Ephesians 4:26 (ESV) Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger
“Be Angry!” (4:26a)
The words, “Be angry!” just doesn’t sound right, does it? We are uncomfortable with a command like this. We find ourselves trying to avoid or explain this away, because anger does not sound godly.
The words, “be ye angry,” are a present imperative in the Greek text, commanding a continuous action. This orgē, this abiding, settled attitude of righteous indignation against sin and sinful things, is commanded, together with the appropriate actions when conditions make them necessary.
We must remember that there are two kinds of anger.
There is the “anger of man” which “does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20), and the anger which is an expression of God’s righteousness. We are commanded in our text to be angry in a way that is righteous, that is a reflection of God.
Þ God was angry at the unbelief of Moses, which caused him to resist obeying the command of God to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh, insisting that he let God’s people go (Exodus 4:14).
Þ God is angered by the mistreatment of those who are helpless, the strangers, the widows, and the orphans (Exodus 22:21-24).
Þ God was also angered by men turning from trusting and worshipping Him, to the worship of idols (Exodus 32:10; Deuteronomy 6:14-15; Judges 2:13-14; Ezra 8:22).
Þ God is angered by the grumbling and complaining of His people (Numbers 11:1, 10).
All of these offenses which arouse God to anger seem reasonable enough, but there are times when men may commit offenses which seem minor to us, and yet which provoke God to anger.
One such case is described in 2 Samuel chapter 6. The ark of the covenant had been captured by the Philistines, and was kept for a short time as a trophy in the house of their god, Dagon.
The problem with this was that God shamed their “god” and caused a plague to fall on those in whose city the ark was being kept. Eventually, the ark was returned by the Philistines, transported on an ox cart.
One could expect the Philistines to transport the ark this way. They did not know any better. But God had stipulated in the Law that the ark must be carried by the Levites, by means of poles that were place through rings in the ark.
The Israelites forgot this and began to transport the ark on an ox cart, like the Philistines. When the ox stumbled and the ark seemed in danger of falling off the cart, Uzzah reached out to stabilize the ark and was struck dead by God.
This angered David, who could not understand this outburst of anger at first. Only later, upon reflection, did he realize how important obedience to God’s instructions was. And then, when the ark was transported, it was done as God had instructed (see 2 Samuel 6:1-19).
Our Lord Jesus was also angry.
There were times when Jesus was terribly and majestically angry. He was angry when the scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if he would heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day (Mk 3:5).
It was not their criticism of himself at which he was angry; he was angry that their rigid orthodoxy desired to impose unnecessary suffering on a fellow creature.
He was angry when he made a whip and drove the changers of money and the sellers of victims from the Temple courts (Jn 2:13-17). Because were cheating the worshippers in the exchange of money/sacrifices, they were getting between “the worshipper and God.”
Godly men were also angered by unrighteousness.
Moses, who was initially unshaken by Israel’s worship of the golden calf, became angry when he finally came down from the mountain and saw the extent of Israel’s sin (see Exodus 32:1-20).
Earlier, Moses was angered by Pharaoh’s hardened heart, and his refusal to listen to God and to let the Israelites go (Exodus 11:8).
It would appear that David was angered by Goliath’s blasphemy (1 Samuel 17).
David was later angry when Nathan told him the story of the rich man who stole a poor man’s little lamb, not knowing that he was the villain (2 Samuel 13:21).
The anger which is selfish and uncontrolled is a sinful and hurtful thing, which must be banished from the Christian life.
“Be Angry, But Do Not Sin” (4:26)
If feelings of anger are sometimes unavoidable, there are two things the Christian can do to avoid letting his emotions get him into trouble. The first is “do not sin.” An action taken in the heat of anger is almost always the wrong action.
Only God can properly execute wrath and vengeance (Rom 12:19).
Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
The second action the Christian must take is to get rid of anger within the day.
Few things have higher priority than seeking reconciliation with a brother: Matthew 5:24 (ESV) “..leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. ). Animosity must not be harbored as a growing resentment.
One definition of agape (love) is that “it does keep a record of wrong.” Another way of saying something similar: it does not bring up the past.
My standard: IF I do not take of an issue that brings anger which could lead me to sin, on that day, then I forfeit the right to bring it up the next day.
DON’T GET BURNED! If vented thoughtlessly, anger can hurt others and destroy relationships. If kept inside, it can cause us to become bitter and destroy us from within.
Paul tells us to deal with our anger immediately in a way that builds relationships rather than destroys them. If we nurse our anger, we will give Satan an opportunity to divide us.
Anger must be dealt with as quickly as possible. Used correctly, anger can motivate us to right a wrong, redress a grievance, correct an injustice.
