More from William Wilberforce. Chapter 3, section 2: “On the Admission of the Passions into Religion”:
“It was the remark of an unerring observer, ‘The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.’ And it is indisputably true, that in religion we have to argue and plead with men for principles of action, the wisdom and expediency of which are universally acknowledged in matters of worldly concern” (Wilberforce).
Wilberforce alludes to Luke 16:8, seemingly to bewail the inconsistent, indifferent, and apathetic attitudes of professing Christians who acknowledge the “wisdom and expediency” of certain “principles of action” in temporal worldly affairs that they would not also admit into matters of eternal and spiritual concern.
“Do you not know that those running in a stadium indeed all run, but one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain. But everyone striving controls himself in all things. Then those truly that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. So I run accordingly, as not uncertainly; so I fight, as not beating air; but I buffet my body and lead it captive, lest proclaiming to others I myself might be disapproved” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
For illustration’s sake, let’s assume Wilberforce’s nominal Christians were all unified concerning the “wisdom and expediency” of shrewd, prudent, sagacious, and temperate training for a corruptible crown. Evidently these nominal Christians were not of Paul’s mind who ran and strove for the imperishable with the zeal and vigor of those who merely trained and competed for perishable crowns (1 Corinthians 9:25; cf. Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 16:8; 1 Timothy 4:7-8).
“So therefore we also, having so great a cloud of witnesses lying around us, having laid aside every weight and the easily surrounding sin, through patience let us also run the race set before us, looking to the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God. For consider Him who had endured such gainsaying of sinners against Himself, that you do not grow weary, fainting in your souls. You did not yet resist unto blood, wrestling against sin” (Hebrews 12:1-4).
In running “the race set before us” we look to Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. A multitude of gospel-specific and gospel-related arrows we must place “at the ready” in our intellectual quivers. By faith in our conquering King we are admonished to war the good warfare (cf. Ephesians 6:10-20; 1 Timothy 1:18).
We are to eschew, to lay aside weights (e.g., hindrances, impediments) and sins. Sin is transgression of God’s law and therefore evil in and of itself. So, we are to lay aside sins for sure — but what of “weights”? What exactly are “weights” (we are told to lay aside BOTH)?
In considering the context and the Greek word for “weight,” it seems a “weight” is not of itself sin, but has become sin due to its hindrance of running. Do not weights by nature hinder running? Thus, would that not make these “weights” inherently sinful? Perhaps, but it might be that what is an “item of hindrance” for one Christian, might be an “item of helpfulness” for another. Or, it may be that a given “item” (i.e., “weight”) neither helps nor hinders, and thus might be considered an item of adiaphora or a matter of Christian freedom and conscience. In this case a “weight” could only be a true weight if it sinfully hindered. And if it didn’t hinder then it wouldn’t be a “weight.”
[Anyways, that’s my take on Hebrews 12:1 and how that works itself out in our lives. I encourage any comments or suggestions regarding this passage from the brethren (i.e., true Christian men).]
“Then you suffer hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one serving as a soldier entangles himself with the affairs of this life, so that he might please the one having enlisted him. And also if anyone competes, he is not crowned unless he competes lawfully” (2 Timothy 2:3-5).
In a similar manner to Hebrews 12:1, is the admonition to not be “entangled” with “the affairs of this life.” Living an “entangled life” is contrasted with living a God-pleasing life. We were sovereignly and unconditionally enlisted for His glorious namesake, not to entangle ourselves in civilian affairs, but to engage in the valiant demolition of various intellectual strongholds that vainly lift themselves up against the knowledge of God (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We battle, we war, we fight with our loins girded with the truth that we more than conquer through Him loving us (cf. Romans 8:37-39).
“Frail and ‘infirm of purpose,’ we have a business to execute of supreme and indispensable necessity. Solicitations to neglect it every where abound: the difficulties and dangers are numerous and urgent; and the night of death cometh, how soon we know not, ‘when no man can work.’ All this is granted. It seems to be a state of things wherein one should look out with solicitude for some powerful stimulants. Mere knowledge is confessedly too weak. The affections alone remain to supply the deficiency. They precisely meet the occasion, and suit the purposes intended. Yet, when we propose to fit ourselves for our great undertaking, by calling them in to our help, we are to be told that we are acting contrary to reason. Is this reasonable, to strip us first of our armour of proof, and then to send us to the sharpest of encounters? To summon us to the severest labours, but first to rob us of the precious cordials which should brace our sinews and recruit our strength?(Wilberforce).
The Wilberforce quote above brought to my remembrance Marc’s post concerning “Christians and Emotions.” Here are a couple of excerpts from that post:
Some of our enemies accuse us of being unemotional, unfeeling intellectuals. They ask us (not that they want answers, but they want to accuse us) if we have ever cried over a lost soul or have ever deeply felt sorrow over our sins.
This post is to give the readers our view of Christians’ emotions.
What are emotions? Emotions are hard to define. In fact, they’re so hard to define that Webster’s Dictionary uncharacteristically defines an emotion by some examples of emotion! Here’s the definition: ‘Any one of the states designated as fear, anger, disgust, grief, joy, surprise, yearning, etc.’! Interesting, eh? ‘Feeling’ is sometimes used as a synonym.
The basic emotions (from admittedly secular sources) are love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and fear. Under each of these basic categories are sub-categories: …
… We who are Christians have love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We care for our families, even if they are not brothers and sisters in Christ. We have compassion on the poor and needy. We have joy in our fellowship with the saints and in our salvation. We are excited about and have zeal for the true gospel. We are amazed at the blindness of the lost and at the grace of our God. We have holy anger against the God-haters and their damnable doctrines. We have sorrow for the lost, especially those of our flesh and blood. We are ashamed of our sin. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Of course, there are also sinful expressions of any of these emotions as well, and we as Christians continue to be beset by sinful emotions. But let us dwell on those emotions that are not sinful in and of themselves.”
If those whom Wilberforce mentioned were detractors of the biblical and godly “affections” and “emotions” that Marc expounded upon, then they know not whereof they speak. Next Page (9)