amazing little connection between his love and his loving wrath.
We might fairly speak of the steadfast love anger of the Lord. We will call it his loving anger kindness. The unfortunate, needy, and afflicted who faced the angry malice of others, hope in the anger of God’s love to make things right.
God’s anger at the sins of our enemy is an object of faith in some Psalms, Psalm 37 tells us.
That we can trust God because God’s anger will deal with evil doers.
In Psalm 40, God’s steadfast love and anger delivers us from our own sins and from those who hurt us. God’s anger now extends into the future where God promises to end all suffering from other people’s sinfulness. Now, it’s a timing thing. His future might break into the now, he might actually bring some of that future healing and ending of suffering into right now. But we have this amazing hope of the future that we know that he will put an end to all sufferings that are caused by others’ sinfulness. This is the culmination of the theme of God’s comfort for his afflicted people. God hates the way people hurt other people. And in his steadfast love, God will deliver us from our enemies and destroy all causes of pain forever. Now, may the God of peace who brought again from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with every good that you may do his will. Working in us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Thank you Justin. That was our good friend, Justin Holcomb, teaching us today about the importance of Godly anger. And in case you missed them earlier, here are the verses Justin mentioned, Isaiah 9:17, john 3:36, Romans 1:18, Romans 2:5, Romans 9:22, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:6, I Thessalonians 2:16, Ephesians 4:26, Psalm 4:4, Exodus 16:20, Leviticus 10:16, Judges 9:30, II Samuel 12:5, Jeremiah 6:11, Nehemiah 5:6, Mark 3:5, Psalm 9 and 10, and 37 through 40. So, all this week Justin will be with us exploring this misapprehension we often have about anger. And somewhat in that same vein, we recently had a conversation with author Michael Reeves on Steve Brown Etc. about how we often misunderstand the Trinity. Michael really brings in a fresh perspective that I think you’ll appreciate. We put that show on a CD and we would be happy to send it to you for free. Interested? Then call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD or to mail your request go to keylife.org/contact. Just ask for your free copy of the CD featuring Michael Reeves. Last thing, would you partner in the work of Key Life through your giving? You can charge a gift on your credit card, include a gift in your envelope or text Key Life to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.