September 1, 2002

Anger For The Glory of God - Part Three

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


Anger For The Glory of God-Part Three

John 2:12-22
Sunday, September 1, 2002
Pastor Randy Smith

Please open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 13. I would like to read from the great "love chapter" beginning in verse 4. The traits that follow define true biblical love. However, I ask you, are there ever any exceptions to violate these God-inspired truths? In other words, will I show greater honor and greater love to the God whom I serve, if I do exactly what "biblical love" forbids? Let's see for ourselves.

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous (but 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 says, "For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy ; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."); love does not brag (but 1 Corinthians 1:31 says, "Just as it is written, 'Let him who boasts , boast in the Lord.'") and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly (proud) (but 2 Chronicles 17:6 says, "And he (Jehoshaphat) took great pride in the ways of the Lord and again removed the high places and the Asherim from Judah."); it does not seek its own, is not provoked (but Acts 17:16 says, "Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols."), does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things (but 2 Corinthians 11:4 says, "For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully."), believes all things (but 1 John 4:1 says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."), hopes all things, endures all things.

I just read 6 biblical passages that clearly go against the grain of 1 Corinthians 13. Is there a contradiction? Or is there a common thread of truth woven through this tapestry that seems to permit an exception? The answer is yes to the latter. The question is, did you see it? Did you see the common truth that permits an exception to the teaching in 1 Corinthians 13?

First Corinthians 13 was written by the God who not only defines love, but is love (1 Jn. 4:8). The chapter is the standard for true love, and it exemplifies the love that we are to show other humans. When we demonstrate these traits, we give evidence to the fact that we are God's children and have become, not only obedient to God, but also imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). We are to be kind, because God is kind to us. We are to be patient, because God is patient with us. We are to forgive, because God has forgiven us.

And the more we act like God, and the more we conform to His image, the more we bring Him glory. As you know, God created us and is now recreating us, for the purposes of His glory. Isaiah 43:7 proclaims, "Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory , Whom I have formed, even whom I have made."

So 1 Corinthians 13 is ultimately an opportunity to glorify God through our relationship with others. But our relationship with others is not the ultimate end. God's glory is the ultimate end. Therefore if we view God's glory as the ultimate end, often conflicts will arise that force us to make exceptions. We already noted 6 of these exceptions earlier.

Allow me to give you an example along these lines. Love does not boast. When I boast I am taking pride in myself and placing my glory over God's glory. That practice counters the reason for my existence. Therefore boasting is wrong and unloving. However, I glorify God by boasting when I boast of Him. Jeremiah 9:24, "'But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,' declares the Lord." I am forbidden to boast of myself, but I am commanded to boast of the Lord. He is the only thing worth boasting of. And through my boasting, I glorify Him by my words.

The same could be said of the other virtues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13. Though jealously, provocation, impatience, unbelief and intolerance are sins when dealing with others, they are virtues when dealing with the glory of God. Like the apostle Paul, I am to be jealous and provoked when God's glory is not upheld. I am not to be patient with sin. I am not to believe false teachers. And I am not to bear with beliefs that counter the Word of God.


Now, let's get a little more specific as we move to the first point of the sermon. Please turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 4. Look with at verse 31. "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice."

Last week we learned that unrighteous anger occurs when one's personal desires are not met. We learned that unrighteousness anger is a sin of the heart rooted in pride and selfishness manifested in a willful and deliberate choice. We learned that unrighteous anger is a desire to put one's personal agenda over faith in God's sovereignty. We learned that unrighteous anger is a deed of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-20) that often leads to other sins (Pr. 29:22). We learned that unrighteous anger is the mark of a fool (Pr. 29:11). We learned that unrighteous anger fails to achieve the righteousness of God (Jas. 1:19-20). We learned that unrighteous anger is equated with murder (Mt. 5:21-22) and brings the wrath of God (Col. 3:6, 8). We learned that ongoing unrighteous anger will keep one out of the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21).

Our verse in Ephesians 4 makes it clear that unrighteous anger is a sin to be avoided among God's children. We are all to be in the process of "putting off" this ugly deed of the flesh that fails to glorify God.

