“Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas,
and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated
unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately
to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run,
or had run, in vain. But
neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to
be circumcised: And that because of false brethren unawares brought
in, who came privily [secretly] to spy out our liberty which we
have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to
whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the
truth of the gospel might continue with you. But
of those who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh
no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: but contrariwise,
when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed
to me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually
in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty
in me toward the Gentiles:) And
when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars,
perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and
Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should
go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they
would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also
was forward to do.
But when Peter was come
to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he
did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew
and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with
him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But
when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth
of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all,
If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and
not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as
do the Jews? We who
are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing
that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the
faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that
we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works
of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But
if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are found
sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God
forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed,
I make myself a transgressor. For
I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I
am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ
liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live
by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself
for me. I do not frustrate
the grace of God: for if righteousness come by
the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
The experience of Paul with the apostles in Jerusalem
Stroke of genius
“Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also” (2:1). Paul was a genius in more than one way. He was a master tactician. Titus was a young Gentile pastor under Paul---and he was uncircumcised. By bringing Titus to Jerusalem with him and Barnabas he was going to force the issue as to whether a man was saved by grace through faith in Christ without law, Mosaic Law or otherwise, or by faith plus works of obedience to the Law (Mosaic Law in this case). The Judaizers, whom we have seen in the last chapter, were a small but vocal Pharisaic group within the Jerusalem and Judean churches. They were teaching that the Church in Jerusalem held that believers in Christ must also be under the Mosaic Law. Paul with Titus is going to bring this matter to the forefront, front-and-center. Many Jewish believers, not just the Judaizers, still went to the Temple to worship, and some even to offer sacrifices. In fact, it is believed that the Jerusalem church, the Mother Church, worshipped there for awhile.
Paul privately checks out his version of the gospel
with the apostle’s version
“And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run or had run, in vain” (verse 2). Paul realized that if he indeed was preaching a “different” gospel than the other apostles in Jerusalem, then something was really amiss, and as he said “I have run in vain.” He was willing to admit to being wrong if it came to that, so he went to the apostles, “privately” it says, and “communicated to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles.”
The circumcision issue
“But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came privily [secretly] to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (verses 3-4). Now Titus stood before the 12 apostles, an uncircumcised Gentile pastor. The whole matter rested now, symbolically, before the 12 apostles. A decision had to be rendered. It was rendered in favor of the gospel of grace, Christ, without the works of the law. “But neither Titus…was compelled to be circumcised.” That’s the judgment rendered by the 12, and ratified by James. By the way, this whole period described in Galatians 2 is identical to that described in Acts 15. This is the council that took place in Acts 15. In verse 4, Paul here related to them that “false brethren” (he was labeling these Judaizers as “false brethren”) came into his congregations in Asia Minor, coming all the way from Jerusalem, “to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ, that they might bring us into bondage.” Not only did they come into these congregations on the sly, but then they set about stirring up trouble, countermanding the simple gospel of Christ which Paul was teaching. “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (verse 5). Paul goes on to say that he didn’t give an inch (no pun intended) to these Judaizers, saying that Titus is as much of a believer as the rest of you---that he’s been saved by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, without the law.
Apostles had nothing to add to Paul’s version of the
“But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me” (verse 6). Basically this is saying that he, Titus and Barnabas sat down with the twelve apostles and communicated the gospel of grace he’d been preaching, and that they’d had nothing to add to it---it was perfect, it agreed with what they were preaching. What we see here is that the 12 apostles were ‘up-to-speed’ on what the gospel of Christ, the gospel of salvation was. It agreed with what Paul had been preaching. But the believers in Judea itself weren’t all ‘up-to-speed’ on the issue. God nowhere condemns believers for not understanding theology perfectly, as Romans 14 so clearly shows. It’s when some get militant in trying to shove their own private interpretations down other’s throats in a divisive manner, that’s what God hates. God hates divisiveness of any kind. It would be just as wrong for a believer who properly understands grace to walk into either a Torah-observant Messianic Jewish or Torah-observant Sabbatarian Church of God congregation and start dissimilating their “better understating” of what grace and the gospel of salvation is, as what the Judaizers were doing in Paul’s congregations in Asia Minor. That is specifically what Romans 14 is all about. Those Torah observant Messianic Jews in the church of God being addressed by Paul in Romans 14 were almost identical to the Judaizers in Jerusalem as far as what they believed---except in one point---they had the Holy Spirit, and sincerely didn’t understand certain points about Law & Grace, they were confused. Lack of understanding does not cut off God’s Holy Spirit. But notice the difference in the way Paul treated them. He told them they had freedom in Christ to maintain their beliefs if that is what they wanted to do. In today’s world, and especially in the United States, where freedom to worship as one chooses is a basic right, there are all kinds of churches and denominations. Romans 14 applies to all of them, and God hates people that go into one church intent on changing their system of beliefs, being divisive. Some ministries like to pound what they perceive as “legalists” or those who sincerely fit the Jewish believers in Rome, the Torah-observant Sabbatarian Church of God believers. What they don’t realize is that they are directly opposing what Paul wrote in Romans 14. We’re not to use our “knowledge” as a weapon, but in love. Disrupting another congregation or denomination is not using knowledge in love. That’s one of several reasons why Paul called the Judaizers “false brethren”, because they were using “knowledge”, false or true, doesn’t matter, as a weapon to cause division.
