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Only one will not do…How many have you?

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE:Only one will not do

Today, February 9th, is the birthday of notable historical figures such as the 9th President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, and the 18th century philosopher and political agitator – not to mention inveterate infidel – Thomas Paine.  Contemporary figures such as Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, the diminutive actor Joe Pesci, and the actress Mia Farrow were also born on this date.  More pertinent to my situation: 38 years ago today I was born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, USA.  This birth was somewhat surprising because I arrived 3 months early (I’ve always been partial to dramatic entrances!)  The local doctors looked at this scrawny baby who weighed a mere 2 pounds 7 ounces and opined that I only had a 30% chance of surviving.  Happily, there is a God who rules over all and determines the times appointed for men.  Thus, in His sovereign mercy He spared my life.

A Mother’s Faith & A Faithful God

Although premature and suffering from cerebral palsy – which would go undiagnosed until I was nearly two – I enjoyed many blessings.  My chief advantage was to be born into a household where the parents were devout Christians who had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and knew the value of intercessory prayer.  Anyone who has met my parents knows that my father is louder, larger, and much more forceful than my mother.  Nonetheless, in the early moments of my life it was my faithful Christian mother who offered a “Hannah prayer” to the Lord.  Those unfamiliar with this great woman of faith, Hannah, can consult 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2.  Hannah prayed that the Lord would give her a son so that she could give him back to the Almighty for His service.  Similarly, my mother said, “Lord if you spare the boy’s life, I’ll give him back to You for Your work”.  I did not learn of this prayer for many years.  It was only after I began preaching and teaching from the Word of God that she told me of her “bargain” with the Lord.  In His grace, He honored that prayer and I have now been preaching His Word for over 20 years, spending nearly 12 of those in full time service for His glory.

Of course, my second birthday occurred 7 years after my first.  Thanks to the faithful witness of my parents as well as countless sermons heard in our local church, I was well-acquainted with the story of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I knew that there is a God who sent His Son into the world to die on the cross for sinners (1 Tim. 1:15.)  I also knew that not having the Son of God as my Savior left me in the dreadful state of being under the righteous condemnation of God for my sins (John 3:36.)  As a boy of 7, alone on my cousin’s porch, I simply asked the Lord to save me based on what His Word said: that His Son died for me and rose again so that I could be given eternal life.  John 3 famously describes the conversion experience as being “born again”.  It could also be translated “born anew” or “born from above”.  2 Corinthians 5:17 assures us that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.  On that summer’s day I passed from a state of spiritual death – that is alienation from God and His life – to a state of spiritual life – knowing God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:24; John 17:3.)

Happy Birthday To Me (Twice)

So on this day, my 38th birthday, I give thanks to God for His mercy and grace towards me: for allowing me to receive the Lord Jesus as my Savior and serve Him throughout my adolescence and adult life.  In my local church when someone has a birthday, we often sing a second verse to the well-known birthday chorus; the lyrics are as follows:

Happy birthday to you, only one will not do!

Born again means salvation, how many have you?

I am so thankful to write that I have 2 birthdays.  The natural one on February 9th, and the spiritual one on a specific day whose date I have forgotten from the summer of 1980.  Nonetheless, Christ lives within me and I live in Him (Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:1.)  If you cannot say that you have two, I urge you to read John 3 and consider where you stand with the Lord.  If you are to be saved from your sin and gain eternal life, you must receive the Lord Jesus Christ or to put it as He did, “you must be born again” (John 3:7.)

New Year’s Podcast: What people really need

Friday, December 31st, 2010

To listen click here:  KRK.NewYear’sPodcast.12.31.10

Christmas Podcast: The Gifts of Gifts

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

To listen click here: Christmas Podcast.12.25.10.The Gift of gifts

The Death Of A Son

Monday, November 15th, 2010

To download in pdf., click here: The Death Of A Son

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32

The well-known boxing promoter Bob Arum recently lost his son, John, in a climbing accident on Storm King Mountain in Washington state. Although his public persona normally exudes the bravado associated with the boxing world, Arum’s feelings were poignantly revealed to the New York Times interviewer by this statement: “When you lose a child, I don’t care what anybody tells you, you lose part of yourself…It does not get easier over time.”[i]

His words express just a small portion of the tremendous sorrow of a parent losing a beloved child. Mr. Arum was close to his son. They shared a common profession as lawyers, and loved to fish and watch the New York Giants football team. Like his father, John was a driven person, passionate about certain causes such as environmentalism. In keeping with his love of nature, he was an ardent mountaineer, but this dangerous hobby led to his death. His father disliked this arduous form of recreation, always dreading the day when he would hear of a fall. The reporter continues the tale: “Shortly after John Arum’s death, Bob Arum vented to his family, asked the questions everybody asks. How could he have done this? Put himself in that position?
To which Richard told his father: ‘Because he’s just like you.’”[ii] The same drive that made him a success in professional life also impelled him to brave great dangers in following his interests.

Unsearchable Grace

In a small way, this tragic story is reminiscent of the depth of God the Father’s love for mankind. As the verse above indicates, the sacrifice of the Son of God evidences the limitless largesse of Divine grace. His generosity is boundless, for it is expressed in the gift of something of ultimate value: the life of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. As the nineteenth century preacher Horatius Bonar put it in a classic hymn: “The gift of gifts, all other gifts in one – blessed be God our God!”[iii] It is in the death of the Son that one perceives the extent of the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:7.)  God did not spare His own Son. Abraham was commanded to spare Isaac; David would have spared Absalom if he were able (Gen 22:12; 2 Sam. 18:5.) But the sovereign God did not spare His Son; instead, He chose to send Him to the agony of the cross. Likewise, the Son loved the world, and so He voluntarily went to this death to do His Father’s will and save His fallen creatures. Whoever receives the Lord Jesus by faith is rescued from eternal judgment and perdition (Jn. 3:16.) They are given eternal life, and are made children and sons of God (Jn. 1:12; 5:24.)

