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The New Walk (5): More Reasons Why – Filled With the Spirit

The Lord’s Day

July 23, 2006

Ephesians 5:18-21

“The New Walk
(5): More Reasons Why — Filled With the Spirit”

Dr. J. Ligon
Duncan III

Please open your Bibles to Ephesians chapter five, as we
continue through Paul’s letter to Ephesus and to us. We’ve said since Ephesians
4:17 that it has been Paul’s concern to exhort us to live distinctively as
Christians in this world; not to be like the world, but rather to be in the
world and not of it; to be distinct in our desires and our behavior and our
living from the world.

And in Ephesians 4 and in the first part of
Ephesians 5, Paul gave a series of concrete examples of ways in which we were to
be different from the world. We were to be different from the world in our
truth-telling; we were to be different from the world in the way we handled
anger; we were to be different from the world in our kindness; we were to be
different from the world in a variety of things in which he gave concrete,
specific direction in areas of life that were going to set apart Christians from
non-Christians–those who have been renewed by the Lord Jesus Christ, changed by
the Holy Spirit, saved unto God our Father–how they were different from those
who are in this world and of this world.

Now beginning in Ephesians 5:5 and running all the
way down to verse 21, the last verse of the passage we’re going to read today,
Paul has turned from those specific areas in which we are to be different from
the world to giving us a series of four motivations or incentives, or reasons,
or arguments, or encouragements to be different from the world. Paul is very
practical, and God our Father loves us very much and He knows that there are a
lot of temptations. Some of those temptations come from our own hearts, some
come from the world, some come from Satan himself; and so, God in His Scripture
arms us with arguments to use with ourselves against those temptations, and
among those arguments that he arms us with are these various incentives or
motivations that Paul has been giving us since Ephesians 5:5.

You remember he started out by saying that one thing
that we always needed to remind ourselves when we are tempted is that there is
the judgment seat of Christ, and that all is going to be brought before the
searching eyes and just judgment of God, and so Paul teaches us there not to use
grace as an argument against responsibility, but to recognize that grace so
changes us that we desire God to be vindicated on the Last Day, that we desire
to see His just judgment visited, and we no longer fear standing before that
great assize because we are confident in the Lord Jesus Christ. But we’re also
transformed by the work of God’s grace in us.

He also in that passage points to the dramatic
transformation that has occurred when God changed us from darkness to light,
when He caused us to be united to Christ and to become new creatures in Him. And
you remember the Apostle Paul argued that one motivation, one incentive to
godliness, to holiness in this life, is to remember that God has changed us from
what we once were. We heard about that in song and in the prayer this morning.
We remember what we were and we remember what we are now by God’s grace, and we
live in consistency with what God has made us to be, not with what we once were.

Then last week we saw Paul appeal to wisdom. We were
part of the foolish world, but by God’s grace He saved us in Jesus Christ, who
is true wisdom, and He gave us wisdom, having united us to Jesus Christ. And so
the Apostle Paul says live as wise people. God has made you wise, so live

And then he spoke about the different
characteristics of a wise person: A wise person cares about how he lives; a wise
person takes very seriously the preciousness of time and seeks to use it for
gospel purposes.

And then today he comes to something of a
culminating point, because he points us to the Holy Spirit. And the argument is
simple, you understand. He says ‘Look, Christian. You are filled by the Holy

Now, if you don’t understand that that’s a
motivation to holiness, there’s not much that I can explain to you. Paul’s
argument is very clear. You’re filled with the Holy Spirit, Christian; every one
of you is filled with the Holy Spirit. You ought to seek to go on being filled
by the Holy Spirit, and if you are being filled by the Holy Spirit, you’re going
to want to pursue holiness. You’re going to be on a quest for godliness. And so
the Apostle Paul points us today to the Holy Spirit as the ultimate incentive,
and indeed, dynamic, of living the Christian life.

