Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Total Inability

Romans 9, Predestination and Total Depravity

Here is a blog link to a great blog where the writer writes about Romans 9, predestination and total depravity.  Overall I am greatly impressed with his logic, exegesis, and his writing in general.  I highly recommend it.

The Contrasts in John 3:36

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
– John 3:36

There is a clear contrast here in John 3:36 between the child of God (Romans 8:15-16) and the child of Satan (John 8:44).  The child of God does just what Jesus commands them to do here: believes in the Son and the result is clear, we have eternal life.  This wonderful assurance of our salvation is based on the finished work of Christ (1 John 5:11-12) and not ourselves.  Even “faith” is by the gracious work of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).  I have no problem preaching that the work of salvation is all of God and His marvelous grace (Romans 11:6).

On the other side are those who disobey or refuse to believe in the Son.  The NKJV has “does not believe” here instead of “does not obey” as in the ESV.  The Greek word here is Apeitheo which would be literally translated as “no persuade” from “a” meaning “no” and “peitho” meaning “persuade.”  The Greek has more than a mental persuasion but one in which the hearer is unpersuaded in both their mind and life.  The unbeliever then is not just a sinner in mind (mentally) but in their actions (physically).  The sinner is corrupted through and through (Ephesians 2:1).  They are sinners in both their thoughts and actions (Genesis 6:5; Romans 1:28-32).

Some have wondered about why John would not speak of good works here in contrasting the saint and the sinner?  The truth is that the saint does obey the Son when the saints repents of their sins and comes in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.  The saint understands clearly that our sins have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and that we deserve the just wrath of God against our sins yet the saint trusts in Christ alone to save them and thus we do the work that God desires for us to do (John 6:29).  Our good works then flow from our salvation and to bring about our salvation (Ephesians 2:10).  Good works can never produce salvation (Titus 3:5-7) but good works show our true salvation (James 2:14-26).

The sinner proves their rebellion against the Lord God in both their minds and actions.  They don’t just ignore God but they despise Him in their sins.  Their only hope is the same as ours: faith and repentance.  We must preach the gospel to the sinner for them to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  No one comes to faith apart from the preaching of the gospel to the sinner (Matthew 28:18-20).  We must warn sinners that they are under God’s just wrath apart from faith in Christ.  A time will come for them to die and face judgement before a holy God (Hebrews 9:27).  As one commentary I read stated about this wrath from God: the failure to believe in the Son of God does not bring condemnation but rather continuation in this wrath (Romans 1:18).  The sinner faces God’s condemnation now for their sins and not merely for their rejection of the Lord Jesus.  The sinner is storing up for themselves wrath (Romans 2:5).

The saint then has many reasons to rejoice that Jesus has saved us!  Let us be thankful for His kind sacrifice for our sins.  Let us also warn sinners of the wrath to come.  They must repent and turn to Christ alone to save them by His grace alone though faith alone.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/09/2015 at 7:30 PM

“You’re Turning People Away From Christ”

I was recently listening to a few brothers talking about evangelism and one of them said that he opposed open air preaching because, in his words, “You’re turning people away from Christ.”  I responded, “What makes you think they are coming to Christ in the first place or that people want Christ?”

The problem is that we have a low view of depravity.  We believe the American church lie that people are basically good and can come to Christ anytime they want to.  People genuinely want to follow Christ is what we hear.  Yet my Bible says that people are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  I read in the Bible that people do not love God but they hate Him (Romans 1:18-32).  I read that people hated Jesus and will hate us who preach the gospel as well (John 15:18-25).  People are not seeking God yet God is seeking people (John 4:23-24) and He does this through the preaching of the gospel (John 6:44).

Romans 3:10-18 is clear that people are not seeking God.  People are seeking after their flesh.  People do not want to hear about Christ.  It takes the work of the Holy Spirit to bring sinners to salvation (John 16:8-11).  Without the work of the Spirit, none could or would be saved.  This is the free grace of God at work in the world wherein the Spirit works through the preaching to draw the lost to salvation.

