Does God Get Angry At Us?

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved
Originally published 2002

The question came up in Sunday School one day, “Does God get angry when we sin?” Most of the class (and I believe the majority of Christians would agree) said that God does get angry when we sin. There are many verses in the Old Testament that describe God’s righteous anger and wrath unleashed toward His people for their sin. Since God cannot change, we must believe that He does get angry with us when we sin.

I will admit that I used to believe the same thing myself. But then God took me through about a two-year period of showing me how my theology didn’t agree with His Word or His heart on this subject.

There is one fundamental reason why God cannot be angry with His children when they sin. This reason is then backed up with a host of Scripture supporting the fact that God has indeed changed the way He views His children.

The Word says, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3) Romans 6:3-11 expounds on this. When we accept Christ as our Savior we die with Him and are raised with Him to live as new creatures in Him. Heb. 8:12 specifically states that under the new covenant God will no longer remember our sins. (See also II Cor. 5:17-21, Rom. 4:8, 22-25)

So the question is this. If God cannot remember our sin and our lives are hidden with Christ, how can He be angry with us for sin? If God could be angry at us for sin or punish us for sin after we are believers He would be saying that Christ’s sacrifice was not enough. But Christ’s sacrifice was payment in full of the penalty for all sin — past, present and future.

But what about the fact that the Word says God disciplines us as His children? Our understanding of discipline is colored by the way we were “disciplined” as children. In fact, our view of God is generally colored by the way our parents, particularly our father, related with us as children. Our parents, being human did not discipline us as God does. Our understanding of discipline is punitive — we do something wrong therefore we must be punished so that we won’t do it again. But the word discipline carries no punitive meaning when taken literally. Discipline quite simply means training. Discipline does not inherently include either anger or punishment.

One good example of the difference between discipline and punishment is athletic training. If you are training as an athlete you are disciplining your body to be able to excel in the rigors of your sport. The training is hard, sometimes painful, and many times not fun. But there is no anger or punishment involved, unless you have a bad coach.

God’s discipline is just like athletic training. God sees the perfection of Christ when He looks at us. God’s whole desire in redeeming us in the first place is to restore relationship with us — to reconcile us to Him (II Cor. 5:17-21). When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are perfected in Christ spiritually. However, we still have sin habits and ways in which we do not understand God that hinder us from relating freely and fully with Him.

Therefore, part of the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives is to sanctify us — discipline us — by exposing to us those areas and teaching us the truth. There is no anger or punishment involved in this process. In fact, Scripture specifically states that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance, not His wrath. (Rom. 2:4) God’s discipline is quite simply training.

The way God usually disciplines or trains us is through our circumstances. He allows, and even orchestrates, our circumstances so that they “fall apart” in such a way that they will expose our areas of sin or wrong belief about God to us and we will be motivated to seek the truth. He doesn’t do this because He is angry. He allows natural events and/or consequences so that we will turn to Him for answers and become conformed to the image of Christ.

The reason it is so important to understand this distinction is that if we believe that God is angry at us or punishing us we tend to pull away from Him, rather than running toward Him. When we know that He is allowing events in our lives to train us because He loves us, we are more likely to immediately turn to Him and start asking what it is He wants to teach us. If we believe our circumstances are punishment we are more likely to try to “endure” them rather than realizing there’s something here that

God, in His goodness, wants us to learn so that we can be drawn even closer to Him. When we know His unconditional love is His motivation we are able to embrace the circumstances and view them as a precious gift from a loving Father designed to make us more like Christ — which is what we want, too. This is also why we can give thanks both in and for all circumstances.

So, is there still a place for God’s wrath? After all, even the New Testament talks about God’s wrath. The answer is yes. But His wrath is only directed toward those who reject Christ and is reserved for the end of time, not now. (Jn. 3:36)

Understanding this basic principle about how God views His children should have a radical impact on how we live our daily lives. Once we realize this, we can more easily see when we, or others, are walking in the flesh. We also find our attitudes changed toward other believers who have areas of sin in their lives. If God isn’t angry at them, what place do we have condemning them? Yes, their sin may require confrontation — but God confronts in love, not anger. The Word says the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. (James 1:20)

This is where we have to learn the difference between personal judgment and condemnation and God’s demand for righteousness and godly judgment. It is HIS righteousness and judgment – not ours, and only in agreement with His Word.

The Word also says to be angry and not sin. So this must be possible. Jesus Himself became angry. But if we look carefully, there is something notable about Jesus’ anger. The only times He ever became angry was regarding the religious leaders who kept people in bondage instead of setting them free. His anger was directed at the violation of God’s righteousness and judgment – not at the individuals, even if He was speaking to an individual. He was addressing the HEART OF THE MATTER in the authority structure that spoke for God in violation of His heart for His people. This is a very interesting distinction.

But most important, realizing that God does not view us through lenses of anger has the power to radically change our relationship with Him.

6 Responses

  1. I agree with your perception of God as motivated by LOVE. I too have experienced healing of perceptions which were twisted by father wounds.

    But I see in scripture that God’s wrath is still against sin, NOT against the individual, but against sin. For example, Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They lacked appropriate fear of the Lord, they lied to the Holy Spirit, and the consequence of that was death (not necessarily “eternal death”, but at least temporal death).

