by S. Duytsch
In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul had defended the gospel of grace as preached by him. He had emphasized that the elect sinner must be justified by faith in Jesus Christ without the works of the law. He had decisively refuted the teachings of the hypocritical preachers that the law was the basis of justification. He now proceeds to urge upon the Galatians steadfastness in Christian liberty. He tells them of his great love for them which moved him to write so great a letter to them by his own hand. He exposes the real purpose of the hypocritical preachers of the law namely, that they were seeking their own glory. Now, in the words of our text, he tells them the basis of his glorying:
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
O crucified, and now glorified Christ, pour out upon us that Spirit of Life which Thou has merited by Thy death upon the accursed tree that we raise this song of praise to Thy honor: “God forbid that we should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
In treating this portion of Scripture let us:
I. In explaining the words of the text, we invite your attention to:
a. The apostle states that the basis for his glorying is two fold: 1. Negatively, that in which he should not glory and 2. positively, that in which he should glory.
1. Negatively, he forcefully expresses himself in these words: “God forbid that I should glory in anything other than the cross of Christ.”
Glorying is the expression of our attitude toward something we possess which we value highly and of which we gladly talk to others in the hope of gaining their esteem and favorable opinion.
Paul suggests that he had wherein he could glory, but prefaces that statement with words that express a strong hope that never would he find it in his heart to glory about those things; God forbid that I should glory in those things.
What, you may ask, did Paul have in which he could possibly glory? Was he not, since his conversion, an object of hatred, derision, slander and persecution? He lived as one who was considered not worthy to live. The prospect of death as a martyr was continually present. What, then, did this despised apostle have in which he could glory?
He could glory in:
How could he glory in being a Jew?
He was no ordinary Jew. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. A son of parents who were both Hebrews, thus of pure Hebrew stock.
He was of the seed of Abraham to whom God had given such great promises. Those promises concerned not only things of temporal value in the land of Canaan, but included spiritual values, especially the promise of that blessed seed who, in the fulness of times, would come forth from his loins.
He was an Israelite, of the seed of Jacob whom God, because as a prince he prevailed, named Israel.
He was a citizen of that people whom the Lord, out of his good pleasure, had chosen above all the peoples of the earth; of that people in whose midst God chose to dwell in a specific way; to whom pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and service of God and the promises (Rom. 9:4). That people concerning, whom Moses said:
Happy art thou O Israel, who is like unto thee?”
He was of the tribe of Benjamin, which Moses, as it were, with his last words blessed above all the other tribes as the favorite tribe of the Lord.
He was a student of the esteemed Gamaliel, the head of the Sanhedrin and leader of the school of learning at Jerusalem. He had been taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers. He lived a Pharisee after the straightest sect of his religion. He profited in the Jews religion above many in his nation. He possessed such zeal, that whenever the Jewish council had a special work to do, they would invariably call on Paul to do it.
In the light of all this, do you not agree that Paul had much in which he could glory as a Jew?
However, all these advantages he no longer considered a proper ground for glorying Concerning them he said: “God forbid that I should glory in anything save the cross of Christ.”
By grace, he had learned that in all these things there was no real value as a basis for glorying He had learned that glorying can be based alone in the knowledge and fellowship with God and Christ. By grace he had learned “to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ his Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
When he spoke about these outward advantages, as he occasionally did, it was not to boast about them, but to stop the mouth of his accusers and thereby promote the preaching of the gospel.
2. He could boast about his marvelous conversion and his advantages as a Christian.
He, who had been a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an oppressor of those that believed in Christ had obtained mercy from the Lord. He had been converted in an extraordinary way. For while on the way to Damascus; while breathing out threatenings against the church; while traveling hastily and full of fury to carry out his plan to bind more of God’s disciples; suddenly, that Christ whom he persecuted stopped him in his mad pursuit by making a glorious appearance to him. We find no other example of such a conversion.
He could tell of being caught up to the third heaven and having heard unspeakable words, not lawful for a man to utter.
Of these things he could glory, but rather than minimize the state of grace of fellow Christians by talking about the exceptional experience he said: “God forbid that I should glory in these things,” To be sure, he occasionally tells of these things that happened to him in God’s dealings with him, however, not with a view to exalting himself. But rather to glorify the irresistible grace of God and to encourage and to comfort convinced sinners who were discouraged to the point of despair. To these souls that were tossed to and fro and who experienced fierce fightings within he said as it were, do not despair for see what great mercy was given to me, the chief of sinners.
3. He could glory in his call to be an apostle and his advantages as such.
He was indeed a chosen vessel to proclaim Christ the Savior to the heathen, to kings of the earth and to Israel. God had separated him to this work and by grace prepared him to proclaim the Gospel of the Son of God to the gentiles.
