Skip to comments.The Rise of a Counterfeit Christianity
Posted on 04/11/2013 11:16:18 PM PDT by DouglasKC
"Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name . . . and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5).
Jesus Christ told His apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in His name. Most people who are familiar with the Bible realize that those apostles zealously embarked on that mission. Their converts were first called Christians in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:26).
Over the centuries, vast numbers of people were born or converted into what eventually became the hundreds of denominations known collectively as "Christianity"to the point that it became and still remains one of the world's most popular and dominant religions.
The Rise of a Counterfeit Christianity
Christ gave an ominous warningthat many would come in His name, teaching a different message that would deceive many. They would create a counterfeit of true Christianity, starting a religion that would largely supplant the true Church.
"Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name . . . and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5).
Jesus Christ told His apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in His name. Most people who are familiar with the Bible realize that those apostles zealously embarked on that mission. Their converts were first called Christians in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:26). Over the centuries, vast numbers of people were born or converted into what eventually became the hundreds of denominations known collectively as "Christianity"to the point that it became and still remains one of the world's most popular and dominant religions.
People assume that all, or at least almost all, who bear the name Christian follow the beliefs, teachings and practices of Jesus Christ. But the Bible tells us that not everyone who accepts the name of Christ is really a Christian!
Jesus foretold that some would claim His name but deny Him by their actions. He said they would "call Me 'Lord, Lord,'" but "not do the things which I say" (Luke 6:46).
Christ and His apostles spoke of false prophets, false apostles and false brethren. They revealed that two opposing religions would emerge, both claiming to be Christian. Onethe actual Church Jesus foundedwould be led by God's Spirit and remain faithful to His teachings. The otherguided and influenced by a different spiritwould accept the name of Christ but twist His teachings to create a convincing counterfeit of the true Church of God.
Both would use Christ's name and claim His authority. Both would perform works that would outwardly appear good and right. Both would claim to be following Christ's true teachings. But only one would faithfully represent its founder, Jesus Christ. The other would capture the minds and hearts of humanity by attaching the name of Christ to biblically insupportable religious customs and doctrines that Jesus and His apostles neither practiced nor approved.
The apostles repeatedly warned Jesus' followers to beware of false teachers who would introduce counterfeit-Christian beliefs. Jesus Himself warned: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name...and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5).
The New Testament presents a concise historical sketch of the roots of these two religions that profess to be Christianone real, one counterfeit. Christ's apostles described the origin of each and their fundamental characteristics. We have already examined the apostles' description of the Church Jesus founded. Now let's look at the record they left us of another supposedly Christian religionone that distorted and corrupted the truth and grew to become far more powerful and influential than the small Church Jesus promised would never die out.
Teaching the traditions of men
Where do most churches get their teachings and practices? Most of their members assume they come from the Bible or from Jesus Christ Himself. But do they? Jesus commanded His apostles to teach others exactly what He had taught"teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20 , NIV). He condemned the replacing of God's commandments with traditions and human reason. Speaking to the Pharisees, Jewish religious leaders of His day, He said: "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men...All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition" (Mark 7:8-9).
Jesus taught that His Church should keep the commandments of God: "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). He warned: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied [preached] in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:22-23). He knew that false teachers would arise who would reject the commandments of God for a distorted gospel of no lawlawlessness!
Like Jesus, the apostles consistently taught obedience to God. Peter and the other apostles risked their lives to make it clear that "we ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Paul expressed the same commitment he shared with the other apostlesof a life of obedience. "Through him [Christ] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith" (Romans 1:5 , NIV).
Paul later cautioned members of the congregation in Colosse to hold fast to what he had taught them: "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught" (Colossians 2:6-7).
Following Christ's example, Paul warned the Colossians not to accept traditions as replacements for the commandments of God: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8 compare Mark 7:8-9, 13).
Why did Jesus Christ and the apostles sound such urgent warnings to avoid the traditions of men?
Subversion from within the Church
As the apostles strove to establish still more congregations of believers among the nations, a phenomenon arose that eventually produced an alternate and outwardly Christian religionbut one quite different from the Church Jesus and His apostles established.
New and different doctrines were subtly introduced. Some began subverting the Church by challenging and contradicting the teachings of Christ's apostles. Paul warned, "For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain" (Titus 1:10-11).
