August 25, 2002

Anger For The Glory of God - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Righteous and Unrighteous Anger Scripture: John 2:12–22


Anger For The Glory of God-Part Two

John 2:12-22
Sunday, August 25, 2002
Pastor Randy Smith

Last week as you know we studied the account in which Jesus cleared the temple. You'll remember that he made a whip of cords and then proceeded to drive all the people, including the animals, out of the place of worship. The text even says that He "poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables." These events are somewhat shocking to us when we consider Jesus the humble Lamb of God clothed with gentleness. However, John's main concern was not to necessarily vindicate the aggressive actions of Christ, but rather present Him as the true Messiah to whom all must look for redemption. Significance in this event is not found in the actions themselves, but rather the symbolism behind the actions. Remember, John was in the business of recording Christ's "signs." John wanted to show the reader that Christ's actions always pointed to something more significant. Therefore, clearing the temple and the dialogue that followed contained profound truths regarding the nature of Christ's ministry.

Last week we discussed these profound truths. For instance we initially learned that this sign (Christ clearing the temple) pointed toward the new form of worship that Jesus would bring with the coming of the New Covenant. This worship of God would be without outside distractions and not confined to one physical man-made location. God's new temple is now the heart of His children (1 Cor. 6:19). And His children can, and must, worship Him everywhere (1 Cor. 10:31) in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24). Anything in our hearts that competes with a pure undivided worship of our Lord must be eliminated. As Jesus cleared the temple in Jerusalem, we too must also be in the continual business of clearing our hearts from competing distractions.

Second , we learned that the specific area in which Jesus cleared in the temple was the "Court of the Gentiles." This remote section was the only location in which a foreigner could approach God at the temple. In clearing this section, Jesus symbolically demonstrated that all in the New Covenant could approach God on equal terms. None in His kingdom any longer are to be considered second-class citizens. The dividing walls have been abolished. Everybody is equally loved and equally accepted, given the same access to God solely on the basis of faith.

Finally we learned that Jesus Himself predicted both the destruction and the resurrection of His body. In verse 19 He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Though all the religious leaders, and even the disciples, misunderstood the words of Christ, John clarified the true intend behind this comment in verse 21, when he said, "But He was speaking of the temple of His body." You'll remember that God manifested His presence no longer in the temple in Jerusalem, but now He manifested His presence in the body of Jesus Christ. "For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). True to His prediction, the Jewish leaders, with the assistance of the Romans, did destroyed Christ's body, the temple of God. But also true to His prediction, Christ participated in His own resurrection just 3 days later (Jn. 10:17-18).

No doubt the Holy Spirit has provided you with some practical application regarding these tremendous truths, but hopefully some intangible application as well as was my intent last week. I wished to present these truths in a way where you might come to grow in faith, better appreciate the New Covenant to which you belong and fall deeper in love with your precious Savior.

These following two weeks, as we conclude this section, I definitely wish to promote what I just mentioned, but I would additionally like to leave you with something tangible, something visible, that you can apply directly to your life. I want to take you on an excursion related to this text that deals with the subject of anger .

Though it may be better to classify Christ's actions in the temple as jealously, there is no doubt that He manifested some anger in His actions as well. So I take you back to where we began this morning. What do we make of an angry Messiah that personally condemned anger in His own teaching? How do we identify the sin of anger? How do we overcome the sin of anger? Was Christ's anger in the temple justified? Should we emulate our Master and Lord in these regards? Can we distinguish between righteous and unrighteous anger?

Though I intended one, I soon realized that it would take two sermons to do justice to answering these questions. Actually, one big sermon divided into two Sundays. Let's begin as we deal with one of the most prominent sins in the evangelical church…Anger.


Since God is the embodiment of all righteous expression, and we are called to be "imitators of God" (Eph. 5:1), maybe a good place to begin in our study is with the character of God. When we consider God's character, His attributes, can God be characterized as One who demonstrates anger?

Upon considering some verses in the Bible we would have to adamantly respond with the negative. Take for example Psalm 86:15, "But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth." Or Psalm 103:8, "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." Or Psalm 30:5, "For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning." These are great verses that describe a great truth, but are we fair to the Bible if we come to a decisive conclusion rat this point regarding the character of God?

