Pastor David B. Curtis

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The Excellencies of Christ

Hebrews 1:3

Delivered 02/13/2000

Have you ever been tempted to give up? Has living the Christian life ever gotten to the point where you just wanted to quit? You felt like you couldn't take it anymore. I think we've all been at that point at one time or another, and because we've all been there, I believe our study of the book of Hebrews will be very practical and very helpful to us all.

The book of Hebrews was written to Christians who were tempted to give up. The author encourages believers to hold fast. Look at:

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

This is the theme verse of Hebrews - "let us hold fast." ~From the very first verse of Hebrews the writer gives us the reason we should never give up.

Hebrews 1:1-2 (NKJV) God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

God has spoken to us through the person of His Son. This is the message and meaning of the New Testament. In the Bible we have God's supreme revelation, and if we will hear and obey His word, we will have the strength to stand against all opposition.

Matthew 7:24-27 (NKJV) "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

We are to never give up, and we need not if we build our lives on the solid foundation of God's Word.

Christ is God's Savior for us from every peril, His supply for every need, His reservoir of every blessing. All is in Him, nothing apart from Him. To Him the writer points. To know Him will deliver us from every danger, and, therefore, he expounds upon the glories of the Son of God.

In verses 2b-3, we have a seven-fold presentation of the excellencies of Christ. This text is a Christalogical gem. This is the kind of text that caused Wesley to write, "Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise."

In Luxor, a city in upper Egypt, are the remains of the great temple of Luxor. The columns of this temple are over six feet in diameter and reach high into the air. On top of one column near the edge of the excavated area there was a small house. A local farmer tried to find a solid foundation for his home. As sand blew away from his home, he discovered his house was on a hand carved stone. After excavations had begun, the farmer realized that it was a standing column, and after the excavations were completed, he found that his home was nearly eighty feet above ground level.

There is a parallel here to many Christian's understanding the Lord Jesus Christ. Their lives are built on Jesus Christ, they have trusted Him for their salvation, but they know as little about Jesus Christ as the Egyptian farmer knew about the foundation of his house. What can you tell me about Jesus? The most basic form of theology is Christology, if you are going to mature as a Christian, you must know about Christ.

Why study Theology? Why do we need to get so deep and so technical? It is my conviction that every believer ought to be a theologian in some sense. The word "theology" comes from two Greek words, theos, which means: "God", and logos, which means: "word, discourse or doctrine." So, theology may be defined in the narrow sense as the doctrine of God. It is the science of God and His works. So, as we study theology, we are learning about God. If you are ever going to know God in an intimate way, you must know theology. And if you are ever going to live for God, you must know Him. Theology is the systematizing of doctrine.

Paul never conceived of any practice that was a biblical practice that was not related to the doctrinal teaching of the Word of God. It is a truth of the Word of God that it is "doctrine" - that is the foundation of all true Christian living.

All through Paul's epistles he lays down doctrine, and then calls for believers to live in a proper manner. In Romans, for eleven chapters he gives them doctrine, and then in chapter 12, he exhorts them to live in a proper manner. First doctrine, then duty. We see this same pattern in Ephesians. For three chapters Paul gives them doctrine, then in chapter 4, he calls them to duty.

Ephesians 4:1 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,

This is why the church today is weak and filled with sin, there is an absence of the teaching of theology, and the church is filled with spiritual pygmies who don't know who God is. The average Christian today thinks that God has a body (Kenny Copeland teaches this). But God is immaterial and incorporeal, He is the infinite eternal Spirit.

John 4:24 (NKJV) "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Luke 24:39 (NKJV) "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."

If we are going to know God, we must know theology. Theology is to motivate us to proper living. Men live and act according to what they believe.

In verses 2-4, the author of Hebrews gives us a seven-fold description of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this description, we see why the speaking of God in the Son is far superior to his speaking through the prophets.