Having been made joint-heirs with the One who inherits all things, believers are told that there is nothing good that God will withhold from them (Rom. 8:17, 32; Psa. 84:11.) The guarantee of this immense spiritual wealth is that He has already given His best: the Son of God Himself! Never has a father loved a Son as much as God the Father loves the Lord Jesus, whom Scripture calls “the Son of His love” (Col. 1:12-13, NKJV.) “How He set His love upon Thee – called Thee His beloved Son; Yet for us He did not spare Thee, By Thy death our life was won,” as a beautiful hymn says it.[iv]

The Son Bringing Many Sons To Glory

Interestingly, the article about Bob Arum’s grief ends on the positive note of discussing his close friendship with the boxing sensation, Manny Pacquiao, and the similarities that he sees between this fighter and his son. As Bishop writes:

Perhaps it’s a stretch, but the more they spoke, the more Arum saw his son in the famous Filipino boxer, in Pacquiao’s increased dedication to public service, in his myriad dimensions, in the way boxing alone failed to define him. Pacquiao is not simply one of the two best boxers in the world. And John was never just a boxing promoter’s son.
Pacquiao is dedicating the fight to John’s memory, and Arum sees a symmetry there. He does not expect to find closure here in Texas, or any time soon. But he does consider this — back at work, back with Pacquiao – a start.[v]

In losing his son, one might say, he has gained someone with the same characteristics. On a far grander scale, the Father gave up His Son that He might gain many glorious sons and daughters who are destined to bear His image (Rom. 8:28-30.)


[i] Greg Bishop, “After losing a son, Arum takes a step back,” New York Times, Publ. 11/11/10; electronic ed.: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/12/sports/12arum.html?partner=rss&emc=rss Accessed on 11/11/10.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Horatius Bonar, “Blessed be God our God.” See: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/89

[iv] Miss C.A. Wellesley, “Gathered in Thy name Lord Jesus,” See: http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/nt/204

[v] Bishop, see ftnt. i.

Guest post: Repentance – By: Jim McKendrick

Monday, November 8th, 2010

To download the article in pdf., click here: Repentance – J. McKendrick

Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”Acts 20:21

The gospel is the heart of the Christian message. Without the gospel Christianity has nothing of value to offer this world. The world can attain a certain degree of health, education and welfare but only the gospel offers true hope beyond this world and changes people so they can be a help to others in this world. If we get the gospel wrong we have no real message. Paul would take this further by saying if we get this message wrong then we are accursed (Gal. 1:8.) He told the Ephesian elders the message he preached both publicly and from house to house was “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is my observation both personally and by reading others that one of the characteristics of the gospel that is sadly missing or misunderstood today is the first aspect of the preaching of the gospel – repentance toward God. If we fail to understand repentance then we have a nonexistent belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. For if we do not repent then there is no need for, nor understanding of, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s View Of Man

So it is imperative that we understand the meaning of repentance. To understand the necessity of repentance we need to see what God thinks of who we are in His sight. Isaiah in his prophecy says metaphorically, “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa. 1:5-6.) Paul, in the New Testament in Romans chapter 1 will tell us we are not thankful, we have not glorified God as God, we have changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image like corruptible man, we have changed the truth of God into a lie and we choose not to retain God in our knowledge. So therefore God has given us up to uncleanness, to vile affections, and a reprobate mind. These are not very politically correct or pretty pictures of humanity (Rom. 1:18-32.)

Man’s Self-Estimation

But that is not the picture we have of ourselves. Paul will remind the Corinthian believers in 2  Corinthians 10:12 that we commend ourselves for we compare ourselves with ourselves. We really don’t think we are too bad. After all look at the wonderful accomplishments and advances that mankind has made over the years. And as long as we look horizontally we can agree with that assessment. Even at an individual level as long as we look around we can always find people worse than we are. We pride ourselves in paying our bills, being faithful to our wives, being kind to our neighbors, etc. Conversely, there are those we know of or read about who are not faithful and do not meet their obligations.

Thus we need to repent. We have a wrong concept of God and His holiness and a wrong concept of ourselves and our sinfulness. But what does it mean to repent?  A working definition is: “Repentance is a change of mind resulting in a change of desire and purpose which effects a reversal of man’s intellect, emotion, and moral decisions.” Did you notice that there are three aspects to the subject of repentance? There are the mind, the emotions, and the will. If any of these is missing there is not true repentance.

Steps To Correct Understanding

In John 16:7-8 we read that one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to convict (convince) the world of sin and righteousness and judgment to come. Thus the gospel preacher’s first responsibility is to present the subject of sin to his hearers. Sin is the problem of mankind and of each individual in this world. Modern psychology has done a wonderful job of taking sin out of the conversation and for the evangelical world to follow modern psychology is a tragic mistake. We need to get back to the subject of sin in our preaching. If we will faithfully preach the gospel the Holy Spirit will convict the sinner of his sin. The process of repentance is for a person to be convinced of the reality of sin and the fact that they are a sinner. This is first a mental assessment.

Secondly when the sinner has considered the reality of sin and the fact that they are a sinner and as a result of their sins they are doomed to a lost sinner’s hell there will follow an emotional reaction. First there will be a sorrowing for sin as he begins to understand his guilt before a holy God. But sorrow is not repentance. Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that “godly sorrow works repentance.” Sorrow for sin and repentance are often confused in the gospel message today. Sorrow for sin is a necessary prerequisite toward repentance, but is not itself repentance. Sorrow for sin is only part of the process toward repentance. To tell a person just to be sorry for their sins only short-circuits the gospel and leads to a false understanding of true repentance – and more tragically – to a false profession.

The third aspect of repentance is to point the sinner to the only provision out of his dilemma. The cross of Christ and its provision will be a wonderful sight to the one who has come to the realization that he is a sinner on the way to hell and understands his guilt before God. Then he makes a conscious decision to cast himself on the mercy of God and the provision of Calvary and when he does, then God saves him.

Real Life Repentance

The prodigal son of Luke 15 is a wonderful example of repentance. First there was the mental realization of his condition and “he came to himself” (Lk. 15:17.) Then there was the emotional reaction of his sin: he recognized his unworthiness to be called a son (v. 18.) Last but not least, he arose and cast himself on the mercy of his father, finding to his utter amazement and joy a father that was ready to forgive him and receive him back home (vv. 20-24.)

This same process is necessary for believers as well as unbelievers. In Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we have churches that needed to repent. The Lord wrote letters that revealed their waywardness and called upon them to repent. We need to be conscious as churches and individuals of the Holy Spirit’s conviction in our lives of that which is not right, and having come into the knowledge of our sin, turn from our sinful attitudes and practices and find the Lord waiting to forgive and restore us to a rightful condition before Him.

Guest Post: A Gem from the past

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Since I’m on the road, & unable to post a new article, I present this excellent meditation on John 8:1-11 by the 19th century Bible teacher, John Nelson Darby. JND is notoriously difficult to read, but this piece is remarkably lucid. This version comes from biblecentre.org . Enjoy!

“A Just God & A Saviour”

John 8:1-11

There is in all persons a certain knowledge of good and evil; such and such things they say are good, and such and such things are evil. But perhaps no two persons fix exactly the same standard either of good or evil. What people do is to fix such a standard of good as they can come up to themselves, and such a standard of evil as shall just exclude themselves, and include others.

For instance, the drunkard thinks there is no great harm in drinking, but would consider it a great sin to steal. The covetous man, who is every day perhaps practising some cheating or deception “in the way of trade,” satisfies himself by thinking “it is necessary and customary to do so in business, and at all events I do not get drunk or curse and swear as others do.” The profligate person prides himself upon being generous and kind-hearted to others, or, as he says, “he does nobody any harm but himself” The upright moral man, and the domestic amiable man, satisfies himself with doing what he calls his duty, and looks round and pities the open sinners that he sees; but he never considers how many an evil thought, how many a sinful desire, he may have cherished, unknown to others, in his bosom: and that God judges the heart, though man looks only at the outward conduct.

Thus each congratulates himself upon his not having done some evil, and compares himself with some one else who has committed the sin, which he thinks he has managed to avoid. Now all this proves that men do not judge themselves by one regular fixed standard of right and wrong, but just take that which suits themselves and condemns others. But there is a standard, with which all will be compared, and according to which all will be judged, – a standard of righteousness, all who fall short of which will be eternally condemned; and that is no less than the righteousness of God. When a person begins to find that it is not by comparing himself with others that he is to judge, but by comparing himself with God, when his conscience begins to be awakened to think of sin as before God, then indeed he finds himself guilty and ruined; he will not then attempt to justify himself by trying to find out some one that is worse than himself, but he will be anxious to know whether it is possible that God, before whom he knows himself condemned, can pardon or forgive him.

Now the scribes and Pharisees, mentioned in this eighth chapter of John, were very moral and religious people, and were greatly shocked when they found this wretched woman taken in such open sin, and very indignant against her. Justice and the law of Moses, thought they, demand that she should be made an example of – it is not fit that such a sinner should live. It comforts and quiets the depraved heart of man, if he can only find a person worse than himself: he thinks the greater sin of another excuses himself; and whilst accusing and vehemently blaming another, he forgets his own evil. He thus rejoices in iniquity.

But this is not all; for not only do men thus glory and exult in the fall and ruin of another, but they cannot bear to see, or think of, God exhibiting grace. Grace – which means the full and free forgiveness of every sin, of every evil, without God demanding or expecting, any thing from the one so forgiven – is a principle so opposed to all man’s thoughts and ways, so far above man, that he dislikes it; his own heart often secretly calls it injustice. He does not himself deal in this way, and does not like to think of God doing so. It is very humbling to be obliged to own that we are dependent upon grace entirely for salvation; and that nothing we have done, and nothing we can in future do, has made us, or will make us, fit subjects even for grace; but that our misery and sin and ruin are the only claim we have upon grace. The scribes and Pharisees could not understand this; and not liking to own that they were themselves sinners, they wished to perplex Jesus; and if He acquitted the woman, then say He was unjust; or if He condemned her, then say He was not merciful. “Such should be stoned,” say they; “but what sayest thou?”

True the sentence was just, the proof of the woman’s guilt was undoubted, and the law was clear; but who was to execute the law? Man may easily condemn, but who has a right to execute? “He that is without sin, let him first cast a stone at her.” Who could say “Without sin?” and if not one of them could say, “I am without sin;” there was not one of them but was under the same sentence as the woman – that is, death, for “the wages of sin is death.” Here, then, was a strange situation, – the accused and her accusers alike involved in the same ruin-criminals all. Not now “such should be stoned,” but all should be stoned. From the eldest to the last, all convicted sinners.

And have you thought of that? that you and all the world are guilty before God? It is not what your amount of sin, as respects others, is; but can you say you are “without sin” before God? If not, death, then, is your sentence. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” And in this sad condition what have you done? Perhaps the same as the scribes and Pharisees did, when they were convicted by their own conscience – left the presence of the only One who can pronounce the forgiveness. Adam in the garden had done the same before; he went and hid himself from God when he knew himself guilty; he turned away from his only friend just when he most needed His help. And so it is still. Man is afraid of the only One who is ready to pardon.

You may be able to persuade yourself that you are not so bad; you may find others manifestly worse; but are you a sinner at all? What is God’s thought concerning you? Does not even your own conscience say, “I am not quite without sin.” Well, then, death is the sentence. God cannot lie, it is His sentence. And if we only heard that God was just, there could be no hope. But He is “a just God and a Saviour.” He has condemned, and He has also the power to execute; the only question that remains is, can He pardon?

“And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” She was standing before One who could say, “Without sin,” and who therefore could cast the stone. She was alone with One whom she owned as Lord; and what would be His sentence? The law had already condemned her; would He execute it? What a moment of intense anxiety must it have been for her! How all surrounding objects must have been as nothing in her fright! She was alone with One who had the power of life and death. Everything rested on His word. What would He say? Man had not dared to cast the stone; now what would God do? “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.”

Such is still the gracious message to the ruined sinner, pronounced by the very Judge Himself. But it is only to the ruined sinner, standing consciously convicted before the Judge, that it is spoken. The righteous Pharisees heard it not. They were indeed convicted; but they liked not to confess their sin, and they sought to get rid of their convictions, to bury them in some good works of their own; and they would not put themselves in the same condemnation with the wretched woman, who got this blessed word of peace. And so it is still. If you desire to have God’s full and free pardon, it must be your place to stand first as the guilty sinner. To be alone with Jesus, consciously self-condemned. To have no one else to trust to, no one else to compare yourself with. Not to make resolutions of amendment, not to try to get better first, before you come to Him; but to be brought to Him by your very sins, to stand in the very place of condemnation, and before the very Person who has the power to condemn. To make your very guilt the reason of being alone with Him.

And the Lord gave her no conditional pardon. He did not say, “Neither will I condemn you, if you will not sin any more.” No, He gives her full and complete forgiveness first, and that He knew would enable her to avoid the sin in future. If you desire to have power over your sins, you must first know them all pardoned by God through Christ But if you try to master your evil before you know the forgiveness of God, you will obtain neither the one nor the other. Through faith in Jesus you must be justified freely from all things, before you will ever be better as before God.

Now, some who really believe on Jesus do not clearly see this, and they are seeking to have peace by holiness of life, or the fruits of the Spirit, instead of first acknowledging themselves as ruined sinners fully and freely pardoned, and then letting their life and conduct be guided by the knowledge of that pardon, and the love to God which the knowledge of His mercy must necessarily create. Begin with, “Neither do I condemn thee.” Let your peace come from faith in the blood of His cross, by which He has made peace. God’s knowledge and estimate of your sin is much deeper than your own, but He has provided the blood of His Son. He says that blood cleanses from all sin. The more I see and know my own sin, the more I shall value that precious blood by which it is put away; and the more anxious shall I be not to grieve the heart of Him who, in His own love, has provided such a wonderful sacrifice on account of my sins. Hence, the deeper I know my own guilt, the more secure will be my peace; for the greater will be my value for the blood, through which peace has been made.

May you know the peace and joy of having all your sins forgiven through faith in the blood of Jesus, and the consequent victory over the power of those very sins by which you have been led captive.

J N Darby

Let Freedom Ring: Thoughts On Galatians – Part 4

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

“As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Galatians 1:9-10.

When is a gospel not a gospel? According to Galatians the answer is: “When someone tampers with the original gospel given to the apostles by Christ.” Paul declares that the new message being proclaimed by the Judaizers in their midst was a gospel of a fundamentally different type (vv. 6-7.)[i] Its proponents apparently referred to it as a “gospel,” yet it was not actually “good news” for it could not deal with man’s sin problem or satisfy the holy God. Instead it was a message tailored to human preferences, calculated to win over spiritually undiscerning and fleshly religionists. It had a veneer of morality and Biblicism, but it was a counterfeit gospel. Pleasing God or pleasing men is the fulcrum on which a true message stands or falls. The genuine gospel enables the Judge of all the earth to righteously forgive, justify, and reconcile sinful people to Himself. False variations on the glad tidings merely enhance the religious reputations and self-righteous pride of deluded, fallen men.

Cursed Preachers

The gravity of preaching a false message of salvation may be surmised by the extreme penalty called for by the apostle: “Let him be accursed.” This strong word is the famed anathema which means “…something delivered up to divine wrath, dedicated to destruction and brought under a curse…The controlling thought here is that of the delivering up to the judicial wrath of God of one who ought to be ἀνάθεμα because of his sin.[ii] The Old Testament Greek translation, the Septuagint uses this word to render herem, a notorious term for devoting something to destruction at God’s instruction (e.g. Achan in Josh. 7:1.) If one of Israel’s cities was guilty of embracing false gods, they were to be accursed and accordingly must be destroyed. Deuteronomy 13:15-17:

Wiping out, you shall wipe out all the inhabitants of that city by slaughter by dagger; with an anathema, you shall anathematize it, and everything in it. And all of its spoil you shall gather into its streets, and you shall burn with fire the city and all its spoil with its population, before the Lord your God. It shall remain uninhabited forever, never to be rebuilt. Nothing from that which is anathema shall stick to your hand so that the Lord may turn from the heat of his anger, and he shall give you mercy and be merciful to you and multiply you, as the Lord swore to your fathers.[iii]

Obviously, departing from the true gospel is a serious matter! Whether in the Old or New Testament, teaching a false approach to God puts one under the divine curse. This sentence results in the Almighty’s wrath for the accursed one. As Paul says elsewhere: “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!” (1 Cor. 16:22.) Amazingly, the Son of God willingly became a curse so that He might redeem believers from the curse of a broken law (Gal. 3:13.) There will be no anathema for those who love and receive Him by being born again through faith in His word (Jn. 5:24; Rom. 8:1.)

Lasting Truth That Needs No Improvement

When the apostle speaks of the gospel that they “received,” he employs the aorist tense. Cole points out the word’s nuanced usage: “…while it should not be overstressed, [it] probably conveys something of the thought of the ‘once-for-all’ nature of the faith delivered to the Galatians. Paul preached it; they received it. That was a decisive experience, not a tentative or temporary position, to be outgrown later, as perhaps suggested by the Judaizers.”[iv] God had not altered His message, for there was nothing that needed to be added to His redemptive work through Christ. When the Lord Jesus said: “It is finished,” it was a completed propitiatory sacrifice. The Father added His a-men in the resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:24, 30-36; Rom. 1:4.) Nothing needed to be added, and certainly nothing could be subtracted from this perfect work.

The Inconvenient Truth

What is Paul trying to accomplish in preaching the gospel? He affirms that he is neither seeking human approval nor popularity. The English Standard Version accurately captures the sense of the expression: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” In the past, human opinion loomed large in his thinking. When he says “if I still pleased men” he is doubtless thinking back to his pre-conversion career as an up-and-coming, heresy-hunting rabbi. He was self-righteous, arrogant, confident in his moral rectitude, and in the rightness of his cause. When he met the risen Christ, however, it all changed. He went from self-seeking Saul to Christ-exalting “Paul,” signifying “little.”[v] His ministry was not motivated out of a desire for human acclaim, but rather that he might please the Lord who saved him. He was decidedly a bondservant of Christ (v. 10.)

Pleasing men and pleasing God are two diametrically opposed ambitions. If one pleases one it is impossible to please the other. The gospel of Christ demands complete obedience, permitting no rivals. His message is odious to fallen humanity, for it sets aside human merit and effort. It makes a sham of man’s pretended righteousness and religiosity, demanding instead, death and resurrection. The old man is not improved, he is crucified. The old life is not spruced up, it is supplanted by an altogether new resurrected life – that of the Lord Jesus Himself. It has been well-said: “Jesus did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”[vi]

Losing Life In This World To Gain It In The Next

Like the apostles, modern Christians must proclaim the gospel of God’s grace in Christ apart from human notions of religion and pretended spirituality. Preaching the real gospel will set the church at variance with the spirit of the age. Believers will not receive applause in the world; nevertheless, at the judgment seat of Christ they will receive crowns (Phil. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:8; Jms. 1:12.) Contemporary people seek gospels that will gratify their egos and enhance their reputations. Yet these false paths only lead to spiritual destruction under God’s curse (Prov. 14:12.) Only the gospel that Paul preached may be trusted to transform and eternally save those who receive it.


[i] Consider verses 6-7: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” NASB & Mr. Vine’s remarks on the Greek words for “different” & “another”: Guided by Paul’s usage elsewhere the words may be paraphrased, ‘Unto a gospel which differs so radically from that which I preached to you that it is not another gospel, for it is not a gospel at all.’ This was the explanation of the Judaizers, theirs was a gospel with a difference; and this the reply of the apostle, so great is the difference that what they preach is not a gospel at all. He cannot allow them even the name. He preached salvation by grace through faith, they preached salvation by law through works; the two, he asserts, are incompatible, and must be antagonistic to the end, cp. Romans 11:6.W.E. Vine, Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Galatians. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, electronic edition (Logos.)

[ii]Johannes Behm, “anathema” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 1. Ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley & Gerhard Friedrich. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964. electronic ed. (Logos) p. 354.

[iii] A New English Translation of the Septuagint. Oxford: The University Press, 2009; electronic ed.: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/ Accessed on 9/2/10. Boldface mine.

[iv] R. Alan Cole, Galatians: An Introduction & Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1989, p. 82.

[v]James Strong, The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997; electronic ed. (Logos.)

[vi] Ravi Zacharias, “There Is None Good But God,” from the devotion A Slice of Infinity, 3/17/2000; available here: http://www.rzim.org/resources/read/asliceofinfinity/todaysslice.aspx?aid=9036 Accessed on 9/2/10.

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Let Freedom Ring: Thoughts on Galatians – Part 3

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Gal. 1:6-8

What could possibly surprise the veteran apostle who traveled across the Roman empire preaching to Jews and Gentiles from all walks of life and belief systems? Surely interacting with people from so many diverse cultures and having many varied experiences would prepare Paul for anything. Yet Galatians 1:6 registers his astonishment on account of the commencement of their sudden defection from the Lord. “I marvel that you are turning away so soon…” reveals both the apostle’s perplexity and the illogical behavior of his Galatian converts. With very little struggle – “so soon” – they were beginning to embrace an aberrant counterfeit of the genuine glad tidings of the Lord Jesus. This was not merely an alternate strain of Christian thought; rather, the Galatians risked losing the truth of Christ entirely by dabbling in a false Gospel.

If It Isn’t Broken, Don’t Fix It

New teachers arrived in Galatia propounding a “new and improved” gospel, which differed significantly from the original version that they heard from Paul. True, they had not deleted anything from the message: they apparently still professed to believe in the deity of Christ and the inspiration of the Bible. The error lay in what they had added to the glad tidings. They suggested that the Mosaic Law was necessary for justification and sanctification. In other words, salvation depended on faith in Christ plus adherence to the law (especially circumcision and kosher food laws.) Tampering with the Gospel is extremely dangerous. John 17:3 explains the momentous issues involved: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Since its truths bring one into a living relationship with the Lord Himself, altering its tenets destroys the possibility of such a connection. In other words, adding to the gospel transforms it into spiritual cyanide.

The false doctrine being foisted upon the Galatians was particularly dangerous, because it had a veneer of morality and religion about it. Those preaching it professed to be Christians, and – judging by certain allusions in Galatians 1 and 2 – claimed to represent the latest doctrinal teaching in the Jerusalem church. The fact that Paul says “Though we or an angel from heaven preach…” (v. 8) indicates that they were charismatic preachers, who seemed to carry equal weight with the apostles. Like a glorious angel, they looked and sounded good. One commentator describes the pervasive threat from this kind of false teaching:

The most destructive dangers to the church have never been atheism, pagan religions, or cults that openly deny Scripture, but rather supposedly Christian movements that accept so much biblical truth that their unscriptural doctrines seem relatively insignificant and harmless. But a single drop of poison in a large container can make all the water lethal. And a single false idea that in any way undercuts God’s grace poisons the whole system of belief. Paul would not tolerate a single drop of legalism being intermixed with God’s pure grace. To turn away from any part of the grace of Christ is to turn away from the power of God to that of human effort.[i]

It was obvious to the Galatians that pagan beliefs like Mithraism and Stoic philosophy were false; but the Judaizing doctrine was especially attractive because it came from supposedly familiar sources. Paul later warned the Ephesian elders of “savage wolves” coming from outside their assemblies. More troubling, however, was the caution that he gave regarding imposters from within their meetings who would speak perverse things in order to build up their own following (Acts 20:28-31.) Even today the worst enemies of the truth often arise from evangelical circles (e.g. the Emergent Church movement.) Regardless of how appealing the spokesman looks or sounds, if they add to or subtract from the biblical gospel, they must be rejected.

In Danger Of Becoming Doctrinal Quislings

Paul says that the Galatians are beginning to act in a spiritually disloyal manner. “Turning away” in verse 6 translates a word that was notorious for philosophical and political treachery. As Stott points out: “It signifies ‘to transfer one’s allegiance’. It is used of soldiers in the army who revolt or desert, and of men who change sides in politics or philosophy. Thus, a certain Dionysius of Heracleia, who left the Stoics to become a member of the rival philosophical school, an Epicurean, was called ho metathemenos, a ‘turncoat’.”[ii] The Septuagint, which is the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, used the word to depict the effect that Jezebel had on King Ahab in 1 Kings 21:25.[iii] Her insidious influence turned him from nominal Jehovah-worship to the adoration of idols like Baal and Ashtoreth. In Galatians the Greek verb is in the middle voice affirming that the Galatians are actively removing themselves from the Lord by their embrace of error.[iv]

Abandoning The Savior

Tragically, they were deserting a person not a dogma. The New King James Version rightly capitalizes “Him” in verse 6, acknowledging that God is the One in view. It is no use claiming that it does not matter what one believes, so long as they have Jesus. Such drivel sounds appealing to Postmodern ears, but the Bible makes it clear that a relationship with the Living God through Christ is the result of believing in the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, and receiving by faith the benefits of His saving work through His sacrificial death, vindicating resurrection, and victorious ascension (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:16; 5:24; 20:30-31; Acts 4:12; Rom. 3:23-26; 5:1; 8:1; 10:9; etc.) As Boice powerfully describes it: “Embracing legalism means rejecting God, according to Paul’s reasoning, because it means substituting man for God in one’s life. It is significant that once again even in the space of a few words (‘who called you by the grace of Christ’) Paul reiterates the true nature of the gospel: (1) it is of God, for God does the calling, and (2) it is of grace rather than of merit.”[v] To depart from the apostolic gospel as it was first preached in Galatia is to put oneself under a false system which results in eternal damnation (1 Jn. 5:11-12.) Moreover, preachers of a fraudulent gospel place themselves squarely under God’s curse (Gal. 1:8-9.)

The Truth And Nothing But The Truth

Thankfully, the phrase “turning from” is in the present tense, meaning that the Galatians had not yet fully embraced the fake gospel. There was still time to adhere to the truth, and repudiate the Judaizers and their wicked perversion of the gospel. Paul asserts that some were “troubling” them. Indeed, to obscure Christ’s good news of grace and peace always troubles the church. Those who are really saved can never impassively accept a caricature of the glad tidings. Conversely, the genuine gospel unifies the people of God. “They were all together in one accord” is the great refrain of the early chapters of Acts as the Christians carried the Lord’s message forth to Jews and Gentiles. The famous hymn puts it well: “I love to tell the story for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.”[vi] If believers genuinely love the Lord, they will love the New Testament gospel, and tenaciously hold to it against onslaughts from the religious and secular worlds.


[i] John MacArthur, Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996; electronic ed. (Logos), p. 14.

[ii] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians : Only One Way. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 1986, pp. 21-22; electronic ed. (Logos.)

Christian Maurer defines metatithemi thus: “‘…‎‘to turn from,’ ‘to fall away,’ ‘to become apostate,’…” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 8, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964, p. 161.

[iii] W.E. Vine, Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Galatians. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, electronic edition (Logos.)

A modern translation of the LXX of 1 Kgs. 21:25 reads: “Yet Achaab did act foolishly when he sold himself to do what was evil before the Lord , as his wife Jezebel led him astray.” (boldface mine, indicating the use of metatithemi; A New English Translation of the Septuagint, Oxford: The University Press, 2007, p. 316.) Available for free usage here: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/

[iv] W.E. Vine, Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Galatians. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, electronic edition (Logos.)

[v] James Montgomery Boice, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Galatians, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977; electronic ed.

[vi] A. Katherine Hankey, “I love to tell the story”, accessed at: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/i/l/ilttts.htm on 8/26/10.

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Death: The Obsolete Relic Of A Fallen World

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:8-10[i]

Recently the Japanese conceptual artist known as Arakawa died. What makes this stand out on the obituary page is that his wife Madeline Gins and he were determined not to die. Through extreme avant-garde architecture they planned and sometimes constructed houses that were supposed to enable the occupant to live forever. As one reviewer describes their style: “They build buildings with no doors inside. They place rooms far apart. They put windows near the ceiling or near the floor. Between rooms are sloping, bumpy moonscape-like floors designed to throw occupants off balance. These features, they argue, stimulate the body and mind, thus prolonging life. ‘You become like a baby,’ says Mr. Arakawa.”[ii] Another adds:

Their most recent work, a house on Long Island, had a steeply sloped floor that threatened to send visitors hurtling into its kitchen. Called Bioscleave House (Lifespan Extending Villa), it featured more than three dozen paint colors; level changes meant to induce the sensation of being in two places at once; windows that seemed too high or too low; oddly angled light switches and outlets; and an absence of doors that would have permitted occupants even a modicum of privacy. All of it was meant, the couple explained, to lead its users into a perpetually ‘tentative’ relationship with their surroundings, and thereby keep them young. ‘It has to do with the idea that you’re only as old as you think you are,’ Steven Holl, the Manhattan architect, said of the couple’s work, which he said was deeply rooted in Japanese philosophy.[iii]

Gins herself described the intended effect of this strange domicile: “Comfort is rife with anxiety. Elation comes when you erase that. In Bioscleave House, you are practicing not to die.”[iv] Obviously Arakawa’s death at the age of 73 is a setback to their ideas. His wife noted this fact in one of his obituaries: “Madeline Gins subsequently promised to continue her campaign to prove that ‘ageing can be outlawed’ but resignedly admitted that ‘this mortality thing is bad news’.”[v]

Death Seems To Be Alive And Well

The grim reality of death’s ongoing presence in the world frustrates human science, philosophy, and religion. With all of the innovation in the modern era, no one has been able to render death extinct. What man cannot do, however, the Lord Jesus has already accomplished. As the text at the beginning of this article says: “…who [i.e. Christ] has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10.) In this verse, “abolished” means “‘to make completely inoperative’ or ‘to put out of use.’”[vi] Another comments: “[katargeo means] ‘to reduce to inactivity’…In this and similar words not loss of being is implied, but loss of well being.”[vii] One might then counter, “But death seems to be active in the world!” In order to understand the Lord Jesus’ triumphant work, the term “death” – as it is used in God’s Word – must be fully understood.

Romans 6:23 famously avers that “…the wages of sin is death…” James 1:15 agrees, saying: “…sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Its ubiquitous presence on earth stems from the fall of man, when he sinned against God, who is the source of life (Gen 3; Rom. 5:12; Jn. 1:3-4) Sin is choosing one’s own way over the Creator’s way. Its essence is self-deification: affirming that humans can be their own gods. The Bible affirms that all people are afflicted by sin and death, because all descend from Adam, and themselves have in turn sinned over and over again (Rom. 5.) But what is death exactly?

Know Thy Enemy

Death in the Bible refers to separation, and has implications for three main areas:

1. Physical Death – The most common way that contemporary people use the word; it is the separation of soul and spirit from the body. The Scriptures refer to it hundreds of times (e.g. Gen. 5:5.)

2. Spiritual Death – The current separation of human beings from their Maker. God forewarned man that sin would result in instant spiritual death (Gen. 2:17; compare 3:7-10.) Ephesians 2:1 states that we are “Dead in trespasses and sins.” Sin alienates people from the holy God who made them to have a relationship with Himself (Eph. 4:18; Col. 1:21.)

3. Relational Death – The Second Death (Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8.) This is the future eternal separation of the lost, who are physically banished from God’s presence in the lake of fire. The spiritual death spoken of under point #2 is permanently confirmed for eternity.

Christ’s work addresses all three areas of death:

1. His death and resurrection shows that He is more powerful than physical death and the grave cannot withstand Him (Acts 2:24; Jn. 11:25.) He will one day demonstrate His defeat of death by raising “the dead in Christ” and having them live eternally thereafter (1 Thes. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:20-23.)

2. Ephesians 2:4-5 teaches that Christ makes alive those who receive Him by faith. By faith believers are brought into a living relationship with their Creator (Jn. 1:12-13; 17:3.)

3. The overcomer in Christ – that is, one who is born of God by believing that Jesus is the Son of God – is promised deliverance from experiencing the second death (1 Jn. 5:4-5; Rev. 2:11.)

Thus, one can see that He has rendered death ineffective – it is mortally wounded and is destined for extinction.[viii] As W.E. Vine explained it: “For the believer physical death is but the entrance upon a condition in which the spirit enjoys an activity far superior to that experienced here, a life entirely free from all effects of sin. This will be extended to his whole being, when the Lord comes to the air to receive the saints to Himself, death in all its forms having been robbed of its power by Him when He accomplished that for which He became incarnate.”[ix]

The new heavens and new earth will be free of this fearsome and cruel scourge. What is more, His gospel manifests life and immortality. Life is really about knowing God personally and enjoying Him. Therefore, eternal life can begin in this life, and cannot be interrupted even if the Christian dies physically (2 Cor. 5:1-8.) Life in Christ is death-proof, for it is stronger than death and has already debilitated it. Pointing out some of the other uses of “abolish” in the New Testament, John Stott remarks: “It is surely significant that this same verb katargeō is used in the New Testament with reference to the devil and to our fallen nature as well as to death (Heb. 2:14; Rom. 6:6). Neither the devil, nor our fallen nature, nor death has been annihilated. But by the power of Christ the tyranny of each has been broken, so that if we are in Christ we can be set free. Faith in Christ is the answer to man’s quest to avoid death, as well as his struggle to vanquish the Devil and indwelling sin.