Is not this the greatest honor that could be bestowed on man? Can any honor in the world be compared to it? What greater privilege than to be chosen of God unto salvation and then to be called, prepared and qualified to present to Jew and Gentile the only and complete Savior?
However great these privileges were, the apostle did not, because of them, exalt himself above his fellow apostles but ascribed it all to God’s good pleasure. In this, too, he said: “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ.” In deep humility he holds himself to be the least of all the apostles, yea, he confesses his unworthiness to be an apostle.
We have shown, briefly, that the apostle Paul had wherein he could glory. We saw also that in all humility and uprightness of heart he hoped never to glory in any of these things. His God honoring desire is expressed by the words of our text: “But God forbid that I should glory.”
2. Positively, the apostle states the basis on which he will glory; “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The apostle does not here attach any value to that wooden cross upon which the Savior died. The wood of that cross has no’ value whatever neither to heal physical nor spiritual diseases. What does the apostle refer to here? 14/hat is this cross of Christ in which he wishes to glory?
Dr. Luther, the great Reformer, said that Paul as a faithful disciple took upon him the cross of Christ and followed Him in the way of bearing shame, reproach and persecution and that in this his glory consisted. If any one had reason to glory in tribulation, it certainly was the apostle Paul who according to Galatians 6:17 “Bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” In Colossians 1:24, he could say: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the affliction of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” He catalogues his sufferings for the Name of Christ in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own country men, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness.”
Before mentioning all these things that befell him he, in 2 Corinthians 11:16-18 says: “Yet as a fool receive me that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.” He felt it necessary to mention his many ordeals and his sufferings to stop the boastings of the false preachers who had accused him.
Other divines are of the opinion that “the cross of Christ,” in the words of our text, is, in reality, the gospel of Christ. This opinion they base on Paul’s own words in 1 Corinthians 1:17-18: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” This opinion has much to commend it, especially Paul’s words in the 12th verse of the chapter from which our text is taken, where he says: “As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.” “That is the gospel of Christ.” Notice the contrast; these hypocritical preachers of the law desired peace and rest. They did not relish the persecution that troubled those that preached the gospel of Christ. But Paul, on the other hand, names as the foundation; as the basis of his boasting, of his glorying, that very cross of Christ, that is to say the gospel of Christ which he preached.
And no wonder. Should he not glory in that gospel of which he says in 1 Corinthians 2:7: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory?” Should he not glory in that gospel by which the riches of Christ is proclaimed? That gospel by which hell-worthy sinners are called and by which they become partakers of the glory of Christ? Should he not glory in that gospel by which peace is preached to them that are afar off and to them that are nigh? (Eph. 2:17). Should he not glory in that gospel which is a power of God to salvation to them that believe? (Rom. 1:16). In that gospel by which God is exalted and man is brought low? In that gospel in which God gives most precious promises to helpless sinners to the end that by free grace he may bestow on them all things necessary, to life and godliness?
However, while all the above need not be excluded, I would rather agree with the great Calvin that Paul, who had determined to know nothing save Christ and Him crucified, desired to glory in nothing save the suffering of Christ on the cross. I am disposed to believe this because, in most of his letters, Paul when speaking of the cross refers especially to the suffering of Christ on the cross (Eph. 2:16, Col. 1:20, Heb. 12:2). Also, because in contrast he does not say in our text simply “the cross of Christ,” as he does in verse 12, but in our text he emphasizes that he wishes to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. By this emphasis he declares that he and his fellow believers share in that suffering and in the blessed fruit of Christ’s suffering on the cross. That by God’s grace they were so privileged and now desired to place all the hope of his salvation and also the basis of his glorying in that cross alone.
He wants to say (so it appears to me) I desire to glory not, as many professing Christians do, just in the cross of Christ, in a complete Savior, in God’s Anointed, in the Great Prophet, in a merciful High-priest, in the King of Kings, but in the Cross of Jesus Christ our Lord — our Lord, Who has delivered you and me, O believers of Galatia, from the curse of the law, from the dominion of sin, from the power of Satan, from the wrath of God, and purchased us to be his own by his precious blood which He poured out in Gethsemane and on Golgotha. This He did for you and for me who were by nature hell worthy sinners. Our Lord, Who reconciled both (Jew and Gentile) unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. Yea, our Lord, to Whom by God’s grace we have yielded and dedicated ourselves, both body and soul, for time and eternity, to serve Him and to honor Him as our only King.
