Overcoming Sin Through Christ – Anger or Wrath

Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)


Anger or Wrath

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Anger or Wrath

Do you have a problem with anger?  Many people do but simply don’t know how to handle it.  Probably most people don’t realize how sinful wrongful anger is and the eternal results of this sin. In fact, most people do slip into an angry disposition from time to time but we must realize that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

People may become angry with their co-workers on the job, angry with their parents or children in the home, angry with their spouse in their marriage, and angry with their neighbor because of his unkind actions.  People often dismiss this sin by saying, “That’s just the way I am!”  Someone has noted, “If we are irritated by our disobedient children, we almost think it is natural for us to shout at them.  But then we are using false standards, standards that God does not accept.  God’s standard is different and it is the only one that is valid.”[i][i]  Anger can be very negative in our relationships.  Barclay observes that anger “is the wrecker of personal relationships, and the destruction of fellowship within the community.”[ii][ii]

Anger generally is a sin that can become life-dominating.  It may control a person from the heart.  Yet “Jesus pronounces a frightful judgment over such vehement behavior.  He includes angry people with murderers, and a terrible punishment will await them. . . . No matter what the cost, we must be freed from anger, from flaring up and being vehement. . . . The way of the angry leads to hell”[iii][iii]

There are two Greek words that we must examine.  Thumos (or thymos) means “wrath, anger, rage, fury,” and orge denotes “anger, wrath.”[iv][iv]  What is the difference?  W. E. Vine says that thumos “indicates a more agitated condition of the feelings, an outburst of wrath from inward indignation, while orge suggests a more settled or abiding condition of mind, frequently with a view to taking revenge.  Orge is less sudden in its rise than thumos, but more lasting in its nature.  Thumos expresses more the inward feeling, orge the more active emotion.”[v][v]

Barclay says that the Greeks thought that thumos comes from thuein, meaning “to boil.”  Plato said that the term comes from “raging and boiling of the soul.”  Ammonius said that thumos is temporary and momentary, but orge is “longlasting, cherishing of the memory of evil.”  Thus, thumos was “like fire in straw, quickly blazing up and just as quickly burning itself out.”[vi][vi]  Barclay then concludes, “Thumos is, therefore, not long cherished anger; it is the blaze of temper which flares into violent words and deeds, and just as quickly dies.”[vii][vii]  We’ve known some people who have had the immediate reaction of anger and others who have had the long, simmering anger that doesn’t cease.  Both are sinful to God.

Thumos is translated in various ways.  Barclay gives these renderings: wrath, anger, fits of rage, temper, outbursts of passion, bad temper, fury, angry tempers, ill-feeling, passion, and furious rage.[viii][viii]  The likelihood of sinful anger is great, but there is one rightful expression of anger—and that is anger directed toward sin against God.  Jesus looked around at unbelieving Jewish people and had justifiable anger against their hardness of heart (Mark 3:5).  Paul wrote, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).  We are to be “slow to anger” (James 1:19).  Even justifiable anger against sin may tend to bring with it feelings of animosity, revenge, bitterness, and hatred, thus Paul goes on to warn, “Do not give the devil an opportunity” (v. 27).  Beware lest a righteous anger continue on and on.  This leads some Bible scholars to warn against any anger!

Anger or Wrath

Again and again in the New Testament, we are warned against anger and wrath.  “The NT views unjustifiable anger and fits of rage as originating in sinful human nature.  Such anger and rage, characteristic of the old nature, are to be decisively rejected by the new persons we have become in Christ.”[ix][ix]  Paul the apostle warns, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).  Barclay notes, “Anger, wrath, malice, slander, foul talk are the sins of the heathen, and a Christian must eliminate them from his life (Col. 3:8).  Thumos, the explosive temper, is something which must be banished from the Christian life.”[x][x]  Notice the “company” that anger and wrath keeps!  Jesus went so far as to say that anger against a brother is the same as or the motivation for murder (Matthew 5:21-22)!

Paul was concerned that he would find “angry tempers” among the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:20).  He said that those who have “outbursts of anger” “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:20-21).  The apostle said that the Colossians once “walked” in sin and this would bring “the wrath of God,” but now they are to put aside all anger and wrath (Colossians 3:6-8).  It is especially important that one not presume to pray to God with wrath or dissension in his or her heart (see 1 Timothy 2:8).