But just 5 verses earlier, still in Ephesians 4, Paul commands his readers in verse 26 to " Be angry , and yet do not sin ." Now even my 5-year-old daughter does not contradict herself in the span of 4 sentences! What gives? At one moment Paul commands us to "put off" anger because it is a sin, and then he commands us to be angry and not sin in that anger. Likewise, Jesus condemns anger in His teachings, and then proceeds to cast vicious woes on the Pharisees and forcibly clear the temple twice. Again, what gives?

Last week we conducted a brief study on the character of God. Though He clearly forbids anger, we learned that He demonstrates anger toward those who display their unbelief through disobedience and idolatry. We learned that His anger is a necessary attribute to vindicate His holiness and glory. We learned that His anger is always righteous and always in line with His character.

Therefore since the Bible testifies of both truths, the anger of God and the sinlessness of God, we must come to the conclusion that there are two types of anger pertaining to God: righteous anger and unrighteous anger. God is incapable of unrighteous anger because He is incapable of sin. Since unrighteous anger does not classify God, nor does it glorify God, God condemns unrighteous anger among His creatures, Ephesians 4:31 . However, righteous anger, which comes when His holy character is offended, does classify God. God would not be God if He did not stand for all that He is. It would be unrighteous for Him not to exalt the value of His glory. Therefore, God is just in His righteous anger because He is zealous for His glory. In the same way, God expects His creatures to be zealous for His glory, and angry when His character is defiled, Ephesians 4:26 .

Many of you are aware of our big German Shepherd, Blitz. Let's imagine a conversation that the two of us might have had when I picked him up from the breeder 9 years ago. "Blitz, before I take you home, I want to make sure we understand some basic guidelines. I promise to clean you and exercise you. I will provide a roof over your head and any necessary medical treatments. I will love you and care for you. And you will never have a shortage of food. But understand this, you must obey me for your own good. Even when my rules don't make sense, trust my wisdom. You must not question me, because I am your Master. I expect you to be gentle with welcomed visitors. I expect you to protect my family, I expect you to trust my directives and I expect you to be grateful. Fair enough?" We shake and Blitz moves in.

However, 5 years later, when we come back from dinner one evening, we find that the house was robbed. Almost everything in the house has either been stolen or destroyed. I look at Blitz and say, "Where were you? What were you doing? How could you allow this to happen?" And Blitz replies, "You tempered me to avoid anger and jealously. You taught me to be kind and patient. You trained me to bear all things and believe all things."

And I would say, "Blitz, you should have known better. My honor as your Master is worth defending at all costs. You watched someone literally rob my honor and you did nothing. In your attempt to be loving, Blitz, you proved yourself very unloving. You are a guard dog. You were bred and purchased for these purposes."

Now, Blitz was not created in my image, but I was created in the image of God. Since God is capable of anger, I am capable of anger. Since anger is part of God's nature, anger has become part of my nature. Anger is a healthy emotion that responds to a perception of wrong. And when my anger upholds and defends the ultimate wrong, the defilement of God's glory, it demonstrates itself in its in purest and highest form. My anger is now akin with God's righteous anger. It is functioning in the capacity for which it was created. It is mimicking the image of the One in whom I have been created. I am using a tool God has given me to glorify Him and thereby fulfill the purpose for my existence and salvation.

Therefore, if I seek to be a man after God's own heart, what pleases God should please me. What grieves God should grieve me. And what angers God should anger me. My anger should not be directed at telemarketing calls, traffic jams, a blown call from the umpire, poor TV reception or unfavorable weather. That is unrighteous anger! Rather my anger should be directed toward anything that violates God's will and purposes. Anything that defrauds His character or honor. That is righteous anger!

John Stott remarked, "I say that there is a great need in the contemporary world for more Christian anger. We human beings compromise with sin in a way in which God never does. In the face of blatant evil we should be indignant not tolerant, angry, not apathetic. If God hates sin, His people should hate sin too. If evil arouses His anger, it should arouse ours too. What other reaction can wickedness be expected to provoke in those who love God? Or take the example of Henry Martyn, that godly missionary to India as he watched people bowing down before their idols. Seeing those people prostrate before Hindu gods, Martyn said, "excited more horror in me than I can well express. I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified, it would be hell to me."