It is then in the suffering of Christ on the cross that the apostle desires to glory. And, no wonder, for when he thinks about Golgotha and there beholds the cross of Christ, then all things, as ground for boasting, flee away and the cross alone fills his heart and mouth with praises. There with an enlightened mind’s eye he sees on the one hand God’s spotless holiness, His unimpeachable justice, His eternal truth and on the other hand God’s infinite love, His free grace and His boundless mercy complementing each other. O, what a glorious sight to behold, more beautiful than ever Adam saw in his state of rectitude. There he sees that great mystery which the angels desire to look into, how God can and wills to be the God of a lost, poor, wretched and hell worthy sinner. There he sees with wonderment the fulfilling of the eternal council of God that was foretold by all the prophets that Christ should suffer; that Jesus of Nazareth should die on the cross. There he sees the fleeing away of all the shadows of the Old Testament worship and promises in the light of the Sun of Righteousness Jesus Christ Who through the eternal Sprit offered Himself without spot to God. There he sees with glorious adoration the complete satisfaction of the divine justice, reconciliation for sin brought about, an eternal righteousness brought forth, the sin of the world carried away in one day, the serpent’s head crushed, death swallowed up in victory and the bringing forth of life and immortality for God’s people.
As he ascends still higher, and sees there, with the eye of faith, Christ on the cross suffering and dying as surety, then with holy amazement he receives the revelation of the great mystery of the cross. There he sees the Holy One of Israel hanging between two malefactors, stripped of His clothing, crowned with thorns and nailed on the accursed tree. Why? That His people who lost their crown through their sin might receive a crown of glory and the garments of righteousness to cover their nakedness. There he sees the Son of God, the brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his person surrounded by wicked men who mock and mistreat him. Why?
To the end that his people, who through sin became wicked men, made themselves worthy of mockery and scorn, might, through His suffering and death, receive eternal glory and the right to become children of God. There he sees with utter amazement God and man, the blessed Immanuel, as the Lamb of God bearing the heavy load of all the sin of the elect in His body on the tree. Why? To reconcile His people to God and to restore them to full communion with God. There he sees the Rock of Israel, the Fountain of Life offered a drink of vinegar mixed with gall. Why? So His people, who through sin made themselves worthy of that bitter drink, might drink of that new wine that shall be given them in the Kingdom of God. There he sees the Light of the world, the Sun of Righteousness in the midst of darkness. Why? That for His people, who by sin fell from light into darkness, he might cause the Light to shine in the darkness and that they be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Yea, there he sees the unfathomable spectacle of the Prince of Peace experiencing the wrath of God and the King of Life bowing His head and giving up the ghost!
But especially does he consider what that suffering of Christ means to him personally. For him, who formerly despised God and persecuted His people, Christ was willing to suffer and die so shameful a death and by His agony and death merit for him all the treasures of salvation. By faith he sees that by free, eternal, sovereign and merciful grace those treasures were given to him. By faith he considers the comfort and strength he derives from the suffering of Christ. There, in complete amazement, he sees for himself no room to boast save in the cross of Christ his Lord.
In that cross of Christ he finds the greatest comfort for his soul. Neither his manifold sin nor the curse of the law can bring accusation against him. Here he can say: “Who is He that condemns? It is Christ that died; He was wounded for my transgressions; the Lord laid on him all my iniquity; He was made sin that I might be the righteousness of God in him; He was made a curse that He might deliver me from the curse of the law!”
In that cross of Christ he finds the greatest source of strength to fight in the power of Christ against the onslaughts of the prince of darkness. It was on that cross that Christ crushed the head of the serpent and emerged the victor in the battle with that old dragon.
In that cross of Christ he finds confirmation that not only was the law, which is the strength of sin, made powerless, but that he, too, by the body of Christ, became dead to the law.
In the cross of Christ he finds his only comfort, not only for life but also in death. Thus, in the hour of his death, he shall be able to face that king of terrors without fear and jubilantly cry out: “For me to die is gain! Death where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory?”
In the cross of Christ he sees the greatest good and such blessedness that his heart, as it were, is set on fire by the love of Christ that he no longer desires to live to himself but to Christ who died for him. It gives him desire to walk in love toward Christ who loved him and gave Himself for him as a well pleasing sacrifice to God. His one prayer is to be made more and more conformable to Christ’s death and to be able to joyfully offer himself as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
In the cross of Christ he sees a glorious example of patience, meekness and willingness in suffering. This urges him to pray for his enemies and to run with patience the race that is set before him, looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of his faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and despised the shame.
In one word; in the cross of Christ he finds his only glory, for in that cross and through the strength of Christ who suffered on it, the world was crucified unto him and he unto the world. That is his testimony, and he counts it as a fruit of Christ’s death on the cross when he says: “By Whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.”
