The New Testament Believer's
Position In Christ (Pt. 2)
Rock of Offence Commentary
This is Part 2 of a three-part Bible study.
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The Rapture of the Church is
Reserved for Those Who are
The Substitutionary death of Jesus Christ (or the believer's position "In Christ") allows the Church and all its true believing members to be exempt from any future judgment against sin. As a result, their salvation remains in force until Jesus returns to redeem His purchased possession and remove them from the earth. This eternally secure benefit carries God's official guarantee, through the “sealing of the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13-14 - Also read about “God’s Guarantee” in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 2 Corinthians 5:5). The 'Divine Exchange', provided only through Christ’s New Covenant - is why the departure of the Church from the earth (also known as the rapture) must occur before the future judgments of the Tribulation period take place. If God subjected the Church to even a portion of this global 7 year judgment, He would be effectively judging the Church (and all its individual members) for sin that was legally and eternally taken away by Jesus Christ as "The Lamb of God" at the cross (John 1:29). Contrary to popular religious teaching, the Bible warns that this 'repeat judgment' is an unjust act in Heaven's courtroom. Anyone claiming that believers deficient in good works and obedience must be judged again for sin - are essentially saying (whether they publically admit it or not) that Christ’s blood was insufficient and didn't provide a complete salvation. As a result of this error, the devastating judgments of the Tribulation are now considered necessary to complete the work of purifying all “less than fully obedient Christian believers" - which includes nearly everyone. This "Tribulation cleansing" is the work that they believe Jesus didn't complete.
Yet, the New Covenant declares;
...THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST
GOD'S SON CLEANSES US FROM
ALL SIN." (1 John 1:7)
Many church leaders and their followers (but, thankfully not all) are convinced that the Church must go through this additional future judgment during the Tribulation. Their belief is based on an erroneous historical theology that refuses to “rightly (or correctly) divide God’s Word” as the Apostle Paul commanded (2 Timothy 2:15). Unfortunately, this popular way of believing the Bible represents a denial of what Jesus accomplished at the cross and often exists as a toxic part of a person's spiritual foundation without their knowledge.
Additional information is available HERE
The only way anyone claiming to be a Christian will be left behind to experience the judgment of the Tribulation is if they are “a Christian in name only”. These are people who possess a false or counterfeit faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul refers to them as "false brethren" (Galatians 2:4-5). Since they did not obtain salvation through the Grace principles and the Divine exchange of the New Covenant established at the cross, but instead strive to make themselves righteous through personal merit and religious performance (the Old Testament way) - the group is under a spiritual curse according to Saint Paul. As a result, the Bible strongly suggests that this curse can disqualify them from being “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). Scripture identifies this group as; “the people of the law of sin and death” (taken from Romans 8:1-4). It's a rather large and dominant group of Bible believers who place their faith for salvation in their good behavior, Christian service and obedience to Old Testament Law - instead of the finished work of Jesus Christ at the cross that activates the 'Divine exchange' on their behalf. Here's how Paul stated the warning ...
"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith..." (Galatians 3:10-12)
"You have become estranged (separated/cufoff) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from Grace." (Galatians 5:4)
"Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight." (Romans 3:20)
God's Special Conditions In Order
to be Exempt from the Coming
Judgements of the Tribulation
According to Scripture, anyone who claims to be a Christian, but is not justified (or saved) according to the New Covenant type of "faith in Christ" (the Divine exchange - also known as being "In Christ") - is in danger of not being included in the rapture of the Church, regardless of their godly intentions, good works or spiritual service. The reason is simple; they are not truly "justified" according to God's definition and design. Many zealous religious people, who claim to believe and practice the teachings of the Bible, unknowingly fall into this category. Being "justified freely by His Grace", as taught in Romans 3:24-26 - is a primary requirement for being included in the rapture, which is the Church's "escape (or exemption) from judgment". The following paragraphs explain why.