To counter this trend, Paul instructed fellow elder Titus to carefully consider the background, knowledge and character of anyone being considered for ordination: "Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless... He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (verses 7, 9, NIV).
Increasingly, "false apostles" began contradicting and undermining the teachings of the true apostles of Christ. Paul cautioned the church in Rome: "I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good and guileless in what is evil" (Romans 16:17-19, NRSV).
Competing religious leaders, masquerading as ministers of Christ, began teaching their own false doctrines "in opposition to" Christ's apostles and other of his faithful servants. At first they came predominantly from a Jewish background. But then false teachers emerged from people of other backgrounds within the Church. The subversive doctrines that eventually grew to be the most influential were a blend of pagan and misguided Jewish philosophies synthesized with the mysticism popular at that time.
Simon the Sorcerer was one such false teacher mentioned early in the Scriptures. After his baptism by Philip, Simon attempted to buy the office of apostle from Peter, hoping to obtain the power to grant others the Holy Spirit. Motivated by greed for power and influence, he faked conversion and managed to receive baptism to appear Christian (Acts 8:9-23). Later historical sources indicate that he blended various elements of paganism and mysticism into a counterfeit Christian philosophy.
A dangerous trend was established. Soon "false apostles," "false teachers" and "false brethren" abounded.
A counterfeit Christianity was born. And it would grow. In saying his farewell to the elders of the church of Ephesus, Paul stated: "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:29-31).
A different gospel gains ground
The impact of distorted teachings devastated the early Church. For example, Christians in the Roman province of Galatia turned en masse from the teachings of the apostle Paul and to a corrupted, cunningly devised but counterfeit gospel promoted by these false apostles.
Paul described the approach they used and the effect the false teachers had on Christians in Galatia: "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-7).
The brethren in that area were being swept into one of the many sects making up the emerging false Christianity. Paul had to contend with religious strife generated by Jewish and gentile elements in the Galatian congregations.
These cunning pretenders did not reject outright the gospel Paul taught. They simply perverted aspects of it. Then they seduced the Galatian Christians into accepting their gospela deadly mixture of truth and error. It contained enough truth to appear righteous and Christian, but it contained sufficient error to prevent any who would accept it from receiving salvation.
Notice Paul's blistering condemnation of that "different" gospel: "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (verses 8-9).
A gospel of no law
Jesus warned His apostles this would happen: "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:11-12). Jesus explained that lawlessness, the key element in the message of the false teachers, would make their ideas appealing and popular. Disregard for God's law would finally become the foundation of a popular and successful counterfeit Christianity.
The false prophets devised their message and doctrines by verbally acknowledging Jesus as "Lord" while refusing to obey Him (Luke 6:46). Jesus Himself warned of their deceitful, cunning approach: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).
Jesus made it clear that teachers of lawlessness, who outwardly appear as innocent sheep performing devoutly religious acts, are not His apostles or servants: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (verses 22-23).
God's law: the religious battleground
Controversy over God's law erupted within the Church as soon as the first gentiles were converted. Certain Jewish believers wanted to force circumcision and other physical requirements on the gentiles. They demanded that gentile converts be physically circumcised to receive salvation (Acts 15:1).
In a major conference in Jerusalem, the apostles and elders determined that physical circumcision should not be regarded as a requirement for the gentiles' salvation (Acts 15:2, 5-10). Peter noted that God had recently given the Holy Spirit to several gentiles without their being circumcised, demonstrating His will in the matter (verse 8; Acts 11:1-4, 15-18).
The same Jews also demanded that gentiles observe the temple ceremonies and rituals, which pointed to greater spiritual realities such as the sacrifice of Christ. The apostles insisted that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient for the forgiveness of sins through the grace of God (Hebrews 7:26-27).
The temple sacrifices and rituals were only temporary institutions until the sacrifice of the real "Lamb of God" (John 1:29) and His work in the lives of believers. The apostles taught that they were no longer required (Acts 15:11 ; Hebrews 9:1-15) because they were "concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation" (Hebrews 9:10).
But the apostles never regarded God's spiritual laws, summarized by the Ten Commandments, as being in the same category with "fleshly ordinances." They always supported obedience to God's commandments. Paul made this clear: "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters" (1 Corinthians 7:19). He concluded: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law" (Romans 3:31).