Allow me now to briefly direct your attention to:
In the words of the text he speaks of “the world.” Not that world which we understand was framed by the word of God, (Heb. 11:3), not the great world consisting of earth, sky and planets. But here the apostle means the world of sinful desires. The world that lieth in wickedness, worldly minded persons who are of the world and find all their pleasure, fortune, satisfaction and happiness in the things of the world. That world, the apostle says, is crucified to him and he to it.
First he says: The world is crucified to me. You will readily understand that this is a figure of speech not to be taken literally. He means to say that the world with its sinful desires and pleasures, that has such appeal for the worldly minded, has, as it were, to him been crucified; has actually died, as far as holding any appeal for him is concerned. That all worldly wisdom is foolishness to him; that everything under the sun is a vexation of spirit and vanity. That the honor and esteem he formerly enjoyed and the pleasures and enjoyment he then delighted in were now an aversion to him; that he loathed them as he would something dead.
Secondly, that the world that lies in wickedness has been crucified to him. That he found loathsome the worldly minded persons who were of the world and delighted in the things of the world. That he showed his aversion for them and their deeds by turning from them as he would from a body that had been crucified.
Thirdly, that the religious world he formerly knew and in which he then had such a prominent place of honor; the world of legalistic religion in which he thought to have had found his salvation; that that world, too, had been crucified to him, died to him, and that now he counted that all but loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ crucified.
Further, he says, not only is that world crucified to him, but he is also crucified to that world. By this he means to say that those worldly minded persons who served the world and sought their pleasures in it, together with those who taught salvation by the works of the law, all looked upon him as one with whom they could not associate, as one whom they, in their hearts, had condemned to death on the cross; as one who had died to them.
Do you ask: what was the cause that the world was crucified to him and he to the world? Let Paul answer you in a few words. He says: “By which, that is, by the cross of Christ.”
Finally, he finds in the cross of Christ his only glory. He presents that cross to guilty and hell-worthy sinners as the only way of salvation. No wonder, that Paul, seeing such great value in the cross, says the world, all else is dead to him. And no wonder the servants of the world and of the false religions considered him dead to them. He protested, in his preaching, against all that they valued highly and he proclaimed as valuable all that they despised.
Having explained the meaning of the words of the text, let us very briefly go on to our next consideration and
II. Show how these words serve the purpose the apostle has in mind.
We can now, as it were, hear Paul say: You be the judge, O Galatian believers between my glorying and that of the hypocritical preachers of the law.
They, who under a cloak of seeming godliness urge upon you the keeping of the law unto righteousness, are not concerned about your weal and eternal salvation. How can they be? They themselves, although circumcised according to the law, cannot keep the law, much less be justified by the works of the law. Thus they would burden you with that which they themselves cannot bear. What profit can this bring you? What does their teaching profit you? No one is justified by the works of the law. Obviously, they are seeking ease and rest for themselves; seeking their own glory.
They seek their own ease and rest in so doing by escaping persecution for the cross of Christ; that they be not disturbed in their life of ease and quiet contentment in the midst of the world.
They seek their own glory in preaching the law. They hope to convince you and to convert you to their doctrine and then point to you as the crown of glory upon their efforts. They would then have glory in converting you who are gentiles, to the Jewish religion. This proves them to be false teachers. For while they teach that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the promised Messiah, they nevertheless teach that by being circumcised and by keeping the law men can have part and portion in Him. This is a denial of the cross of Christ and of His complete satisfaction of the demands of Gods justice. Clearly they sought not the honor of God, nor that of His Son, but they sought their own glory.
But as for me, God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. In that cross all God’s virtues and perfections are restored to their full luster. In that cross I can see how that just and holy God can show mercy to a vile and wretched sinner. In that cross I see the fulfillment of all the prophecies and the reality to which all the shadows of Old Testament shadows pointed. In that cross I see the handwriting that was against me blotted out, an eternal righteousness brought forth for me and for all the elect and God’s chosen ones reconciled to him. In that cross I find my comfort, my strength and my salvation.
In this I desire to glory with all that is in me, that I together with you, O Galatian believers, have received the blessed fruits of the cross of Christ that are so valuable to unworthy and hell worthy sinners. From this position neither slander nor persecution shall move me. Let the enemies of the cross of Christ slander as they will, let them treat me as dirt under their feet, as one unworthy to live, let them do what they will they shall not, by those means, close my mouth or stop me from glorying in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ. And this is my prayer to God, that in the moment of my death I may receive grace and have the physical ability to cry out even with dying lips: “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”
How fortunate would all who call themselves Christians be if each could truthfully say: God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. But, alas, how few they are whose only glory is in the cross of Christ.