Only perfectly sinless people (Jesus referred to them as
"those who should pray to be accounted worthy to escape"
in Luke 21:25-36) are allowed to participate in
the rapture. In this situation, worthiness suggests
holiness - or sinlessness. Yet, the Bible warns that
no one can achieve this "worthy" status - after the cross
through good behavior, righteous living and religious
service performed through human strength and determination.
This means no one, regardless of how righteous and holy
they try to live and behave, can meet the conditions to be
in the rapture of the Church unless they can obtain this
worthy status another way. This "other way" is only
available through the divine exchange of the cross, where
Christ's attribute of sinlessness is imputed to their life
through "a faith apart from works". The Bible calls it
Grace. This special unmerited and undeserved transfer
of righteousness is what the New Testament calls;
"FREE JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH".
Only those who are "justified" according to this New
Covenant principle of imputation (or imputed righteousness)
will qualify to be included in the rapture of the Church,
since God will now reckon them to possess the same
sinlessness and perfect righteousness that His Son
possesses. Contrary to popular traditional teaching, God
does not choose the rapture participants according to
their own worthiness and ability to live righteous and
sinless lives. They are chosen according to whether or
not they possess the imputed worthiness and perfect
righteousness of Jesus Christ their Lord. This is why
all believers, from the least to the greatest, who are
"freely justified by faith" will be included in this
great end-time departure of the Church. All others,
regardless of their many good works, noble intentions
and devoted religious service ...
are in extreme danger of being left behind.
Romans 4:4-8 describes this unmerited
imputed righteousness that qualifies
all believers in Christ for the rapture.
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly (Jesus Christ), his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin."
In Galatians 5:4, Paul did not use the phrase "estranged from Christ" (which means "separated or cutoff") by accident or to be dramatic. He was warning of the serious unintended consequences, which will befall many professing Christians, who think they are justified before God because of their commitment, devotion, behavior and obedience to certain religious rules and laws. This is one of the strongest warnings found in the New Testament. Yet, most consider it to be "just a difference of opinion".
But, thank God - according to the New Covenant,
the blood of Jesus Christ is totally sufficient
to exempt the Church and all its true believing
members from God's future judgment concerning
the world's sin, which takes place during the
7 year Tribulation period.
"For God hath not appointed us to wrath (God's judgment), but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
"For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath (God's judgment); for where there is no law there is no transgression (sin). Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to Grace..." (Romans 4:14-16 - Emphasis and Clarifications Added)
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: For ye are not under the Law (which brings about judgment), but under Grace." (Romans 6:14 - Emphasis and Clarifications Added)
"There is therefore now no condemnation (judgment and damnation) to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us (or imputed to us) who do not walk according to the flesh (trying to acquire salvation through works and religious performance) but according to the Spirit (or by faith only in the finished work of Christ that does not require our works)." (Romans 8:1-4 – Emphasis and Clarifications Added)
(Note: The Bible often uses the words; wrath, anger, indignation, condemnation, fury and judgment interchangeably.)
The substitutionary death of Christ, as defined only by the New Covenant, describes how “Jesus died for our sins”. Yet, few understand the extraordinary way our salvation operates through this "Great Divine Exchange" initiated at the cross - often referred to in Scripture as the believer's position "In Christ".
Those Who Are "In Christ"
are Sons of God - Not
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-26)
Christ’s righteousness and sinlessness are only two of many spiritual attributes God imputes to the believer in the Divine exchange and their position "In Christ".
Here’s another one.
The Bible reveals Jesus as ‘God’s Son’. Before the cross He is known as ‘God’s only begotten Son’. But, after the cross, the Divine exchange now ‘imputes’ this relationship to all believers. Jesus will forever be ‘God’s Firstborn Son’. The firstborn possesses all authority. But, after the cross, God now has many sons - and Jesus holds the preeminent position of being ‘the firstborn among many brethren’ (Romans 8:28-30). We see this same title, included in the Scripture quote above, where the Church of Jesus Christ (consisting of all believers) is referred to as ...
