The theme of this section is the love of God for His people. God is for His people and only His people! But a lot of people mistakenly think that God is on their side. Hitler thought God was on Germany's side. We hear the same language used by political parties in our country with grand claims that they are doing the will of God, and so quite obviously, He must be on their side. So what about you, is God on your side? How do you know?
As Jeremiah received God's call, he trembled at the thought of taking God's Word to a stubborn people. But the Lord assured him:
"They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you," declares the LORD. Jeremiah 1:19 NASB
So Jeremiah had God's assurance that He was with him. We have that same assurance if we have trusted Christ.
John Piper writes: "God is entirely for us, and never against us. None of our sicknesses is a judgment from a condemning judge. None of our broken cars or failed appliances is a punishment from God. None of our marital strife is a sign of His wrath. None of our lost jobs is a penalty for sin. None of our wayward children is a crack of the whip of God's retribution. If we are in Christ. No. God is for us, not against, in and through all things--all ease and all pain."
I don't think that because God is for us as believers means that He doesn't chasten us for our sin. When a believer chooses to live in sin, there are consequences. Bad circumstances don't mean that we have sinned, but bad circumstances could be a chastening from the God Who is for us.
I would like us to start this morning by reading our text for today. As I read this text, I'd like you to think about how secure your salvation is:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 NASB
This is security! Our salvation is eternally secure; God is for us! Nothing can separate us from His love. We have assurance, and this assurance gives us hope. And hope will strengthen us through every trial of life.
Let me ask you something: Is our salvation ultimately due to our faithfulness or to God's? We just saw in verses 28-30 that God has a plan. The plan was to justify some people and then to glorify those people; and in glorifying them, conform them to the very likeness of Jesus Christ. Nothing can undo or interrupt the plan of God. It sweeps from foreknowledge and predestination all the way to glorification. We are secure because salvation is all of God.
Through the years the subject of eternal security has been hotly debated in theology. There are people who have always believed; and many who believe, even as we speak, that this salvation, which is granted in Christ, can be lost. Do I have the power to forfeit my salvation by rejecting Christ, by denying what I once believed and stepping away? These questions will be answered in this text.
In this text Paul uses seven rhetorical questions. Why seven? In Scripture, seven represents qualitative fullness, completeness, totality:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:31 NASB
What are the "these things?"--there are many views on this; some say he is referring to all that has been covered so far in Romans. I guess that is possible, but I think Paul is talking about all he has said in Romans 5-8. Let me try to explain why.
The theme of this section, 8:31-39, is the love of God. This is the second time in this letter that Paul has spoken of God's love. He first spoke of it in 5:1-11. The argument of this text is the same argument as we saw in 5:1-11. There is really not much added here to 5:1-11 in terms of actual argument. Thomas Schreiner, commenting on Romans 8:31-39, writes: "These verses function as an inclusio with 5:1-11, for both texts feature the confidence that comes from the hope of believers." Inclusio is a common literary technique of Hebrew poetry which involves repetition in a poem in a way which binds its parts together. It is a literary device based on a concentric principle, also known as bracketing or an envelope structure, which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section.
The theme of 5:1-11 is summed up in 8:31-39. Those who are justified are also glorified, because of the love of God effective through the death of Christ. Salvation is secure! And all those who have left Egypt will be brought to Canaan, even though suffering awaits them on the journey. The parallels between 5:1-11 and 8:31-39 are remarkable! They both stress the certainty of future glory in the midst of suffering. So the idea of security brackets this section. Paul's "these things" comprise all that is contained in 5:1-8:30.
Paul's question, "If God is for us, who is against us?" expects a negative answer, "No one." When Paul says "if" God be for us, he's not saying maybe He is, and maybe He isn't. In the original text, this is a first class condition. It can be translated "Since God is for us," or "Because God is for us." There is no truth more fundamental in all of God's Word than this truth. "God is for us." Because of Jesus Christ, once and for all the question is settled. "God is for us." All that God is, all that God has, and all that God does, He does on behalf of His people.
