Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Be angry and do not Sin" (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Ephesians 4:26-27
Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil."

The exhortation given here is often misunderstood do to a nuance in the Old Testament Hebrew and the Apostle Paul’s quotation of the *Septuagint’s rendering of Psalm 4:4. In Psalm 4:4 the idea in Hebrew is of reverential fear, of “standing in awe of God” (K.J.) and not sinning. Literally trembling “with any violent emotion especially anger or fear” (Strongs 7264). In the Septuagint the Greek emphasizes the passion aspect of the Hebrew word, and uses a word familiar to it that is to represent that desire of not sinning against God (see Strongs 3710). Unfortunately in the N.T. quotation of it, this is sometimes confused with anger in a more generalized way, which is not being endorsed by the passage. The anger or fear is that of sinning against God, which both passages endorse. **Similarly there is a just anger expressed in Jesus’ parables of those who refuse His servants invitation (Matt. 22:7) and of the King at one of His unforgiving servants (Matt. 18:34). But believers are never commanded to be angry as a general rule of life, and certainly not to justify their unforgiveness (Matt. 18:21-35), or unwillingness to reconcile with others (Heb. 12:14). For just a few verses later after giving this exhortation the Apostle Paul writes, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph. 4:30-32 “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

Now the second part of the verse quoted from the Apostle Paul “…do not let the sun go down on your wrath” makes it clear that we are not to harbor wrath. Whether justly or not, for only God can harbor just wrath. Therefore when we are sinned against we are to process these emotions and then let our anger go. The reason is self evident by the next verse, for harboring wrath gives the devil a foothold in ones life. Nobody who harbors wrath can make sensible decisions (Ecc. 7:9) and thus be said to be led by the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:19-25). Believers then are warned about hating others (Matt. 5:21-22) and especially other believers, which is incompatible with one's new person in Christ. For “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1 John 2:9-11 Hence (returning to the original passage) when angered we are to seek reconciliation before the sun goes down on our wrath (Matt. 18:15-20). Or when we sin and we become aware of our brethren’s wrath we should seek them so that reconciliation might be forwarded and grieving the Holy Spirit of God prevented (Matt. 5:23-25). Therefore the second part of Psalm 4:4 “And put your trust in the Lord.” Is what believers should do. Rather than seeking vengeance or employing spiritual principles to harm those who have harmed us (Rom. 12:19-21). Put your trust in the Lord and let Him work it out if you’ve already tried reconciliation but that failed. For the Scripture commands: "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." Lev. 19:18

All Scripture Quotations:
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982

*Septuagint: An ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures.
Strongs: Strong, James: The New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1996
** Notion gleaned from New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology NIDNTT; Abridged Edition; pages 416-417 under word heading orge (G.K. 3973)

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