“The general assembly and
church of the firstborn”
Under the New Covenant - and contrary to many church teachings - God considers anyone who has placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be His perfectly righteous son – regardless of their failure to personally live up to the high performance standards of the title. Since this Divine righteousness is now freely imputed and originates, not from the life of the believer, but from Jesus Christ Himself - it is received only by Grace (God’s unmerited favor) through faith - apart from works and merit (Romans 4:4-8).
“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. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He (Jesus Christ) might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:9-10)
“He came unto his own (the Israelites), and his own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13)
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear (speaking of the return of Christ), we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
"And He (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18)
This special relationship where believers
are ‘sons of God’ did not exist before the
cross under the Old Testament Program of
the Law. So ... how did people before the
cross relate with God?
A popular misconception must be addressed in order to properly answer the above question. Christians (as we understand the term today) did not exist before the cross. Contrary to popular church teachings, the twelve disciples who followed Christ during His earthly ministry were not 'the first Christians'. They were Jews who faithfully followed the tenants of Judaism, which is different from Christianity. The twelve disciples who followed Jesus correctly believed Him to be 'the Messiah of Israel' according to the tenants of Judaism (also known as the Old Testament Law of Moses). The word 'Messiah' in this case is a term associated with Judaism. The word 'Christian' is a term or label applied to all those who place their faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death and resurrection - which 'took away their sin'. As a result, Christianity (and its followers known as 'Christians') did not and could not exist before the cross. The misguided idea that the disciples were the first Christians comes from Galatianized church teachings (discussed later in Part 3) that illegally mix certain aspects of the Old and New Testaments together.
Jesus said; "... I will build My Church
and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it" (Matthew 16:18).
Notice that the Lord uses the future tense 'I will build' - and not the present tense, 'I am building'. The 'Church' Jesus refers to here is 'His Church' - or what we often call 'The Christian Church'. Saint Paul also refers to this entity as 'The Body of Christ'. It did not yet exist when Jesus uttered these words. Before He could begin to build 'His Church' - His crucifixion, resurrection, ascension - and the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers on the day of Pentecost ... had to happen first.
The indwelling presence of the Holy
Spirit, or what Paul refers to as
'the sealing of the Holy Spirit',
is what separates the members of
Christ's Church (or the body of
Christ) from those who lived before
the cross under the Old Testament
program of the Law. These
individuals were not indwelled (or
sealed) ... because the Holy Spirit
had not yet arrived on the day of
Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, which
made the sealing possible.
Paul described it like this ...
"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Under the Old Testament program of the
Law Jesus is known as the Messiah of
Israel. But, under the New Testament
program of Christianity Jesus is
'The Lord and Head of the Church'.
As a result, Jesus operated in two roles
representing two different programs
which are separated by the cross.
Contrary to the opinion of some in
the Messianic Jewish movement; it is
incorrect to say that Jesus is the
Messiah of the Church. But, He is
the promised Messiah of Israel.
"And He (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18)
"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23)
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all ..." (The words of Saint Paul from 1 Timothy 2:5-7)
Before Christ’s New Covenant started to govern, the Israelites were the only ones who had a covenant with God. This special relationship is often understood through the religion of Judaism or ‘the Mosaic Covenant of the Law’. During this time, the Bible refers to all non-Jewish people as ‘Gentiles’ - who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” - as Paul describes in Ephesians 2:11-22. But, all these things radically changed for the Gentiles, when God accepted them into ‘Christ’s Church’ ... as a result of the cross.
This is why, in order to properly
interpret the Scriptures, Paul
warned that the Old Testament
program of the Israelites and
the New Testament program of the
Church (which now includes Gentiles)
must be kept separate and ‘rightly
divided’ - because each program is
governed by vastly different sets
of rules known as ‘covenants’.