The holy and sinless wrath of God does have a place. He is the moral governor of the universe, sinless in His character, and is perfect in all of His ways.  Because of His holiness and justice, God is able to exercise His wrath or anger with absolute perfection.  Thus, Scripture says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).  Paul says that those who are unrepentant are “storing up wrath” for themselves “in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (2:5).  Even now, the “wrath of God abides” on the unbeliever (John 3:36).

John the baptizer called on people to “flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7).  If we have come to know God through faith in Christ, we have the assurance that Christ “rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10) for “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9).  God can have perfect anger toward those who are in sin and reject His mercies.  This shows the difference between the Lord’s rightful and sinless wrath and human anger that usually is tainted with selfishness, pride, and hurtful feelings.

We can’t dwell on the wealth of information in the Old Testament, but we might notice a few points.[xi][xi]  Proverbs 30:33 says that “the churning of anger produces strife.”  We know this from experience: anger will often result in friction and conflict.  The extreme danger of anger is mentioned in the previous chapter: “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression” (29:22).  Anger and hot-temper generally are found together, and this attitude results in sin.  Anger often comes with a cruelty: “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood” (27:4). Anger brings destruction, but if we are wise we will avoid it: “Scorners set a city aflame, but wise men turn away anger” (29:8).  Sinful words often stimulate anger in another, thus we need to know how to answer: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1).

True love is an antidote to the sin of anger.  If we love, we will be able to conquer a hot temper that harms ourselves, harms others, and offends God. Paul says that love is patient—but anger is impatient.  Love is kind—but anger is unkind.  Love does not act unbecomingly—but anger is very unbecoming.  Love is not provoked—but anger definitely is provoked.  (See 1 Corinthians 13.)

Many a person is well aware that he has a violent temper; and many a person claims that he cannot help it, and expects others to accept and to forgive his bursts of passion.  The NT is quite clear that such displays of temper are sinful manifestations that a man is still in the grip of his own lower nature.  It may well be that such a person is never fully aware of the way in which he wounds others and produces a situation in which fellowship becomes very difficult.  Because he blazes and forgets he thinks that others should equally be able to forget the pain he has inflicted.  Let such a person remember that such displays of temper are sin, and that the way to overcome them is through the power of the Spirit in his heart.[xii][xii]

A hot temper that produces anger is seldom alone in its expression.  When one is angry, he often uses his mouth to speak abusive words, angry words, slanderous words, and demeaning words.  The song Angry Words (by Horatio R. Palmer) puts it this way:

Angry words!  O let them never

From the tongue unbridled slip;

May the heart’s best impulse ever

Check them ere they soil the lip.

Love is much too pure and holy,

Friendship is too sacred far,

For a moment’s reckless folly

Thus to desolate and mar.

Angry words are lightly spoken,

Bitterest thoughts are rashly stirred.

Brightest links of life are broken

By a single angry word.

Beware of spending time with an angry person.  You, yourself, may be influenced to become as angry as the other is:

Do not associate with a man given to anger;

Or go with a hot-tempered man,

Or you will learn his ways

And find a snare for yourself.

(Proverbs 22:24-25).

Anger is contagious!  In light of the manifold negative results of anger and wrath, let’s determine to run from this sinful attitude! Barclay writes, “Anger which is selfish, and which comes from pride, and undue sensitiveness to one’s own feelings is always and invariably wrong; anger for the sake of others, anger which is cleansed of self, can often be a weapon to be used of God.[xiii][xiii]    We may overcome sinful anger and conquer a hot temper the way we overcome all sin—and that is through the Spirit of God.  Paul writes, “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13; cf. Galatians 5:16, 24-25).

[i][i] Basilea Schlink, You Will Never Be the Same (Minneapolis: Dimension Books, 1972), p. 37.

[ii][ii] Flesh and Spirit, p. 50.

[iii][iii] Basilea Schlink, You Will Never Be the Same, pp. 37, 39.

[iv][iv] Mounce, Expository Dictionary, pp. 812-813.

[v][v] Expository Dictionary.

[vi][vi] Flesh and Spirit, p. 52.

[vii][vii] Ibid.

[viii][viii] Flesh and Spirit, pp. 49-50.

[ix][ix] Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1985), p. 50.

[x][x] Barclay, Flesh and Spirit, p. 52.

[xi][xi] Richards, Expository Dictionary, p. 48.

[xii][xii] Barclay, Flesh and Spirit, p. 53.

[xiii][xiii] Flesh and Spirit, p. 53.



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