1. HIS HEIRSHIP

This is not a reference to Michael Jordan. The first thing we learn about Jesus Christ is that he is the heir of "all things." The property inherited is "all things." Here we see the primary reason why the universe was brought into being, it exists that the Father may show His love for the Son. Everything that exists, exists for Jesus Christ. He is the heir of all things. That he is lifted to that plane is a testimony of His equality with God.

2. HIS CREATIVE POWER.

When the writer of Hebrews says, "through whom also He made the worlds", he is not talking about the creation of the universe. The word "worlds" is not kosmos, but aion, which means: "the ages." His discussion here involves the Old and New Covenant ages. It is these two ages that are contrasted throughout this book. He is not only the cause of the "ages," but he is the reason for which they were created.

We looked at both of those in a previous study. Now this morning we want to look at the remaining five descriptions of this seven-fold description of the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. HIS EFFULGENCE.

Hebrews 1:3 (NKJV) who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

"Who being the brightness of His glory" - the word "brightness" is the Greek word, apaugasma, which is from apo, meaning: "off or away", and augazo, meaning: "to beam forth, shine, effulgence, brightness." It means: "to send forth light." Jesus is the manifestation of God. By way of comparison, we may see Christ as the radiant light coming from the Father as sunlight emanates from the sun.

No one can see God at any time.

John 1:18 (NKJV) No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Jesus expresses God to us. Jesus Christ is always the visible member of the trinity. Whether it be the shekinah glory cloud, or burning bush, or angel of the Lord - it is always the pre-incarnate Christ.

Isaiah 6:1-10 (NKJV) In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts." 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged." 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." 9 And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' 10 "Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed."

Who was it that Isaiah saw? Which member of the trinity was this? Can we know with certainty? Yes, we can, the New Testament tells us.

John 12:36-41 (NKJV) "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. 37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them." 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.

John tells us that Isaiah saw Jesus Christ. Jesus is the brightness of God's essence manifested to men.

If you want to know the glory, the moral beauty of the father, read the gospel and behold the person of Jesus, because he's the radiance (the streaming out, the effulgence) of the glory of God.

4. HIS BEING.

"The express image of His person" - The words "express image" are the Greek word charakter. It is used only here in the New Testament. It is used in classical Greek to indicate a die or a stamp, or the mark made by a seal. Used here, it means that Jesus Christ is the exact reproduction of God, in human form. The word "person" is the Greek word, hupostasis, which is from hupo, meaning: "under", and histemi, meaning: "to stand. Thus its meaning is: "that which stands under." We could translate it "nature" or "essence".

Speaking of Jesus Christ, Colossians says:

Colossians 1:15 (NKJV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

The word "image" here is the Greek word, eikon, which means: "a precise copy, a reproduction, an exact image."

Colossians 1:19 (NKJV) For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,
Colossians 2:9 (NKJV) For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

Christ was not only God manifest but also God in essence.

Philippians 2:6 (NKJV) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

The word "form" is the Greek word, morphe. It refers to "essence" or "essential being". Jesus Christ is God, and always was. This is the heart and soul of the Christian faith - JESUS IS GOD.

Jesus Christ is eternal God, and as part of the trinity, he always existed, he is co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

John 1:1-3 (NKJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
John 1:14 (NKJV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 8:58 (NKJV) Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."

A literal translation would read, "Before Abraham was brought into being, I exist." The statement, therefore, is not that Christ came into existence before Abraham did, but that he already existed before Abraham was brought into being; in other words, Christ existed before creation, or eternally. In that sense, the Jews plainly understood him, for they wanted to stone him for blasphemy.

Jesus, in claiming to be "I Am", was asserting equality with God, himself, who was revealed as the I Am That I Am--the self-existent, eternal God.