The fact is that those who are on the college campuses.  Those who are in malls.  Those who are walking the streets outside of the stadium or the bars.  All these people are not seeking after God.  Their lives demonstrate that.  These people are serving their flesh and their god, Satan (John 8:42-47).  The gospel is a violent interruption into their sinful lives.  The gospel opens sinners up to their sins (Romans 3:19-20).  When sinners see their sinfulness before a holy God, they either repent or reject the gospel.  Those who repent do so by the grace of God (John 1:12-13) and all who come to faith in Christ come to faith because of the sovereign work of God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

My point then is clear: people must hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  Jesus makes this clear in all four Gospels calling the disciples to take the gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21).  The Lord promised His Spirit would endue us with power from on high for this very purpose of preaching the gospel (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all (Romans 1:16-17).  Sinners cannot save themselves because they love their sins and despise the true God.  Sinners must hear the gospel that shows them their guilt and shows them the goodness of God in the giving of His Son (Romans 2:4; 5:8-9).  This alone is the only hope for lost humanity.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/03/2014 at 3:55 PM

The FACTS of Arminianism: Freed by God’s Grace

The first point of the five points from FACTS is “freed by God’s grace.”  This has to do with the doctrine of prevenient grace by which the sinner is able to believe the gospel and to be saved and yet the Spirit frees the sinner so that the decision by the sinner is the free will choice of the sinner.

Arminians believe, as Calvinists do, that the sinner is bound in their sins.  We agree with our Calvinist brethren that sinners are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) and that apart from the grace of God, none could be saved (John 6:44).  Romans 3:10-18 establishes point by point the nature of our depravity.  There is nothing in us that is not effected by our sinfulness.  Our minds, our hearts, our will, our speech – all this is bound in our sins.  We are depraved.  We are sinful.

A better term than “total depravity” would be “total inability.”  The sinner is totally unable to come to salvation apart from the intervention of God.  We do not love God.  We don’t want to serve God.  We don’t even see our need for salvation apart from the grace of God opening our eyes to our sinfulness.  The entire work of salvation is a work of grace.  Regeneration in both Arminianism and Calvinism is a work of God, a monergistic work by God alone (John 3:3; Titus 3:5).

Arminius affirmed total inability.  He wrote:

In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.

However, despite agreeing that we are dead in our sins, that our wills are held captive by sin and only the grace of God can set the sinner free, Arminius went on to write that God’s grace enables the sinner to believe.  He wrote:

“What then, you ask, does free will do? I reply with brevity, it saves. Take away FREE WILL, and nothing will be left to be saved. Take away GRACE, and nothing will be left as the source of salvation. This work [of salvation] cannot be effected without two parties — one, from whom it may come: the other, to whom or in whom it may be wrought. God is the author of salvation. Free will is only capable of being saved. No one, except God, is able to bestow salvation; and nothing, except free will, is capable of receiving it.”

Certainly the Arminian position is that salvation is all of grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8-9).  Romans 11:6 is clear that salvation is not by works but by grace!  Good works cannot obtain salvation because they are often tainted by our sinfulness (Isaiah 64:6). If good works could save, how many good works must one do to be saved?  If God requires perfection to be in His presence, who can boast that they are ever perfect save the Son of God?  Scripture is clear that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) but Scripture is also clear that Jesus alone is perfect (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).  2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that Christ shed His blood for us, for our sins, and He bore our sins on the cross.  Jesus was the sinless sacrifice for our sins.  He was the absolutely perfect sacrifice that secures our eternal salvation!

Yet God does not force people to believe.  Because of our sinfulness, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to our need for salvation through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  The Spirit brings conviction of sin (John 16:8) and He exposes our wicked hearts to the gospel truth that Jesus shed His blood for our sins (John 3:16).  The Spirit thus does His work of grace in us so that the freed will of the sinner can believe and be saved.