"If God is for us, who is against us?"--some scholars think this statement preserves part of a primitive hymn, or a pre-Pauline confessional. We see this same idea in:
Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me. Psalms 56:9 NASB
David knew that God was for Israel. As Israel journeyed from the land of Egypt through the wilderness to the promised land, it was a journey filled with danger. But God's presence was with her, and the Israelites could respond to the fears that welled up in their hearts and cry: "If God is for us, who is against us?"
These words were most likely often repeated as the Roman believers watched the gates being opened in the Coliseum as lions ran to tear their bodies apart; these words would be a triumphant testimony to the faithfulness of God and their future glory.
The intention is not to say that no one is against them, but that their opponents or enemies will not be successful. How do believers know that God is for them? Paul tells us in the next verse:
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Romans 8:32 NASB
This is a typical Hebrew argument, arguing from the greater to the lesser. If God did the greater thing; that is, delivering up His own Son to death; will He not do the lesser, that is, giving them what they need to be sustained in their salvation? This is the same thing he said in:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10 NASB
Now if when we were enemies, when we hated God, He came to us and reconciled us to Himself; now that we have been reconciled and thus have become friends with God, "we shall be saved by His life." It's one of the most magnificent statements of the security of the believer in Jesus Christ that we have in all of the Bible. If anyone has any question about whether having believed in the Lord Jesus Christ you're safe and secure, if you'll just think of this text, that should ease all of your problems forever; because if He saved us when we were enemies, now that we are His friends, He surely will do something that is less; keep us in the salvation that we enjoy.
In the Greek there is a particle that intensifies the statement. It can be translated as "even" and is commonly used to magnify the action of the verb. We might translate it: "He who did not spare even His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"
Many scholars think that Paul may have had in mind another situation where a father did not spare his own son. God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering. They made the long journey to the mountain of God where Isaac carried the wood and Abraham the knife and fire. He bound his son on the altar and raised the knife to strike the fatal blow when the angel of the Lord called for him to stop:
He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." Genesis 22:12 NASB
Do you see the similarities? Yes, to a point the stories run parallel, but only to a point. Abraham did not spare his son, but God intervened so that Isaac lived. Like Abraham, God "did not spare His own Son," but this time He did not stop the fatal blow from falling upon His only Son.
"But delivered Him over for us all"--who delivered Jesus to die? The Bible says Judas delivered Him over (Mark 3:19), Pilate delivered Him over (Mark 15:15), Herod and the Jewish people and the Gentiles delivered Him over (Acts 4:27-28), and we delivered Him over (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:24). It even says Jesus delivered Himself over (John 10:17; 19:30). But Paul is saying the ultimate thing here, that in and behind and beneath and through all these human deliverings, God was delivering His Son to death.
Peter captured both man's part in crucifying Christ, and God's underlying act to give up His Son to die for us:
this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. Acts 2:23 NASB
The early disciples understood this as well:
"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. Acts 4:27-28 NASB
So who delivered up Jesus to die? Octavius Winslow in the 19th century wrote, "Not Judas, for money; not Pilate, for fear; not the Jews, for envy;--but the Father for love!" Then he adds, "In this great transaction we lose sight of His betrayers, and His accusers, and His murderers, and we see only the Father travailing in the greatness of His love to His family" (No Condemnation, 361).
Verse 32 is an allusion to Isaiah 53:6, in which the Father handed over the Son to death:
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Isaiah 53:6 NASB
The death of Jesus was due to the initiative of the Father. The Father willed the Son's death for the benefit of the elect:
But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. Isaiah 53:10 NASB
It was the Father's intention from the beginning that the promise to Abraham--that all nations shall be blessed (Genesis 12:3)--would be fulfilled through the death of His Son.
Paul says that He delivered Him over "For us all"--some who teach universalism would use verses such as this to make their case. But Paul is not a universalist, when he refers to "we," "our," and "us" (e.g. 8:15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, etc.) in the context, he clearly speaks to fellow believers. Remember Paul is writing to the saints, those who are "the called of Jesus Christ…beloved of God in Rome, called as saints" (1:6-7).
The "With Him"--takes us back to our union with Jesus Christ--a theme hammered out in chapters 5 and 6. All believers are in Christ. We share all He is and has.