Under the Old Testament program of the Law, Israel is known as ‘the people of God’. This relationship involved a King (sometimes referred to in parables as a ‘master or lord’) – who essentially represents God. His people (or loyal subjects) are considered to be servants. Various parables taught by Christ in the New Testament are based on this ‘master-lord-servant’ relationship. In these situations, the lord's acceptance of the servant is always the result of their performance and quality of work. If a servant is disloyal or fails to meet the performance expectations of their master or lord, he is in danger of being rejected and cast out. We see this in Christ’s parable of the unprofitable servant in Matthew 25:20-29. The story involves three servants who were entrusted with their lord’s resources. Two of these servants were diligent and multiplied the resources entrusted to them. As a result, they were told, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord."
But, the third servant insulted his lord and returned the original resources with no increase. As a result, his lord said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant ... cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This parable represents a judgment that God performs on His servants – based on their works, behavior and ‘profitability’. We know this to be true because the parable clearly tells us. If you are one of God’s servants living before the cross – and judged to be unprofitable or lacking good works ... then being cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (a Biblical description of hell) – is the expected outcome. But, the term ‘servant’ that Jesus uses in Matthew 25:20-29 is being taught within the context of the Old Testament role of a servant which was held by the Israelites. Jesus taught this parable before the cross and before the New Covenant started to govern. During this time, God considered His people (the Israelites) to be ‘servants’.
Yet after the cross, all believers
(now referred to as the Gentile
Church) are declared to be sons
God never judges or treats His
sons the same as His servants.
Servants are accepted or rejected
according to their behavior, obedience
and quality of work.
But a son remains a member of the Royal
Family regardless of his failures,
disobedience or poor behavior.
A servant (also known as the King's
'subject') must make a formal request in
order to address the King ... and the
King can refuse.
But the King’s sons can approach their
Father's throne anytime they want without
permission. This is the kind of liberty
the New Covenant extends to the sons of
God (all believers 'In Christ'). But,
servants do not have the same liberty
On the day of His resurrection, Jesus made an interesting statement concerning this truth. When Mary arrived at the tomb - the following conversation took place ...
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. (John 20:15-18)
Notice that Jesus is saying (as a result of His finished work at the cross) that His Father in Heaven is now also the Father of the disciples, who represent all those who have placed their faith in Him ... and includes all true Christians living today. If two or more individuals have the same Father, then they are brothers - and also sons of their Father. This is one reason Christians often refer to themselves as 'brethren ... or brothers and sisters in Christ'.
John and Paul emphasize this same
liberating truth by saying ...
"Love has been perfected among us in this: That we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He (Jesus Christ) is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:17)
Notice that this Scripture teaches and reinforces the principles of the Divine exchange and the believer's position "In Christ". Believers can now have boldness in the Day of Judgment - because Jesus, through the cross, purchased their right to ‘sonship’. As a result, since Jesus Christ continues to be God’s Son ... the Divine exchange also makes all believers sons of God in this world.
"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 4:16)
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1)
Mixing the Old Testament program
of the Israelites with the New
Testament Program of the Church
Leads Many Astray in the Faith
We often hear various ministers and
Bible teachers make comments such as:
“One day I want to hear Jesus say to me,
‘well done thou good and faithful
servant – enter into the joy of
This statement always sounds good in a sermon ... but here’s the problem. The kind of judgment and acceptance these ministers are referring to (from Matthew 25:20-29) is conditional and not meant for the Church as ‘sons of God’ and members of Heaven’s Royal Family. It’s a judgment based on works and religious performance designed for the Old Testament servants of God who lived before the cross. They are making the classic mistake of ‘mixing’ Israel’s Old Testament role as God’s servants with the New Testament 'sonship' program of the Church. As a result, the Church’s role as ‘God’s sons’ is quietly set aside ... and replaced with the previous Old Testament role of a ‘servant’. Most Christians fail to notice this dangerous and subtle shift in doctrine. It represents a disastrous way of interpreting the Bible and should never be viewed as some ‘minor difference of opinion’. In such situations, eternal life is changed from a gift established on God’s Grace (unmerited favor) – into a benefit that is earned through the good works and performance of a servant. It’s dangerous because it creates a counterfeit Christian faith. It’s no mystery why Paul condemned this popular way of believing and teaching the Bible as being ‘perverted and accursed’ (Galatians 1:6-8). As a result, this represents yet another warning that many ministers who claim that they (which also includes the Christians in their audience) want to be judged as a servant according to Matthew 25:20-29 ... are actually teaching a variant of Galatian religion (discussed later in Part 3) and not true faith in Christ.