Distorted view of God's grace
Just as Jesus had foretold, unscrupulous teachers pounced on the teachings of Paul and the other apostles and twisted their meaning (2 Peter 3:15-16). By distorting the apostles' words, first about grace and then about those "fleshly ordinances" that are no longer necessary, they discovered a way to excuse their unlawful behavior: "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness [shameful behavior] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).
To them, grace excused sinthe breaking of God's lawby allowing them to disregard scriptural teachings they did not like. They twisted Paul's explanation that we cannot earn salvation with our own "works" into an excuse for making no effort to obey God.
Peter pinpointed their real problem. They "despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries" (2 Peter 2:10). A dominant characteristic of these deceivers was their eagerness to verbally attack and undermine the apostles and elders who were the true shepherds of God's flock.
As a consequence, said Peter, "they have forsaken the right way and gone astray...For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption" (verses 15, 18-19).
Now a problem even more sinister developed among the scattered congregations of God's people. False teachers, instead of trying to impose more law on gentiles, began exploiting God's mercythe grace of Godto advocate the idea that Christians have been liberated from the law and no longer need to obey it. However, God says transgressing His law is sin (1 John 3:4).
These teachers misrepresented God's law as an unnecessary burden. John responded: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
Contrary to the idea of being liberated from law, James calls God's commandments a "royal law" and the "law of liberty" (James 2:8-12). God designed His law to guarantee freedom from the consequences of such evils as adultery, murder, theft, fraud and covetousness.
It is sin, not God's law, that enslaves us (Romans 6:6). We become free from the enslavement to sin by obeying God (verse 17). Paul explains that obedience and righteousness are inseparable. "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous" (Romans 2:13, NIV).
To better understand the truth about law and grace, send for or download our free book The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God's Law?
Satan the devil: master deceiver
Scripture reveals that those who promoted these lawless principles were influenced by an unseen spiritual power, Satan the devil. Paul said: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Satan hates God's law. He is a master deceiver. Naturally, he will spare no effort to infiltrate the Church Christ founded.
To accomplish his purpose, Satan uses people to mislead other people. It is easy for him to influence human beings who desire to teach others when they are motivated by personal ambition. This is especially true if they lack a proper understanding of the Scriptures. Satan simply takes advantage of their desire to be spiritual teachers. He seduces susceptible individuals to pay lip service to Christ while creating their own new sets of beliefs and ignoring or disobeying portions of God's laws.
Paul told Timothy to "charge some that they teach no other doctrine" and have a "pure heart," "good conscience" and "sincere faith...from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm" (1 Timothy 1:3, 6-7).
Sincere but misguided religious leaders can and do accept doctrines that in their mind permit them to break some of God's commandments. Then they persuade others to believe as they do. Sadly, through the devil's influence, they convince themselves that their misguided concepts are righteousthat God is pleased with them. They believe the false doctrines they teach. Although sincere, they are sincerely mistaken.
Paul says, "The coming of the lawless one [a future teacher who will advocate doctrines contrary to God's laws] is according to the working of Satan...with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie" (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11). Probably none of the misguided teachers perceives he is in reality advocating Satan's point of view.
However, by creating a counterfeit Christian religionone that is not entirely different from the true Church but rejects some of the essential biblical teachings that lead to eternal lifeSatan is attempting to thwart God's plan for the salvation of mankind. Remember, Jesus says, "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). That is exactly what the devil wants to prevent. He promotes a lawless Christianity that teaches we can selectively obeyor even ignoreGod's commandments.
Lawlessness in varying degrees is the centerpiece of Satan's counterfeit doctrines. His purpose is to convince people that they are serving Christ while cutting them off from salvation by clouding their understanding of what sin is so they will continue in sinso they will practice at least some degree of lawlessness.
To accomplish his purpose, Satan exploits human nature. He sways people to believe his deceptions (1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9). Satan retains just enough truth in his doctrines to persuade people they are following Christ. But he introduces sufficient error to prevent them from living the way that God requires as a condition for inheriting eternal life.
