When You Get Angry: Is it Carnal or Christlike?

by | Nov 1, 2003


Instead of his usual sermon this month, Dr. Allan P. Brown answers questions raised by his two Revivalist sermons [May and Summer 2003] dealing with the subject, ”When You Get Angry: Is It Carnal or Christlike?”

Dr. Brown, if a person who tends to “blow up” gets entirely sanctified, will this cure his “blowing up”?

In my first sermon on this subject, I defined “carnal anger” as any expression of anger that does not measure up to the requirements of Scripture. As I noted then, Christlike anger (Mark 3:5) has seven characteristics that distinguish it from carnal anger. One of these is that it is not explosive (James 1:19, 20). In other words, Christlike anger does not “blow up” or “explode.” I repeat what I wrote: “A person with Christlike anger does not have a ‘short fuse.’ A person who finds himself ‘exploding’ is one who has developed reactionary patterns while living under the dominant control of self-centeredness. Such behavior is not to be part of the Christian’s life.”

In other words, Christlike anger does not “blow up” or “explode.” I repeat what I wrote: “A person with Christlike anger does not have a ‘short fuse.’ A person who finds himself ‘exploding’ is one who has developed reactionary patterns while living under the dominant control of self-centeredness. Such behavior is not to be part of the Christian’s life.”

Does entire sanctification take everything carnal out of a person?

We need to define carefully what we mean by the phrase, “entire sanctification,” and what we mean by the term “carnal.” Those seeking to be entirely sanctified must be sure that they are walking in all the light God has given them (1 John 1:7). A true conversion experience enables a person to obey God (1 John 2:3-4).

Entire sanctification is not designed to enable a person to stop the practice of sin. You are empowered by God’s Spirit to stop the practice of willful sin in the new birth. If you are still practicing willful, known sin, you need to repent thoroughly and get saved (1 John 3:1-9).

Entire sanctification involves specific responses by the believer and specific responses by God. On the believer’s side, out of gratitude to God for His mercies, he presents his body a living sacrifice to God, a holy and acceptable sacrifice that is his reasonable service (Rom. 12:1).

A sinner is not qualified to do this. As victorious Christians, then, we present our bodies a living sacrifice to God, asking him to cleanse our hearts of all self-centeredness (Isa. 53:6)—also called “inherited depravity” (Psalm 51:1)—and to fill us with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

When the believer who is seeking to be entirely sanctified has met fully all the conditions of Scripture and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, he must then exercise faith in God’s promises that the God of peace Himself now sanctifies him entirely (1 Thes. 5:23, 24). It is God who cleanses the heart of self-centeredness and fills with the Holy Spirit. It is God who sanctifies the believer wholly.

But is everything “carnal’” cleansed from a believer’s life when he or she is entirely sanctified?

You did not specify what you mean by the term “carnal.” In my understanding, as it is applied to a Christian, the term “carnal” (1 Cor 3:1-3) speaks of attitudes or actions that you do not know are wrong, just as a baby does not consciously know that he is acting like a baby. [The term “carnal” as used in the King James Version in Romans 7:14 and Romans 8:5-11 does not refer to a Christian. It refers to the unregenerate person who is “sold under sin.” Only the passage in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 refers to a Christian.]

A Christian who is “carnal” is manifesting attitudes and actions that are not Christlike, but does so because he or she doesn’t have the “light” yet on those attitudes or actions. If you define “carnal” as any attitude or behavior that keeps you from loving God with all your heart or from loving your neighbor as yourself, then the Bible teaches that that kind of “carnality” is cleansed from the heart in entire sanctification.

The believer also finds that he has new power to be the witness God wants him to be as he lives under the moment-by-moment control of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Acts 15:9).

Will the entirely sanctified person become angry?

Jesus is our model and example in all of Christian living. Since Jesus became angry (Mark 3:5), it is clear that in certain cases an entirely sanctified person may also become angry. Indeed, we are commanded to hate every form of evil. If we are to be like Jesus, we will be angry with sin, since He was angry with sin.

Will entire sanctification remove the temptation to ‘’blow up’?

God promises He will allow no temptation to come to us except that which through his strength and grace we are able to bear (1 Cor. 10:13). If a person is so damaged emotionally that he cannot resist temptation to anger, then God will remove that temptation. This is evidently what happened to John T. Hatfield when he was entirely sanctified (see his Thirty Three Years a Live Wire).