"Freely gives us all things?"--the term "freely" is from the Greek charizomai, which is a cognate of the Greek word charis, "grace." Everything that God gives us--even the ongoing provision to His people following their salvation--is from His grace. God's grace in giving believers "all things" is never earned or limited. The ultimate benefit in this context is eschatological!
Believers, God has accepted Christ's death in our place, satisfied eternal justice through Him, and declared us righteous. Since that is the case, then what are we to do when we struggle with doubts? We are to go back to the Source. God did not spare His own Son when you desperately needed Him to stand in your place before God's wrath.
We frequently turn to our experiences and wonder if God loves us. It's not experience, it's what do the Scriptures say? That's the important thing. Experience is never a proof of the love of God; it's the Word of God.
Are you going through a time of adversity that causes you to wonder if God has abandoned you? Then think about God's sacrifice of His Son for you and no longer question His love and faithfulness.
Verses 33-34 use the forensic terminology of the law court:
Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; Romans 8:33 NASB
To "bring a charge" is literally the idea of: "to speak out to." It was used as a judicial term in the ancient world to imply a legal accusation. What is the charge being brought against God's elect? I want to suggest to you that the charge is adultery:
So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. Romans 7:3-4 NASB
The "you" here is plural, referring to Jewish believers. Paul draws an inference from the previous illustration, noted by "you also." Just like the husband died in the previous verses, you also died. "To die" is a passive indicative, you were "made dead" to the Law. The passive voice points to the sovereign, gracious work of God in applying the work of Christ to them regarding the reign of sin and jurisdiction of the Law. It points back to our having become united with Christ in His death.
You used to be in a covenant relationship with the Law, you used to have this obligation to which you were mandated to bring about fulfillment. But, that's changed. You were made to die to the Law. Literally, you were put to death, you were killed in regard to the Law.
If her husband dies, she is free to marry another. The second husband is Jesus Christ. She's married to the Old Covenant community, but he died, and now she is married to Jesus Christ, and there is no adultery.
Many scholars suggest that in verse 33-34 Paul is alluding to Isaiah 50:8-9. This marital context for the charge against God's people being adultery is supported by:
He who vindicates Me is near; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other; Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me. Behold, the Lord GOD helps Me; Who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them. Isaiah 50:8-9 NASB
If we examine the context to these verses, we find that the prophet has been explaining the marital status of Israel after God sent her into exile:
Thus says the LORD, "Where is the certificate of divorce by which I have sent your mother away? Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you? Behold, you were sold for your iniquities, And for your transgressions your mother was sent away. Isaiah 50:1 NASB
Later Isaiah writes:
I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 NASB
Then in chapter 62 he says:
For as a young man marries a virgin, So your sons will marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5 NASB
Paul could be deliberately feeding off the divine marriage theme, and it could be in this context that the significance of the charge of adultery should be read. Paul is saying in effect, "There is no charge that can be brought that would nullify the relationship God is bringing His church into, i.e., the consummation of the divine marriage."
If Paul is alluding to Isaiah 50, then the term "elect" is even more striking because now it is the Church, not Israel, who is God's chosen servant. Believers can face the day of judgment with confidence. Just as God will vindicate the servant in Isaiah, so too the heavenly court will clear believers.
So here's the point: Above God, there are no higher courts. If God is the One who acquits you--declares you righteous in His sight--no one can appeal, no one can call for a mistrial, no one can look for other counts against you. God's sentence is final and total:
who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Romans 8:34 NASB
Here Paul assumes what he has stated in 3:21-26--the death of Jesus on behalf of believers--satisfied God's wrath against them.
God alone condemns, and God alone justifies. And if God has covered us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ; if God has granted to us His own righteousness, not ours; then no accusation can stand against us or one would have to find an accusation that could stand against God or against Christ with whose righteousness we have been covered.
"Who was raised"--what does the resurrection declare? It proves that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in our place; it verifies that His death satisfied the legal demands against us so that we are now accepted by God. Resurrection shows that the Law can no longer make legal demands of eternal death on those for whom Christ died. There is no longer condemnation, because God raised Jesus from the dead!