Used improperly, it can burn us and everyone else around us.
Are you angry with someone right now? What can you do to resolve your differences? Don’t let the day end before you begin working on mending your relationship.
If anger is not always evil, it can easily turn one to evil. Anger, like greed, is often the root of various evils. Ungodly anger may become the root of some of the evils addressed in Ephesians 4 and 5. Anger may prompt one to speak to a brother in a way that is destructive.
Just as our speech may edify or build up others, it can also tear down and destroy. Anger which is not properly resolved may lead to slander or false testimony. Anger has prompted people to steal. Anger has caused some to be unfaithful to their mate.
Even anger that begins as righteous indignation can turn sour, becoming ungodly wrath. This is why immediately after Paul commands us to be angry, he warns us to be angry, but not to sin.
As you can see from the text, Paul’s words, “Be angry, and do not sin,” are cited from a psalm of David, Psalm 4:4.
David composes this psalm out of his own distress. Unrighteous men have scoffed at David’s honor, making it a reproach. They have loved what is worthless and deceptive. David agonizes over the wickedness of such men, and calls upon God to deal with them.
Paul adds a dimension which David does not mention in his psalm. It should provide the Christian with strong motivation for heeding Paul’s admonition to avoid sinful anger.
He warns us that we are not to “give the devil an opportunity” with respect to anger. How can this be?
Several opportunities are apparent. First, Satan may take advantage of unresolved anger to promote some other sin, such as slander, strife, or even physical violence.
Satan would surely seek to use our anger to create divisions within the body of Christ. Many churches have been split over petty differences.
Satan, as the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) will surely use our sin, spawned by anger, as an occasion to accuse us before God, and perhaps may use us to accuse our brethren. Satan recognizes anger as a fertile field, capable of producing all kinds of sin, and sin is his specialty.
Paul gives but one method here, by which we may avoid letting righteous anger turn to sin. He instructs us not to “let the sun go down on our anger.”
While righteous anger is to be slow to originate, it is to be quickly dispelled. Anger has a kind of corrosive effect. Anger is designed to prompt us to act, to get us “off the dime” of passivity.
Paul does not tell us what we should do here. I believe that other Scriptures do spell out what is usually required of us.
In short, the process of “church discipline” is the course of action we should take. This process for dealing with our anger toward a brother is Christ is outlined in several texts, and is illustrated in others.
The first step in the process is confrontation. The one who has offended us, or who has acted in a way that dishonors God is to be confronted with his sin. This is to be done as privately and on as small a scale as possible. If the wayward one repents, the matter is settled. If not, then the matter must become more and more public, until it is resolved.
If the sinning saint persists in sin, he must finally be put out of the church, and deprived of the benefits of its fellowship. In the case of the brother who accepts correction, our anger should be converted to forgiveness.
If the brother is disciplined, our anger should turn to grief. In any case, our anger should not be allowed to linger on, turning to bitterness.
In those cases in which our brother is angry with us, we also have a responsibility to bring matters to a conclusion that dispels anger and which reflects the righteousness of God.
We are to go to that brother who has an offense against us, and seek to bring about a reconciliation as quickly as possible (see Matthew 5:23-26).
4:27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
When emotions are out of control, the devil steps in to exploit the situation. Whether in an action taken in the heat of passion, or in a smoldering resentment, the devil is given room to operate.
Characteristics of Righteous Indignation
(1) Godly anger is God-like anger, it is an expression of the anger which has toward the actions of men. Godly people are angry when God is angry. It is anger which is consistent with the holy and righteous character of God.
(2) Godly anger is legal anger. It is wrath based upon men’s violation of God’s law, and it is anger which is lawfully expressed.
(3) Godly anger is not explosive, and is only slowly provoked. God’s anger does not have a hair trigger.
(4) God does not take pleasure in expressing His anger in the judgment of men.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
(5) Godly anger is always under control. Godly anger does not lose its temper. Ungodly anger is excessive and abusive; godly anger never is.
But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger, And did not arouse all His wrath (Psalm 78:38).
We ought to reserve our anger for when we see God dishonored or people wronged.
If we are to take this text seriously, we must also say that we should see more righteous anger than we do. If God is angered by sin, then we should be angered by it as well.
We need to confront the sinner, and without minimizing the sin, to seek its solution in genuine repentance.
In many marriages that end up on the rocks of divorce, the root problem is anger that has not been righteously expressed and dispelled.
In many families, the division and discord stems from a failure to obey Paul’s instructions concerning anger.
In many churches, the unity of the body of Christ has been hindered by the lack of righteous anger.
Let us seek to be both good and mad to the glory of God and for the health and unity of His body, the church.