ABC Preview – Righteous Anger – Matthew 5:21-22

March 4, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


This weekend in Adult Bible Class, we continue our “Fit for Life” series with a look at relational health.  Jesus addresses the perils of relational sickness in our text for this weekend: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22).  Jesus says anger is antithetical to healthy relationships.  And yet, again and again, we read in the pages of Scripture of a God who gets angry.  Indeed, the Psalmist says: “God rebukes [the peoples] in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath” (Psalm 2:5).  God gets angry.  But Jesus cautions against anger.  So how can one who gets angry teach against anger?

The syntax of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 is instructive.  Jesus warns against being a person “who is angry.”  In Greek, this is a present tense participle, denoting not an incidental reaction to sin or injustice, but an ongoing temperament.  In other words, the person “who is angry” is continually angry, perhaps with no good reason at all.  Anger forms the core of this person’s character.

Our God does indeed get angry.  But his anger is always with good reason and as an incidental reaction to our sin.  Indeed, it would be an egregious miscarriage of his character if our holy God did not get angry at our ugly sin.  God’s anger is a righteous anger.

Perhaps the best description that I have read concerning God’s righteous anger comes from J.I. Packer:

What manner of thing is the wrath of God?…It is not the capricious, arbitrary, bad-tempered, and conceited anger that pagans attribute to their gods.  It is not the sinful, resentful, malicious, infantile anger that we find among humans.  It is a function of that holiness which is expressed in the demands of God’s moral law (“be holy, because I am holy” [1 Peter 1:16]), and of that righteousness which is expressed in God’s acts of judgment and reward…God’s wrath is “the holy revulsions of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness”; it issues in “a positive outgoing of the divine displeasure.”  And this is righteous anger – the right reaction of moral perfection in the Creator toward moral perversity in the creature.  So far from the manifestation of God’s wrath in punishing sin being morally doubtful, the thing that would be morally doubtful would be for him not to show his wrath in this way.  God is not just – that is, he does not act in the way that is right, he does not do what is proper to a judge – unless he inflicts upon all sin and wrongdoing the penalty it deserves. (J.I. Packer, In My Place Condemned He Stood, 35)

Blessedly, as Packer goes on to note, God makes provision for his holy anger in the cross of his Son, Jesus Christ.  As Paul writes:  “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by [Christ’s] blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9).  God’s righteous anger at our sin is put on his righteous Son on the cross.  In theological parlance, we call this propitiation.

Thus, there is a place for anger.  But it must be the right kind of anger.  It must be righteous anger.  So confess the times that you have fallen prey to the “sinful, resentful, malicious, infantile anger that we find among humans,” as Packer says.  And thank God for his righteous anger.  For sin deserves and even demands wrath from a righteous God.  But praise be to God that he poured out his wrath not on us, but on his Son.  Why does God do a thing so terrible as pouring out his wrath on his Son?  Because God’s anger never stands alone.  It is always coupled with his love for you and me.

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Entry filed under: ABC Extra. Tags: , , , .

ABC Extra – Meaning in Meaninglessness – Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 ABC Extra – Being Subject to Judgment – Matthew 5:21-22

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