When we examine the whole counsel of Scripture, other verses appear which seem to present different perspective. In Exodus 4:14 we read, "The anger of the Lord burned against Moses." Numbers 11:33 speaks of God's frustration with the complaining Israelites. "While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague." In Deuteronomy 32:16 God's anger burned against Israel's idolatries. "They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger ." In 1 Kings 11:9 we read how "the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice." Other places of the Scripture speak of His anger in general. Isaiah 30:27, "Behold, the name of the Lord comes from a remote place; Burning is His anger , and dense is His smoke; His lips are filled with indignation , And His tongue is like a consuming fire." Psalm 7:11, "God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day."

And contrary to popular belief (which states that God was an angry God in the Old Testament, but a gracious God in the New Testament), God's anger is equally witnessed in the New Testament. Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." Romans 2:5, "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." John 3:36, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Arguably the greatest American theologian, Jonathan Edwards, preached his greatest sermon, entitled, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

The Scriptures make it clear that God is in the process of demonstrating righteous indignation toward the humans He created when they violate His righteous will. But the Scriptures also make it clear that God is continually demonstrating the attributes of mercy, forgiveness and grace. 1 Jn. 4:8 says that "God is love." Though this apparent contradiction may seem confusing to our finite minds, we must understand that God exercises all of His attributes simultaneously in perfect harmony and righteousness. He can be loving and angry at the same time. The greatest example of this is the cross. While He was angry with those abusing Jesus and our sin which He Himself bore, He was loving the world and His beloved Son dying on our behalf.

Pulling it all together, God's anger is always directed at the rebellion or disobedience to His holy commands. His anger is a just response consistently displayed to those who live in unbelief or turn to serve other gods. Even His children, are not exempt; they, such a Moses and Solomon, occasionally provoke the anger of God. His anger is a necessary attribute to vindicate His holiness and glory. His anger is always righteous whereas it is always in line with His character. His anger is just, controlled and fair.

But does Jesus get angry? Most people would say "no." But naturally as the second person of the Trinity, God in the flesh, we should expect the same attributes to characterize Him as they do God the Father. Jesus is the gentle and meek Lamb of God, but He is also the ferocious Lion of Judah. Revelation 6:16, "And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb .'" In response to the unbelief of the Pharisees, Mark 3:5 says, "And after looking around at them with anger , grieved at their hardness of heart…" Elsewhere He called them "hypocrites" and a "brood of vipers" and "whitewashed tombs…full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness…who will not escape the sentence of hell" (Mt. 23:27, 33). In response to the unbelief of Peter He said, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's" (Mt. 16:23). We already witness how Christ in His anger cleared the temple during the beginning of His ministry. The other gospel accounts record that He also cleared it again at the end of His ministry.

What provoked Christ to such anger? Jesus was motivated by a deep love for the Father and steadfast passion to see His glory upheld. He opposed anything that defied the glory of God. His anger was righteous, His anger was justified and His anger was controlled. And although He frequently demonstrated this anger, the Scriptures are replete with references that say Christ lived a sinless life.

In summary, God manifests a continual anger against that which offends His holy character, even though He clearly condemns anger in the Bible. And since God cannot sin, we must come to the conclusion that there are two types of anger described in the Bible…righteous anger and unrighteous anger.


Before we seek to delineate these two forms of anger, and before we answer the question as to whether we as humans should manifest the righteous anger of God, we need to begin (now in point #2) with the many references that clearly call anger a sin. In other words, let's begin by identifying unrighteous anger, the anger contrary to God's character, the anger that God condemns.

Unrighteous anger, unconcerned about the glory of God, occurs when one's personal desires are not met. As with any sin, unrighteous anger is rooted in pride or selfishness. Unrighteous anger is a sin of the heart, which results in a willful and deliberate choice to put one's personal agenda over God's glory and faith in His sovereignty.

But enough of my words, let's see what the Scriptures have to say about this vice. Fist of all, the Bible clearly marks anger out as a sin that is to be avoided . Ephesians 4:31, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." Anger often leads to other sins . Proverbs 29:22, "An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression ." Proverbs says anger is a symbol of fools . Proverbs 29:11, "A fool always loses his temper , but a wise man holds it back." Anger should not characterize an elder , or for that matter, any person in leadership. Titus 1:7, "For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered…(and) not pugnacious . Anger fails to achieve God's righteousness . James 1:19-20, "This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God ." Jesus put anger on the same level as murder . Matthew 5:21-22, "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 'But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court ; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the Supreme Court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell . Anger brings the wrath of God . Colossians 3:6, 8, "For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come…But now you also, put them all aside: anger , wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth." Anger is a deed of the flesh . Galatians 5:19-20 "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: …enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger , disputes, dissensions (and) factions." And finally, habitual anger will keep one out of heaven . Galatians 5:19-21 "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident (the list follows including anger) and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God ." CH Spurgeon said, "I have no more right as a Christian to allow a bad temper to dwell in me than I have to allow the devil himself to dwell there…you cannot carry a bad temper into heaven."