Arminius wrote about the work of the Spirit in bringing repentance:

Because, after the gate of grace has by the just judgment of God been closed on account of a malicious continuance in sins, no passage is open for the Spirit, who is necessarily the author of repentance. Therefore let these words always resound in our ears, “Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Heb. iii, 7, 8; Psalm xcv, 7, 8.) And this exhortation of the Apostle, “Workout your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” (Phil. ii, 12, 13.) May this be graciously granted to us by God the Father of mercies, in the Son of his love, by the Holy Spirit of both of them. To whom be praise and glory forever. Amen.

Arminius affirmed that the work of salvation is the work of God’s grace through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Arminius wrote about this saving grace:

In reference to Divine Grace, I believe, 1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, “that whosoever believers in him might have eternal life,” and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation. 2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man — such as faith, hope, charity, &c.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do any thing that is good. 3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.

The Arminian position then is that we are saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, by the work of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.  This gospel comes through the preaching of the inerrant, infallible Word of God.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17) and sinners need to hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  The name of Jesus alone saves (Acts 4:12) and He alone is the meditator before God for sinners (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Sinners are commanded to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15-16; Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 17:30-31).  This salvation is the work of God from beginning to end.

Let the Gospel Upset People, Not Us

There is no denying that the gospel makes people upset.  I have watched it with my own eyes as I explained the gospel to a lost person and then they turn into this ugly, ranting, mean-spirited person who hates God and hates the gospel.  Up until I explained the law of God, they were pretty nice to me and were cordial but when I begin to explain the justice of God Almighty in pouring out His wrath on humans who violate His just laws, it was here they turned on me.  People hate the gospel and more than that, they hate the God of the Bible (Romans 1:18-19).

With this in mind, I pray that we who preach the gospel to the lost would remember that people can get upset with the gospel or with God but let it be because of the truth of the gospel and not us that make them mad.  In other words, yelling a person or simply calling them names is not befitting for the disciple.  I seek to be a 2 Timothy 2:24-26 model when it comes to evangelism.  2 Timothy 2:24-26 reads (NIV):

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Notice verse 25.  Opponents are to be gently instructed.  This is not yelling at them.  Pointing a finger at them.  Accusing them.  This is preaching the gospel to the them in grace and love.  1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV) expounds:

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Notice that Peter the Apostle says that we are to give our answer for the gospel with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.  And he adds that people are to see our good behavior in Christ.  I pray that the crowds who hear us preach in the open air would see our good behavior in Christ as we deal with mockers.  I pray that those whom we give out tracts to would see our gentleness and respect.  I pray that those who are offended would be offended at the gospel and not at us.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that God saves people through the folly of what we preach.  Let that be true.  May it not that people see us as the folly by our actions.  They may think the gospel foolish and they may think we are foolish for preaching, handing out tracts, standing with a cross, etc. but let it be the gospel that they find foolish and perhaps our actions for the gospel but not our own foolishness in our yelling, hurling insults, etc.

I write this because I rejoice that so many people are now rising up to preach the gospel in the open air.  There are more street preachers today than ever.  More people are going out to hand out tracts.  I rejoice that there are many people who are becoming passionate to share the gospel with the lost.  But let it be that our hearts are broken for the lost (Romans 10:1) and that our burden comes from the Lord (Matthew 9:37-38).  Let it not be our pride that drives us out to preach.  Let it not be our own self-righteousness that drives us out to preach.  Let us plead with the lost through tears.  Let us preach the gospel and leave the results to the Lord.  Let us exalt Christ and not ourselves in our preaching and pleading (2 Corinthians 4:5).  Oh may people leave our preaching angry at God or angry at the gospel but let them not take offense because of our actions toward them!  Let us preach the gospel remembering that we too once were just as lost, just as dead in our sins, just as blinded as they are now (2 Corinthians 4:4; Titus 3:1-3).  It was the mercy of God that saved us (Ephesians 2:4).  Take no pride in your salvation but humble yourself before the Lord (Romans 11:20-22).  Remember your chains that He broke off.  Don’t allow pride to rob you of exalting Christ even in the midst of harsh opposition to the gospel (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Why Total Inability Must Be Studied Before Evangelism

