We are studying the "Worthy Walk" in Ephesians chapter 4. You will remember that Paul has told the Ephesians, and I believe all believers, not to walk any longer like the Gentiles, in the futility of their minds. He told us that because we have put off the Old Man and put on the New Man at salvation we are to live differently than the unsaved.
Paul begins to get very specific as to what this "Worthy Walk" looks like beginning with verse 25 where is says:
Therefore having put aside the lie, let speak truth each with his neighbor! for we are of one another members. Ephesians 4:25 ABP
Why does he say that we should speak truth with each other? It is because we are members of one another. When you lie, you hurt the body to which you belong. Keep in mind why we are to tell the truth; it will help us understand the next verse:
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, Ephesians 4:26 NASB
Paul didn't leave out a negative here as many think. He did not say, "Be not angry." He said, as it reads here, "BE ANGRY"—the actual Greek word is imperative, which is the usual form used for commands. We really have two imperatives in a row here: "Be angry" (orgizesthe); and "Do not sin" (hamartanete).
The first half of this verse is in all capitals in the NASB indicating that it is a quotation from the Tanakh. Paul is alluding to Psalm 4:4. So we need to answer this important question, "What does the Psalm mean?" In Psalm 4, David begins with a prayer:
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. Psalms 4:1 NASB
David composes this Psalm out of his own distress. Unrighteous men have scoffed at David's honor, making it a reproach. David agonizes over the wickedness of such men and calls upon Yahweh to deal with them.
This is probably better translated: "my righteous God." Verses 2 and 3 are David's rebuke, addressed to those wicked men who have scorned his righteousness. Their sin is identified and rebuked in verse 2. Further, in verse 3 David teaches them the truth. Yahweh sets the godly man apart. He loves and honors him. In verse 4, he may be addressing his over-zealous supporters, who would quickly settle accounts by giving vent to their fierce anger:
Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Psalms 4:4 NASB
Either David is addressing the godly who are being slandered, or the ungodly mentioned in the previous verses. In either case, the idea is that when anger arises, we should not sin, but remain silent and wait for the deliverance of Yahweh:
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the LORD. Psalms 4:5 NASB
Verse 4 speaks against personal revenge that circumvents the law and consumes the lives of the vengeful. Don't seek revenge; trust in Yahweh.
Paul picks up David's words and uses them in Ephesians 4:26. There is much debate on what exactly Paul is saying here. Daniel Wallace has observed from scholarly literature seven possible ways of understanding and interpreting the grammar of this verse, but he believes there are only two good options supported by the text: "be angry" as a command, or "be angry" as a condition or concession ("if you are angry" or "although you are angry").
Those who interpret Paul as saying "be angry" as a command say we should understand the word in its simplest sense: as a Greek imperative; typically considered a command. According to this view, Paul is calling for righteous anger.
Anger is not by default a bad emotion. Anger is an emotion, and as with any emotion, it can be bad, but it can also be good. As with all emotions, anger's purpose is to move us to action.
Anger itself is not a sin, because the Scripture tells us, "Yahweh gets Angry." Yahweh was angry at the unbelief of Moses, which caused him to resist obeying His command to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh:
Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses... Exodus 4:14 NASB
It seems like Yahweh was always angry at Israel:
So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel. Numbers 25:3 NASB
"Then the LORD heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, 'Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers, Deuteronomy 1:34-35 NASB
"Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that He would have destroyed you. Deuteronomy 9:8 NASB
So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah. 2 Kings 17:18 NASB
Yahweh is angered by the mistreatment of those who are helpless, the strangers, the widows, and the orphans:
"You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. "If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. Exodus 22:22-24 NASB
Yahweh is angered by the grumbling and complaining of His people:
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. Numbers 11:1 NASB
Alright, I'm sure you get the point Yahweh gets angry, and rightfully so. He hates sin, and He displays His righteous wrath against it. Yahweh would be neither righteous nor loving if He did not hate sin with a holy passion.
Yeshua gets Angry: He was angry at the Pharisees when they opposed His healing of men on the Sabbath day:
After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Mark 3:5 NASB
Yeshua was angry over their stubborn indifference to the needs of suffering humanity. It made Him angry. In John 2:13 He went to the Temple where He saw tables for buying and selling, like a business. He became angry when He saw that the Temple, which should have been a place of prayer and worship, had been converted to a business. Just like His Father, Yeshua is angry at sin.
Godly men were also angered by unrighteousness. Moses got angry:
But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. Exodus 16:20 NASB
Moses was angry about their sin. They didn't listen to Yahweh's commands.
King David, the man after God's own heart, got angry. David got angry when Nathan told him the story of the rich man who stole a poor man's little lamb, not knowing that he was the villain:
Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry. 2 Samuel 13:21 NASB
Here he is actually angry at his own sin. Sin should anger us.