    I see the view of God as PUNISHING Jesus the innocent for the guilty (penal substitutionary atonement) as flawed. The fruits of it seem to be an evasion of responsibility by abusers- after all Jesus was PUNISHED, therefore I get off scot free.

    Jesus is not PUNISHED for the guilty. The wife and children and/or the battered sheep are the ones who wind up PUNISHED for the guilty. Jesus lived and died to reverse the decision of Adam, to redeem us, to be the firstborn among many brethren. If we will be born again, we can access the power of God at work within us to put to death the old man, the inheritance of flesh, and we can be transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. The cross is the pathway. The cross is not Jesus PUNISHED by an angry God.

    If there is appropriate FEAR of the Lord, because of the painful consequences, the DEATH that flesh indulgence can bring, then will l run to Him that I may be delivered from my flesh, die to self, have my my mind renewed, be transformed, and follow in His steps?

    Personally, I had to renounce the “Sapphira spirit”: the tendency to go along even when my conscience was screaming, to live in denial, and to interfere with and/or soften “the wrath of God”/ the painful consequences for my husband. How could Sapphira have handled the situation with her husband differently? Suppose she had reproved/exposed him instead of quietly going along?

    “7Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
    8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
    9(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
    10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
    11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Ephesians 5

    • Charis,

      There are several things here I’d like to reply to, but I don’t have all the Scripture references in hand. These are all from the Word; but I haven’t looked them up to cite them.

      One quick point re: Ananias and Saphira — their situation was not just sin. They blasphemed the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said is the sin unto death. That is why they were struck dead – not because of God’s wrath against sin as a general principle. There is not another example in the New Testament of God striking anyone for sin. Jesus took on the chastisement of our peace – there is no penalty left to pay. God would be unjust if He punished us for sin when Jesus already paid that price.

      I also see a significant distinction between what we see happening in lives due to sin and the idea of God’s wrath/punishment against sin – which the Word specifically states is being withheld until the end of time, since the death and resurrection of Christ. We do experience the consequences of our choices. That is often perceived as God’s wrath/punishment. It isn’t. It’s just the law of sowing and reaping in action. And God will use it to train us in righteousness (it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance, not His wrath) if we will let Him.

      This is why Romans 6 says there is no “scot free” under grace. Just because Jesus paid the price, does not mean we can do what we want. Well, we can, but the Word says we are the servants of the one we obey – whether that is Jesus or Satan. And believers (real or imagined) have the choice to still submit to Satan, even in violation of the reality of our spiritual state (Eph. 1 & 2). That is why we are told not to give the devil an opportunity. He seeks to kill, steal, and destroy and roams as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. If he can’t keep us from our eternal destiny after this life, he will happily settle for second-best and steal the part of our eternal destiny so many believers don’t realize we already have – it started at the cross, not after our physical death.

      One other quick point, I know there is some level of controversy in theological circles right now about whether God punished Jesus for the sins of the world. That would seem remarkably calloused and unjust. But that’s not what happened. Jesus chose to take on Himself the consequences of sin of all mankind. The fact that He had a choice is underscored by His season of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He very clearly expressed that He didn’t want to go through what was coming – but He chose to do so, knowing it was the only way to satisfy the need for a sinless one to die for all sin in order for reconciliation to be available to the rest of mankind. Jesus chose to take on Himself the punishment for sin; God the Father didn’t make Him or do it to Him in anger, etc.

      As for fear of God, there is no fear in love. If we are walking in a love relationship with God there is no need to fear. But, knowing God and the truth, it would be foolish not to have a healthy fear of what we know would happen if we walk outside of that relationship, as a consequential result of our choice to be disobedient. It would be like having a fear of being hit by a car if I walk out in the middle of the freeway during traffic. But that’s not the same of having a fear – like being afraid – of God. How can I be afraid of Him when I am fully reconciled to Him in Christ? But, certainly, outside of Christ, there is reason to fear God! Not now on this earth, but at the end His wrath will be revealed against sin.

      At the same time, under the Old Testament, it was all motivated by the fear of God’s wrath. It was literally fear of God. Now, under the New Covenant, Jesus said it is about love. We obey because we love Him, because He first loved us. John is full of this, stated over and over again. This distinction between relationship out of fear and relationship out of love makes a HUGE difference. If we attempt to relate to God out of fear of His wrath we are putting ourselves back under the Old Covenant, and walking without grace.

      The failure to make a distinction between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant gets us in theological trouble frequently. This is actually a huge issue in the church, and the root of many problems. We are not under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant is a completely new covenant. But if we look at the New Covenant while trying to make it co-exist with the Old Covenant, things get twisted up. It is as if the church is stuck at the cross – the debt paid for sin and eternal destiny secured. But we haven’t moved on to day 3! We fail to grasp the significance of and live in the resurrection of Christ, which changed almost everything.

      — Danni

  2. Seems to me that if one’s view of God is flawed, then their imitation of “god” reflects that. In other words, we each become more and more like our “god”. If we think God is angry and punishes the innocent for the guilty, then…

  3. I really enjoyed reading this, thanks

  4. Wow…this is the most freeing thing I’ve ever read. Thank you so much.

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