God is love.  God is forgiving.  God is good.  God is merciful.  God wants the best for us.  These are all arguments I have heard from people when out preaching the gospel when I confront them with the reality of their sins and the fact that they will stand before a holy God and give an account for their lives (Romans 14:12; Hebrews 9:27).  Sinners believe that since God is love (1 John 4:8) and since God is good and kind, they will be allowed (despite their sins and rebellion against Him) into His heaven.  I have shown sinners through the Law that they are lost and dead in their sins (Romans 3:19-20; Ephesians 2:1-3) and yet they still think they will go to heaven because they have heard that God is love and therefore He will ignore their sins and give them eternal life.

The fact is that God is loving and kind and Paul the Apostle said that this is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  God is indeed love as 1 John 4:8 states but we must remember that He is also just.  Exodus 34:6-7 reads:

6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Psalm 33:5 says that God loves righteousness and justice.  The Bible says in 1 John 3:7 tells us that whoever practices righteousness is righteous.  It is not enough to claim that we are righteous in Christ by imputation but ignore the fact that we are to be righteous practically.  Scripture is clear that we are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14) and to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  This holiness comes both by our standing in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and in our walking in the Spirit as His grace enables us (Galatians 5:16-17).  Scripture is clear that a disciple can forsake their sins by God’s grace (Titus 2:11-12; cf. 1 Corinthian 10:13).  I admit that I am not able to overcome sin by my power but only by the grace of God (Romans 6:1-14).

When preparing to do evangelism, I believe that one doctrine that is key that we must place in the hearts of disciples is the doctrine of total inability.  Sinners are unable to be saved apart from the work of God (Ephesians 2:4-5).  Sinners love their sins and do not seek God (Romans 3:10-18).  Sinners hate God and want to serve their flesh and not the truth (Romans 1:18-32).

Arminius wrote that the fall of man brought the domination of sin into our beings.  He wrote:

But man was not so confirmed in this state of innocence, as to be incapable of being moved, by the representation presented to him of some good, (whether it was of an inferior kind and relating to this animal life, or of a superior-kind and relating to spiritual life,) inordinately and unlawfully to look upon it and to desire it, and of his own spontaneous as well as free motion, and through a preposterous desire for that good, to decline from the obedience which had been prescribed to him. Nay, having turned away from the light of his own mind and his chief good, which is God, or, at least, having turned towards that chief good not in the manner in which he ought to have done, and besides having turned in mind and heart towards an inferior good, he transgressed the command given to him for life. By this foul deed, he precipitated himself from that noble and elevated condition into a state of the deepest infelicity, which is Under The Dominion of Sin. For “to whom any one yields himself a servant to obey,” (Rom. vi, 16,) and “of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage,” and is his regularly assigned slave. (2 Pet. ii, 19.)

Arminius then went on to write about the free will of mankind by showing that our will is warped by sin:

In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.

Anyone then who would claim either that Arminius believed in a pelagian view of free will or that Arminianism is focused on free will would be wrong since Arminius believed that the fall brought corruption to the human race.  Further, anyone claiming to be an Arminian and would deny that we are total unable to come to Christ apart from His grace would not be a true Arminian.  Arminius clearly taught that sinners are incapable of saving themselves or even repenting apart from enabling grace.