There can be no doubt that we are commanded to be angry when God's glory is violated. It should not be a duty, but rather a natural overflow from a heart that is seeking after God. However, as a word of warning, I can remember the error of my ways when I first learned about righteous anger. Basically, without knowing it, I used the cover of righteous anger as a reason to excuse every case of unrighteous anger. For example: It's OK to be angry with my children because they are failing to obey their parents and submit to God's primary instruction in their life. It's OK to be angry when my ride is 30 minutes late because that individual is demonstrating unfaithfulness. It's OK to be angry when I am wrongly critiqued because Christians should deal in the truth. After some time the Spirit of God laid a burden on my heart that basically said, "All of your sinful anger is justified under the guise of God's glory, when your primary concern is over your own discomfort and your own reputation. And I am convinced that 99% of what the evangelical church calls righteous anger is really unrighteous anger in disguise.

Therefore to make sure we all don't fall into the same mistake I made, let's compare righteous anger with unrighteous anger.


Righteous Anger

Unrighteous Anger

Anger is an emotion characteristic both of God and humans who have been created in His image. God is not capable of unrighteous anger and thereby condemns it in His children as an offense to His glory. However, God displays just, righteous anger when His glory is offended and expects His creatures to do the same.

Deep-seated, determined and settled conviction.

Outward boiling-over rage or inward seething resentment.

Demonstrated when God does not get what He wants (Psm. 7:11).

Demonstrated when I do not get what my flesh wants (Gal. 5:20).

Motivated by a love for God (Job. 32:2).

Motivated by a love for self (1 Ki. 21:4; 2 Ki. 5:12).

Commended by God (Eph. 4:26; Jon. 4:4).

Condemned by God (Eph. 4:31).

Sin when it is not exercised (sin of omission).

Sin when it is exercised (sin of commission).

Demonstrates righteousness (Zeph. 2:3), specifically holiness (Ez 43:8).

Demonstrates unrighteousness (Jas. 1:19-20), specifically murder (Mt. 5:21-22).

Shows my Lord to be Christ.

Shows my lord to be self.

Occurs when God's will is violated (Dt. 9:16-17)

Occurs when my will is violated (Nu. 24:10; Dan. 3:13).

Rooted in a zeal for God's glory (Dt. 7:4; 32:16, 21; 2 Ki. 21:6, 15; 22:17).

Rooted in a zeal for personal glory (Est. 5:9).

Imitates godly examples (Jesus-Mk. 3:5; Paul-Ac. 17:16; Moses-Ex. 11:8; 32:19).

Imitates ungodly examples (Cain-Gen. 4:5-12; Saul-1 Sa. 20:30-33; Herod-Mt. 2:16).

Produced by the Holy Spirit (Jud. 14:19).

Produced by the flesh (Gal. 5:19-20).

Demonstrates self-control, patience, goodness (Gal. 5:22-23) and wisdom.

Demonstrates the absence of self-control, patience, goodness (Gal. 5:19-21) and wisdom (Pr. 29:11; Ecc. 7:9; Jas. 3:13-18).

Leads to favor from God, increased Christian maturity, deeper assurance, joy, eternal rewards and other righteous actions (i.e. prayer, evangelism, financial support, bold articulate stance for the truth, service).

Leads to other sins (Pr. 29:22; Psm. 37:8) such as bitterness, stubbornness, hate, refusing to communicate, rebellion, self-pity, withdrawal, sulking, critical spirit, vengeance, unwholesome words and rejoicing in another's misfortune.

Improves our relationship with God.

Destroys our relationship with God (Gen 49:7) and others (Pr. 30:33).

Imitates God (Eph. 5:1), shows evidence of salvation (Eph. 5:9; Phil. 1:11) and increases unity in the church (Phil. 2:2).

Grieves the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:20), gives Satan an opportunity (Eph. 4:27), promotes sin (Gen. 4:5-7), destroys one's testimony (Phil. 2:14-15) and disrupts unity in the church (Eph. 4:3).

