Surely one of the most prevalent misconceptions about God is this: God is angry and disappointed with us when we sin today.
But wait – is that really a misconception? Or are we falling into the trap of reading the Bible selectively and seeing God one-sided as love only?
We know that God is holy and He hates sin. The Bible tells us that sin is an abomination to God. And there are many verses that talk about God being angry, often in regard to people or nations in sin. Not just to those who didn’t know and believe in Him, but even to His own people.
God got angry with His people Israel many times, for disobeying Him or complaining against Him. The people were even struck down and killed. At other times, God withdrew His favour and presence, and delivered them to their enemies. David, who was favoured by God, also pleaded in the psalms for the Lord to keep His anger from him.
So we have ample evidence that God does get angry, particularly at sin, and it’s something we want to avoid. Because it isn’t just not pretty, it’s downright scary.
Thus we reason it’s safe to conclude that He will get angry and displeased when we sin. Because the Bible clearly shows us that He always has.
We think sin is the biggest thing that separates us from God, so we dare not come to Him before we get our life sorted. Even after we become a Christian, we try our best to do away with sin, not wanting to offend Him. And the more we fail, the more we feel distant from God.
But here’s the truth: God has completely dealt with sin and exhausted all His anger at the cross of Jesus. Because of Jesus, God will never be angry or disappointed with us again.
Interestingly, the word “anger” appears 234 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Most times it refers to God’s anger. But God’s anger is barely mentioned before the law was given. And only 5 times does “anger” appear in the New Testament, and only once does it refer to Jesus being angry.
Yes, sin is very serious to God. So serious that before the cross, even though the people brought offerings of animals to sacrifice for their sins, they could never be perfect before God. He still had to punish them when they sinned. That was under the Old Covenant of the law.
To see just how serious sin is to God and how angry He is at sin, we only have to look at the cross of Jesus.
Sin is so serious that only the holy blood of His sinless Son – God’s own blood – is good enough to pay. All other blood of man or beast is counted unworthy.
Sin is so serious that when Jesus took all our sins upon Himself, God no longer treated Him as His Son, but as the greatest sinner of all. And He unleashed all His holy anger and judgement upon Jesus.
God’s anger toward sin is so great that Jesus was spared no punishment. Jesus wasn’t just struck and killed. He was beaten, mocked, and spat upon. He was brutally lashed and scourged, until He was totally disfigured and His bones showed. Then nailed to the cross naked and hung suspended between heaven and earth. He literally became a curse. For hours God Himself smote Jesus with all His righteous anger against the sins He carried.
Jesus gave His life as the perfect offering for the entirety of all the world’s sins combined. And He rose again 3 days later in all His glory. God has fully judged and punished all sin and expended all of His anger on Jesus at the cross.
The cross of Jesus has made all the difference. We need to recognise this.
When we go back to trying to keep the law as Christians, and we feel guilty or scared when we fall into sin, that isn’t actually honouring God. It’s actually lowering and not fully appreciating the work of Jesus. It’s effectively saying what Jesus did at the cross for us was not good enough, that sin is still an issue and God still has anger for our sin.
But what Jesus did was good enough. In fact, He is worth so much that His sacrifice was a gross overpayment for all our sins.
That’s why God’s anger on sin isn’t mentioned anymore anywhere in the New Testament. Neither does it appear before the law was given, even when the people committed sin then. Because they were under the covenant of promise God made with Abraham, which was a covenant of grace.
God’s anger is directed at sin, which demands punishment under the Old Covenant of law. Under the New Covenant of grace, God accepts Jesus’s payment for sin as ours when we accept Jesus.
Therefore He won’t ever be angry with us who have been washed by Jesus’s blood, even when we sin today. He cannot rightly be angry again, because He is a righteous God.
Isaiah 53 describes Jesus’s suffering at the cross as the Messiah. Isaiah 54 speaks of the reality and joy of the New Covenant believer. It contains God’s unwavering promise: “So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again…my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed” (Isaiah 54:9-10).
We still need to accept Jesus, because sin outside of the cover of Jesus’s blood will still be judged by God one day. Jesus Himself said that “he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
This isn’t saying that God is angry at unbelievers because they sin. It simply means that there is already an impending judgement of God’s wrath on the world because all of us have sin.
God loves each and every one of us, believer and unbeliever. Besides, when God sent Jesus for us, there were no Christians to speak of. God so loved the world that He sent His Son.
God Himself has already provided the full payment for us. All we have to do is accept it.
Sin is never the issue separating us from God today. What keeps us away from God is wrong believing.
So what about those bits in the New Testament about Jesus being angry or not grieving God?
The sole instance which mentions Jesus being angry is in Mark 3, towards the religious Pharisees for being hardened against grace. Similarly, a lack of imparting grace is what the apostle Paul says grieves the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4.
God is a God whose heart is into grace and mercy, not judgement and sacrifice. What grieves Him today is when we revert to the law and works after being born again under grace, because it robs us of receiving and enjoying the blessings He has already provided.
As for when Jesus went into the temple and drove out the merchants and overturned the money-changers’ tables, He was rebuking them for making the house of God a common social gathering place rather than focusing on the central issue of God.
Today, God’s central issue is the gospel of Jesus Christ revolving around His person and finished work at the cross. Everything becomes clear when we focus on Him.
If you have accepted Jesus, God sees you always in Jesus. And He is always approving of and delighted with you, as He is of Jesus. When you truly understand and realise this and how righteous God has made you in Christ, you’ll experience real love, peace and rest from God. And also real victory over sin.
As it is written, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not” (1 Corinthians 15:34). And “sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). The more we realise our righteous standing in Christ, the more we will begin to live accordingly.
The wrong ideas we hold on to about God will cause us to live accordingly, and fall short of God’s best for us.
God has not gone soft on sin. But He will never be angry with you again when you have Jesus.
Because when you encounter Jesus, you encounter grace.