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Is anger a fruit of the Spirit?

In rare cases, it may well be.

The Bible describes what happened to Saul when he heard about the plans of Nahash the Ammonite:

“So they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. 6 And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. 7 He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man.” (1 Samuel 11:5–7 ESV)

Nahash has planned to do something, specifically, to bring disgrace upon the people of God. He said to then people of Jabesh:

“On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on all Israel.” (1 Samuel 11:2 ESV)

Saul’s anger was thus directly related to a threat against God’s glory as displayed through his covenant people. It was thus not unlike the anger of Jesus in the temple in John 2.

“In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”” (John 2:14–17 ESV)

In the same way that the covenant community reflected the glory of God, so too did the temple and thus any disgrace upon either represented a slight upon God’s character and renown. Those who are filled with the Spirit are deeply concerned for the honour of God among the nations and may be empowered to address whatever is currently obscuring and defacing the reflected glory of the Lord.

This represents a rare exception to the general rule that:

“the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20 ESV)

In general, spiritual character in the Bible is described as being:

“first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17–18 ESV)

There are rare occasions, however, when righteous anger is an indication of the Spirit’s powerful working within us – for the glory of the Lord and the testimony of his people – thanks be to God!


Pastor Paul Carter

To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast visit the TGC Canada website; you can also find it on iTunes.