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It is not uncommon to hear preachers speak on the wrath of God. That has, historically, been a subject that accompanied good gospel preaching. However, there is generally little said on the practical matter of “the wrath of man.” It is that which I will deal with in this article today.
“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jam. 1:20).
The verse before us today is found in the first chapter of the most practical book in the New Testament. James has just instructed us to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Jam. 1:19). The subject of the wrath of man is directly related to speech. I am afraid that we often get James’ instructions reversed and we are slow to listen, swift to speak, and swift to wrath. James implies that we should be doing far more listening than we are speaking. I have heard many “compliments” given to a person because they always “spoke their mind.” Dear friends, that is no compliment. That shows a lack of spiritual maturity (Jam. 3:2). If we are ever to grow up out of infant Christianity into adulthood, we must get a hold on our proudest member—our tongue. It is with this member that friendships are lost, churches are split, witnesses are lost, and wounds opened that might never be completely healed.
Many think it is a matter of boldness to speak your mind on everything. That is not the case. Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there is “a time to keep silence.” Oh how many times have we spoken up and ruined our opportunity God has given because we “spoke the truth” in anger and bitterness. It is this subject that we wish to elaborate on today. It is referred to in our text as “the wrath of man” and James was inspired to say it “worketh not the righteousness of God.” In modern terms we might say that speaking the truth with a bad attitude doesn’t accomplish anything as far as the work God has called us unto is concerned. We need to make sure that we strive to have a good attitude when we represent the Lord and our church. If you are a child of God, this should be constantly on your mind.
If “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” then religion is nothing to get angry over. If you are a child of God and you get angry over the things you believe, you are not doing God’s work. When you, as a child of God, are full of bitterness against those you should be trying to help, you are not doing the work of God. According to this verse, God doesn’t bless work done out of anger. We are to love all men. You might say, “Well, God hates the workers of iniquity and I do to.” You are not God and have no right to hate anyone. Jesus said, in Matthew 5:44, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” This is not an option, this is a commandment. You are to love those who don’t love you. “That’s not fair” one might say. “I treat people the way they deserve. I give them the love they earn from me.” Aren’t you glad God didn’t treat you the way you treat others?
James again was inspired to instruct us in James 3:17-18 that “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” If you are looking to mature in your Christian walk, here’s a verse to challenge you. God’s gift to us begins pure. God doesn’t give imperfect gifts as man does. The walk of a child of God is to be full of peace and gentleness. We are to be easy to get along with. We are to be merciful. We are to treat all men well despite how they treat us. There can be no doubt that this isn’t easy for the flesh. However, it is still the commandment of God and should be kept.
Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” It is one thing to call one’s self a Christian. It is quite another thing for somebody else to refer to someone as that. Do you have a desire to be called a child of God? Do you have a desire for people to see Jesus in your life? The Bible says you will be seen as such if you are a peacemaker. I have known many a person who I dreaded to see coming because I knew they caused turmoil every time I was around them. They were not very peaceable. The flesh leads us to be bitter and angry. The Spirit leads us to be peaceable and gentle. Do we sow the “fruit of righteousness…in peace?” Perhaps we should simply ask if we sow the fruit of righteousness at all. It seems our Sovereign Grace Baptist people are so afraid that they might be called an Arminian that they leave off the things God has plainly instructed. One of these things is that we should be a good witness. We need to be striving daily to tell people the Good News. Our mouths ought to be full of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16). When we do sow this fruit of righteousness, it should be sown in peace. Two times the Good News is referred to as the “gospel of peace” (Rom. 10:15; Eph. 6:15). When we witness, we are to do so in peace. When we instruct, we are to do so in peace. When we disagree, we are to do so in peace. Remember, “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (II Tim. 2:24,25). This verse is related to James 3:17-18. We must not strive. That is, we must not be brawlers or fighters. We must not be brawlers with our fists or with our mouths. I have witnessed a number of “fights” in which a punch was never thrown. We must be gentle. We must be able to teach people. You may say, “Well, I’m just not a good teacher.” You must learn to teach if you want to serve God. I don’t mean in a class at church, I mean to the people you see regularly in your daily routine. We must learn to have patient. Don’t be like the man who said, “Lord, please grant me patience and grant it to me today please.” Patience is learned through trials. We must realize that everybody hasn’t been given the opportunity that we have to know the blessed truths that we do. Knowing that, however, should be a driving force that pushes us to get the truth out to people in a way that they can understand it. In this, I am not necessarily speaking about the lost (though they can be included to some degree). I am speaking of those who bear the fruits of regeneration, but have a lack of maturity in their Christian life especially in the area of theology. Lastly, we need to witness to people in hopes that God “will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Do you witness to people just because God said to? Again, maybe the question should be “Do you witness to people?” You should witness because God told you to. However, you should also witness because you have a desire to see the person saved that you are speaking to. You need to love the people you share the gospel with. Therefore, we must love everybody and act as though we do.
“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (I Tim. 2:8). We are to constantly lift up hands of prayer. We are to do this without wrath and doubting. When we gather for worship, it shouldn’t be out of wrath, but, out of love. I have heard sermons preached that sounded like an old farmer driving a lazy mule after about 10 hours in the sun. In other words, I’ve heard sermons preached out of, what seemed like, anger. According to our text verse, this is not accomplishing the work of God. We shouldn’t “preach mad.” Our worship services should be filled with love—for our Savior, for His truth, for the membership, for the visitors, and for the lost.
People of God, we are not to be a wrathful people. It seems some people think it’s right to “lose your religion” while trying to defend it. How sad. We have the example of our Savior who was always full of love and was never a respecter of persons. He treated everybody with love as the law demands (Mat. 22:37-40). We, as Christians (and Baptists for that matter) need to be known as peacemakers. We need to be known as a people full of love. We should have a love for our Savior first and foremost which should be seen in our daily lives. We should have a love for the work that God has called us unto. We should have a love for the people God has called us to minister unto. As long as we are doing God’s work with wrath and anger in our heart, we aren’t doing God’s work.