"Who is at the right hand of God"--the right hand refers to the place of authority, rule, and supremacy. This speaks of the sovereignty and dominion of Christ. As Psalm 110 explains:
The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." Psalms 110:1 NASB
In other words, He cannot be conquered, but rather is the Supreme Lord.
"Who intercedes for us"--while Israel wondered in the wilderness, they had a high priest who constantly represented them before God (Heb 5:1-4: 9:7-10). Throughout their journey, they faced spiritual and moral temptations as well as dangers from enemies who sought to prevent them from reaching their inheritance. Because of this, the ministry of the high priest was crucial. He offered sacrifices for the sins of his people and interceded for them. Jesus does this same thing for the New Covenant people of God. The writer of Hebrews put it this way:
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 NASB
Jesus Christ saves forever! Not only does Christ's priesthood provide "grace to help in time of need," it also keeps us secure in Him, no matter how bad we mess up. He saves us to the uttermost. Because of His work, we will never be lost.
Verses 35-39 move away for the law court language and employ the relational language of love:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35 NASB
The answer expected is: Nothing! The genitive Christos is subjective, denoting Christ's love for believers. Here Paul lists "Seven afflictions" that represent many of the problems Paul encountered in his apostolic ministry. Apart from the sword, which he later faced, Paul had already experienced each of these afflictions.
To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. 1 Corinthians 4:11-13 NASB
"Tribulation" means: "pressing" or "pressure." It came from the language of vineyards to refer to "the treading of grapes, the pressure that bursts." Tribulation runs the gamut to express that which puts pressure against living faithfully as a Christian. "Distress"--means to be in narrow straits, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. "Persecution" means that you are hunted down for harm, a common experience of many early Christians as well as millions in our own day. "Famine" and "nakedness" could be due to adverse agricultural and economic issues in that era or due to the persecution that left believers destitute. "Peril" could refer to any sort of danger. "Sword" implies the ultimate opposition: martyrdom for the faith.
All of these were the eschatological suffering of the transition saints. But I want us to realize that all these things could happen to us. You could have persecution. You could have trouble. You could someday face the sword. You could someday be naked. You could someday be living in famine. You could someday be persecuted for your faith. Someday, all these things could happen.
Verse 36 is even stronger:
Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." Romans 8:36 NASB
Here he quotes Psalm 44 as evidence that the suffering and trials of this present faith in Christ were nothing new. Believers in previous centuries faced the same issues. The words in the original Psalm express the perplexity of the people of God in the face of inexplicable suffering. The Psalm likely came out of the trials during the post-exilic period, that time frame of Ezra and Nehemiah, and prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. It begins with a historical reflection, a meditation on God's deliverance and planting of Israel in earlier centuries, all looking back to the exodus story:
For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah. O God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us The work that You did in their days, In the days of old. You with Your own hand drove out the nations; Then You planted them; You afflicted the peoples, Then You spread them abroad. For by their own sword they did not possess the land, And their own arm did not save them, But Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, for You favored them. Psalms 44:1-3 NASB
This follows with a confession of God as King and confidence that their deliverance would not be by bow and sword, but the Lord (44:4-8). Yet their anguish is seen in the next stanza--the longest of the Psalm's five stanzas. Though they had continued on in faithfulness to the Lord, they felt rejected by Him, as though He had given them over to their enemies as sheep to be eaten. Dishonor and humility overwhelmed them due to those reproaching them:
Yet You have rejected us and brought us to dishonor, And do not go out with our armies. You cause us to turn back from the adversary; And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves. You give us as sheep to be eaten And have scattered us among the nations. You sell Your people cheaply, And have not profited by their sale. You make us a reproach to our neighbors, A scoffing and a derision to those around us. You make us a byword among the nations, A laughingstock among the peoples. All day long my dishonor is before me And my humiliation has overwhelmed me, Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles, Because of the presence of the enemy and the avenger. Psalms 44:9-16 NASB
Then they plead their case! They had not turned their back on the Lord or turned from following Him, yet it seemed as though He had given them over to their enemies (44:17-19). As happens so often in Hebrew poetry, the answer to their dilemma came in the last stanza (44:20-26). There they understood something of the reason for their plight:
But for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. Psalms 44:22 NASB
The reason for their suffering was precisely because of their union with the Lord. God was not removed from them in spite of their circumstances. He had not abandoned them, thus they had grounds to cry out to Him for help:
Rise up, be our help, And redeem us for the sake of Your lovingkindness. Psalms 44:26 NASB
That last word is precisely what Paul had in mind when teaching us assurance through Christ's love. "Lovingkindness" refers to God's covenant mercy or His loyal love for those whom He redeemed. He does not abandon the objects of His redeeming love!