Exodus 3:14 (NKJV) And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

"I AM" is a transliteration of the personal name of God in Hebrew. It is sometimes called the "Tetragrammaton" (Greek, meaning: "four letters"), these are the four consonants (YHWH) which make up the divine name found more than 6,000 times in the Old Testament. The written Hebrew language did not include vowels, only the consonants were used; thus readers supplied the vowels as they read (this is true even today in Hebrew newspapers). Reverence for the divine name led to the practice of avoiding its use. In time, it was thought that the divine name was too holy to pronounce at all. Thus the practice arose of using the word Adonai: "Lord." Many translations of the Bible followed this practice. In most English translations, YHWH is recognizable where the word LORD appears in all caps.

By saying that he was the "I AM", Jesus Christ claimed absolute existence. Jesus Christ claimed an existence that was timeless.

That the Jews rightly understood Jesus' claim, "before Abraham was, I am" (8:58) as a divine claim is evident from their picking up stones to throw at Him.

John 8:59 (NKJV) Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

A few minutes ago I said, "Jesus Christ is eternal God, and as part of the trinity, he always existed." Let's pause here for a moment and discuss the doctrine of the trinity.

TRINITY

Because the word trinity is never found in the Bible, some wonder about whether this is a biblical doctrine or not, but the absence of a term used to describe a doctrine does not necessarily mean the term is not biblical. The issue is, does the term accurately reflect what the Scripture teaches?

When studying the trinity, we must understand that this is a doctrine beyond the scope of man's finite mind; it lies outside the realm of natural reason or human logic. The late Dr. Walter Martin points out:

No man can fully explain the Trinity, though in every age scholars have propounded theories and advanced hypotheses to explore this mysterious Biblical teaching. But despite the worthy efforts of these scholars, the Trinity is still largely incomprehensible to the mind of man.

Perhaps the chief reason for this is that the Trinity is a-logical, or beyond logic. It, therefore, cannot be made subject to human reason or logic. Because of this, opponents of the doctrine argue that the idea of the Trinity must be rejected as illogical. Such thinking, however, makes man's corrupted human reason the sole criterion for determining the truth of divine revelation.

The ultimate issue is, does the biblical evidence support the doctrine of the Trinity or tri-personality of God? If biblical evidence supports it, we can know it is true. Comprehending it is another matter. John Wesley said, "Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the triune God."

Does this mean a doctrine cannot be true simply because it defies our human imagination or ability to comprehend it? The answer is, of course not. It would be nothing short of human arrogance to say it was. The truth is, we must recognize our need to simply trust in God's special revelation to us, the Bible, and submit our minds to that teaching which is truly expressed in its pages. This does not mean we do not test the Scripture to make sure these things are truly taught, but once we are convinced that that is what the Bible says, we must lay hold of it by faith, and wait on the eternal future for complete understanding.

The doctrine of the trinity or triunity is part of God's revelation of One who is infinite to those who are finite. So, again, we must ask, doesn't it seem logical that in our study about God we are going to find things that are incomprehensible, mysterious, and super-rational to finite man's rational thinking capacity? So, let's understand that, God, in His existence as the Three-in-One, is beyond the limits of human comprehension.

Webster's dictionary gives the following definition of trinity: "The union of three divine persons (or hypostases), the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in one divinity, so that all the three are one God as to substance, but three Persons (or hypostases as to individuality)."

Synonyms sometimes used are "triunity, trine, triality". The term "trinity" is formed from "tri," three, and "nity," unity. Triunity is a better term than "trinity" because it better expresses the idea of three in one. God is three in one.

The doctrine of the trinity states that there is one God who is one in essence or substance, but three in personality. This does not mean three independent Gods existing as one, but three Persons who are co-equal, co-eternal, inseparable, interdependent, and eternally united in one absolute Divine Essence and Being.

What do the Scriptures teach us about the trinity?

Deuteronomy 6:4 (NKJV) "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!

This confession prepares the way for the later revelation of the Trinity. You may ask, "How?" Don't you see the trinity in that verse? Let me try to explain. The Hebrew word used for "God" is Elohim, which is a plural word, and the word "one" is the Hebrew, echad, which refers to one in a collective sense. It is used of the union of Adam and Eve:

Genesis 2:24 (NKJV) Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Here it is used to describe two persons in one flesh.

