Lawlessness causes love to grow cold

Jesus said: “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Lawlessness is rampant in the world. We can be thankful if we live in a county where the rule of law prevails and lawlessness is kept somewhat under control.

But Jesus is referring to lawlessness in the church! Persecution would come. “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:10-13).

This prediction has been fulfilled: many false prophets have arisen; they have deceived many; lawlessness does abound; and the love of many has grown cold.

What is lawlessness?

Lawlessness is a customary disregard of laws. A lawless person has little respect for law and refuses to be restricted by it.

We witnessed an annoying example of lawlessness when we visited Carlsbad Caverns in the United States. In front of us, a young woman, in her twenties, rubbed her hand on every cave formation she could reach, although, and probably because, a sign said not to touch the formations.

Although everyone has violated laws, not everyone is lawless in this sense.

A law-abiding person wants to obey the law, but sometimes falls short. Every driver, for example, exceeds the speed limit at times. A lawless person ignores the speed limit!

Why does lawlessness cause love to grow cold?

Jesus said: “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). And indeed the love of many has grown cold.

This is inevitable because lawlessness and love are not compatible. Lawlessness is a form of self-indulgence, and love is not self-indulgent. Love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Lawlessness betrays a lack of love.

When Jesus was asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28) He replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). By rejecting God’s law, a lawless person also rejects the love on which God’s law is based.

Lawlessness betrays a lack of love for God.

“The LORD is our Lawgiver” (Isaiah 33:22).

How can a lawless person (who scorns law) love the Lawgiver?

Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15) and “He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (John 14:24). John explained: “Whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him” (1 John 2:5). “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

God’s commandments are not burdensome for someone who loves God because he wants to please God.

To a lawless person, however, God’s commandments are burdensome, because he does not love God, has no desire to please Him, and dislikes restrictions that conflict with his own desires.

Lawlessness betrays a lack of love for man.

“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

A lawless speeder lacks love for others on the road, lacks love for others in his car, and lacks love for those who love him.

God’s law is based on love. God has declared evil to be unlawful because it is harmful to man. God loves man and wants to protect him from harm.

A lawless person considers his own desires more important than the welfare of others.

Lawlessness results in immorality and evil practices.

“We know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers” (1 Timothy 1:8-10).

Someone who loves God and man concurs with God’s law and strives to live a godly life. He recognizes God’s law as good because it is based on love and protects man from evil.

The lawless person, however, rebels against God’s law because he does not have the love of God in his heart, he gives priority to his own desires, and has little concern for the welfare of others.

Lawlessness results in false religions.

One might suppose that religious people would not be lawless. But what did Jesus say to the religious leaders of His time? “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27, 28).

Lawlessness leads, not only to immorality, but also to wrong religious practices. To these same religious people Jesus said: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matthew 15:7-9).

Lawlessness results in worthless worship. Lawless religious people deceive themselves into thinking they are serving God when actually they are serving the lawless one. They are in the habit of serving God, not according to His word, but according to their own wishes.

Jesus warned: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Thus, people who are very religious can reject God’s law to follow traditions, their own desires or the spirit of the times. Their zealous religious practices are lawless if they do not comply with the word of God.

There can even be lawless people in God’s kingdom. But on judgment day they will be removed. “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:41, 42).

Christ came to redeem us from lawless deeds.

“Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

Why is this redemption necessary? “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

Everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23). Thus everyone has committed lawless deeds, whether lawlessness is for him a way of life or something he strives to avoid.

Because Jesus “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness” (Hebrews 1:9), He allowed Himself to be crucified to redeem us from lawless deeds by paying the penalty for our sins.

To accept this grace we must give up our former lawless ways and serve Christ. “For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (Romans 6:19).

Through baptism we are united with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.

Law condemns everyone because no one keeps law perfectly (Galatians 3:10-12). “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:13).

Christians have been freed from “the law of sin and death” by “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2).

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4).

Thus, as we strive to keep the law, we must understand that we cannot be saved by law-keeping, but only by the grace of God, which He extends to those who have a living, obedient faith, to those who walk according to the Spirit.

Christians serve God under the “law of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2). They are guided and judged by “the law of liberty” (James 1:25; 2:12), a law in which “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

The Christian’s freedom from the curse of the law, does not mean however that he may be lawless! “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh” (Galatians 5:13).

Just as it is wrong to think that salvation can be earned by law-keeping - “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4) - it is also wrong to “turn the grace of our God into licentiousness” (Jude 4 NASB), by thinking that salvation is possible by faith only (see James 2:24).

The Scriptures warn us about lawless influences.

We may not attach ourselves to lawless people. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Because of lawlessness, many Christians fall away. Paul wrote: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4).

This great apostasy began at the close of the first century (1 John 2:18) and is called “the mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). This apostasy still exists: the great majority of those who call themselves Christians, do not follow Christ.

Satan is behind these lawless influences: “Then the lawless one will be revealed.” ... “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:8, 9, 10 ESV).

We must resist lawless influences.

What have we learned?

“Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). Lawlessness is contempt for law. Lawlessness displaces love. They who love Jesus keep His commandments. The lawless one rebels against God’s law. Many religious people are full of lawlessness. Their worship is worthless. Christ came that He might redeem us from lawless deeds and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

May our love for God’s law increase.

With the Psalmist let us say: “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Psalm 119:165). Amen.

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive