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1 John 2 (1-6)

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Advocacy and Example

A sermon on 1 John 2:1-6 preached at Christ the King Church on 11/6/05

 

Prayer:  Father in heaven, as we come now to listen to your Word explained and applied, help us by your Spirit to recognize in Jesus, our Lord, both His advocacy and example.  We ask this in His name.  Amen.

 

Introduction:  A few weeks ago I received an invitation to attend a conference at a so-called ‘Christian’ seminary in Chicago.  The title of the conference was To Preach the Word in an Interfaith World.  Now, besides the talks and workshops that focused on this topic of religious diversity, the brochure I received also touted two interfaith worship services, which made the obvious claim that people of different faiths can still worship the same God.

Inside this invitation I discovered this seminary’s purpose statement, which fit well the theme of their conference:  “We are a community in the presence of God [which] attracts pioneers in thought and deed.  We are men and women exploring our own spiritual frontiers- pushing boundaries and creating new maps for faith’s journey.  This is [our] bold legacy of curiosity, exploration and action.  We are scholars and spiritual explorers- because faith’s journey never ends.”

             

Now, that purpose statement epitomizes the world we live in, a world of religious exploration, a world that indeed is pushing the boundaries and creating new maps (maps other than the Bible) maps for our personal journey, a journey of faith that never ends, a journey that never settles, a journey that never arrives, because truth is too elusive, too slippery, too unobtainable.

Well, this morning, as we open God’s Word, we will, thankfully, find none of this postmodern mush for the postmodern mind.  No, today as we look again into 1 John we will hear a message that cuts against the grain of today’s religious pluralism.  For you see instead of pushing the boundaries of Christian theology and ethics, John defines them.  He marks out the marks of faith.  By focusing on the person and works and teachings of Jesus Christ, the apostle gives us an old map with real boundaries, boundaries that cannot be pushed aside if we are to reach the destination of faith’s journey. 

In 2:1-6 John highlights three points of direction, three characteristics of basic biblical Christianity.  In v.1 he talks about who Christ is, in v.2 about what Christ has done, and then in vv.3-6 about what Christ commands.[1]   

 

 

Who Christ Is

 

Now, please open your Bibles with me, and let’s begin with Who Christ Is.  In v.1, John writes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

 

You may remember the story from the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel about the woman caught in adultery.[2]  The scribes and the Pharisees brought this woman before Jesus in order to test Him, saying, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law of Moses we are commanded to stone such women.  So what do you say?”  Well, our Lord, in His typical fashion offers a brilliant reply, a reply that is faithful to the just and merciful intent of the Law, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.…”  One by one the stones dropped to the ground, and one by one all these ‘righteous’ men walked away.  And then as Jesus stood before this woman, He said, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.”  And then in the next verse (v.12), Jesus apparently turns to His disciples and says those famous words, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Now, I cannot think of a better cross-reference to illustrate the point of the first verse in Firs John, Chapter Two.  For in this Gospel story John highlights three things.  First, he highlights the sinfulness of all mankind, from the most pious Pharisee who drops his stone to the abhorrent adulterous, who bows her knee.  Second, John highlights the wideness of God’s mercy in and through Christ’s intercession, a forgiveness that extends even to crimes punishable by death. 

And then third, John highlights Christ’s righteousness (His lightness) and the necessity of those who follow Him to walk in that light, or in His own words, to “sin no more,” to live a life free from the dominion and domination of sin.

Well here in 1 John we find these same three themes in a slightly different order.  First, we have John’s version of Jesus’ “sin no more.”  This is how John begins v.1.  “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”  You see, with a mix of fatherly tenderness, pastoral comfort, and apostolic authority, he wants these Christians, his spiritual “children,” those under his elderly oversight, to avoid sin.  Yet, like Jesus, John next recognizes the sinfulness of all mankind, even Christians.  And so He writes of God’s mercy in Christ.  Look at the second half of v.1.  It picks up these two themes, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

So note here the balance.[3]  It is the same balance we find in the story about the woman caught in adultery.  Here we find a serious, realistic, and merciful view of sin.  Sin is evitable but not excusable!  Sin is evitable, not excusable, and yet forgivable!  And our sin, both before our conversion and after our conversion is forgivable because of Jesus’ constant intercession or advocacy, as v.1 illustrates, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”                  

There are nearly two hundred different names used for Jesus in the Old and New Testaments.  We think of titles such as Immanuel, King of Kings, Bread of Life, Alpha and Omega, Man of Sorrows, Root of David, Prince of Peace, Second Adam, Word of Life, Son of Man and Son of God.  Well here Jesus is simply called our “advocate.” 

In the Greek the word is parakletos (paraclete)Now, that is likely a familiar word to us, for we recognize it in reference to the Holy Spirit, who in the Gospel of John functions as Jesus’ paraclete, the one who testifies “in favor of Jesus over against a hostile world.”[4]  Well, here in 1 John, in a similar fashion, “Jesus functions as our parakletos.”[5]  Like a defense attorney in a court of law,[6] Jesus testifies before the throne of God in favor of us over against our sin and its due punishment.  So Jesus is our “advocate.”  And He is, as John points out at the end of v.1, a good one, a righteous one, “the righteous one.” 

 

Now, lawyers today are stereotyped as being selfish crooks.  And of course there is a bit of truth in every stereotype, for sadly some attorneys serve their own interests above that of their client, and some seek, through various legal technicalities, to escape the truth and justice of the law.[7]  Yet, here in our passage, John tells us that we Christians have been assigned “the best defense attorney in the universe,”[8] a lawyer who is perfectly righteous, a man without sin, one who every time we commit a crime against God, selflessly and justly, as Romans 8:34 so beautifully puts it, “pleads” our case.

 

“Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;

The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears. 

Before the throne my Surety stands;

My name is written on His hands.”[9]

It is a tremendous thought to think that Jesus, because of His love for us, died for our sins.  But a far more tremendous thought, I dare say, to know that Jesus “has never lost his interest in, or his love for,” us.[10]  That when upon the cross, He said, “It is finished,” that He was not yet finished with me.  That He was not finished interceding for our sins.  

What Christ Has Done

So, Who is Christ?  He is our “advocate.”  And He has been given this eternal advocacy for our sin on the basis of His work on the cross.  Which is precisely the connection John makes as he moves us from v.1 to v.2.  For there, in v.2, he speaks of What Christ Has Done. 

 

Concerning Jesus, John says (look at v.2), “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

 

You see, here the scene has changed.  We have moved from the courtroom (v.1) into the temple (v.2), from Christ being our advocate “who speaks in our favor in the presence of God despite our sins,” to Christ being the very propitiation or atoning sacrifice for those same sins.[11]  He is the lamb who was slaughtered on the temple altar. 

The Greek word here translated as “propitiation” is used only twice in the New Testament, both in 1 John, here in 2:2 and then again in 4:10.  This word, as used in other ancient Greek texts, usually has to do with “the removal of God’s wrath.”  Now, there is certainly a sense of that here in our text.  However, if we looked at 4:10 and then back at 2:2, we would see that this word “propitiation” has something to do with Jesus sacrificing Himself for our “sins” in order to secure God’s mercy,[12] a mercy, as John goes on to say, that is as wide as the world.

Now look at the second half of v.2.  Here we find a statement that challenges Calvinists such as myself.  If I was the writer of this Epistle, I would have been content stopping with the first phrase, simply stating that Christ is “the propitiation for our sins”- the sins of the church.  But John doesn’t share my conservatism.  He goes on to say “and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 

 

Now, I don’t want to spend too wrangling about this verse.  For this verse is not as difficult as theologians make it out to be.  Here’s the gist of it.  Here’s how you should think about it. 

John loves talking about the bigness of the Cross event.  Do you remember what is said in his Gospel, in 1:29 where John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world,” or in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son…” or John 12:32, where Jesus says of His death, “And when I am lifted up … I will draw all people unto myself.” 

 

Now, here in 1 John 2:2 John again has the whole world in view, but not in a universalistic sense, but rather in a sufficiency sense.  “The phrase the whole world relates not to every creature God has made….  The word whole describes the world in its totality, not necessarily in its individuality.”[13]  So, this verse is not saying that all people will be saved by Christ’s death whether they believe or not; for we know that such a reading contradicts the whole of Scripture, not to mention what John himself goes on to write in 2:19-23.  Instead what is taught here is that Jesus’ death was and is sufficient to deal with everybody’s sin, every person in the world who comes to Him in faith.

So, here John tells us that in Christ’s death there is a universal offer.  So, if you are sitting here this morning, saying to yourself, “Jesus couldn’t have died for me.  I’m too insignificant.  Or I’m too sinful.”[14]  Well then, this verse tells you that you are wrong.  It tells us to cheer-up.  It tells us that the cross is great enough to cover everyone, and that its benefits can be enjoyed by all who embrace the saving work of Christ.[15]    

What Christ Commands

Now, I call those first two verses, words of comfort.  For it is comforting to know that Jesus stands in our place, that through His death and intercession He was and is our advocate.  But… don’t get too comfortable, for God’s Word is about to make us squirm in our seats.  For if vv.1-2 are words of comfort, then I think (for many of us) we will find vv.3-6 to be words of conviction.  For you see in the first two verses John addresses topics we are familiar with.  He talks about Who Christ Is and What Christ Has Done.  But then in vv.3-6 he shifts his attention to a topic that often misses our religious radar.  Here he shifts from Christ’s advocacy to Christ’s example.  And here he focuses on What Christ Commands:  Who Christ is (v.1), What Christ Has Done (v.2), and now finally, What Christ Commands (vv.3-6). 

The last time we studied 1 John we looked at the message, “God is light.”  And we began to address the issue of what it means to walk in that light, saying (if you recall) that the one who walks in this light first acknowledges, confesses, and repents of sin.  Well, here in chapter 2, we receive further clarification on the content of this calling.  In vv.1-2 we learn that the one who walks in the light embraces the advocacy of Christ made available through Christ’s death.  And, then in vv.3-6 we learn (or we will learn) that the one who walks in the light follows Christ’s example and keeps Christ’s commands

Staring in v.3, John writes, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may be sure that we are in him:  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 

First John is a book about assurance.  In fact, there is no other book in the whole Bible that deals more with this theme, this theme of knowing whether or not you are a Christian.  In this little Epistle, the verb “to know” and its derivatives are used nearly forty times.  And the first of those occurrences is in our text.

Now, in the text before us we have the first mention of this great theme.  Just look at the language used here.  Look at the start of v.3.  “And by this we know that we have come to know him….” And then peak again at the second half of v.5.  “And by this we may be sure that we are in him.”   

 

Well this all sounds very good, doesn’t it?  “How wonderful,” you might say, “to know if we have come to know him.  How wonderful to be sure that we are in Him.”  Yet, I want you to note the John’s litmus test of genuine Christian discipleship is far removed from many of our common perceptions and perspectives.

For the first 19 years of my life I was a Roman Catholic.  And then for the past 14 years I have been a Protestant Evangelical.  So I have witnessed first hand, in two very different camps, how professing Christians most often deal with this issue of assurance.  The Catholics, on the one hand, lean on their baptism and/or some other objective means, like the existence and status of the organized Church.  So, if I asked the average Catholic if they were a Christian or not, most would say they were.  And then if I asked them why, or what makes them so sure, they would respond saying something about being a member of or being baptized into the one true church. 

Now, Protestant Evangelicals, on the other hand, respond in a different way.  That is, if I asked the average Evangelical if he is a Christian he would confidently say he is.  And then if I asked him why, or what makes him so sure, he would take me back to that moment in time in which he “let Jesus into his heart”- the time he made a profession of faith by walking an isle or signing a card or what have you. 

Now, while the typical Catholic response is objective and the typical Evangelical response is subjective, sadly both fail to acknowledge the best biblical means by which we find assurance.  So, yes the Bible addresses baptism and conversation.  But neither of these means is highlighted as being the surest means of our assurance.  Instead, what is found (and thus what is to be our perspective on this matter) is that assurance is almost exclusively related to obedience, and certainly that is the case throughout 1 John.       

Now, look with me again at vv.3-6, so that you know I’m not making this up.  Here, John introduces us to two types of people, the talker and the walker.  This ‘talker’ is depicted and defamed in v.4.  “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  So, this person is the professing Christian who extols knowledge at the expense of obedience to Christ’s commands.[16] 

A number of years ago some liberal theologians gathered together to agree upon and advocate what they called a “new morality”.  Now, just as many of them came to an agreement that morality should now be free from any and all traditional rules and regulations, one of the men objected, saying, “But there must be some guidelines.”  Well, this objection led to further discussion in which they then together granted that there was one and only one acceptable guideline, namely love (generically defined)- any act was allowed so long as it did not hurt anyone. 

Now, while the discussion was proceeding along these lines, one of the more conservative liberals (they do exist) became very quiet, so quiet that it became overwhelmingly noticeable.  The others turned to him and asked, “Don’t you agree that the only limiting factor in any ethical decision is love?”  To which he replied, “Well, didn’t Jesus say, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’” (John 14:15)?[17]

Now, sadly, what was then called the “new morality” is now simply called morality.  But John reminds us, just as Jesus did, that morality has its definition in the teachings, in the commandments of Jesus Christ; and that authentic discipleship defines itself not on the basis of a confident affirmation, “I know Jesus,” but on a humble submission to the revealed will of God.

And that’s why John next places before our eyes the image, not of the ‘talker’, but of the ‘walker,’ of the one whose actions speak louder than his words!  Just look again at v.3, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”  And look then at v.5 and v.6, “… whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected [made complete].  By this we may be sure that we are in him:  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

 

Notice those strong action verbs, “we keep,” “whoever keeps” and “we ought to walk.”[18]  To John “the true knowledge of God is essentially personal and practical.”[19]  It “is experiential, not speculative and abstract.”[20]  It involves keeping and walking.  It involves a present reaction, a kind of continual reflex to the will and ways of God.  It is not “a one-time enlightenment, but rather a past experience with ongoing present consequences.”[21]  So, just as James, in the second chapter of his Epistle, says, “show me your faith” through your good works.  So here John says, “show me your faith through your obedience to Christ’s commandments.”

Think for a moment about the Great Commission, that Commission that we find at the end of Matthew’s Gospel that is so often cited as the impetus or motivation for evangelism, and yet ironically its’ precise commands are rarely heeded.  There are four verbs in the Great Commission (verbs which tell us what we are to do).  We are to “go”.  We are “to make disciples”.  We are to “baptize”.  And, what then is the last command of this Commission?  We are to “teach,” we are to teach these new disciples.  What?  What are we to teach them?  We are to teach them all that Christ has “commanded”.

 

Now, I honestly think today that the church does not even know many of Christ’s commandments, let alone teach them.  Just think for a moment on your religious education.  Did anyone ever go through all of Jesus’ commandments with you, teach them to you, and then emphasize their importance?  You know, this is not some obscure point of theology.  This is the A, B, C’s.  This is simply the Great Commission.      

In the Gospels, I counted nearly forty different commands.  Other scholars list over fifty.  And then if we took all the interpretations and applications of Christ’s teachings as given by His apostles, His commands would total around one hundred; commands that cover categories such as our relationship to God, Jesus, neighbor, and household, as well as our personal character, that is, what we are to think, say, and do.

Now, whatever John had in mind when he wrote about keeping Christ’s commandments, we know that he had Jesus’ own summary of all the Bible’s commandments in mind, because both in the immediate context as well as throughout this Book the command to “love” is emphasized.  So, if, for example, you look at the verses that follow (2:7-11), there we find this theme.  And then if you looked throughout 1 John you would see 14 different times this direct command “to love” is mentioned (2:10; 3:10,11,14,16,18,23; 4:7-8, 11-12, 16, 19-21). 

So, as professing Christians we should keep all of Jesus’ teachings in mind, but in all these, we are above all to put on love. We are to love God and love others.  For indeed they will know we are Christians by our love.  But so will we!  We are to keep Christ’s commandments!

Now, I think I have heard a thousand times in sermons on the Great Commandments a thousand escape clauses.  You know, something like, “Yes, we are to love God and others we all we are and have, yet oh how we fail, oh how impossible a task this is, oh how we cannot possible come close even for a minute, oh how terribly wretched we are that not one thought is good enough for God….” 

Now, I must say, I was tempted to take these verses in this way.  To say, “Yes we are to obey.  But ‘no’ we cannot obey.  And so thank God Christ has obeyed.”  Sounds like a good sermon, doesn’t it?  But is this the right way to understand what is said here?  I mean are we really expected to keep commandments, whether it is Moses’ or Christ’s?  Well, if we go back to vv.1-2, we might think the answer is “no,” for there we are clearly told that we are not to sin and yet we do sin, and thus we need an advocate, namely Christ, to be our righteousness before God.  So, if we just had these first two verses we could conclude that we are not expected to keep these commands because Christ has kept them for us.

But, you know, such logic would make sense if v.6 didn’t exist.  But it does exist.  And in v.6, we find this call: that we are “to walk in the same way in which he [Christ] walked.”  So, yes, Jesus is our advocate, our righteous advocate, because we are truly unrighteous.  Yet, Jesus is also our example.  He is our advocate and our example.

But, of course, we need to be careful here.  For what does it mean that we ought to walk in the same way as Jesus walked?  Does it mean we walk on water?  Does it mean we choose twelve disciples?  Does it mean we perform great miracles?  Does it mean we die upon a cross?  Well, of course not!  We cannot walk in the same exact way[22] or for the same exact purpose or with the same results.  We are not miracle workers.  And if we were our miracles would have no Messianic significance.  And yes we will surely die.  But our death will save no people from their sins.  So, we are not called here to merely and precisely copy Christ’s life.  So what then are we called to do?

I would imagine we are all familiar, whether it is in sticker, pin, or bracelet form, with the acronym, WWJD, which stands for What Would Jesus Do?  Now, there is good and bad associated with this slogan.  The bad is that takes away from Christ’s unique work as the unique Son of God.  And it can lead one to speculate on what one imagines Jesus doing a particular contemporary circumstance, rather than focusing on God’s revealed will in Scripture.  Thus, in light of this misuse some Christian leaders have suggested it be replaced by WDJD, What Did Jesus Do! 

Yet, the good aspect of this campaign is that it points out our calling to be Christ-like.  And this calling is issued often in the New Testament.  We think, for example, of Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2, where, using the example of Christ’s humility, he calls Christians to unity, service, and meekness.  Or we think of Paul’s invitation in 1 Corinthians 11:1, where he says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  So think of v.6 in this way:  In the way Jesus was morally obedient to the Father, and in the way Jesus loved the lost and the needy, so we are to imitate Christ, “to walk in the same way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

In John’s day, like our own, the church was full of pious slogans.  People were saying, “I know him,” “I live in him,” “I am in the light.”  But here John, similar to James, knows that “a man’s words must be tested by his works,”[23] and he knows that “no religious experience is valid if it does not have moral consequences.”[24]  A true personal relationship with God, a saving relationship, expresses itself “not in sentimental language or mystical experience but in moral obedience.”[25] 

So, God in His kind providence has brought you here this morning to ask you a few important questions:  Does your walk back your talk?  Are you known to God and to others as one who is obedient to Christ’s commandments?[26]  Is your life characterized by growth in godliness, by a striving for Christ-likeness?   

John Newton, the converted slave-trader, who became a minister of the gospel, said of himself, “I am not what I ought to be; but I am not what I once was.  And it is by the grace of God that I am what I am.”[27]  Well, can you say that of yourself?  Are you different than you once were?  Is your life characterized by obedience to Christ’s commandments?[28]

Jesus is our advocate.  Jesus is our example.  Do you know if you know Him?  I pray you do.  Amen.

Prayer:  Lord, we thank you this morning that Jesus is indeed both our advocate and our example.  And we ask that you would help us to know that we are yours by the obedience you have wrought in our lives, obedience to the commandments of Christ.  Lord, we thank you for the good news of the gospel, and we ask that you would help us to life lives worthy of that same gospel.  We ask this in the name of our Advocate and Example, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Benediction:  For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Cor. 5:14-15).  May we indeed die to sin and live for Christ!  Amen.

 

I like what James Montgomery Boice says on this point.  He asks the question, “Why is the righteous life a proof that we know God?”  His answer, “Because it is not natural to sinful man.”[29]  Now, that’s right.  You see, when someone claims that they are a Christian based merely on some experience, the world sees nothing remarkable about that.  Even the most pagan pagans have religious experiences!  But, when they see and a dead man alive in the spirit, walking according to the spirit and not the flesh, a life transformed from dark living to light living, the loveless becoming lovers of God and man, when we see the disobedient become obedient, well then the only reaction one can rightly have is to say, “Truly this is the work of God!”

“Inconsistency here explains why so many have written off Christian belief as an irrelevant fiction.  How can these ‘Christians’, who claim to know God, be so unlike him?  Nothing is a greater stumbling block to the agnostic.  The biggest hindrance to the spread of the Christian message has often been within the Christian church itself.”[30]

“Personal righteousness and obedience are an essential component of our faith and yet do not form the basis of our salvation.”[31]  But this God-given personal righteousness and obedience do, nevertheless, form the basis for our assurance of salvation!  Let me make this point clear.  That’s say you came into my office, proclaimed that you were a Christian on the basis of some confession of faith given many years ago (let’s say at summer camp), yet you went on to confess that you were currently living in some known sin with no desire to change (living in deliberate disobedience to the commandments of Christ), the last thing I would do as say, “Well, brother or sister, at least we know that you are a Christian.”  I would never give such a person assurance.  What they really need is the message that John the Baptist preached, “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore, bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew, 3:10,8).

C.H. Dodds said, “To know God is to experience his love in Christ, and to return that love in obedience.”  A. E. Brooks wrote, “There is no real knowledge of God which does not issue in obedience.”  William Barclay said, “Knowledge of God can be proved only by obedience to God; and knowledge of God can be gained only by obedience to God.”[32]  And the apostle John said, “An by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” 

Now, this idea of Jesus being a propitiation for sin naturally trips people up.  It is “the foolishness of the cross,” of which Paul spoke.  Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, in her famous book, Science and Health, says this about the orthodox Christian view of Jesus’ atonement.  She writes, “Wisdom and love may require many sacrifices to self to save us from sin.  One sacrifice [referring to Jesus’ sacrifice], however, is insufficient to pay the debt of sin.  The atonement requires constant self-immolation on the sinner’s part.  That God’s wrath should be vented upon His beloved Son, is divinely unnatural.”[33]           

“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  4 Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him:  6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 

 

 

3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  4 Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may be sure that we are in him:  6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 

 

 

“Security in sin stimulates the very desire to commit it” (Tertullian, On Purity, 77).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES ON ROMANS 3 SERMON

 

As the apostle Peter wrote, "It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed . . . but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19).  Through our Lord's violent death, through His blood (His life poured out), He paid the penalty for "sins 'owed' by all people to God."[34]  This is genuine liberation theology!  Not liberation from economic or racial oppression, but liberation from sin, death, and wrath.  That is the redemption we have Christ!

Now, the other word Paul chooses to illustrate another important aspect of Christ's death is the word, "propitiation," which simply means the "removal of God's wrath."  I am glad to see the English Standard Version (ESV) decided to keep this archaic and nearly obsolete term in their new translation.  For most modern English translations have opted to remove and replace this word.  Although in some cases this has been done for pragmatic or practical reasons, in other cases it has been done due to theological convictions.  Some have dismissed this word due to their disdain for the concept of wrath, especially as it pertains to God. 

The traditional understanding that the death of Christ "removed sin and satisfied God's holy anger" is not only "out of fashion" these days,[35] but repressible to many contemporary 'Christian' thinkers.[36]  William Neil well represents a great number of theologians when he said, "The fire and brimstone school of theology who revel in ideas such as that Christ made a sacrifice to appease an angry God or that the cross was a legal transaction in which an innocence victim was made to pay the penalty for the crimes of others, a propitiation of a stern god, finds no support in Paul.  These notions come into Christian theology by way of the legalistic minds of the medieval churchmen.  They are not biblical Christianity."[37]

The idea of "propitiation," Neil claims, is not biblical Christianity.  This idea of God removing His wrath through the death of His Son, Neil believes, comes from the minds of the medieval churchmen, and not from the mind of the apostle Paul.  Now surely, one of the medieval churchmen Neil has in mind (and is picking on) is Anselm of Canterbury, who argued in his famous and biblically sound treatise, Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man), that because "the divine character [of God was] incapable of dismissing sin lightly,"[38] Christ Jesus was sent to die for our sins and thus to turn away God's judgment.  That's what Anselm wrote.  Scholars like Neil who ignore or minimize the "problem inherent in a holy God accepting sinners" (the problem Anselm was trying to solve) would do well to heed Anselm's own warning to those who disagreed with or despised his teachings.  Anselm said to such critics, "You have not yet considered the weight of sin."[39]   

Whatever his faults, this medieval churchman was far closer to what the apostle Paul actually taught than Mr. William Neil.  For if the apostle Paul has been arguing one point in the beginning of Romans it is the point, "all have sinned" and thus "all are under the wrath of God."  So, unless this word "propitiation" means "the removal of our sin and the removal of God's wrath," then we are left as helpless sinners still under power of sin and the righteous judgment of God.[40] 

Dr. Neil, I'm afraid to say, needs to go back to seminary, to a seminary that recognizes and approves the 'fire and brimstone school of theology.'  For as grotesque as it may sound to some, it is sweetness in my ears (and should be in yours) to hear the Good News that the whole of punishment for human sin was distilled into one cup, a cup that no moral lip could take so much as a solitary sip, and yet which Christ, our loving Lord, with one tremendous draught of love, drank damnation dry.[41]  "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21).  Christ crucified is God satisfied and us justified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  4 Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may be sure that we are in him:  6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction:  McCormick Days:  2005 Conference:  To Preach the Word in an Interfaith World

·       “We are a community in the presence of God [which] attracts pioneers in thought and deed.  We are men and women exploring our own spiritual frontiers- pushing boundaries and creating new maps for faith’s journey.  This is McCormick’s bold legacy of curiosity, exploration and action.  We are scholars and spiritual explorers- because faith’s journey never ends.”

·       This is the world we live in, a world of religious exploration, a world that indeed is pushing the boundaries and creating new maps (maps other than the Bible) for our faith’s journey, a journey that never ends, that settles, that never arrives, because truth is too elusive and board.

·       Well, the message of 1 John this morning is counter-cultural.  It cuts against the grain of today’s religious pluralism.  John gives the timeless A, B, C’s of Christianity, speaking about who Christ is, what He has done, and what He commands (go through outline below/acknowledge David Jackman).  He gives us a map with real boundaries that cannot be pushed aside if we are to reach the destination of faith’s journey.    OR JACKMAN, 42-43

 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 

Christians Must Know Who Christ Is (v.1)- He is our “advocate”

·       “My little children”

o    See Stott, 79-80

o    John is a spiritual father, authority, advanced age, pastoral (Kistemaker, 251). 

·       “So that you may not sin”

o    See Stott, 79 and 80

o    John is writing to them about assurance of eternal through faith (5:13), about false teachers (2:26), and about what Christians should do with sin (2:1)

o    Context: 1:5-10 (continues on this theme of sin)

o    The call of Christ is to walk in the light/to “sin no more”- John 8:11-12   11 She said, “No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."]  12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

o    “…means that you will try to stay free from sin by avoiding it, refusing it, and then also confessing it when it does happen” (Barton, 28)

·       “But anyone does sin”

o    While we are called to “sin no more,” the reality is that we do sin (1:10). 

o    This is not a cop-out/cheap grace (see John the Baptist’s message, Matthew 3:8)

o    “Security in sin stimulates the very desire to commit it” (Tertullian, On Purity, 77).

o    “He did not want his readers to take the inevitability of sinning as an excuse to sin” (Barton, 28)

·       Christ is … (the names for Christ in the OT/NT)

·       Here Christ is called our “advocate” and “the righteous”

What is an “advocate”?

·       “The English expression ‘one who speaks … in our defense’ translates a single Greek word: parakletos.  This word is found only here in 1 John, and four times in the Gospel of John….  In the Fourth Gospel one of the functions of the HS as p is to testify in favor of Jesus over against a hostile world….  In a similar fashion, in 1 John Jesus functions as our p, speaking up on our behalf in the presence of his Father when we sin”  (Kruse, 72).

·       How does Jesus function in this way?  What is the benefit to us?

·       Picture a court of law (Kistemaker, 252) 

·       He can be our advocate because He is perfectly “righteous” (v.1b)

·       Illustration:  We have examples in the NT of Jesus being an advocate before men (The woman caught in adultery, the sinful woman who wipes Jesus’ feet with her tears).  But here He is an advocate before the Father

·       Charles Wesley’s Arise, My Soul, Arise:  “Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears; The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears.  Before the throne my Surety stands; My name is written on His hands”

·       “Here, then, there is a barrier erected between man and God.  How can man, the sinner, ever enter into the presence of God, the all-holy?  That problem is solved in Jesus Christ” (Barclay, 36)

·       “The tremendous thing about Jesus is that he has never lost his interest in, or his love for, men.  We are not to think of him as having gone through his life upon the earth and his death upon the Cross, and then being finished with men.  He still bears his concern for us upon his heart; he still pleads for us; Jesus Christ is the prisoner’s friend for all” (Barclay, 38) 

“The righteous”

·       “Christ’s righteousness contrasts with humanity’s sinfulness” (Barton, 29)

·       “The best defense attorney in the universe” (Barton, 29)

·       Paul wrote, ‘Who then will condemn us?  Will Christ Jesus?  No, for he is the one who died for us …. [and is] pleading for us’ (Romans 8:34 NLT); and “Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through him.  He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf’ (Hebrews 7:25 NLT)

·       “…the righteousness of his character which governs the nature of his advocacy for us…. Not all advocates are like this, as any who have been to court know.  Often they are unjust.  Many times they serve their own interests rather than those of their client.  Some use technicalities to escape the law’s just censure.  But Jesus does not work in this fashion.  Rather, he is faithful to our cause and presents the case faithfully and with perfection” (Boice, 39)

Application:  Go to Him as an advocate/confess (1:9)

 

 

2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

 

Christians Must Trust What Christ Did (v.2)- “He is the propitiation for our sins”

·       False views of the atonement

o    Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health: the atonement (Burge, 71)

·       What is meant by “propitiation”?

o    Atoning sacrifice for our sins (notices the word “sins” twice in this verse)

o    Turns away God’s wrath (see notes below on Romans 3 sermon)

§   See Stott, 81-88

§   See Kruse, 73 (good work in context)

§   “… (4:10) it was because of the Father’s love for us that he sent his Son to make this atoning sacrifice” (Kruse, 73)

·       “For the sins of the whole world”

o    Stott, 84; Kruse, 74-75; Kist, 253; Boice, 41-42

o    John 3:16; John 12:32; 1 Timothy 2:4

o    “Truly the love of God is broader than the measures of man’s mind; and in the NT itself there are hints of a salvation whose arms are as wide as the world” (Barclay, 40)

o    John was not teaching universal salvation (that everyone is saved by Christ’s death whether they believe or not).  We know this from 2:19-23, et al. 

o    The sacrifice is sufficient for the sins of every person in the world.  “You, too, are part of the world, so that your heart cannot deceive itself and think, ‘The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me’” (Luther)

o   Limited atonement is a logical deduction.  But it is not a Scriptural deduction (cite examples, see Elwell).  Perhaps “limited election” is more faithful to the teaching of Scripture

 

3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  4 Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may be sure that we are in him:  6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 

 

Christians Must Do What Christ Commands (vv.3-6)- “Keep His commandments”

·       Transition:  Last time we talked about what the message:  God is light.  And we began to address the issue of what it means to walk in the light (The one who walks in the light is not merely a talker, but a walker/The one who walks in the light acknowledges, confesses, and repents of sin).  Today we receive further clarification to that call.  The one who walks in the light embraces the advocacy of Christ.  And now the one who walks in the light keeps Christ’s commands.  The one who walks in the light keeps His commandments (this is how true confession/repentance is demonstrated)- We are to confess sin (1:9) and now forsake sin (2:1)

·       Here we are introduced to “two types of men:”  Profession without obedience, Obedience flowing from love (Boice, 47-48)

·       Outline:  (1) Say (2) Walk/Keep (3) Know/Be Sure

Say: 

·       Note again this theme of talking vs. walking (cf. Matthew 7, “Lord, Lord” and James 1-2)

·       Note the word “keep” 3x times (and “walk” is the same idea)

·       Note that John has turned from addressing false teachers to addressing those false professors within the church

·       “John probably wrote these words to oppose Gnostic teachers who extolled gathering knowledge at the expense of obedience” (Kist, 257).

·       “In contrast to either of these two Greek ideas, John’s understanding of the knowledge of God is essentially personal and practical” (Boice, 46)

·       Illustration:  The new morality (See Boice, 48)

·       Illustration:  The person relying on his infant baptism and/or the altar call

·       Knowledge of God is not “a one-time enlightenment, but rather a past experience with ongoing present consequences.  Knowledge for John is experiential, not speculative and abstract.  It reveals itself in present activity, namely, the continuing reflex to obey God.  Therefore, people who make some claim that they know God must have evidence in their daily lives that they are conforming their decision making to his will” (Burge, 97)

·       Liar = “John’s words are severe.  This person is a liar.  In 1:8 we learned that the denial of obedience means the same thing….John is here not simply saying that someone who fails to obey has missed the point; instead, such people are seriously disconnected from God” (Burge, 98)

·       Illustration:  Pre-marriage counseling (Burge, 104)

·       Lordship Salvation (MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, see Burge, 107)

Keep  

·       His commandments/His word – Word is singular, thus “complete revelation of His will” (Stott, 90)

·       “The verb ‘obey’/’keeps’ is in the present tense, depicting obedience as ongoing, and the verb ‘made complete’/’is perfect’ is in the perfect tense, thus depicting those who obey God’s word as people in whom God’s love is perfected” (Kruse, 80).

·       “Brown argues convincingly that this verb means more than observance.  Its use in the LXX and elsewhere implies duration and perseverance: to observe diligently, to guard carefully, to suddenly realize a truth- and to protect it” (In Burge, 98)

·       “Sometimes I wonder if our concern to support the Reformation teaching about grace has sabotaged any hope for this call to obedience….  Personal righteousness and obedience are an essential component of our faith and yet do not form the basis of our salvation” (Burge, 105)

·       What are His commandments? 

o   How this is abused/we are not to keep our pastors self-made commandments, but Christ’s commandments (e.g., in Burge, 106-107)

o   In context:  Certainly the command to love (see Kruse, 78)

o   Commandments is essential- Look at the Great Commission

o   We like to make up our own commands- God told me to do such as such (give examples)

o   Search I John, then the Gospels, then the rest of the NT

o   Now, there are not only many commands.  But those many commands are difficult.  So…

·       Are we really expected to keep them?  If so, to what extent?

o   See Stott (Calvin), 90

o   “This does not mean, of course, that those who know God will never fail to obey God’s commands, but rather that those who know God will not be characterized by disobedience to his commands” (Kruse, 79).

o   We might be tempted to go back to v.1, saying, “Yes, we are not to sin.  But thank goodness when we do sin we have an advocate.  So, the answer is ‘no’.  We are not expected to keep these commands because Christ has kept them for us.

o   Well such logic would make sense if v.1a and v.6 didn’t exist.  But they do exist.  One of the purposes John is writing is so that we “may not sin.”  And furthermore, we are actually called to “walk in the same way in which he walked”

o   “Love” – Stott, 91

§  “Our love for God completes its work when we obey his command to love one another” (Kruse, 80).

§  On perfection (see Burge, 99)

o   Negative:  Don’t sin (v.1a)/Positive:  Do walk (v.6)

o   Jesus walked = “keeping God’s commands to them as Jesus obeyed God’s commands to him” (Kruse, 82).

o   “Verse 6 is not so much a restatement of the test by which we may know that we know him as it is a conclusion or exhortation addressed to those who do” (Boice, 49)

o   “Earlier he had set the light of God before us as an example.  Now he calls us also to Christ to imitate him” (Calvin in Boice, 49)

o   “To what extent … is our faith simply a matter of pious slogans (‘I know him, live in him, and am in the light’ were the Johannine slogans)?  To what extent do I seriously reflect the demeanor of Jesus Christ?  Am I known as obedient and loving or simply as religious?” (Burge, 105)

o   WWJD (the bad and the good of that popular motto)

§  We cannot walk in the same exact way or for the same exact purpose or with the same exact results- Jesus was uniquely the Messiah- “To ‘walk as Jesus did’ doesn’t mean choosing twelve disciples, performing great miracles, and being crucified.  People cannot merely copy Christ’s life.  Much of what Jesus did had to do with his identity as God’s Son and his special role in dying for sin” (Barton, 33)

§  Yet, we are called often be Christ to be Christ-like (to pick up our cross, etc.).  And that is the sense of this verse.

Know

·       Barclay on three views of knowledge/good quotes (See Barclay, 43)

·       This is not a matter of salvation, but of assurance!

·       “Know” (v.3, 4) and “we may be sure” (v.5)- cf. this theme through the letter (see especially 5:13)

o   See Stott, 89

o   The verb form of “know” occurs 20x in the Epistle

·       Illustration:  If a man cheated on his wife.  He is still in a relationship with her.  But, he cannot be sure that she will not divorce him.  He lives in fear, as he should.  The same is true for those who profess to know Christ.  If we are constantly cheating on Him, we cannot be sure that His truth and His love abides in us.

·       “It simply means that he will be moving in a direction marked out by the righteousness of God.  If he does not do this, if he is not increasingly dissatisfied with and distressed by sin, he is not God’s child” (Boice, 45)  

·       “Why is the righteous life a proof that we know God?  Because it is not natural to sinful man” (Boice, 47) cf. 1 Thess (Ken’s last message)

·       “No amount of clearness or strength in the experience itself can guarantee its validity….. [it must be confirmed by] an ethical quality” (C.H. Dodd in Boice, 50)

Conclusion:  Summarize Jackman, 42-43

Benediction:  2 Cor. 5:14-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES ON ROMANS 3 SERMON

 

As the apostle Peter wrote, "It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed . . . but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19).  Through our Lord's violent death, through His blood (His life poured out), He paid the penalty for "sins 'owed' by all people to God."[42]  This is genuine liberation theology!  Not liberation from economic or racial oppression, but liberation from sin, death, and wrath.  That is the redemption we have Christ!

Now, the other word Paul chooses to illustrate another important aspect of Christ's death is the word, "propitiation," which simply means the "removal of God's wrath."  I am glad to see the English Standard Version (ESV) decided to keep this archaic and nearly obsolete term in their new translation.  For most modern English translations have opted to remove and replace this word.  Although in some cases this has been done for pragmatic or practical reasons, in other cases it has been done due to theological convictions.  Some have dismissed this word due to their disdain for the concept of wrath, especially as it pertains to God. 

The traditional understanding that the death of Christ "removed sin and satisfied God's holy anger" is not only "out of fashion" these days,[43] but repressible to many contemporary 'Christian' thinkers.[44]  William Neil well represents a great number of theologians when he said, "The fire and brimstone school of theology who revel in ideas such as that Christ made a sacrifice to appease an angry God or that the cross was a legal transaction in which an innocence victim was made to pay the penalty for the crimes of others, a propitiation of a stern god, finds no support in Paul.  These notions come into Christian theology by way of the legalistic minds of the medieval churchmen.  They are not biblical Christianity."[45]

The idea of "propitiation," Neil claims, is not biblical Christianity.  This idea of God removing His wrath through the death of His Son, Neil believes, comes from the minds of the medieval churchmen, and not from the mind of the apostle Paul.  Now surely, one of the medieval churchmen Neil has in mind (and is picking on) is Anselm of Canterbury, who argued in his famous and biblically sound treatise, Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man), that because "the divine character [of God was] incapable of dismissing sin lightly,"[46] Christ Jesus was sent to die for our sins and thus to turn away God's judgment.  That's what Anselm wrote.  Scholars like Neil who ignore or minimize the "problem inherent in a holy God accepting sinners" (the problem Anselm was trying to solve) would do well to heed Anselm's own warning to those who disagreed with or despised his teachings.  Anselm said to such critics, "You have not yet considered the weight of sin."[47]   

Whatever his faults, this medieval churchman was far closer to what the apostle Paul actually taught than Mr. William Neil.  For if the apostle Paul has been arguing one point in the beginning of Romans it is the point, "all have sinned" and thus "all are under the wrath of God."  So, unless this word "propitiation" means "the removal of our sin and the removal of God's wrath," then we are left as helpless sinners still under power of sin and the righteous judgment of God.[48] 

Dr. Neil, I'm afraid to say, needs to go back to seminary, to a seminary that recognizes and approves the 'fire and brimstone school of theology.'  For as grotesque as it may sound to some, it is sweetness in my ears (and should be in yours) to hear the Good News that the whole of punishment for human sin was distilled into one cup, a cup that no moral lip could take so much as a solitary sip, and yet which Christ, our loving Lord, with one tremendous draught of love, drank damnation dry.[49]  "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21).  Christ crucified is God satisfied and us justified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  4 Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may be sure that we are in him:  6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 

3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  4 Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him:  6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 

 

 

 

 


----

[1] See Jackman

[2] Recorded in John 8:3-11

[3] See Stott, 79.

[4] Kruse, 72.

[5] Kruse, 72.

[6] Although it is squawked at today in various theological circles, God’s Word tells us it is appropriate to envision, with each and every sin, a kind of courtroom scene.  So, “Picture a court of law in which the guilty party is summoned to appear.  The sinner needs a court-appointed lawyer to represent him.  God, who is the plaintiff, appoints his Son to be the intercessor for and the helper of the defendant.”[6] 

[7] See Boice, 39.

[8] Barton, 29.

[9] Charles Wesley.

[10] Barclay, 38.

[11] Kruse, 73.

[12] Note that “sins” is mentioned twice.

[13] See Kistemaker, 253.

[14] Martin Luther thought of these verse in this way when wrote of it, “You, too, are part of the world, so that your heart cannot deceive itself and think, ‘The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me.’” 

[15] Stott, 74.

[16] Kistemaker, 257.

[17] In Boice (reworded).

[18] “Brown argues convincingly that this verb means more than observance.  Its use in the LXX and elsewhere implies duration and perseverance: to observe diligently, to guard carefully, to suddenly realize a truth- and to protect it” (In Burge, 98)

[19] Boice, 46.

[20] Burge, 97.

[21] Burge, 97.

[22] “Earlier he had set the light of God before us as an example.  Now he calls us also to Christ to imitate him” (Calvin in Boice, 49)

[23] Stott, 90.

[24] Stott, 90.

[25] Stott, 91; “No amount of clearness or strength in the experience itself can guarantee its validity….. [it must be confirmed by] an ethical quality” (C.H. Dodd in Boice, 50)

[26] See Burge, 105.

[27] In Jackman, 43.

[28] “This does not mean, of course, that those who know God will never fail to obey God’s commands, but rather that those who know God will not be characterized by disobedience to his commands” (Kruse, 79).

[29] Boice, 47.

[30] Jackman, 42.

[31] Burge, 106.

[32] All in Barclay, 43. 

[33] In Burge, 74.

[34] Moo, 229.

[35] Moo, 242.

[36] Schreiner's quote, 192.

[37] Lucas on Romans.

[38] Moo, 242.

[39] In Ibid.

[40] See Morris, 180-1.

[41] From Spurgeon, 298.

[42] Moo, 229.

[43] Moo, 242.

[44] Schreiner's quote, 192.

[45] Lucas on Romans.

[46] Moo, 242.

[47] In Ibid.

[48] See Morris, 180-1.

[49] From Spurgeon, 298.

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