Now, one last thing: As you look as verses 18-21,
you will notice that there are two imperatives, two commands.
One is
negative, one is positive, followed by five participles [that’s an i-n-g
word]. Those participles that follow two command imperatives are speaking,
singing, making music
[or making melody], giving thanks, and being
[or subjecting ourselves] to one anotherdon’t do something, and then he
moves to do this particular thing, which reminds us again that though
Christianity is certainly more than do’s and don’ts, it always entails harkening
obediently and joyfully to God’s commands to do some things and not to do
others, by the strength of the grace of the Holy Spirit.)

Now before we read God’s word, let’s look to Him in
prayer and ask His help and blessing.

Our Lord and our God, this is Your word, and we
ask that You would speak to us by Your word, that we would hear by Your Spirit
the truth of Your word, and that we would understand it and embrace it,
believing it, trusting you, and living the truth. We ask this in Jesus’ name.

This is God’s word:

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the
Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing
and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all
things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be
subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

There is no factor more important in our quest to be
like Christ, in our quest to be more and more reflecting the image of our loving
heavenly Father, in our quest to be godly, in our quest to be different from the
world, in our quest to be in the world but not of it–there is no factor more
important in that quest than the filling of the Holy Spirit, and that is the
focus of what the Apostle Paul has to say to us today.

But before he gets to that focal point, a point
which he is going to flesh out with those participles, those i-n-g words
in verses 19, 20, and 21, he has a negative command to give to the Ephesian
Christians and to you and me, and his command is: “Do not get drunk with wine.”

I. Don’t get drunk.

He gives a definite, a clear and unmistakable charge
to the Ephesian Christians and to you and me that we are to manifest in our use
of alcohol Christian moderation and temperance. He gives a direct, unmistakable
command that we are not to get drunk. He doesn’t call here for abstinence, a
total abstinence (elsewhere he will actually counsel Timothy on one occasion to
use wine as opposed to perhaps the contaminated drinking water that would have
been the case in his particular area), but he is very emphatic in demanding that
we do not abuse alcohol, that we do not get drunk.

And his reason for this is stated: “…for this
is dissipation.” It is something which manifests that we are mastered by
something or someone else rather than God in the gospel
, and the Apostle
Paul does not want any Christian to be mastered by someone or something else
other than the loving, saving, triune God and His gospel. And so he says to
these Christians, “Do not be drunk with wine.” It’s one way that they are to
stand out from the world around them. We know that Ephesus was a place where, as
a part of the cult of Dionysus, that there was great abuse of alcohol connected
with the orgies, but the context in that sense is irrelevant: this is a standing
directive for Christians in all ages, that they are not to be drunk with wine.
We are not to give away our self-mastery to be mastered by alcohol.

And I want to pause right now and speak for just a
few moments directly to our young people about this. This is a matter for all of
us, young and old, but it’s especially a matter of concern for Christian young
people because the fact of the matter is not only is it God’s household rule
that we are not to abuse alcohol, that we are not to use it improperly, that we
are not to be inebriated, but it’s a matter of the law of the state, the law of
the government, that those under a certain age are not to use it at all, and so
the use of alcohol by Christian young people presents a variety of important

And I want to say, as I’ve looked back over my life
and as I’ve looked back to my own student years in high school and college and
in graduate years, I notice six things about many of the young people who
were utilizing (sometimes illegally) alcohol, and others who were abusing
alcohol and doing so illegally. And the first thing is this: I noticed in them
very often a desire to ‘fit in’ with the worldly
…a desire to ‘fit in’ with
the worldly; that in the use of the alcohol (whether it was legal or not) was
often with it a desire to fit in with a particular group that did not share the
wholesome goals and aspirations that the Apostle Paul has been speaking about
for four chapters, and with a particular kind of life that was actually out of
accord with what the Apostle Paul has been describing here in Ephesians 4 and 5.
And, young people, if that’s been the case with you or with your friends,
understand that warning bells should be going on right now…that if you have
been illegally using alcohol or abusing it in any way, it may well mark in you a
desire to fit in with the worldly, where the Apostle Paul has been saying to
Christians, no, you be in the world, care about them, love them, do good by all
those who are in the world, but don’t try to be like them. Don’t try to emulate
them. Don’t try and court their favor. Don’t seek their ultimate approbations.
Seek the approbation of God, of Christ; follow after Him, live in His way, do
good to your friends who are not believers. Seek their best interests, but don’t
live the way they live.

