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By Gustav Krös

A few months ago, I was preparing for an Afrikaans sermon, and I read a verse that sounded very different in Afrikaans than how I’m used to reading it in English. It was Matthew 24:12 and using the NIV (New International Version) during my personal quiet time, I’m used to reading it as follows; Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.

When I read it in the Afrikaans 1983 (AFR83) translation, it gave me a very different context. If you can read Afrikaans, it says; Omdat die minagting van die wet van God sal toeneem, sal die liefde by baie verkoel. Now, if you can’t read Afrikaans, my own translation from the Afrikaans would be as follows; Because disrespect of God’s law will increase, the love of most will grow cold. I could very easily see the correlation between the NIV and AFR83 because if you no longer respect or adhere to the law of God, then wickedness will surely increase, but reading it in the AFR83 had a much greater impact on me because it actually mentions God’s law.

I thus wanted to see how this verse reads in other translations. These are the two that were most like the AFR83 translation:

English Standard Version (ESV): And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB): And many people’s love will grow cold because of increased distance from Torah.

Even if I had to read it in the ESV, it would still not have a similar impact on me because even though it speaks of lawlessness, it doesn’t specifically mention God’s law. Whereas the CJB says it the most like the AFR83 when it speaks of the Torah, which is a collective name for the first five books of the Bible but is also used to speak of the law of God that is contained in the first five books of the Bible.

I then went to look at the Greek word from which these different interpretations are made and found the Greek word to be anomia, which can be translated as “wickedness, lawlessness, lawless deed, breaks law, lawless acts or transgressions.” The one thing I realized that caused me to never fully understand or appreciate this verse fully is the fact that when Jesus spoke of lawlessness, everyone automatically understood that He was speaking about God’s law. Whereas for me, and I believe other Christians as well, we have so many different laws we deal with in society on a daily basis, that the word has become diluted to some extent. I thus needed help to fully understand that the law or lawlessness I was reading about, was specifically referring to God’s law that’s not being upheld.

It was also interesting to see that the word anomia is used four other times in the New Testament (Matt 23:27-28, 2 Cor 6:14, Titus 2:11-14 & Heb 1:9), and each time it’s used to describe the opposite of righteousness. Now, we know that to be righteous you need to be in right standing with God, and that’s why God gave the law to the Israelites, to show them what they need to do to be righteous. But since God knew that it is impossible for any human being to uphold the law and truly live a righteous life, He knew from the beginning that we would need a Messiah to bring us into a righteous relationship with Him.

Now, even though we gain our righteous position before God through our faith in Jesus Christ, the law still has its role to play in educating us as to what sin is. As Jesus says Himself in Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

We therefore see that Jesus gives us a clear indication very early in His earthly ministry that the law will still have a role to play within believers’ lives, and His words in Matthew 24 verse 12 are a reminder thereof. It then dawned on me that since I never fully comprehended the depth of the concept of wickedness or lawlessness in this verse, I have also misinterpreted in my own mind the aspect of the love of most growing cold.

To some extent I have always read this as the love that people have towards other people will grow cold, and with the limited understanding I had with regards to lawlessness increasing, it made sense in my own mind. But then I understood that it is actually speaking of our love towards God that will grow cold, and I was reminded of the words in Deuteronomy 6:5-9. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

I came to realize that I have never fully comprehended Jesus’s warning in Matthew 24 verse 12. Our love for God is upheld through our love for His Word, which includes His law. We cannot subtract from it as Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 verse 19. If we are not going to love and adhere to His whole Word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, our love for Him will grow cold in the process. As 1 John 2:3-6 says, We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

May we not waiver under the onslaughts we are facing from the world, and even within the Church, to forfeit certain aspects of the Word and the law. As Jesus goes on to say in verse 13 of Matthew 24; the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.