For most normal people who are not so emotionally damaged that they are incapable of self-control, as Hatfield apparently was, God gives grace to resist temptation. We are told further to “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14).

Therefore, if a person knows that before he was entirely sanctified he practiced, carnal anger on occasion, he must be very careful and prayerful not to allow that to happen again. This is where the use of Scripture comes in.

But if Christians have to use Scripture to enable them to be “transformed by the renewing of [their] minds” (Rom. 12:2), isn’t this “sin management” rather than “sin cleansing” or “sin eradication”?

Having to fill your heart and mind with Scripture to be able to change unbiblical habits of thought or behavior is not “sin management.” Rather, it is obeying God. If entire sanctification automatically removed the possibility to become consciously “carnal” (unChristlike) when you became angry, there would be no need to fill your heart and mind with Scripture as a preventative.

However, Psalm 119:8-111 teaches that hiding Scripture in your heart will keep you from sin. Further, Romans 12:2 tells us that it is only through the renewing of your mind [I think the context is implying a renewed mind through Scripture] that you can stop being conformed to this world. These are only two of many passages which speak of the role of Holy Scripture as a transforming agent in the believer’s life. Jesus said that sanctification was inseparably connected to God’s Word (John 17:17).

Let it be unmistakably clear. The Bible teaches cleansing from all sin—not just the management of all sin. At the same time, however, one of the means God uses to transform us is the sanctifying Word of God (John 17:17).

If entire sanctification enables you to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself, will an entirely sanctified person ever need to apologize for what he does?

Entire sanctification involves cleansing from self-centeredness and self-justification. It brings you to a frame of mind where you stop trying to justify yourself and always trying to explain yourself. Your primary goal now is to be loving in all you do. You desire with all your heart to please God in everything.

Therefore, any time you sense, for whatever reason, that you have been less than loving or Christlike, you will grieve over that and ask God to help you to change and take Scriptural measures to stop being unChristlike in that attitude or action again.

In his excellent book, John Wesley’s Concept of Perfection, Leo Cox gives the following advice. “With all the safeguards that one could place against any dangers present in the teaching of entire sanctification, the dangers are still there if sin is not given a proper definition. If the sin from which one thinks he is free includes ignorance, infirmity, and mistake, then one must be blind to profess such freedom.

Or if this freedom means no more temptation or possibility of sinning again, its dangers are very evident. If this claim should mean no more need for heart searching, humility before God, confession, and constant dependence on Christ, it would be pagan. Or if freedom from sin means freedom from outward flaws and failures so that one lives a perfectly ethical life in all outward conduct, then such a claim is downright hypocrisy. Wesley’s freedom from sin was freedom from the opponents of pure love in the heart.

Since God gave this purity, His work was a perfect one, and the heart so cleansed could cling to God without a rival within. But to make that pure love apparent in one’s daily conduct is no easy task, for in doing this one encounters all the limitations of an earthly and corrupted existence.

The person with a pure love for God and man can courageously attack his hostile environment, but his success is not the measure of his love. Love can be perfect in the presence of many imperfections.” (p. 130, 131).

But didn’t John Wesley preach that entire sanctification brought perfect cleansing?

Certainly, Wesley taught that in entire sanctification believers are cleansed of all sin and made perfect in love. But he also insisted that they still “dwell in a shattered body, and are so pressed down thereby, that they cannot always exert themselves as they would, by thinking, speaking, and acting precisely right.

For want of better bodily organs, they must at times, think, speak, or act wrong; not indeed through a defect of love, but through a defect of knowledge. And while this is the case, notwithstanding that defect, and its consequences, they fulfill the law of love.”
For this reason, the “holiest men still need Christ, as their Prophet, as ‘the light of the world.’

For he does not give them light, but from moment to moment: The instant he withdraws, all is darkness. They still need Christ as their King; for God does not give them a stock of holiness. But unless they receive a supply every moment, nothing but unholiness would remain. They still need Christ as their Priest, to make atonement for their holy things. Even perfect holiness is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ.”

In conclusion, remember that entire sanctification is not a perfection of performance. But rather it deals with your motives, your attitudes, and your purposes for living. You will endeavor to be as Christlike as you can be in your performance, but you will also be aware that improvement in
Christlikeness is a life-long process.

Entire sanctification occurs in a moment of faith, but attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ is not the act of a moment, but the passionate pursuit of a lifetime (2 Cor. 7:1).