The case for the Triunity of God is clearly revealed in the New Testament. Here it can be unequivocally demonstrated the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Furthermore, the New Testament teaches us that these three names are not synonymous, but speak of three distinct and equal Persons.

(1) The Father is called God (John 6:27; 20:17; 1 Cor. 8:6; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 4:6; Phil. 2:11; 1 Pet. 1:2).

(2) Jesus Christ, the Son, is declared to be God. His deity is proven by the divine names given to Him, by His works that only God could do (upholding all things, Col. 1:17; creation, Col. 1:16, John 1:3), by His divine attributes (eternality, John 17:5; omnipresence, Matt. 28:20; omnipotence, Heb. 1:3; omniscience, Matt. 9:4), and by explicit statements declaring His deity (John 1:1; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8).

(3) The Holy Spirit is recognized as God. By comparing Peter's comments in Acts 5:3 and 4, we see that in lying to the Holy Spirit (vs. 3), Ananias was lying to God (vs. 4). He has the attributes which only God can possess - like omniscience (1 Cor. 2:10) and omnipresence (1 Cor. 6:19), and He regenerates people to new life (John 3:5-6, 8), which must of necessity be a work of God for only God has the power of life. Finally, His deity is evident by the divine names used for the Spirit as "the Spirit of our God," (1 Cor. 6:11), which should be understood as "the Spirit, who is our God."

Matthew 28:19 (NKJV) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

This verse best states both the oneness and threeness by associating equally the three Persons and uniting them in one singular name. Other passages, like Matthew 3:16-17 and 2 Corinthians 13:14, associate equally the three Persons but do not contain the strong emphasis on unity as does this passage.

The New Bible Dictionary adds the following evidence:

The evidence of the NT writings, apart from the Gospels, is sufficient to show that Christ had instructed his disciples on this doctrine to a greater extent than is recorded by any of the four Evangelists. They whole-heartedly proclaim the doctrine of the Trinity as the threefold source of redemption. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost brought the personality of the Spirit into greater prominence and at the same time shed light anew from the Spirit upon the Son. Peter, in explaining the phenomenon of Pentecost, represents it as the activity of the Trinity: 'This Jesus being exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear' (Acts 2:32-33). So the church of Pentecost was founded on the doctrine of the Trinity.
Peter traces salvation to the same triunal source: 'destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ' (1 Pet. 1:2). The apostolic benediction: 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all' (2 Cor. 13:14), not only sums up the apostolic teaching, but interprets the deeper meaning of the Trinity in Christian experience, the saving grace of the Son giving access to the love of the Father and to the communion of the Spirit.

From the above evidence, it should be clear that the Scripture teaches that there is one God who is one in essence or substance, but three in personality.

5. HIS ADMINISTRATION.

"Upholding all things by the word of His power." -

The word "upholding" is the Greek word, phero, which means: "supporting or maintaining." Phero is used in the LXX where Moses says, "I am not able to bear [phero] all this people alone." Here phero has in it the idea of the responsibility of the government and guidance of Israel.

It is used in our text in the present tense, implying continuous action. What is in view is Divine providence. Everything in the universe is sustained at this moment by Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus Christ relinquished His sustaining power to the laws of the earth and the universe? We would go out of existence. Even if he simply stopped maintaining the law of gravity, we would all die.

Think of what would happen if things changed. The sun has a surface temperature of 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit. If it were any closer to the earth, we'd burn; and if it were any further, we'd freeze. If the moon did not remain a specific distance from the earth, the ocean tide would completely inundate the land twice a day. Things don't just happen in our universe by accident, Jesus Christ sustains the universe. He is the principle of cohesion.

