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Sinful and Righteous Anger

Book of Ephesians

A Sermon on Ephesians 4:20-27

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (ESV)

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Many Christians throughout the centuries have offered varying interpretations of the verse “be angry and sin not.” In this sermon on anger from Ephesians 4:20–27 titled “Sinful and Righteous Anger,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones discusses how Christians should apply this command to their lives. He contends that Paul is not saying that one can be angry as long as they don’t sin— it is not a permissive statement. Rather, Paul is saying that there are certain things where anger is acceptable as long as the Christian does not sin in their anger and give a foothold to Satan. Anger, he says, is a natural capacity given by God against the things that dishonor Him and what He declares to be good. As Dr. Lloyd-Jones points out, even Jesus is recorded in the gospels as becoming very angry about unrighteousness in the temple. The key to understanding this verse is that anger must be directed towards the things that God hates but ultimately, Paul is calling Christians to avoid sin and to be angry towards it. Dr. Lloyd-Jones declares that anger against sin is being increasingly explained away by the world, but Christians must be faithful to hold it for what it is— an affront against God.

Additional Scripture Translations

Ephesians 4:20-27, New American Standard Bible (NASB)

20But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

25Therefore, ridding yourselves of falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, because we are parts of one another. 26Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Ephesians 4:20-27, King James Version (KJV)

20But ye have not so learned Christ; 21If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27Neither give place to the devil.

About Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.