Why disobedience appeals to human nature
Satan is successful in deceiving humanity for good reason. The apostle Paul explains that the natural mind of manthe mind that is not guided by God's Spiritcannot always see the purpose behind God's laws. "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Most people are not overtly hostile toward many of God's laws. They usually recognize that deeds such as murder and theft are wrong. However, they are hostileperhaps without recognizing their ingrained hostilitytoward laws that challenge their own personal, natural way of thinking. In that sense lawlessness appeals to people.
Paul explains why disobedience can appeal to our baser instincts: "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). The carnal, or fleshly, mind not only lacks spiritual discernment, it resents God's authority as expressed in His laws. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this verse: "The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so."
We call this sinful tendency human nature a combination of human weakness and acquired attitudes resulting from Satan's influence on people. Satan exploits human nature. He uses his false teachers to convince other people that they are "liberated" from the laws of God, thus excusing their tendency to be hostile toward God's laws. So, rather than abandoning a life of lawlessness, those led astray by this deception continue in sin. Thinking their disobedient actions are permissible to God, they fail to recognize, at least in some of their beliefs and behavior, the seriousness of their sinful actions.
But the apostle James makes it clear that this approach and attitude to God's royal law are entirely wrong: "For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10 ). The context shows that James is speaking of the Ten Commandments (verses 8-9, 11). God's fundamental law is made up of 10 points, and He requires us to observe them allin letter and spirit.
A falling away from truth begins
Christ praised the church in Ephesus for refusing to follow false apostles who tried to take advantage of their human nature and seduce them: "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:2).
But not everyone in every congregation followed the example of the church in Ephesus. Many accepted the teachings of the false apostles and reverted to sinning. That is why Peter wrote: "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them" (2 Peter 2:20-21).
People began turning away from the teachings of Christ's true apostles. They accepted the philosophies of false teachers. Peter had explicitly warned that this would occur. He said false teachers would arise "among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed" (2 Peter 2:1-2).
Peter anticipated that not just a fewbut many Christians would turn aside from the truth to follow doctrines that were more appealing to the carnal mind. Later John confirms that this is indeed what happened: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us" (1 John 2:19).
Barnabas and Paul encountered a false prophet determined to turn people away from the truth. "Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus...But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith" (Acts 13:6-8).
On other occasions the problem lay with false brethren (Galatians 2:4). Paul referred to his trials "in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren" (2 Corinthians 11:26).
These false Christians had not become a genuine threat just to Paul's safety and effectiveness, but they had also become a significant part of the visible Christian community. Some may have finally gone out from God's special people but continued calling themselves Christian. Others became members of new and supposedly liberated sects that retained the name Christian. Still others probably remained in the fellowship of true believers and over time subverted congregations to their own heretical teachings.
A false Christianity was beginning to take a firm hold.
True Christians forced out of congregations
As the teachings of false ministers gained in popularity, their followers gradually grew to be the majority in some congregations. The apostle John records one such tragic example: "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church" (3 John 9-10).
Incredible as it sounds, those who were faithful to the teaching of the apostles were expelled from this congregation! They had become the minority. The majority had chosen to follow Diotrephes, who, in his own lust for power and influence, falsely accused the apostle John. Satan had succeeded in placing his minister over this congregation, expelling the faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
Remember, Jesus had already warned His true servants that this would happen: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:13-15).
He also said, as earlier quoted: "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men" (Mark 7:6-8, NIV).
Now we can understand why Paul explained to Christians in Rome the appropriate response to those who were stirring up division within the Church: "I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them" (Romans 16:17, NIV).
Counterfeit Christianity become dominant
By the end of the third century the true servants of God had become a distinct minority among those who called themselves Christians. The counterfeit Christianity had become the majority.
False teachers had successfully gained a far larger following than the faithful ministers of God. However, history shows the counterfeit sects were not united in their beliefs. Many factions existed among them.
Nevertheless, divided and unconverted as it was, this new brand of Christianity rapidly expanded its membership and became the visible Christian church. Claiming to offer salvation, but without the necessity of real repentance, it held just enough truth to appeal to the masses.
In spite of its faults, it appeared to offer a hope unequaled by any pagan religion at that time. None of the pagan religions offered a believable way for people to receive forgiveness of sins and obtain eternal life. This new religion seemed to offer just that. Little did its followers realize that its promises, without real repentance, were made in vain.