Responsibility for preaching the gospel given to two
separate apostles, one to the Jews, one to the Gentiles
“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter…” (verse 7). Let’s be careful here, and interpret this verse properly. What it is not saying or teaching is that there are two separate gospels or versions of the gospel, one tailored for Jewish believers, and one especially tailored for Gentile believers. This verse is merely stating that the apostle Peter (along with the other 11) were assigned to teach and preach the gospel of Christ to those “of the circumcision”, i.e. the Jewish believers, while Paul was assigned to teach the very same gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. There were not two gospels or versions of it---but there were two distinct parts of the body of Christ, Jewish and Gentile. And the gospel of salvation or Christ does not change due to a person’s or denomination’s choice in days of worship. Messianic Jews choose the Sabbath and Holy Days of the Old Testament to worship on, and as Paul elaborates in Romans 14, that is their right, they have that freedom of choice. The Gentile churches from about 325AD onward chose almost universally to worship on Sunday, Christmas and Easter as their chosen days of worship. This in no way alters the gospel of salvation. We’re all exhorted to not forsake the assembling of ourselves as Paul said in Hebrews. What days we choose to worship on in order to follow his admonition in Hebrews is totally up to the individual believer (cf. Romans 14:5-6, 22-23). Now that God has restored the Jewish branch of the body of Christ, Messianic Jewish believers, it is very important that we understand that they believe the same gospel of salvation, regardless of the days they worship on, or the food they choose to eat or not eat. Those two things are voluntary choices, and in no way effect the gospel of Christ one way or another.
There is power in the correct gospel of Christ, wherever
“(For he that wrought effectively in Peter to the apostleship of circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)” (verse 8). Now here’s the proof of the power of the gospel. The very same gospel of salvation, gospel of Christ, got results, whether Peter or Paul preached, in their respective areas, great numbers were saved, amongst the Jews, and amongst the Gentiles. (There is a misconception of who the “Gentiles” really were in Paul’s time. These Gentiles at this time were called “God-fearers” by the Jews. It was the “God-fearers” along with the Hellenized Jews God called through Paul, who made up this Gentilized mixture called by the general name “Gentile” by Paul. These were essentially Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm for a more in-depth study on the early Church both in Judea and Asia Minor.) The real test of any Christian or Messianic Jewish work is not how properly or effectively it is promoted, but does it bear fruit, lives saved, people drawn to Christ, born-again? The body of Christ again now has two distinct parts or divisions, just as it did in Peter’s and Paul’s day, Jewish and Gentile. But after 325AD Constantine along with the first proto-Catholic church in Rome, and then the Catholic church thereafter, eliminated the Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor and all over the Empire. The Judeo-Christians were basically wiped out, in many cases massacred. Don’t like the facts? Sorry, it’s a part of history, a black part. (See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch3.htm.) Now within a very short historic period of time (a nano-second in God’s timing---38 short years) God has by the direct calling from the Holy Spirit restored the Jewish branch of the body of Christ. (See http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/messianicmovement.htm.) In each case, even in modern Church history, the same gospel used amongst Jew and Gentile alike has born tremendous fruit within the past 40 years. See the evangelism section on this site for proof.
Paul’s apostleship officially accepted
“And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen [Gentiles], and they unto the circumcision” (verse 9). This is a statement showing the apostles accepted Paul’s apostleship, the right hand of fellowship, “fellowship” being the Greek word koinonia, the word representing the highest expression of a personal relationship. In Christian Biblical language koinonia means sharing the things of Christ. Peter and the apostle’s field of ministry, as previously stated, but it’s repeated here, was to the Jews, and again, this verse shows Paul’s field of ministry was to be with the Gentiles. Again, for the first 300 years, the “Gentile” field was a mixture of Judeo-Christians made up of Hellenized Jewish believers and their “God-fearer” Gentile brothers in Christ. All these in the first 100 years being drawn to Christ through first the apostle Paul’s preaching in the Jewish synagogues of Asia Minor, and then under the leadership of the apostle John and then Polycarp, and then Policrates up towards 250AD.
