Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 February 14, 2016
“Be Ye Very Angry, and…”
Text: Ephesians 4:26-27
We continue today in our punctuated sermon series through Ephesians, and in particular we continue examining certain commands that, when obeyed, display the new life in Christ. Last week the Lord commanded us in His Word to speak truth. Hopefully, we have complied, by God’s grace, with this command. Today we arrive at another command. This week, the Lord commands us through Paul to be angry—perhaps to you a surprising command—but with several important caveats that further inform this command. Let us then hear God as He speaks in His Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Today Scripture portion has within four commands—in particular, four Greek imperatives—and those commands figure prominently in our exposition today. First, God commands us to be angry. Actually, He commands us to be very angry. Other glosses for the Greek word here rendered angry (orgidzomai [orgizomai]) include be full of anger and be furious. Shockingly, we are allowed appropriate vehemence in our anger at appropriate wrongs for appropriate reasons. Yet we must note several caveats; these come, like the admonition to be very angry, in the form of commands.
God calls us, through the Apostle Paul, to be very angry, but to sin not. There are certain ways in which our anger is sinful. We sin when our anger is improperly directed. Sometimes we express anger against an innocent party, while a guilty party escapes our notice. At other times we express anger at others for their non-willful mistakes. We also express anger outwardly when the Holy Spirit brings conviction to our souls concerning sin. All of these errors, and others like them, involve fundamentally misdirected anger.
To avoid this, direct anger at the right object. Direct anger fundamentally at sin (especially our own sin), and the author of sin, more than at sinners themselves. Remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual powers of wickedness in heavenly realms (cf. Ephesians 6:11). If any be overtaken in a trespass, let those who are spiritual restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1). Ever aim to direct anger at the right object—and may the Holy Spirit help us in this.
Our anger is sinful when we feel and express excessive vehemence—even in view of the foregoing remarks about being very angry. We may feel and express anger at an appropriately high level for the right reasons. Yet we are not permitted infinite vehemence in anger; though the level permitted be high in certain circumstances, yet our anger in any case must not surpass God’s righteous allowance in any case. May the Lord help us to discern what is the right amount of anger in any provoking case—and not to proceed beyond that amount to excessive vituperation.
We also sin when our anger is of excessive duration—and to this our text speaks in some detail. The Apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit to use pictorial language here, instructs us not to let the sun go down on our anger. This remark is more proverbial than literal; it will be hard this week, for example, to be provoked at six in the evening and be finished with anger by sunset—at six-fifteen. Yet Paul Spirit-led point is well taken. Let not anger be of overly long duration. Should the duration be too long, other parties are wounded needlessly and the overly-long anger does damage to our souls and bodies—and it takes root deep within us. These thoughts get us to the final command in today’s text.
God commands us not to give a place to the devil. This can happen all too easily with we allow anger to simmer over a long time. True, we are not red-hot angry all the time in this state, but the anger remains at low boil over a long time and does it typical damage to us and to others—and all of this to the delight of the evil one, who enjoys our misery and the misery we inflict on others. Moreover, other sins run down the slope that long-cherished anger creates. Inordinately long anger breeds, for example, malevolence—both in thought and in deed. In our proper anger, let us not go beyond the bounds ordained by God—especially on length—in order that the devil gain no toehold and work his usual evil.
Righteous anger, then, in summary, includes both proper direction of it and containment within due bounds of vehemence and duration. Remember one further thing about our anger. Even when we comply with all the foregoing concerning our anger, yet even then our feeling and expression of anger is not perfectly righteous. Even our so-called righteous deeds, in view of God’s perfect, infinite holiness, are as polluted garments (Isaiah 64:6). This illustrates a fundamental doctrine of our Reformed faith—the doctrine of total depravity. This doctrine, properly understood, asserts that we are not as bad as we could be, but it also asserts that no area of our lives is free from sin’s taint—even anger. This reflection, by God’s grace, should give us long pause before we express our anger, and it should help curb sinful anger further. Therefore, let us be very angry, and sin not—neither let the sun go down upon our anger, and let us not give a place to the devil.