Paul quotes from this Psalm because it reflects the experience of the New Covenant pilgrim community, the Old Covenant remnant, and NT church suffering in spite of their integrity and faithfulness to God.
Martyrdom is a terrible reality for some of God's people scattered around the world. We hear about this each week in our "Voice of the Martyrs" report.
Hopefully, you will see from this text that Jesus still loves you even though you may be going through a hard time. Jesus still loves you though you may be out of money. Jesus still loves you though your body may be wasting away on the outside. Jesus still loves you though you may be persecuted for your faith. Jesus still loves you though your marriage may be falling apart. Jesus still loves you though the world may be against you. Jesus still loves you though you may feel like the lamb being led to the slaughter.
Trouble can take many things away from the people of God. It can take our happiness away, it can take our prosperity away, trouble can take our health away, it can take our friends away, but there's one thing that trouble cannot take away from us. Trouble cannot take away the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus:
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37 NASB
"We overwhelmingly conquer" is one word in the Greek, it is hupernikao, which means: "to vanquish beyond, that is, gain a decisive victory, to be more than conquer." The word nikae is the word for: "conquer." We are more than winners. We are more than conquerors. We are huper: "super conquerors, sweeping victory, overwhelming victory."
The anticipation of suffering and death should not deter the members of the pilgrim community. "In all these things" is possibly the translation of a Hebraism meaning: "despite all these things."
The history of the Old Covenant people demonstrates the faithfulness of God and His commitment to His people. Not even judgment and exile could bring God's love for His people to an end. His covenant to Abraham was not abandoned, but moved towards its fulfillment in the New Covenant promised to those in exile.
Paul wanted these transition saints to understand that their glorification was not founded on their goodness; it was founded on God's election. It was not founded on their wisdom; it was founded on God's call. It was not founded on their personal submission; it was founded on God's justification. It was not founded on their perseverance; it was founded upon the power of God to keep them, and what holds that altogether is undying covenant love.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NASB
Paul says, "I am convinced"--the word means: "to be fully and absolutely persuaded on the basis of evidence that cannot be denied." He uses a perfect passive indicative verb. The perfect tense means something like: "I was persuaded in the past, and I am fully persuaded in the present," "I used to believe this, and I still believe it today."
The passive voice here is important. Had Paul inferred that his confidence rested on his experience or his response to God, then he would have used the active voice; that is, demonstrating that it was what he had personally done that brought him assurance. Then we would be forced to compare our experience with Paul's as the standard for assurance. But he used the passive voice, which means that he had nothing to do with the action, but rather he was acted upon. His confidence rested in the work of Another and not his own.
The word "separate" means: "to violently tear from, to completely divide." Paul says that nothing that can happen to us can finally and completely separate us from the love of God. So what he's saying is that there's no state of being in which you could ever be separated from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.
I've heard people say, "But what if I want to separate myself from God's love? What if I take myself out of God's love? What if I decide to separate myself? What if I decide I don't want to be saved any longer? Can I take myself away from God's love?" Look at the text. It says, "Nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." "Any other created thing." Are you a created being of God? The answer is, "Yes." Then you can't even separate yourself from God's love. Why? Because those whom God loves, he loves forever. Those whom God saves, he saves forever. Those whom God justifies, he justifies forever. If you by faith have come to Jesus Christ for salvation, He will never cast you out (John 6:37), and He will never allow you to cast yourself out.
This chapter started out with "no condemnation" and it ends with "no separation." This is security, absolute security! If you are in union with Christ by faith, then these promises belong to you; you will never be eternally condemned, you will never be separated from God's eternal covenantal love. Glory in this! Apply this! Enjoy this! Sing about this! Rejoice in this!
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