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.