The gospel walks on two legs
“Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do” (verse 10). James, Peter and John told Paul to remember the poor saints in Jerusalem. By way of persecution the Jewish believers in Judea were being driven into poverty, being denied employment or having their small businesses ‘black-balled’ was one method the Temple priesthood could persecute and attempt to eliminate the Church in Judea. Paul, earlier, had been a very zealous part of that persecution. So this operation of collecting an offering from the churches in Asia Minor was close to Paul’s heart, and later he did return to Jerusalem with that offering from those churches in Asia Minor and Greece. James in James 2:15-17 tells us that we as believers are to make social service in the name of Christ a real part of our lives, not just a verbal “Be ye warmed and filled.” Franklin Graham has shown that the gospel walks on two legs, 1) the preaching leg and, 2) through the actions of caring believers (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/evangelism/samaritan_purse.htm to see how this works). Around 150AD and then again around 250AD, two very large groups of Gentile believers came into these Judeo-Christian churches, and these were not the earlier “God-fearers” who had been previously worshipping in Jewish synagogues in Paul’s day. These were pagan Gentiles, one’s that had had no experience with the Jews. What brought them in? It wasn’t preaching. I think the answer will amaze you. For the historic account, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/LegacyOfLove.htm. Demonstrating the active love of God for others often accomplishes more than our ‘preaching’ the verbal gospel---living the gospel and preaching it---those are the two legs the gospel walks on.
Experience of Paul in Antioch with Peter
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (verses 11-14). The early Church had a love-feast which was usually held in conjunction with what has been termed “The Lord’s Supper”. I know the Gentile Christians don’t realize this, but this “Lord’s Supper” up through John, Polycarp and until after Policrates (250AD) was observed as the New Testament Christian Passover service that had been alternately called by Paul “The Lord’s Supper”. It was observed as a memorial of Christ’s last Passover meal, and was held on the 14th Nisan, even in the churches in Asia Minor up through 250AD. Careful reading of 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 and 11:20-34 show this is the case, and shows the abuse of this love-feast held just before the Passover taking of the bread and wine by the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, which calls it the Passover, and 1 Corinthians 11:20-34 are talking about the same event. Well, back to Paul and Peter at Antioch. This love-feast, which may or may not have been connected to a Passover, Paul doesn’t say, but often in these love-feasts two tables of food would be set up, one kosher table set up for the Jewish believers and one non-kosher table set up for the Gentiles. Now from this passage in Galatians 2 Paul witnessed Peter eating with the Gentiles at their table, fellowshipping and eating with them. Then some Jewish believers came, it says from James, and Peter immediately jumps up and goes over to the Jewish kosher table, obviously trying to act the part of a kosher Jew. Now it was OK for Peter to eat at either table, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that when these brethren from Jerusalem came into the room, Jewish believers who were abiding by the Law of Moses, Peter jumps up from the Gentile table and goes over to the Jewish kosher table---as if he doesn’t want to be seen eating with the Gentile believers. By Peter’s example to the poor Gentiles watching this, it would appear that Peter was saying that all should be living under the Mosaic Law, or at least that it was superior to be living under it. (The laws of clean and unclean meats, found in Leviticus 11:1-11, is considered part of the Mosaic Law. They are health laws, and heart doctors advise having a low fat diet, and cancer patients are given a list of things not to eat which reads just like it was copied from Leviticus 11. God made animals, knows what’s good for us, and what isn’t. I know, two members of my family have had cancer. But eating unclean food listed in Leviticus 11 is not a sin.) But that is the intent of what Paul was saying in verse 14. “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles [by your example---actions are louder than words] to live as do the Jews?” Now get this. These brethren from Jerusalem were living under the Mosaic code---and as Paul said clearly in Romans 14, that this was their privilege, part of their God-given freedoms in Christ---Paul was not beating up those who sincerely believed in following the Mosaic code, and most did in the churches in Judea and Jerusalem, as did the Jewish believers in Rome during Paul’s lifetime. (Some in Judea stuck to the Mosaic laws to avoid Jewish persecution, many though probably still felt it was right and proper to do so.) But Peter, as an apostle, had to be above all that, as a direct representative of the gospel of Christ. Now there are Sabbatarian Churches of God that follow the Mosaic code and are called “legalists” for it. They do have the indwelling Holy Spirit and are believers. It is their God-given right as explained by Paul in Romans 14, they have freedoms in Christ to do so. Read Romans 14:5-6, 22-23 or log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/romans/romans12-14_2.htm for a fuller explanation. J. Vernon McGee agreed with this, as well, by the way. Ministries, apologetic in nature, that go on anti-legalist crusades against these Sabbatarian Churches of God, or any other legalists for that matter, are actually opposing Paul’s teaching and are as bad as the Judaizers themselves that tried to disrupt Paul’s Asia Minor congregations.
