A Question I Was Asked:

Be Ye Angry and Sin Not; What Does It Mean?

The Question:

What is the meaning of Ephesians 4:26 which states, 'In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.' I have heard more than one explanation.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, first we must broaden this out a little to get the full context:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:22-28, NIV throughout).

"In your anger do not sin" is taken to be a reference to Psalm 4:4 which states,

Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

So Paul is writing here about the ways in which we Christians should behave; he offers some sound principles. Regarding verse 26, I have checked out the original Greek here and also checked how about 12 different translations handle the phrase 'be ye angry and sin not' (KJV), or 'in your anger do not sin' (NIV). There is no question that Paul is saying that there is indeed a place for genuine anger. But the basic approach appears to be, yes, become angry where necessary but control it and avoid any roots of bitterness. James writes,

... human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:20b).

Human anger is to be avoided (though we possibly all occasionally fall short), but there is a place for righteous anger. Paul himself was righteously angry with the false teachers at Galatia, and makes some pretty hot statements about them! Carefully read Galatians 1:6-9 and 5:12. Would anybody seriously claim that Paul was not angry when writing those words? I don't think so.

Anger, like other emotions, is God-given. Anger is not sinful or damaging in itself. It is a motivating emotion that God has given us for good. But it is good to have the attitude of never allowing the sun set whilst still being in an angry mood. God is angry continually with the wicked (Psalm 7:11; 79:5). God is also recorded to have been angry with Moses (Deuteronomy 1:37, 4:21), Aaron (9:20), and Solomon (1 Kings 11:19), apart from being angry with Israel (1 Kings 17:18). Moreover, Jesus is recorded as being angry - hotly angry - carefully check John. 2:14-17, yet we know that Jesus never sinned sin. Also check Mark. 3:5. Therefore it is obvious that anger - of itself - is not sin, though, of course, it can lead to sin. Jesus and the Father keep their anger within controlled bounds and direct it at the problem that elicits the anger, namely, sin. We must learn to do the same. If we are angry for purely self-concerned reasons, that is not good. Personally, I continually feel angry at those who pervert the Scriptures and make merchandise out of them, enjoying a 'fat' living on dishonest financial gains. Jesus said,

"...Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8).

Yet I don't let those false teachers burn me up. So anger is a God-given emotion but we should control it, not allowing it to control us.

Robin A. Brace. March 11th, 2014.