Beloved, there can be no doubt that unrighteous anger in an awful offense to a holy God and a trait that should not, must not and will not characterize the life of His children. Even from a personal level, we would all agree that anger is one of the biggest detriments to our relationships and ongoing attempts at biblical communication. Is it not sad that we often vent our anger on those whom we love the most? Some of us are plagued by this sin. Some of us deal with this sin on an infrequent basis and more subtle level. Nevertheless we all struggle with anger to different degrees, and all of us must continually battle this wicked deed of the flesh. Spurgeon again, "You must kill it, or it will kill you." Another person once said, "Anger is only 1 letter from danger." But most importantly God said you must remove unrighteous anger from your life…but how? (See bulletin insert…included below)


By God's grace (1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 12:9) through the power of His Spirit (Jn. 14:16) and the provision of His Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17), every disciplined Christian believer with sincere effort (Phil. 2:12-13) will be able to change (Phil. 4:13).

CH Spurgeon said, "All the 'cannots' in the Bible about spiritual inability are tantamount to 'will nots.' When you say, 'I cannot repent,' you mean, 'I will not.'"

*It is not to be understood that everything listed in this column is necessarily a sin (although some clearly are). Rather the intent is to show the unbiblical/superficial ways of dealing with sin that never address the condition of the heart (1 Sa. 16:7). These methods are incapable in and of themselves to bring ongoing, biblical change for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Unbiblical Ways

Biblical Ways

Avoid anger for personal reasons (health, reputation, business, etc.).

Avoid anger (ultimately) because it is a sin against God (Eph. 4:31).

Realize that anger is a product of your environment, a chemical imbalance, unfavorable genetics or a uncontrollable personality type.

Realize that anger is a deed of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) manifesting pride and selfishness (Jas. 3:13-18).

Blame other people and/or circumstances for your anger. Seek to change these and not the position of your heart.

Blame yourself for your anger realizing that it comes from the wickedness of your own heart (Mt. 7:21-23; Jas. 1:13-15).

Deny any anger in your life.

Learn to recognize anger in your life (1 Tim. 4:6).

Put yourself first, do what seems best in your own heart, walk away from the situation.

Confess past sins of anger to God and others you may have offended (1 Jn. 1:8-9; Col. 3:13). Ask for forgiveness.

Get in touch with your feelings. Learn to trust your emotions.

Pray habitually (1 Thes. 5:17) for God's power to transform your thinking (Rom. 12:2) and to give you the ability to change (Phil. 4:13).

Anger is not wrong if it remains internal and within control. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. Even outbursts of anger are justified at times.

Put off anger and the other related deeds of the flesh (malice, rage, wrath, enmities, strife, disputes, dissentions, factions, slander, gossip, abusive speech, etc.-Gal. 5:19-21).

If someone makes you angry, be sure to get them back through slander, gossip, abusive words, or the "cold shoulder."

Put on (replace the anger with) the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control-Gal. 5:22-23). Especially practice these traits toward those who make you angry (Rom. 12:19-21; 1 Pet. 3:8-9).

Practice "relaxation techniques" (visualization, deep breathing, yoga), seek more "personal time" and get plenty of sleep.

Walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), be on the guard (1 Pet. 1:13) and deal with anger in your heart before it arises (Rom. 13:14).

Learn to "manage" your anger.

Memorize Scripture which is the "sword of Spirit" (Eph. 6:17) designed to overcome sin (Psm. 119:11). Some suggested verses concerning anger are: Eph. 4:31; Jas. 1:19-20; Pr. 14:29; 16:32; and Ecc. 7:9.

Show little discernment in the friends you choose. Discrimination of any type is the mother of all sins.

Do not be yoked with "angry individuals" unless they are willing to change (Pr. 19:19; Pr. 22:24).

"Bad things" never happen in our life for good. "Mother Nature" has no intimate relationship to our specific difficulties, difficulties which are beyond her care and control.

Joyfully realize that God is sovereign to bring all "unfavorable circumstance" into your life for the purposes of His glory and your good in conforming you to the image of Christ (Jas. 1:2; Rom. 5:3-5).

Refuse to share your personal life with others. Be a rock and oppose positions of vulnerability.

Seek a person to keep you accountable (Gal. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:24-25).

other sermons in this series