"THE EPISTLE OF JAMES"
Slow To Wrath (James 1:19-20)
1. In Ja 1:19-20 we find a trio of graces:
a. "swift to hear"
b. "slow to speak"
c. "slow to wrath"
2. From the context, it appears that these admonitions are given in
regards to our reception of the Word of God - cf. Ja 1:18; Ja 1:21
a. Therefore, they are qualities needed especially in times of trial
when we need most the Word of God
b. In other words, we need to humbly and calmly be receptive to what
the Word of God has to say
3. In this lesson, we wish to concentrate our attention on the third
admonition: "slow to wrath"
a. Especially in view of verse 20: "For the wrath of man worketh not
the righteousness of God."
b. And also because "wrath" (and its close cousin "anger") are too
often excused as "minor" sins
I. AN "OVERALL LOOK" AT ANGER AND WRATH
A. DEFINING "ANGER" AND "WRATH"...
1. ANGER - (Greek, "orge")
a. "Indignation which has arisen gradually and become more
settled" - THAYER
b. "ORGE suggests a more settled or abiding condition of mind,
frequently with a view to taking revenge" - VINE
c. Anger, then, is a lingering, seething emotion
2. WRATH - (Greek, "thumos")
a. "The sudden outburst of passionate anger" - ZONDERVAN
PICTORIAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BIBLE
b. "The blaze of temper which flares into violent words and
deeds, and just as quickly dies" - BARCLAY
c. Some would call this "blowing off steam"
B. THE OLD TESTAMENT BOOKS OF WISDOM SAY MUCH ABOUT ANGER AND WRATH
1. In the Psalms: Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not
thyself in any wise to do evil. (Psa 37:8)
2. In the book of Proverbs:
a. [He that is] soon angry dealeth foolishly (Pro 14:17)
b. [He that is] slow to wrath [is] of great understanding: but
[he that is] hasty of spirit exalteth folly. (Pro 14:29)
c. A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but [he that is] slow to
anger appeaseth strife. (Pro 15:18)
d. [He that is] slow to anger [is] better than the mighty; and
he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
e. A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou
deliver [him], yet thou must do it again. (Pro 19:19)
f. [It is] better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a
contentious and an angry woman. (Pro 21:19)
g. Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious
man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get
a snare to thy soul. (Pro 22:4-5)
3. In the book of Ecclesiastes: Be not hasty in thy spirit to be
angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. (Ecc 7:9)
C. THE NEW TESTAMENT ALSO SAYS MUCH AGAINST ANGER AND WRATH
1. To the brethren in Rome, Paul wrote:
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place
unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay,
saith the Lord. (Ro 12:19)
2. It is included with those things Paul lists as the "works of
the flesh" in Ga 5:19-21
3. To the Ephesians Paul writes:
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil
speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (Eph 4:31)
4. In a similar vein to the Colossians:
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy,
filthy communication out of your mouth. (Col 3:8)
D. HAVING SAID ALL THAT, WE MUST ALSO NOTE THAT...
1. Paul seems to concede that there is a place for a certain kind
of anger: Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down
upon your wrath: (Ep 4:26)
2. On several occasions Jesus expressed anger
a. Towards the money changers in the temple - Jn 2:13-17
b. Towards the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees - Mt 23:13; Mt 23:36
3. In both testaments, God is presented as a God of anger as well
as a God of love
a. In the Old Testament:
1) He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath,
and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels
[among them]. He made a way to his anger; he spared
not their soul from death, but gave their life over to
the pestilence; And smote all the firstborn in Egypt;
the chief of [their] strength in the tabernacles of Ham:
2) For they provoked him to anger with their high places,
and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.
When God heard [this], he was wroth, and greatly abhorred
Israel: So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh,
the tent [which] he placed among men; And delivered his
strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's
hand. (Psalms 78:58-61)
3) Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his
people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them,
and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and
their carcases [were] torn in the midst of the streets.
For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand
[is] stretched out still. (Isa 5:25)
b. In the New Testament:
1) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth
in unrighteousness; (Rom 1:18)
2) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and
forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the
goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after
thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto
thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of
the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every
man according to his deeds: To them who by patient
continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and
immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are
contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey
unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and
anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the
Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour,
and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew
first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no
respect of persons with God. (Rom 2:4-11)
[How do we then reconcile those passages which demand that anger and
wrath is folly and something to be put away, with those that speak of
anger on the part of God, Christ and even the Christian?
A closer look may help provide the answer]
II. A "CLOSER LOOK" AT ANGER AND WRATH
A. CONCERNING THE ANGER OF GOD...
1. God's anger is ALWAYS A JUST REACTION TO EVIL (as clearly
pointed out in Rom 1:18-32; thru Rom 2:1-11
a. Being Divine, and all-knowing, His wrath is NEVER MISGUIDED
b. He is therefore capable of properly directing anger and wrath
2. Man, with his imperfections, is not so capable!
a. His anger is often misguided (through ignorance, misunder-
standing, bigotry, etc.)
b. Haven't we ever been angry about something, later regretting
it when we realize we were in error?
3. While God may display wrath and anger it does not justify man doing so!
B. CONCERNING THE ANGER OF CHRIST...
1. What has already been said of God could also be said of Christ
a. Especially in light of His ability to read the hearts of
men - Jn 2:24-25
b. With such divine knowledge, He could not mistakenly direct
wrath and anger
2. Also, in the examples of His anger...
a. There is nothing of self-interest
b. Only HOLY ANGER against unrighteousness which is abhorrent
3. He was angry, but only for God's honor!
a. When personally abused, He said nothing - 1 Pe 2:21-23
b. But when it was against God, He displayed "righteous anger"
4. Again, man with his imperfections often uses anger improperly
a. For example...
1) We remain silent when sin is exalted and GOD is dishonored
2) But then get angry when someone offends US personally!
b. Too often, therefore, what we justify as "righteous
indignation" is really "SELF-righteous indignation"!
C. CONCERNING THE ANGER IN EPHESIANS 4:26 ...
1. Whatever our interpretation, it needs to be in harmony with the
2. Especially with what Paul writes just a few verses later: Let
all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil
speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (Ep 4:31)
3. Rather than justifying anger, this passage counsels us on how to
deal with anger when it arises in our heart:
a. First, "DO NOT SIN"
1) The emotion must be CONTROLLED
2) Don't allow it to manifest itself in a sinful way
3) Such as saying or doing something that is wrong
b. Then, "DO NOT LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOUR WRATH"
1) The emotion must be DISPELLED BEFORE NIGHTFALL
2) Otherwise, we may be giving Satan ample opportunity to
tempt us to sin - cf. Ep 4:27
4. In view of what Paul actually says in Ep 4:26 and then later
in Ep 4:31 , it seems highly unlikely that he is justifying
anger and wrath
1. Concerning the subject of anger and wrath, we would do well to take
James' admonition to heart and to be "slow to wrath"
2. For though the "wrath of God" may on occasions accomplish the
"righteousness of God, it is clearly stated that the "wrath of man"
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (Ja 1:20)
3. Following the example of Christ, there may be a place for anger, but
if so, ONLY in things pertaining to the honor and will of God!
4. In all other things, we would do well to remember another admontion:
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto
all [men], apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those
that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them
repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And [that] they
may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken
captive by him at his will. (2 Ti 2:24-26)
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow
to speak, slow to wrath:" (Ja 1:19)
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