The apostle speaks with the voice of the Spirit when he admonishes the believers in Ephesus:
"Be ye angry, and sin not ..." (Ephesians 4:26)
What is this anger that we are hereby commanded to practice?
Jesus gave us a holy warning against unrighteous anger, saying:
"But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother WITHOUT A CAUSE shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire."
Matthew Henry writes:
1. Christ tells them that RASH anger is heart-murder (v. 22);
Whosoever is angry with his brother WITHOUT A CAUSE, breaks the sixth commandment.
By our brother here, we are to understand any person...for we are all made of one blood.
Anger is a natural passion; there are cases in which it is lawful and laudable;
but it is then sinful, when we are angry without cause.
The word is eike, which signifies, sine causâ, sine effectu, et sine modo--WITHOUT CAUSE,
without any good effect,
so that the anger is THEN sinful;
(1.) When it is without any just provocation given; either for no cause, or no good cause, or no great and proportionable cause; when we are angry at children or servants for that which could not be helped, which was only a piece of forgetfulness or mistake, that we ourselves might easily have been guilty of, and for which we should not have been angry at ourselves; when we are angry upon groundless surmises, or for trivial affronts not worth speaking of.
(2.) When it is without any good end aimed at, merely to show our authority, to gratify a brutish passion, to let people know our resentments, and excite ourselves to revenge,
then it is in vain, it is to do hurt; whereas if we are at any time angry, it should be to awaken the offender to repentance, and prevent his doing so again; to clear ourselves (2 Cor. vii. 11), and to give warning to others.
(3.) When it exceeds due bounds; when we are hardy and headstrong in our anger, violent and vehement, outrageous and mischievous, and when we seek the hurt of those we are displeased at.
This is a breach of the sixth commandment, for he that is thus angry, would kill if he could and durst; he has taken the first step toward it; Cain's killing his brother began in anger;
he is a murderer in the account of God, who knows his heart, whence murder proceeds,
ch. xv. 19.
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The life of Jesus has shown us that being angry, in itself, is not evil. Ephesians 4:25–32 takes this idea a step further. Paul tells us not only that we are permitted to be angry, he also says there are times when we must be angry.
That the Lord would command us to be angry at times is understandable when we consider biblical ethics. In the same letter Paul summarizes what we need to know about Christian virtues by telling us to be “imitators of God” (5:1). Our Father in heaven can only be perfectly holy if He gets angry when His righteous standards are violated (Deut. 32:4; Isa. 6:3). If we are to imitate Him, we too must get mad at those things that make God angry. We must grow incensed when we see the weak and helpless exploited, because the Lord’s wrath is kindled against the oppressor (Ex. 22:21–24). Hypocrisy in our lives and in the church must disturb us because of Jesus’ anger at those who honor Him with their lips only (Matt. 15:8; 23).
Lord Jesus, teach us all Thy holy ways. You are angry with the wicked every day, & yet we know that You have never sinned. We want to be more like You, in all of our ways. You love justice. You hate evil. Teach us to love justice & to do it. Help us to be angry, but to express our hatred of evil in a way that gives you glory & shows loving mercy to the sinner & the innocent against whom they sin. Help us not to sin in our anger. By Your Spirit, cleanse us from every wicked way & sanctify us for Your purposes in this fallen world. We pray this in Your holy Name, blessed Messiah. Amen.