A second thing that I have seen in the use of
alcohol by young people (some, again, illegally using it, some abusing it even
though they may be legally partaking of it) is that it is often used to cope
with insecurity.

Some of my friends, who were frankly socially far
more advanced than I–they were very adept, they were from nice families–I found
they could not be secure in a social setting unless they were slightly
inebriated. It always disturbed me that they seemed to think that they had to be
inebriated before they could have a good time. Now, these were people
that…very frankly I wanted them to be sober! Because when they were sober they
were sharp, and they were smart, and they were funny, and I wanted to hear what
they had to say. And very frankly, when they were inebriated, I didn’t want to
hear what they had to say! But I recognized that they were insecure.

And young people, if that’s a motivation for you
right now in illegally using alcohol or in abusing it, then I want to ask you a
question: Where is our security found? Is our security found in a substance that
causes us to lost control enough of ourselves that we don’t think about
ourselves, or is our security found in the Lord Jesus Christ? In the loving
bonds of His family, so that we don’t have to worry what people are thinking
about us every moment of the day, but we only seek to do the will of our loving
heavenly Father who cares for us, who has called us His own children?

A third thing that I saw amongst young friends
who were either illegally using alcohol or abusing it was that they were
indulging in a very dangerous habit.
You know, very often young people think
of alcohol as something that gives them a high, but all of you who are health
professionals–doctors and nurses–you know that alcohol is not a stimulant, it’s
a depressant; and it’s a depressant that can unleash some things that are far
more powerful than some people are to cope with it. And those young people, some
of them, did not realize that they were practicing to have a struggle with
alcohol for the rest of their lives in the way they used or abused alcohol.
Again, to Christian young people, I want to encourage you and urge you to
understand the danger of this.

Fourthly, I saw and see in some of my young
friends who have illegally used alcohol or are abusing it, the following of a
bad example.
Sometimes they were actually simply emulating how their parents
acted, or their grandparents, or some significant family member or friend, and
they were following after that example in their own behavior. But again, to my
Christian friends here today–young people, students in college and in high
school–the example of bad examples is not the example that we’re to seek to

One of the things that struck me most when I first
read the biography of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, the General in the Confederate
Army that we call “Stonewall,” was the fact that Jackson, having been reared not
by his father (who had died early on), but by an uncle who was a pretty shady
character, had decided at the age of ten that he was not going to grow up
to be like his uncle. He knew enough of the Bible and knew enough of right and
wrong to know that the way that his uncle was acting was not a way for him to
act, and he determined that he was not going to live that way. So if you’ve had
a bad example in this area, let me encourage you to follow Christ’s example and
the teaching of the word, and not the bad examples you have seen.

Fifthly, I have often seen in the case of young
people illegally using alcohol or abusing it, a knuckling under to peer
There were some of my friends, I think, who did not think they
could have a good time unless they could get me to drink. They would spend hours
of a party trying to get me to drink with them! It was as if they could think of
nothing else!

Now, you understand, my parents had never read me
the riot act about this, but it was just something that I didn’t do. And I
wasn’t trying to draw attention–I wasn’t one to walk into a party and have a
flashing neon light going saying “I’m not going to be doing what the rest of you
are doing.” I just wanted to go in my little corner and stay out of everybody’s
way, and relate to people and let them do whatever they were doing. I wasn’t
going to have picket signs and a bullhorn shouting out to them across the room,
but they wanted me to do what they were doing. Perhaps as young person you’ve
experienced this, as well…people that want you to live a particular way.

Well, again, the Apostle Paul in this passage is
calling us to accede only to that gentle, loving peer pressure that comes from
those who are children of light, not to give in to the peer pressure of the sons
of this age, of the children of darkness, those who don’t know the Lord Jesus

And then, sixth and finally, I have noticed as I
watched friends and colleagues, contemporaries, students as they imbibed,
breaking the law.
Now we may not think of it that way, but this is actually
a violation of the law most of the time that it takes place–not just in the
abuse of alcohol, but in the use of alcohol.

