What Made Paul Angry

30th July, 2013 - Posted by Claire Larsen - No Comments

The Apostle Paul was a man of many emotions. He cared deeply for the people in the churches scattered throughout the Mediterranean world, and he wasn’t reluctant to write about his emotions. He writes about his love for the people, his longing to visit them, his sadness that he is separated from them, and his anger at them.  Did I just say anger?  Did Paul show his anger in his writings?

Absolutely, he did. I’m in the process of writing God’s Great Covenant: New Testament 2, and I’ve just finished the section of Galatians.  Paul was really angry at the Galatians! The Judaizers were telling the believers that they must be circumcised in order to be a true believers, and the Galatians were believing the lie.  This made Paul furious.  How could these people desert the gospel of grace for the enslavement of the law?  It was too much for Paul to comprehend — substituting obedience to the law (which by the way is impossible) for the wonderful grace of God.

Paul didn’t mince his words when writing to the Galatians. Here’s some examples of what he wrote: 1) “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of God,” 2) “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned,” 3) “Are you so foolish?”, and 4) “I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.”

Was Paul’s anger justified? Since his words are part of the Bible, we can safely assume the anger was justified, but why was it? What was it exactly that made Paul angry? That’s the key to the question.  Paul understood the heinousness of sin and the dire eternal consequences of not accepting the gospel personally. For Paul it was literally a matter of eternal life or eternal death. Calling something the gospel that was indeed a damning heresy enraged Paul.  Jesus suffered so much and gave us so much. How could His people desert this life-giving grace for the enslavement and condemnation of the law?  Paul firmly believed that if the Galatians bought into the theology of the Judaizers, their souls were in danger. That’s what made him so angry.

What makes us angry?  For me, it’s usually something petty, small, and selfish. My anger is usually sinful. On the other hand, when was the last time I got really angry because someone was being led astray from the gospel to some religious belief that was not the gospel? Do I care that much about the people around me that I get enraged at error being taught? Of course, there is a correct and an incorrect way to express our anger, but studying about the intensity of Paul’s feelings in Galatians certainly got me thinking about my own concern for those without the true gospel.

I’m glad that Paul expressed his feelings.  We talk a lot today about transparency. In Galatians Paul was amazingly transparent, and reading about his emotions not only convicts us of our lack of concern for the lost, but gives us an example of how to recapture the passion for the gospel — a passion that has largely been forgotten in today’s world.

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