David became angry because of the LORD'S outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day. 2 Samuel 6:8 NASB
Here David is angry at Yahweh. Have you ever been angry at Yahweh? Remember you are to be a truth teller. This is not righteous anger. This is anger because the Sovereign God of the universe doesn't do things the way you think He should. This is self centered sinful anger.
Christians Should Get Angry: The capacity for anger is part of the image of Yahweh in man. Anger is a God-given emotion. And, if we are godly people, we will get angry over sin. First of all we must hate and be angry at sin in ourselves. But, also, we must be angry at the sin and injustice that we see in the world.
If you hear of a little child who is being mistreated, it should anger you. I can't help but wonder whether our nation would have abolished or greatly restricted abortion on demand if more Christians had expressed outrage at this terrible sin. The murder of innocent unborn babies should make us angry. False teaching and abuses in the Church should make us angry as they made Luther and Calvin angry. The things that are happening in the Church today should make us angry. Anger is the proper response in these situations, because it is Yahweh's response to sin. Apathy towards sin is not a godly response.
There is cause for righteous indignation, and many think this is what Paul is talking about when he says, "Be angry." In support of the view that Paul is commanding anger, the view that sees this as an imperative is the word kai (and) between "be angry" and "do not sin," which on the surface makes the verse look like two commands in a row. This view would make the most logical sense from a strictly grammatical point of view, but I think there are other factors to consider.
Since Paul is quoting from Psalm 4, we have to consider what the psalmist is saying as well. Is the psalmist commanding anger? I don't think he is, but he may be. But the fact is that we cannot say that Paul is commanding anger only because of the grammar in the verse.
Also, the context both here and in Psalm 4:4 does not seem to be one where it would be natural for Paul to be commanding anger over injustice or sin. It doesn't make sense to me for Paul to say, "Be angry," meaning righteous anger, and then say, but only for a short while, "don't let the sun go down on your wrath." If it is righteous anger, it should continue as long as the sin continues.
Paul's emphasis seems to be on what to do with anger that already exists. It is grammatically possible to see the phrase as a command with an emphasis less on prescribing righteous anger and more on providing parameters for anger that is already present. So some, including myself, see this not as a command, but rather as a condition, "if you are angry"or "in your anger." So the idea here is that the Greek imperative is used as a condition, which is a grammatical possibility. I hate to say this, but I think the NIV translates this correctly as, "In your anger, do not sin."
Whatever we accept as the exact translation of this verse, the idea is that anger at some level is being allowed for. Otherwise, Paul would simply tell his readers not to be angry. Paul simply assumes there will be anger sometimes. This is a fact of life.
I am not excluding the possibility that Paul is commanding righteous anger on some level, but it is unlikely that the point of the passage is to prescribe it. The point of the passage has to do with behavior in the household of God, on how to live in harmony with one another as the Body of Christ. And all of us in the Body from time to time deal with anger; it seems Paul is saying that's okay, but don't sin.
"AND yet DO NOT SIN"—the NASB translators added "yet."
Anger is certainly not a problem that Americans have, is it? If we delay one instant after the light changes, or cut someone off on the freeway; we can trigger vile language, a vulgar gesture, and even a gun shot. If a waitress is slow at a restaurant, a line is too long, or a checker seems too slow; the result may be outbursts of anger.
One of the most common problems of life is anger. And most of our anger is not righteous. Most of our anger stems from pure selfishness. Like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum, I am angry because I wanted my way, and I didn't get my way! I want to get somewhere in a hurry, and this stupid driver ahead of me is going under the speed limit.
All of these angry feelings stem from my inherent selfishness. All such anger is really ultimately directed against the sovereign God. If He would just do it my way, I wouldn't be in these frustrating circumstances!
Is there any Christian who will not confess to having been angered in the past week? Of course not. Even the most dedicated of Christians still get angry, and we must learn to deal with it.
The command to "be angry and do not sin" should call us all to examine our emotion of anger. When we do, the first thing we need to do is see the proximity of our sinful pride in relation with our anger. James asks:
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. James 4:1-2 NASB
Then he says:
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." James 4:6 NASB
Our pride can fool us into thinking that we are righteously angry, when in fact we are allowing our sinful pride to mask itself and produce in us all kinds of anger. And if we allow our anger to turn to sin, it will cost us.
Remember Moses' experience at Meribah-Kadesh, when Yahweh said to him when the Children of Israel murmured, "Moses, speak to the rock." Instead, in anger, which is really the thing that Paul is speaking about here in this context, he smote the rock twice instead of speaking to it. And Yahweh said, "Alright, Moses, because you have lost your temper, and in anger you've said the things and done the things you've done, you're not going to be able to enter into the Land." Allowing our anger to lead to sin costs us.