Do you know that there are still some counties in
Mississippi where according to statute law you can’t even drive through the
county in the possession of alcohol? Well, whether we agree with the statute or
not, Christians are to obey the civil magistrate. The Apostle Paul in Romans 13
calls us to be those who have respect for authority, and especially for
governmental authority, because it’s meant for our well-being. And it’s not a
good thing, my dear Christian young friends, for us to develop a cavalier
attitude towards the authority that God has put over us for our good by abusing
that authority in the use of something which has been forbidden to us by law.

So I want to appeal to you, young people, in this
area: Let us be an example. There are eyes watching you. I want you to
understand that. Whether you’re here as a student in town or whether you’re at a
university somewhere close by, there are people that notice what you do, for
good or for ill, and your witness is either one that is positive or it is one
that is negative. And so the Apostle Paul is commanding us as Christians here to
be moderate, to manifest self-mastery with regard to alcohol. That means for
those of us who are not of age, complete abstinence; that’s part of our
self-mastery. And for those of us who are of age, to be in control…moderate,
temperate in our usage.

II. Be filled with the Spirit.

Secondly, Paul moves on to his major command in
this passage. It’s at the end of verse 18: “Be filled with the Spirit.”

Now, in contrast to this previous command in which
he demands that we be temperate or moderate, that we limit and control the way
we relate to wine, here he actually issues a call for what we might call
Christian intemperance. The Apostle Paul is in effect saying you can never get
enough of the filling of the Spirit. He’s just said you’ve got to be careful how
you deal with alcohol, but you do not ever want to put a limit on the filling of
the Spirit. It’s something that you should continually desire. It’s something
that you should continually long for. It’s something that should be continually
operating in your life. There should be a constant thirst for that kind of

Now you may be asking, “What is this filling of
the Holy Spirit?”
The first thing I need to say about this, of course, is
Paul is not talking about an experience that only some Christians have. In this
passage he is directing all that he has to say to every Christian, so it’s not
that there are Christians and then there are Spirit-filled Christians, as if
there are two distinct categories and never the twain shall meet. But the
Apostle Paul is saying to all Christians here that it ought to be their desire
that the Holy Spirit fill them continually. This is not just a one-time thing
that the Apostle Paul is asking us for. He’s not saying achieve this one-time
experience of being filled with the Spirit. No, his language is that he wants us
always to be filled with the Spirit, and always desire to be filled with the

Now you rightly ask me, “Well, what does that
That’s a great question. I don’t have time to say everything that
probably needs to be said about that today, but I can tell you two things very
specifically out of the Book of Ephesians. Turn with me back to Ephesians 1 and
look at verses 13 and 14. When the Apostle Paul in that passage is talking about
the sealing work of the Holy Spirit, tells us what the Holy Spirit does in our
life, notice what he says in verse 14:

“He was given…” [this Holy Spirit, who is the
Spirit of promise, who sealed us]…

“He was given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of
God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

He was given as God’s pledge to you to assure you that God
was going to be faithful to fulfill His promise to redeem you to the very end,
and so what the Apostle Paul is saying is (in that passage), the Holy Spirit
does–what? He works to assure you of salvation.

Now turn over to Ephesians 3, and in that beautiful
prayer in verses 14-19, notice that he says–what happens when we are
strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit in the inner man, in our inmost
being–verse 16? Well, look at verse 17. This is what happens:

“So that Christ may dwell in your
hearts through faith.”

And what else? Verse 19:

“That you may be filled up to all
the fullness of God.”

And so, in that passage the Apostle Paul is saying that the
Holy Spirit not only has an assuring work to do in you [Ephesians 1], He has a
maturing work to do in you. He forms Christ in you. He makes your heart a
suitable dwelling place for the Lord Jesus Christ, and He does–what? Fills you
up to all the fullness of God. What does that mean? It means that He matures you
to make you more and more resemble the image of your heavenly Father. And so the
filling of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit’s work in us, is designed to assure
us of God’s promises and of our salvation and to mature us in the faith. And so
the believer is to desire to have this ongoing filling of the Holy Spirit so
that we will be assured and matured, so that our character would be formed, so
that we would look like our heavenly Father, so that our lives would be suitable
dwelling places for Jesus Christ. And Paul says it’s to be our desire, our
thirst, to see that ongoing filling–that ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our

Now, again you ask me another question: “Well,
what does that look like?”
And the Apostle Paul is waiting for you.

