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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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LAWLESSNESS.—The service of God becomes perfect freedom through the work of the Holy Spirit restoring the Divine image more and more in the heart of man. This liberty cannot therefore be a licence for lawlessness. St. Augustine’s maxim, ‘Love, and do as you like,’ derives its truth from the principle that love is not the abolition but the recapitulation of all the Divine law for mankind. The love of God and the love of man constitute the essence of the Law’s demands and the Prophets’ promises (Matthew 22:40). It is not the Law which Christ denounces, but traditional excrescences and empty forms (Mark 7:13). These traditional excrescences gave opportunities for hypocrisy, a condition detested by the Lord (Matthew 15:7-9). The empty forms distracted attention from vital concerns (Mark 7:4). The scribes and Pharisees were losing all sense of proportion in the duties of the religious life (Matthew 23:24, Luke 11:42). The exponents of the Law were erring, yet the Law itself stood as a Divine ordinance (Matthew 23:3, Luke 16:17). The commandments are necessary to eternal life (Luke 18:20). Nay, not one tittle can pass away from the Law (Matthew 5:18). Perfect and complete obedience will be demanded of men (Matthew 5:19). Not less but more will be expected of the disciples of Christ (Matthew 5). And yet Christ’s yoke is to be easy (Matthew 11:30). So there is a paradox, the solution of which lies in the recapitulation of the entire Law as consisting in the love of God and the love of one’s fellow-man. The revelation of the guiding principle summing up the Law renders light a burden which the Pharisees made heavy (Luke 11:46). Mechanical conformity to a legal code is thus avoided. The conscience of man finds exercise and discipline. This point is emphasized in the Western addition to Luke 6:4 ‘O man, blessed art thou if thou knowest what thou doest.’ In His technical breaches of the Sabbath the Lord knew what He did (Luke 14:5). Yet the legalists took advantage of these to charge Him with lawlessness (John 9:16). Nevertheless, He came fulfilling all righteousness (Matthew 3:15), and appealing to the Law in the face of temptation (Matthew 4:4-10). When He cleansed the Temple, He vindicated His action from Scripture (Luke 19:46). There was no lawlessness in His pattern life of perfect obedience to God (John 15:10). Lawless efforts at good, however strenuous, are not acceptable (John 10:1). Indeed, St. John sums up the matter in the words, ‘Sin is lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4).

Literature.—Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , art. ‘Law (in NT)’; Bruce, Training of the Twelve, pp. 67–95; Kingdom of God, pp. 63–84; Wendt, Teaching of Jesus, ii. 1–48; Dykes, Manifesto of the King, pp. 203–220; Dale, Christian Doctrine, 198; Hobhouse, Spiritual Standard, iii.

W. B. Frankland.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lawlessness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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