I was very angry when a young teenage girl in our youth department told us that she was being sexually molested by here step-father. I wanted to put on a ski mask and give him a good beating. That would have been stupid and costly. I most likely would have gone to jail over it. Instead of sinning in my anger, I called the authorities, and they arrested him.
Notice what Yeshua said about anger:
"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 says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Matthew 5:21-22 NASB
Anger unchecked can lead to murder.
Richard Walters is a psychiatrist in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He writes:
"People will be murdered today because of someone's anger. Others will die from physical ailments resulting from or aggravated by their angry feelings. Many people die in anger-related auto accidents. While others carry out the angriest act of all: suicide. Countless relationships die little by little as resentment gnaws away at the foundations of love and trust. Anger is a devastating force, and its consequences should sicken us."
Fred Buechner says, "Of the seven deadly sins, anger is probably the most fun. Many folks feast on their anger. The chief drawback, however, is that we are devouring our own selves." If you are mad at someone for something which happened two weeks ago, two years ago, or two decades ago, you are choosing to be angry. They are not making you angry, it is your choice, and it is a sin, and it is very destructive emotionally.
Our call as believers is to model the love of Yeshua, even in the midst of an angry society. We have been supernaturally equipped to control anger:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NASB
Believer, you can control your anger if you are controlled by the spirit. Even unsaved people control their anger when they have to. If while at work your boss makes you angry, you control it because you don't want to lose your job. So unbelievers can control their anger if they really want to—how much more can believers who are controlled by the Spirit. When is it that Christians and non-Christians cannot control their anger? When they have had too much to drink. As believers, we can control our anger, unless alcohol is a factor. Then we become controlled by alcohol instead of the Spirit:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 NASB
Alcohol and anger often lead to very undesirable consequences. You get in an argument with someone because you have been drinking, then a fight starts, you hit him, he falls and hits his head, which kills him. Now you are going to jail. Alcohol and anger don't mix. And let me say that it is not just alcohol that can lead to angry outbursts.
Nearly every mass shooting incident in the last twenty years, and multiple other instances of suicide and isolated shootings all share one thing in common, and it's not the weapons used.
The overwhelming evidence suggests the single largest common factor in all of these incidents is that all of the perpetrators were either actively taking powerful psychotropic drugs, or had been at some point in the immediate past before they committed their crimes.
Multiple credible scientific studies going back more then a decade, as well as internal documents from certain pharmaceutical companies that suppressed the information show that SSRI drugs ( Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors ) have well known, but unreported side effects, including, but not limited to, suicide and other violent behavior. All you have to do is Google relevant key words or phrases to see for yourself. www.ssristories.com is one popular site that has documented over 4500 "Mainstream Media" reported cases from around the world of aberrant or violent behavior by those taking these powerful drugs.
So Spirit controlled believers can keep their anger in check unless they become influenced by alcohol or by legally prescribed psychotropic drugs. And in my opinion, being influence by these drugs is against the warning of Solomon in:
Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 NASB
The heart here is the mind, your thinking process. We are to guard our minds.
We are so easily governed by selfish motives that we need to be very careful when we feel angry. When a village of the Samaritans would not receive Yeshua, James and John were indignant:.
When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" Luke 9:54 NASB
They could have cited chapter and verse for that response, because that's what Elijah the prophet did when the king of Israel sent soldiers to arrest him (2 Kings 1:9-16). But, Yeshua rebuked James and John for their lack of compassion! So, be careful!
"Do not let the sun go down on your anger"—there is much difference of opinion among scholars as to what exactly this means. One thing I am sure of is that Paul is not speaking literally. Do you know why I'm so sure? If we take this literally, an Eskimo at the North Pole may hold a grudge for six months while the sun is up and natives at the equator may only hold one for twelve hours. Meaning those living at the North Pole would have more opportunity than other people to vent their resentment.
Some say, "Let not the sun go down on your anger" is a common parable out of the life of that time, and it simply means do not nurse your anger, do not hold a grudge, do not let the sun go down upon it, do not let it carry over to another day.
In understanding this phrase we have to go back to Psalm 4, because whatever Paul means by it, is probably derived from his grasp of what David was saying in that Psalm. Twice in this short Psalm David refers to his bed. In verse 4, David speaks of being still. In verse 8 he speaks once again of lying down and sleeping in peace, knowing that his defender is Yahweh, which assures him that he will dwell in safety.
While most often this phrase, "Don't let the sun go down on your anger" is seen as an instruction to make our peace with men (usually our mate) before we go to sleep for the night, I think that David saw the only solution to his anger in obtaining peace from Yahweh. Unfortunately, confrontation and discussion may not resolve the problem which produces our anger. After having done what we can do, it is only as we give judgment over to Yahweh that we find the rest which David describes in his Psalm.