Remember those five participles? Well, let me break
those down into four specific points that the Apostle Paul makes about a person
who is being filled with the Holy Spirit, and notice the first one and the
fourth one have to do with our relationship with one another as fellow
believers. The second one and the third one have to do with our relationship
with God.

The first one you see there in verse 19:
“…Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs.”

Speaking to one another
is the first mark of a Christian who is being
matured by the filling of the Holy Spirit: “…Speaking to one another in
psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs.”

In other words, these Christians are addressing one
another in a way that encourages their mutual edification. Even in their
conversation with one another, their desire is to edify, to build up, to
encourage. It’s addressing and exhorting and encouraging one another–in this
case, he says, with scriptural songs, or songs that are scriptural and
spiritual–so that we’re moved to adoration and confession and thanksgiving, and
petition and intercession.

One of our elders is particularly good at doing
this. Any time I get a note from him, he almost always begins it by quoting a
long passage of Scripture before he then moves on to a word of encouragement.
And even sometimes when I’m talking with him, he’ll start the conversation off
by quoting Scripture, and then we’ll move into the substance of what it is that
we’re going to talk about. And very often as he leads us in prayer he will quote
Scripture first, verbatim, and then move into lifting up the specific praises or
petitions to God. It’s a good and encouraging example.

But as I was talking to one of the mothers of the
congregation this morning as we walked into the church, I was reminded of
another manifestation of this speaking with one another with psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs. She was talking about the importance of parents encouraging
their children to read the Bible, and to ask them what they’re reading, and what
they’re learning from the Bible, so that their conversation is filled from time
to time by talking about the things of the Lord, naturally; that we would desire
to have that as a normal part of our interaction with one another in human
relationships, whether parent and child, or friend and friend.

Well, the Apostle Paul says the person who’s being
Spirit-filled has a conversation which is filled with the truth of God’s word in
a way that encourages or edifies our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
That’s one mark of a Christian who is being matured by the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, look again at verse 19. He goes on to
say, “…Singing and making melody with your heart [or, making music with your
heart] to the Lord.”
Here Paul says that the Christian who is being matured
by God’s Holy Spirit, who is being filled by God’s Holy Spirit, is one who sings
and makes melody to God; that is, there is a whole-souled, God-centered devotion
that is expressed in his or her singing. That person loves to gather with the
saints and not simply with the lips sing praises to God, but from the very depth
of his or her soul to lift up his whole self to God in praise and in petition,
to address our gracious heavenly Father with praise from the depths of our

You know, my Dad could not carry a tune in a bucket.
If you had poured that tune in the bucket, he would have lost it before he got
to church! I promise you! And it was one of the great blessings of my life to
grow up as a young man standing next to him during the congregational singing,
hearing him trying to sing the hymns though he did not ever match a note! Now,
he didn’t sing so loud as to be obnoxious, you understand me. But he tried to
sing praises with the congregation. I will always be thankful for my Dad doing
that, though he wasn’t good at it.

You see, Paul’s not talking about liking to sing
here; I know that some of you don’t like to sing, and I know that some of you
aren’t maybe as good as others are at singing. But the Apostle Paul is saying
that the Christian who is being matured by the work of the Holy Spirit wants to
give the whole of himself from the depths of his being in song to God in
devotion. He’s focused on singing the praises of God; she’s focused on singing
the praises of God. There’s nothing that brings more delight than to gather with
His people and give Him praise.

Young people, again, those of you who are off at
college or going off to college, you know one of the great tests of where you
are in your spiritual walk will be what do you do on Sunday when you’re away
from Mom and Dad; when it’s your choice whether you’re going to go and sing
praises to the living God with God’s people in church on the Lord’s Day, to hear
His word proclaimed. Is that a place you really want to be? That tells you a lot
about where you are in relation to the maturing work of the Holy Spirit, because
those who know God and those who are being matured by the Holy Spirit love to be
praising the living God with His people.