Being fooled into believing they are servants ... and not sons is why those who live under the tenants of Galatian religion find it difficult or even impossible to have any boldness or assurance of salvation. It’s impossible to know for sure that they have successfully met the expectations of their Lord ... until His decision is announced on judgment day. By then, it’s too late to change.
However, the sons of God know for sure that these expectations are met long before judgment day arrives ... because Jesus, as their substitute, perfectly fulfilled these requirements on their behalf at the cross. As a result, His righteousness is freely imputed (assigned or transferred), through the Divine exchange of the cross, to those who simply believe on His name (Romans 4:4-8 and Romans 5:15-21).
This is the truth John was speaking about when he said ... ‘that we (all believers in Christ) may have boldness in the day of judgment’ (1 John 4:17). We can have boldness because the righteousness Jesus possesses - is now our righteousness – and possessing His very own righteousness (as sons) is what exempts us from any further judgment that might condemn us to hell as a servant.
Paul repeats the same truth by saying ...
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)
Important Note: ‘Walking according to the flesh’ is a term the New Testament assigns to those who seek to be righteous the Old Testament way, through their own religious behavior and works – instead of accepting the freely imputed righteousness of the new and better covenant of Jesus Christ (referred to here as the group who 'walks according to the Spirit’). Paul suggests that those who conduct their Christian lives by ‘walking according to the flesh’ might outwardly appear as good Christian people or church members, but do not possess true faith in Christ, which is also why he warned that they continue to remain under God's condemnation (or judgment).
As a result, those who walk according to the flesh can never experience ‘boldness in the day of judgment’. Both of these groups exist within Christendom, but the New Testament warns that God accepts only one.
Saint John emphasized this important
characteristic of ‘knowing’ - when
he said ...
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:13-15)
All believers (now God’s sons) will appear at ‘the judgment seat of Christ’ (Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10), which is not a judgment that determines their fate in heaven or hell. It’s a judgment that determines their rewards (or lack thereof) in their eternal heavenly home where they live with their Father.
It’s a radically different judgment
than the servant receives in
Matthew 25:20-29 ... because God never
judges or treats His sons the same as
Contrary to popular church teachings, being sentenced to hell (or what the Bible calls ‘condemnation’) is no longer a possibility for the sons of God - which is why Paul said; "There is therefore now no condemnation (or any judgment involving hell) to those who are in Christ Jesus (God's sons) in Romans 8:1-2.
Important Note: Paul sometimes began his epistles by identifying himself as “a bond-servant of Jesus Christ”. He used this title to describe the unique nature of his ministry, which was vastly different from the rest of the leading apostles. Paul is not saying that all believers in the Church are now “bond-servants of Christ”. God called Paul to a special level of suffering “for the sake of the Gospel” (Acts 9:13-15). This calling often required him to live outside many of the New Covenant benefits and blessings - which the rest of the church continued to enjoy. Paul called some of these sufferings a “thorn in the flesh”. Contrary to popular church teachings, this ‘thorn in the flesh’ and the title of 'bond-servant' is something only assigned to Paul - and not believers in the Church.
Christians often describe their life as one of 'servant hood' (or being a servant of God) which is completely in agreement with the Scriptures only when we properly define our terms. It's important to understand that serving God and one another, which is an attitude that God wants to see in every believer is often used to describe love, submission and humility toward fellow believers. It should never be confused with Israel's Old Testament program of a servant that operated before the cross ... and according to vastly different rules and laws.
This is Part 2 of a three-part Bible study.
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