[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture verses are cited from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. The boldfaced emphasis in the quotation is mine.

[ii] Amir Efrati,Couple’s Dreams of Immortality at Death’s Door, Thanks to Madoff.” Wall Street Journal, 3/24/09: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123785033607519075.html Accessed on 6/3/10.

[iii] Fred A. Bernstein, The New York Times, 5/20/10, Obituary for “Arakawa”: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/20/arts/design/20arakawa.html?pagewanted=print; accessed on 6/3/10.

[iv] London Telegraph, 5/23/10, Obituary for Arakawa: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/art-obituaries/7756801/Arakawa.html Accessed on 6/3/10.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Gerhard Delling, “Katargeo” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 3, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, electronic ed. (Logos), 453 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-).

[vii] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, vol. 2, electronic ed. (Logos) , 3 (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1996).

[viii]John R. W. Stott, Guard the Gospel: The Message of 2 Timothy, (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter Varsity Press, 1973, electronic ed. [Logos]), pp. 37-38. Emphasis mine.

[ix] W.E. Vine, comment on 2 Tim. 1:10, Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: 2 Timothy (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997; electronic ed. [Logos]).

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Faith & Love That Cling

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

“Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.” Ruth 1:14
The verse above presents a beautiful picture of devoted faith and love. After the tragedy of losing her husband and two sons Naomi desperately abandoned Moab for her homeland in Bethlehem, where there were stories of renewed prosperity. Years before, hardship drove her family from the land of Israel, the place of God’s provision and blessing – beloved Eretz Israel, as a Hebrew would habitually call it, thereby indicating that no other land was like the one given to them by the Lord. In spite of his pious-sounding name, when famine stalked the land Elimelechi decamped for Gentile territory in search of a fruitful way of life. Of course the adverse agricultural situation reflected the spiritual departure within the nation itself. These were the days of the Judges, when “…there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25.) God had forewarned the Israelites of the dire discipline that would befall them if they departed from serving Him and turned to idols. Conversely, He promised to bless their land and give them the early and latter rains which were essential for fecundity (Deut. 11:13-17.) If they did turn from the Lord, the remedy would be found in heartfelt repentance, rather than in fleeing to greener pastures in neighboring nations. (Abraham’s woeful experience during a famine in Genesis 12:10-20 demonstrated the folly of going elsewhere during hard times.) Sadly, Elimelech led his family to nearby Moab to their cost.

God’s Unfailing Mercy Confronts Human Failure
Despite the human failure evidenced in what befell Elimelech’s family, God was working to bless the widows Naomi and Ruth. Through this destitute pair He would also bring about unlikely benefits to Israel extending to David’s time and beyond to the line of the Messiah, Christ Jesus Himself. Although Moabites were ordinarily prohibited from reception into the congregation unto the tenth generation, the Lord graciously received Ruth into Israel and used her as an ancestress of the Christ (Deut. 23:3; Matt. 1:5.) At the time of Ruth chapter 1, however, things looked much bleaker to the three grieving widows.
Thinking practically, Naomi strongly urged her two daughters-in-law to return to their parents’ homes, where they would have better prospects of finding new husbands. Conventional wisdom would say this was sound strategy for there were few other economic possibilities for widows in those days; they were among society’s most vulnerable members. The New English Translation graphically depicts the women’s response: “Again they wept loudly. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung tightly to her” (Ruth 1:14, emphasis mine.) As one of the translator’s remarks in a study note: “Orpah is a commendable and devoted person (see v. 8); after all she is willing to follow Naomi back to Judah. However, when Naomi bombards her with good reasons why she should return, she relents. But Ruth is special. Despite Naomi’s bitter
tirade, she insists on staying. Orpah is a good person, but Ruth is beyond good – she possesses an extra measure of devotion and sacrificial love that is uncommon.”ii Putting it succinctly, Ruth possessed the love and faith that cling.
Holding On For Dear, Eternal Life
The faith that is of eternal value is confidence in the true and living God. As Hebrews 11:6 expresses it: “…he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”iii Trust in Him is never misplaced, for He is true and faithful (Deut. 7:9.) Ruth looked beyond self-effort and human aid to the Lord, who is merciful and able to save. Accordingly she clung to her mother-in-law, her only link to Israel’s God.
Those who are born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ have an enduring type of faith, which is illustrated by Ruth’s actions. It clings to the Lord in life’s storms, forsaking the easy pathway for a life of trust in the Lord. Believers from ancient times to the present day endure persecution, illness, humiliation, material privation, and all manner of tribulations. Nevertheless, they bear it with God’s help, and cling to the Lord who will faithfully complete the new creation He has begun in them (Phil. 1:6; 2 Cor. 5:17.) They love Him who first loved them, and walk through the valley of the shadow of death by His gentle leading (1 Jn. 4:9-10; Psa. 23:4.) Sometimes in hard circumstances all they can do is cling – just hang on to the Lord as the clouds pass overhead. In clinging to Him, the Christian has an unmovable rock. What is more, He will never let go of His people (Jn. 10:27-30.)
i Elimelech literally means “My God is king” in Hebrew – an ironic name under the circumstances, seeing that he ignored God’s word & fled to enemy territory in troubled times.
iiThe NET Bible First Edition (Biblical Studies Press, 2006.) http://bible.org/netbible/index.htm ; emphasis mine.

iii Verses appear in the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

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