Seeks to please God (Psm. 119:53).

Seeks to please self.

Must be "put on" (Eph. 4:24).

Must be "put off" (Eph. 4:31).

Brings God's pleasure (Isa. 13:3).

Brings God's wrath (Col. 3:6).

Practice reveals my future is heaven.

Practice reveals my future is hell (Gal. 5:20-21; Mt. 5:22).


As of now we have examined identity and need for righteous anger. Allow me to move to the third point with a few words of caution as it pertains to righteous anger.

The Bible clearly teaches that we are to be angry when God's glory is violated. If we fail to exercise just righteous anger when necessary, we are committing a sin of omission. However, in our zeal to be angry, righteous anger can very easily degenerate into unrighteous anger. Though it is not to be avoided, righteous anger is like walking on thin ice. For that reason, Paul qualified righteous anger in Ephesians 4:26 with three negatives. Please follow along with me.

First of all he said, "Do not sin." Is my anger free from animosity or revenge or malice or resentment? During my anger, I need to ask myself: Am I angry because my personal pride was injured or am I angry because God's glory was offended?

Second, Paul exhorted his readers in verse 26 to "not let the sun go down on your anger." Even with righteous anger, there is a danger of nursing this emotion, often resulting in bitterness. Keep short accounts. Take care of the situation quickly. Avoid going to bed angry.

Third, Paul warned his readers in verse 27 to avoid giving "the devil an opportunity." Satan knows the fine line between righteous and unrighteous anger. What we intend for the glory of God can be twisted by the evil one to sow seeds of hatred, violence and disunity. In your anger, don't give the devil a chance to exert his influence.


At this point I intended to conclude this message, but in meditating on this concept later this week, I felt that one very important stone has been left unturned. We have identified the characteristics of righteous anger. We have examined the need and command of righteous anger. And we have considered the cautions pertaining to righteous anger. But one key question was never answered. What do I do with the righteous anger I am experiencing? I mean, is it just an inward emotion or is it an inward emotion that should produce an external action? Let's see if the few examples of righteous anger in the Bible can offer any clues.

Consider Jesus. In His righteous anger He cleared the temple. Should we emulate His example and clear our land of the "high places?" Should we clear church if necessary? First of all, God does not view America like He did Israel. He saves people from within the filth of our nation. We are told to let the tares grow with the wheat and allow the divine Reaper to make the final harvest (Mt. 13:24-40). Furthermore, God does not dwell any longer in the Jerusalem temple; neither does He dwell within the physical church. The Scriptures declare that His presence is now manifested in the hearts of believers. Therefore, if we choose to emulate Jesus in this situation, we should clear our own hearts from distractions that compete with the pure and undivided worship of God.

Consider Moses. In his righteous anger over the Israelites idolatry during the golden calf incident, Moses smashed the 10 Commandments (Ex. 32:19). Though I do believe his anger was justified, since it mimicked God (Ex. 32:10), I do believe the manifestation of his anger demonstrated a lack of self-control. Therefore, I do not think this example should be emulated either.

Maybe the best example is the apostle Paul. His spirit was provoked to righteous anger when he beheld the Athenians bowing down to idols (Ac. 17:16). His anger for God's glory led him to action for God's glory. His righteous anger motivated him to share the gospel with the people in the marketplace every day (Ac. 17:17).

I believe righteous anger should always stir us to righteous action. Possibly it will be evangelism, or maybe it will be prayer, financial support or a bold articulate stance for the truth. God enables us through our God-given righteous anger to be stirrer righteous actions for His glory.

We have now come full circle with the study we started two weeks ago from John chapter 2. Jesus Christ, God Himself in the flesh always sought the glory of the Father in perfect righteousness. Though He never committed sinful anger, we did read His heart was moved to righteous anger in clearing the temple when God's purposes were violated.

May we too realize the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger. May we understand that righteous anger is not only permissible, but it is also commanded. May our righteous anger stir our emotions to righteous actions for God's glory. And may we ever grow to wean our focus off our self and on to God for the sake of His honor and glory.

other sermons in this series