Fourthly, notice again something that’s focused
on God: “…Thanking God our Father for everything, in Jesus’ name.”
other words, the Christian who’s being matured, being filled by the Holy Spirit,
is always giving thanks to the Father. This is a person characterized by
gratitude. It’s not only a person who uses their conversation to edify and
exhort and encourage fellow believers, it’s not only a person who loves to
express their devotion to God in their singing with the saints, but it’s a
person who is characterized by gratitude–a Father-focused, Christ-enabled

You know, we live in a world where a lot of bad
things happen, and a lot of people very frankly become bitter and unthankful
because of those bad things that have happened. But it is a characteristic of
those who are being matured by the Holy Spirit that they retain a thankful,
grateful heart in the midst of everything. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t
struggles with that from time to time. But you know, at every funeral here at
First Presbyterian Church, somewhere in that funeral we will quote the words of
a man that lived maybe 4,000 years ago, and they go like this:

“The Lord has given; the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”

That was Job’s expression of praise and thanksgiving and
blessing to the Almighty God though everything and everyone precious to him had
been taken from him, and that is a standing example to the Christian of a heart
that maintains a gratitude and thankfulness to God in the midst of any
circumstance. And the Apostle Paul says ‘You want to spot a Christian being
matured by the Holy Spirit? Well, let me show you a person who’s grateful, who’s
thankful, no matter what’s going on. In everything, in Jesus Christ, that person
is able to give thanks to God.’

And then, fourth and finally, look at verse 21:
“…Be subject to one another….be subject to one another in the fear of
The fourth quality that the Apostle Paul sees in a person being
matured by the Holy Spirit is that person is self-denying, Christ-revering, in
their serving of one another for mutual edification.

In other words, the Christian has realized that this
life is not about being served, this life is about serving. This life is not
about other people doing things for you, this life is about doing things for
others. This life is not about the blessings that we can get from somebody else,
but the blessing that we can be to someone else, just as Jesus would say, “I did
not come to be served, but to serve,” so also His disciples–those who have been
saved by Him, those who love Him–want to serve others, and it permeates their
attitude about everything; and so, they become people who are self-denying in
their service in a way that their mutual submission to one another serves to
edify them because of their reverence for the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s one of the hardest lessons in life to learn,
because we are by nature selfish, we’re in-turned. And one of the marks of a
person who has been matured by the Holy Spirit is more and more they care about
the well-being of others and they are ready to invest their energy and resources
in order to serve the well-being of others, so that they become a community of
people who are givers, not takers; who are servers, not imperious, entitled
‘lords’, but those who serve.

John Calvin has a beautiful word that he says about

“God has so bound us to each other that no man ought to avoid subjection, and
where love reigns there is a mutual servitude. I do not except even kings and
governors, for they rule that they may serve; therefore, it is very right that
we should exhort all to be subject to one another. But, as nothing is more
contrary to the human spirit than to submit to others, He recalls to us the fear
of Christ so that we may not refuse the yoke, and that we may not be ashamed of
serving our neighbors.”

In other words, the Apostle Paul says just remember how
Christ served you. Now don’t be ashamed to serve your neighbors; He served you.
Remember what you were like, and He served you. Now you serve one another in
that way.

And the Apostle Paul has armed us now with arguments
to use with ourselves as we seek to be different from the world: We’re going to
remember the Judgment Day to come; we’re going to live in light of what God has
made us by His grace, and not what we used to be; we’re going to live wisely
because we’ve been made wise by the grace of Christ; and we are going to be
matured by the Holy Spirit and live in consistency with the One who indwells us;
and He is holy, so we’re going to walk in holiness.

May God make this a reality in our lives. If it is a
reality in our lives as a congregation, there is no estimating the impact of
witness that that could have upon our community. May God make it so.

Let’s pray.

Our Lord God, these are glorious words, but
they’re very easy to say, very easy to talk about…even at a certain level very
easy to desire, but they’re very difficult to actually do, to embrace. So, by
Your Spirit help us not just be a congregation that admires and talks about
these things, but a congregation who lives them out for Your glory and our good.
We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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