The gospel applies to Jewish believers as well
“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (verses 15-16). Now Paul speaks as a Jew himself, showing that the heart of the gospel of Christ applies to Jewish believers as well. This again is the plain and simple statement of justification by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice plus nothing. Plain and simple. Now I know, some of you are reading this from a Sabbatarian Church of God background and are saying to yourselves, ‘But wait, what about the law, aren’t we supposed to keep it? What about 1st John, and 1st John 3:4 and all that? Doesn’t John all through 1st John tell us we’re not to sin?’ Just wait, Paul will get to that. I’m from your background, and I had the same questions too, and they need a good answer, not a whitewash job. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law.” The word “the” is not in the original Greek (one the King James translators missed, failing to put in italics I guess). It really reads “Knowing that man [Greek, mankind as a whole, all inclusive] is not justified by the works of law.” That means not just Mosaic law but any form of legal system you may find in every religion, in every church. This is a statement against legalistic standards churches set up. That is the full intent of this verse. “Knowing that a man (any human, from whatever race) is not justified by the works of law---but by the faith of Christ.” The verse continues, “Even we have believed Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.” “We” means Paul, means the Jews, Israelites, have had to leave the Law, come to Christ, and trust him in order to be justified by faith in Christ rather than by the works of the law---“For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are found to be sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid” (verse 17). Now I have to admit ignorance to the real meaning of this one. Paul can be hard to understand at times, and on this one I don’t even understand what the commentaries are getting at. Maybe one of you has a good understanding that isn’t too complex, and can write me back with what you know about it. Sorry folks, I really don’t know it all…
A yoke our fathers were unable to bear
“For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God” (verses 18-19). Let’s look at Acts 15:7-11, which is a cross-reference to this letter, giving us an insight in the Jerusalem council of Acts 15. Peter speaking, “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost [Spirit], even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor were we able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:7-11).
A tale of two cities
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (verse 20). This is the key. John chapters 14 and 16 show that Jesus and the Father dwell in us via the Holy Spirit. It is Jesus who is now living his perfect life over again in us, if we yield to the Holy Spirit within us. Paul is saying that under the law he was tried, found guilty and condemned to die---and then a substitute came along to take his place, and be executed in his place. Any of you, maybe in high school, who have read Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities have seen this principle described in vivid, heart-wrenching detail. A man with a wonderful wife was condemned to die (during the French revolution, I think, been awhile since high school). While the condemned man is still in prison, awaiting the day for his execution to be carried out, the evening before that fateful day a close friend gets permission to visit him in his prison cell (the visiting friend must have been wearing a long cape with a hood over it). He swaps clothing with the condemned man and takes his place, while the condemned man walks free, goes to England to be with his wife. Do you realize, Paul was probably one of Pharisees who led Christ to the cross? He was a chief leader in the persecution of the Church, and he was more than likely attending school in Jerusalem under Gamaliel at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. He was probably one of the Pharisees jeering at Jesus, sitting there waiting for him to die. Paul was more than likely there that Passover day when Jesus died on the cross. “I am crucified with Christ”, he died for me, took my place as a substitute. “Nevertheless I live.” How do you live? “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me [cf. John 14 & 16].” As we saw before, Christ lives in us through the Holy Spirit. We’re covered by his righteousness while the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, while Jesus through the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (verse 21). The meaning of this is self-evident. If a person could be saved by being able to perfectly keep the law, then Christ’s substitutionary death wouldn’t have been necessary, it would have been in vain.
Cross reference to Galatians 2
Acts 15:12-29 directly correlates with the Book of Galatians chapter 2, so I’ll give it here. “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, Hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is [James speaking now, giving his stamp of approval on the proceedings], that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollution of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. [These four commands weren’t to be legalistic in any way, but that the Gentile believers not be a stumbling block toward their Jewish neighbors, so that their potential witness to them wouldn’t be hindered.] Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren. And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” That is a brief cross-reference passage to the book of Galatians chapter 2, and what we have read in it so far.
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