That certainly is not your glory, you to whom the cross is yet a stumbling block and foolishness. It certainly is not yours who mock, despise and mistreat those that glory in it. Certainly not yours who glory in your pedigree, your wisdom, your strength your riches, your honor, your glory and in other things of the world. Certainly not yours whose glory is in committing sin, in serving your lusts and in your conformity to the world. Certainly not yours who glory in your good and decent life and in a dutiful practice of external religion. Certainly not yours who somewhat understand the cross of Christ, you who can enthusiastically and with fitting words speak concerning the cross more and better than many others but who have no knowledge of it as the only means to salvation; have never believingly embraced it.
O, I know full well that those words will cause your enmity to well up within you.
But wait a moment, be honest, let your conscience answer the following questions:
Have you ever learned to know, by divine light, the wretchedness of your state and condition by nature? Have you ever realized that you fell in Adam, are a lost creature and that with all the world you are guilty before God?
Have you ever actually felt how great your sins and misery are? Have you ever felt the awful load of your sin? Did you ever with the publican smite upon the breast and cry out: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner?”
Have you ever truly despised your own righteousness and, as a sinner worthy of death, fled to Christ and sought refuge in His mediatorial death? Have you as a sinner in your own estimation, sought to be justified by free grace? Have you ever embraced the cross of Christ with arms of faith?
Have you experienced reconciliation with God through the cross? Have you received the spirit of adoption by which you can say: “Abba, Father?”
If you remain in this unconverted state then, to your sorrow, you will find, that in the hour of death as that king of terror approaches, all your glory shall vanish like smoke. Then you shall die without comfort, outside of Christ, Whose cross you despised and whose salvation you neglected.
O that you would take this warning to heart! There is yet time. The door of grace is yet open! The cross of Christ as the only means of salvation is yet being proclaimed in the gospel! Will you continue to despise it? Will you continue to glory and rest in those things in which your immortal soul cannot glory, in which it can never find rest?
Therefore, let your prayer be that God make known to you your true condition. That prayer answered, you will see more reason to sorrow than to glory. But then, too, the cross of Christ will become precious and necessary to you.
As for you, people of God, although you are despised by the world, yet you have abundant reason to glory far more than they. Do they boast of an honorable pedigree; yours is nobler for you are born of God! Do they boast of honorable offices in the world; yours are greater, yours is a royal priesthood and you shall forever reign as kings! Does the world boast great wealth? You are far more wealthy. Your treasure is in heaven. All is yours; God is your portion eternally! Does the world boast great glory, peace and prosperity? You can glory in the hope of eternal glory, eternal peace and everlasting prosperity.
Be not you, therefore, ashamed when the world despises you. But rather, be ashamed that you so seldom let your glorying be heard; that you lament more than you glory. Perhaps you are thinking: “If I only knew that I had a real reason to glory in Christ and His cross, I would certainly speak up regardless of all the slander the world would heap upon me. But I am so loaded under the burden of my sin I scarcely dare raise my eyes to heaven. Shall I glory in the cross of Christ who dare not believe that He suffered and died for me?”
True it is, that you cannot glory outside of Christ and His righteousness. Outside of Christ you can have no peace, no rest and no reason to glory. Outside of Christ, God is a consuming fire. However, what excludes you? Only your unbelieving heart! You look more to the greatness of your sin than to the perfect righteousness of Christ. Your sins ought to drive you to Christ “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins.” Let not your sin, let not your unbelief keep you away from Christ! He calls those that are weary and heavy-laden to come to Him and He promises peace and rest. Flee, then, with all your sin to the cross of Christ. There you will see the handwriting against you blotted out, God satisfied and there the love of Christ shall cause your heart to so burn with love that it will loosen your tongue to glory in the cross of Christ.
And you, who by God’s grace have learned to glory in the cross, be not silent. Do not glory only, but let it be seen in your walk and conversation that truly all that is in the world is crucified to you and you to the world. Pray that you be not enticed by any thing in the world to become conformable to it, but let it be more and more crucified to you in your heart. Be not surprised that the world hates and despises you. This is a mark borne by all who battle under the banner of Christ; by all those who are on the pathway to heaven. It was told you: “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” It is an honor and a privilege to be mistreated for the name of Christ.
Glory then, in spite of the world, in the cross of Christ! And this is the wish of my heart, that, when you take your last breath, the Lord grant you faith and ability to cry out with dying lips, to the glory of free grace: But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ.
This article was found in the Free Brace Broadcaster magazine, Issue 176 of Spring 2001.
A Ministry of Mt. Zion Bible Church
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