So I think Paul is saying, "Be angry, but don't act out on it and sin, turn it over to Yahweh, look to Him to give you peace. Trust in Him. I think Paul is saying the same thing here that he told the Romans in:
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. Romans 12:19 NASB
Our anger is not to lash out at others, we are to trust Yahweh to deal with it.
and do not give the devil an opportunity. Ephesians 4:27 NASB
The Greek word for the devil, is the word "diabolus" —it's a double-meaning word, in other words, it can mean the devil, but it can also mean one who is prone to slander. There may also be a play on words here; if you are angry, inevitably, what happens when you get angry is you give the slanderer an opportunity.
This verse could simply be saying, "In your anger don't sin, don't give the slanderer an opportunity to speak evil of you. If Paul is talking about Satan here, then this verse is time sensitive. The devil was thrown into the lake of fire in AD 70. But during the transition period, we see that he influences men to sin in:
But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? Acts 5:3 NASB
In other words, Satan worked in the sons of disobedience by filling their hearts with extraordinary desires for evil:
And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. Luke 22:3-4 NASB
Satan entered Judas and conferred with the chief priests and captains about how he might betray Yeshua.
The New Testament teaches very clearly that the devil and his demons have been defeated and destroyed by Christ:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14 NASB
One of the aspects of Christ's earthly mission was to destroy the devil. The Greek word for "render powerless" is katargeo, which means: "to be entirely idle (useless), lit. or fig.:—abolish, cease, destroy, do away, make of no effect, bring to nought." Was Christ a failure in this mission? Most Christians act like He was; they're still all worried about the devil. I think we want him to still be around so we have someone to blame for our sin.
According to my Bible, Satan is a defeated foe. Yeshua has conquered the devil. The Lord Yeshua accomplished what He came to do, and the Book of Revelation is the story of this accomplishment.
John Piper writes, "Satan's goal has been to make us put ourselves in the place of God...Satan aims to make us act as if we were judge and not God." He doesn't know what time it is. Believers, if we have the view that Satan makes us do things, then it's not our fault. People think that we need a devil for men to sin, but James put it this way:
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. James 1:14 NASB
James says that sin comes from our own lust. It is my opinion that sin is part of the human constitution.
This passage is a strong warning about the danger of allowing our anger to lead us to sin. A severe example of the damage that anger can bring is seen in what happened in Reading, Mass. on July 5, 2000. What began as a simple hockey practice, with kids taking turns slapping shots at the goalie, ended in murder. Michael Costin, 40, whose three sons were on the ice, was informally supervising the play. After a while things got a bit rough, and Thomas Junta, 42, one of a handful of people in the stands, complained loudly to Costin when his 10-year-old took an elbow to the nose. Accounts vary, but some say Junta stepped to the edge of the ice, where he and Costin got into a shoving match, and a rink employee ordered Junta to leave the building.
He did. But a short time later Junta returned and confronted Costin outside the locker room. At that point, Junta knocked Costin to the floor and kneeling on his chest, "Was doing a job on him, wacking him...and slapping his head on the floor," Reading Police Chief Edward Marchand told "The Boston Globe." When officers arrived, Costin, whose sons witnessed the beating, was unconscious and had no pulse. Two days later he was removed from life support and died. It was just a stick practice, and because of anger, one father died, and one went to prison. Anger can grip our lives and causes us to do things we later wish we had not done.
Remember it is not anger that is sin, it's what we do with it. Let me give you an example of a good use of anger. On May 3, 1980, a repeat drunk driver climbed into his car after a three-day drinking binge and ran over 14-year-old twin Cari Lightner as she was walking to church. The impact threw her 125 feet, and once the drunk driver awoke from his passed-out state, he sped away. He was later caught and Cari's mother, Candace, said she felt "rage" that the murderer of her daughter would likely not even get jail time despite the fact he was already out on bail for one of the four drunk driving arrests he had in the previous five years. Channeling that anger toward justice and good works, Candace then began MADD, or "Mothers Against Drunk Driving."
Anger can be a great force for good if we don't sin, but channel our anger toward justice. But if we allow our anger to lead to sin, it can be very costly to our life and our testimony. At times in the body of Christ we will get angry at each other, but we are not to sin. And we won't if we love each other. Notice what Paul lists as one of the characteristics of love:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 1 Corinthians 13:4 NASB
The first thing Paul says about love is that it is "patient." This is the Greek word makrothumeo; this word, as it is used in the New Testament, is a word that almost on every occasion conveys the idea of having an infinite capacity to be injured without paying back. It is used with regard to people, not circumstances. It's having a long fuse. The loving person is able to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person and yet not get angry.
Does this describe you? Please understand that to not be a loving person, to be angry at someone, is not some small character flaw; it is to break the greatest commandment, it is to not love Yahweh.
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