However, Arminius was clear that God’s grace enabled sinner’s will to be freed to believe the gospel.  Just as Calvinists would not argue that God forces people to be saved against their wills but He makes them willing to believe, Arminius taught that God’s grace enables sinners to believe and be saved.  He wrote:

“What then, you ask, does free will do? I reply with brevity, it saves. Take away FREE WILL, and nothing will be left to be saved. Take away GRACE, and nothing will be left as the source of salvation. This work [of salvation] cannot be effected without two parties — one, from whom it may come: the other, to whom or in whom it may be wrought. God is the author of salvation. Free will is only capable of being saved. No one, except God, is able to bestow salvation; and nothing, except free will, is capable of receiving it.”

Arminius was absolutely correct here.  Were it not for the grace of God, none could be saved.  Were it not for free will, none could truly receive this gift of salvation.  In fact, salvation could not be called a gift if the willing person is not willing to either receive or reject the offer of eternal life (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

Arminius taught that the grace of God is what enables us to be saved.  This is lengthy but worth reading from Arminius on grace:

In reference to Divine Grace, I believe, 1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, “that whosoever believers in him might have eternal life,” and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation. 2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man — such as faith, hope, charity, &c.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do any thing that is good. 3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.

In this manner, I ascribe to grace the commencement, the continuance and the consummation of all good, and to such an extent do I carry its influence, that a man, though already regenerate, can neither conceive, will, nor do any good at all, nor resist any evil temptation, without this preventing and exciting, this following and co-operating grace. From this statement it will clearly appear, that I by no means do injustice to grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man’s free-will. For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, “is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?” That is, the controversy does not relate to those actions or operations which may be ascribed to grace, (for I acknowledge and inculcate as many of these actions or operations as any man ever did,) but it relates solely to the mode of operation, whether it be irresistible or not. With respect to which, I believe, according to the scriptures, that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered.

Grace is what enables us to be saved.  God’s grace was fully revealed in His Son (John 1:17; Titus 2:11).  God’s grace now reaches out to lost sinners through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17).  The gospel is a gospel of grace.  The gospel points to the reality that while we are unable to save ourselves (Isaiah 64:6), God’s grace was revealed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthian 15:1-4).  The gospel focuses on the reality of Christ dying to take away our sins (Galatians 1:4).

We must show people that they are incapable of saving themselves.  Their sins condemn them.  The only perfect one is the Lord Jesus (1 Peter 2:22).  Jesus alone is able to save us by His grace (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  In fact, Jesus is the only way to God because of sin (John 14:6).  The Bible is clear in 1 Timothy 2:5-6 that there is one God and one mediator between a holy God and sinful humanity, Jesus Christ the righteous one.  1 John 2:2 says that He is propitiation before a holy God.  In other words, Jesus turns away the wrath of God against sin.  He is the sinners only hope.

By showing sinners (and disciples) that we are unable to come to Christ apart from His grace and that we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), we are teaching people the truth that God alone saves.  John 1:12-13 is absolutely clear on this issue as is John 6:44, 66.  We see this truth also in the conversion of Lydia in Acts 16:14-15.  The Lord opens the hearts of sinners when the gospel is preached.  When sinners believe the gospel (by His grace), He saves sinners by His grace (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-24; 10:4, 9-10; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

I pray that we would not give in to the spirit of this age that wants to paint humanity as good and upright and capable of saving themselves.  I pray that our evangelism does not come across as an appeal from a desperate God who is just sitting there waiting for sinners to make the first step toward Him.  We must preach the gospel biblically and accurately as this glorifies God and truly saves the lost.

The Arminian Confession of 1621 on Total Inability

The Arminian Confession of 1621 states this about the total inability of the sinner to obtain eternal salvation:

“It was from this [the Fall of Mankind] that the highest necessity and also advantage of divine grace, prepared for us in Christ the Savior before the ages, clearly appeared.  For without it we would neither shake off the miserable yoke of sin, nor do anything truly good in religion, nor finally ever escape eternal death or any true punishment of sin.  Much less could we at any time obtain eternal salvation without it or through ourselves.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/15/2014 at 8:28 PM

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