Years ago I did a sermon series on the seven deadly sins. The sermon that got the most feedback was a two-part message on anger. Everybody gets angry! Not everybody realizes it or admits it; fewer still may show it but everybody gets angry. In a fallen world often filled with disappointment, imperfection, misery and sins (our own and others) anger is a given. Maybe this is why there are so many stories about anger in the Bible. It is God’s intention for us to understand it and to know how to resolve it. In this and the next newsletter article, I want to discuss what anger is and how we make sense of it. Today I will look at the first of five general statements about anger. I will cover the remaining four next month.
We must first understand that anger is a major theme in the Bible. In Romans Paul mentions anger and its effects more than 50 times. The truth that God is angry tells us something very important about anger. Anger can be utterly right, good, appropriate and even beautiful. God’s anger is never capricious, uncontrolled or raging but it is always just. His anger is the fair response to evil and a loving response toward victims of evil. Jesus was often filled with anger, especially toward the Pharisees and in the classic scene of overthrowing the tables of the moneychangers in the temple precincts and driving them out with cords of rope. Jesus was angry at sin, evil, injustice and oppression as well as self righteousness.
God is also the most loving Person in the Bible but we can’t really understand the depth of His love until we understand the depth of His anger toward sin. Because God loves us with such an amazing love He is angry at what harms us. God’s anger toward those things that harm us is really a way of His being for us. The Gospel is about how the love of God and the anger of God are resolved. God expresses His love for His people by the each of the three ways He expresses His anger against wrong.
First, in love the anger our sins deserve fell on Jesus. God’s anger was expressed for your well being. The cross sets us free from ever experiencing His wrath against our sins. In love He offered His innocent Son to bear our sins and absorb the wrath we deserve. God’s wrath punishes, destroys and gives sin its due in the Lamb of God, our Savior who takes away the sin of the world. Because Jesus loves us He gives Himself to bear the consuming fire of God’s anger. The way of our deliverance is His glory and our joy. God’s loving anger is expressed in a way that brings us the greatest blessing; justification, forgiveness of sin, adoption into His family and the gift of the Holy Spirit. What we deserve, Another has borne because He chose to love us. In this supreme act of self-giving love, we experience God’s anger act for us and our ultimate wellbeing. In response to this awesome truth we can confidently repent and believe.
Second, in love God’s anger works to disarm the power of your sin. His anger against sin is again expressed for your wellbeing. In the present, He deals continually with indwelling sinfulness itself (Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). It is the Holy Spirit who pours out God’s love within us and that love is also a burning fire of anger against evil. The intent is never to destroy you but to destroy evil and renew you (Hebrews 2:5-11). In steadfast love He remakes us not by tolerating our sin but by hating our sin in a way that we learn and are enabled to love. The process is not pleasant, because suffering, reproof, guilt and owning up never feels good. But deliverance, mercy, encouragement and a clean conscience do feel good. God remakes us progressively. The fruit of the Spirit and renewal of His image are developing as God’s anger destroys ongoing sin. He is angry at our self-destructive sinfulness. He loves us too much to leave us as He found us. Our growing faith and obedience is His glory and our joy. In sanctification God’s loving anger nourishes faith and assures us of His ongoing work. In sanctification God’s destructive power works within us against what is wrong with us and for us in making us new. In his daily outworkings of love we experience God’s anger working for us and in response we energetically cooperate with His grace and obey His commands (Philippians 2:12-14),
Third, in love God’s anger will deliver you from the pain of others sins. His anger at sin will be expressed for your wellbeing. In the future He promises to end all suffering from others sinfulness. God hates the way people hurt other people. In love He will deliver us from our enemies and all causes of pain shall cease. At the same time the Bible is clear that those who oppose God and hurt His people exist for a purpose. They are His unwitting agents of the sanctification task. They act for their own sinful reasons but at the same time also accomplish God’s purposes for good as He tests and transforms us through suffering. They are agents of God’s discipline toward us in order that we might learn patience, faith and love for our enemies. God uses these agents to ripen good fruit in tough times. They are under wrath for the malice in which they do what they do and God’s anger will destroy His enemies. He loves His children and is glorified in our ultimate deliverance from suffering. So as we groan in pain (Romans 8:17ff) the painful is still painful but we groan in hope knowing what will come at the end. Because He loves us, He is angry at the people who hurt us and this is our blessedness, His glory and our joy.
God expresses His love in these three ways He expresses His anger at wrong. God’s loving anger resolves the entire problem of evil in a way that will bring Him inexpressible glory and bring us inexpressible blessing. If God’s loving anger is for us, who can be against us and prevail? In a sense, God’s wrath has become the hope of His children though is the despair of His enemies. Yet amazingly, if His enemies are willing to turn to Him in faith, that wrath is converted into grace through Jesus Christ and His enemies become His friends. The truth is you can’t understand God’s love if you don’t understand His anger.