We are all utterly dependent upon Jesus Christ for our existence. As God said to Belshazzar, "The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all the ways"; or Paul to the Athenians, "In Him we live and move and have our being and He himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." Every living thing is sustained in being by the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I think of Christ's power to uphold the universe, I realize that it affects my personal life.

Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

To those who love Him, "all things" are working together for good. "All things" - how foolish of us to despair and worry and give up hope in time of trouble and trial. If he can uphold all things, he'll have no trouble upholding you in your time of need. You can relax because he is controlling every circumstance of your life, and he is doing it all for your good.

What great comfort it is to know that our God is controlling all things, but there is in this thought also a warning.

Hebrews 12:25 (NKJV) See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,

Since it is His Word that keeps all things in order, he who refuses that word in any portion of his life lapses into disorder, confusion, misery in that portion of life, and may do so entirely. A life that is not sustained by Christ's Word is chaos.

6. HIS SACRIFICE.

"when He had by Himself purged our sins" - this is in the aorist tense and should be "having made";the cleansing being based upon a past action, is complete. It was a once for all purification of sins, and it is finished.

Christ purged our sins when he offered himself on the alter of the cross as a sacrifice to God in satisfaction of the punishment to which man, because of his guilt, was subject.

Hebrews 7:27 (NKJV) who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
Hebrews 9:26 (NKJV) He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

That "purging our sins" is solely His work, in which none other shares is shown by the participle being in the middle voice. Some argue that the KJV"by himself" is an addition, but the insertion is unnecessary, being expressed by the middle form. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is not only creator but redeemer.

Do you understand that the cross is the outflow of the anger of God - not just of the love of God, but of the anger of God? The cross is the fruit of the wrath of God against sin. Why is that true? The anger that he feels against sin is what brought his Son to suffering and death; but if he had had another way to deal with sin, he would have done it another way. The cross is an expression of two things, not just one thing; a just anger, and an incredible mercy towards sinners.

The efficacy of his sacrifice is based upon the dignity of his person. Because He is God, he is able to make purification for our sins. How can one person make atonement for all of God's people? Because that one person who died was God. Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is the unique person of the universe.

7. HIS REST AND REIGN.

"Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" - This should thrill us! This is not only one of the central truths of the book of Hebrews, it is one of the most stupendous realities in the entire universe.

"When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down" - that was contrary to everything the priesthood stood for in the Old Testament. There were no seats in the sanctuary. The priest's work was never finished so he never had time to sit down. What couldn't be accomplished in all the Old Testament sacrifices was accomplished by Jesus Christ once and for all time. The work of redemption is finished, it was accomplished by Jesus Christ, and Him alone. All we need to do is trust in what He has done. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.

The phrase "sat down at the right hand" is meant symbolically, not literally, for God has no right hand. It denotes the supreme honor accorded to the triumphant Lord. The idea of sitting on the right hand of someone signifies a privilege granted to a highly honored person. In this instance, it means that the Son now has authority to rule his world wide kingdom on earth and is enthroned above all spiritual powers in heavenly places. God has given him a name that is above every name - LORD. Jesus Christ, the Theanthropic person, is LORD of all.

He is active on behalf of his chosen people as he dispenses mercy, grace, and help to them in their hour of testing.

Hebrews 2:18 (NKJV) For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV) Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV) Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Through Jesus Christ, we can live a victorious life, but we must live in dependence on Him. The seating is an enthronement. He is the king of the universe. He's at the right hand of God the Father and he reigns over all government. He reigns over weather. He reigns over heart attacks and cancer and Parkinson's disease. He reigns!

Thus, the greatness of the Son of God receives seven-fold confirmation, and it appears, without being expressly emphasized, that He possesses in Himself all the qualifications to be the mediator between God and men. He is the Prophet through whom God has spoken His final word to men; He is the Priest who has accomplished a perfect work of cleansing for His people's sins; He is the King who controls and sustains all things.

As we run the race of the Christian life, keep your eyes on Jesus Christ and never give up. We can be victorious as we live in dependence on Him.

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