Stinging Quote by Sinclair Ferguson

This quote by Sinclair Ferguson, in his book Devoted to God, is one of the more difficult ones I’ve read from a contemporary Christian author. It’s an area of sin that’s often overlooked.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath,
Colossians 3:8 ESV

Here Paul is speaking about settled hostility [anger]. […]

Paul adds we are to put away wrath. […]

But what if–as one scholar puts it–we translate Paul’s term here as ‘exasperation’? That gets under the skin! If all Paul meant was ‘rage’ we might think of others to whom these words apply, but hardly ourselves. But ‘exasperation’? Respectable impatience? Irritation when things go wrong? Surely these cannot be classed as real sin? But this is to remove God from our perspective. For the root cause of impatience and exasperation lies in our response to the providence by which God superintends our lives. At the end of the day the deep object of our exasperation is the Lord himself. For it is his sovereign purposes and detailed plans, and the way in which he has ordered our steps to bring us into the situation, that has been the catalyst of our exasperation.

So in fact ‘exasperation’ spells spiritual danger. Yet most of us do not think of it as serious sin. In fact we may have said (even with a sense of pride): ‘I am not the kind of person to suffer fools gladly. [Matt. 5:22] I am easily exasperated by them.’ But if so we have become deaf to what we are really saying. For such exasperation is an expression of the warped and distorted old way of life in Adam. It is un-Christlike and needs to be put off. At its heart is a self-exaltation over others, and a dissatisfaction with the way God is ordering and orchestrating the events of our lives.

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God

Can you imagine what the more argumentative areas of social media would look like if everyone were to take this message seriously? The tenor would be completely transformed. We can easily slip into group-think when we’re constantly bombarded with people being overly blunt with each other. It can become normal. Even if we don’t perceive our words as very harsh–should the other person, or people watching on take it differently–our words don’t come to rest; they can float into other people’s minds as a curse (Proverbs 26:2).

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:13 NLT

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 2:23-24

Devoted To God Book Cover

1 Response to “Stinging Quote by Sinclair Ferguson”


  1. 1 Thomas Provost

    Really good message from Sinclair. We are all so guilty. Trusting God’s providence is very important, rather vital, for true growth into the image of Christ. God help us to trust.

    Thank you Jeff. I will be pondering this message often.

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