By the end of the third century this counterfeit Christianity was a squabbling, bitterly divided religion. But at the beginning of the fourth century two things happened that abruptly altered the course of Christian history. First, the Roman emperor Diocletian intensified the policy of many previous Roman emperors of persecuting Christians and ordered that all Christian manuscripts be burned. This dramatically renewed a climate of fear throughout the Christian community.
Ten years later another emperor, Constantine, came to power. He had defeated another powerful contender for the right to replace Diocletian as emperor, but he still had many enemies, and his political position remained insecure. In all the empire, only Christians were unaligned politically. Constantine immediately saw an opportunity to use this formerly persecuted and politically alienated religious body to strengthen his hold on the empire.
First he legalized Christianity. Then, only two years later, he called all the divided professing Christian groups together to hammer out a unified system of belief. He wanted a united religious body that was politically committed to him.
To achieve this, Constantine presided over doctrinal deliberations and dictated statements of belief whenever disagreements could not be resolved amicably. He soon successfully molded the bickering groups of counterfeit Christians who were willing to accept state control into a strong and unified vassal of the Roman Empire.
Williston Walker, former professor of ecclesiastical history at Yale University, tells us that, in the year 323, "Constantine was at last the sole ruler of the Roman world. The church was everywhere free from persecution . . . But, in winning its freedom from its enemies, it had come largely under the control of the occupant of the Roman imperial throne. A fateful union with the state had begun" ( A History of the Christian Church, 1946, p. 111).
A religion transformed through syncretism
As this new religionnow supported by the Roman emperorsgrew in power and influence, it sought to become a truly universal church. In its ambition to add more members, many new convertsand many new practiceswere welcomed into its fold.
Charles Guignebert, professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Paris, described the process: "Now at the beginning of the fifth century, the ignorant and the semi-Christians thronged into the Church in numbers... They had forgotten none of their pagan customs . . . The bishops of that period had to content themselves with redressing, as best they could, and in experimental fashion, the shocking malformations of the Christian faith which they perceived around them...
"[Properly instructing converts] was out of the question; they had to be content with teaching them no more than the symbol of baptism and then baptizing them en masse, postponing until a later date the task of eradicating their superstitions, which they preserved intact ...This 'later date' never arrived, and the Church adapted to herself, as well as she could, them and their customs and beliefs. On their side, they were content to dress up their paganism in a Christian cloak" ( The Early History of Christianity, 1927, pp. 208-210).
What was the result? This state-dominated Christianity became a bizarre synthesis of beliefs, practices and customs from many sources.
As Professor Guignebert explained, "It is sometimes very difficult to tell exactly from which pagan rite a particular Christian rite is derived, but it remains certain that the spirit of pagan ritualism became impressed upon Christianity, to such an extent that at last the whole of it might be found distributed through its ceremonies" (p. 121).
In those early centuries the counterfeit Christianity that the apostles of Jesus Christ had fought so hard to contain grew in size and popularity. In later centuries this religion would fragment repeatedly into competing denominations. Tragically, however, none completely returned to the original practices and teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. This fact is recognized by many modern biblical scholars.
Meanwhile, those who through these many centuries have faithfully continued to yield their lives to God in sincere obedience to His laws are still, comparatively speaking, only a "little flock" in a confused world.
Is Counterfeit Christianity anything like Counterfeit Judaism or Counterfeit Islam or even Counterfeit Atheism.?.
Speaking of counterfeits ...
I would recommend everyone read this link by CARM before getting too involved with this thread. You may even want to look up the UCG’s website.
Evidently, they teach that God the Son and God the Father are two separate gods, who are “one God” by being in the “Family of God.” Human beings can partake of divinity by joining the “family of God,” thus becoming God by their definition.
They claim the Holy Spirit is not a Person, but is a force. And this force they possess, which they only possess, because of their keeping the dietary, festival and other Old Testament ordinances. In order to even receive the Holy Spirit, you must have someone from the UCG lay hands and pray over you. Thus, no Christian has the Holy Spirit, since He is in the sole possession of the true church of God on Earth (the UCG).
They also claim there is salvation after death, and deny the eternal torment of the damned.
I’m sure it gets worse, but that’s just a quick overview.
Began with the curse of the Reformation and spread like wildfire with several thousands of Christian sects and preachers from Rev. Jeremiah Wright to David Koresh to Benny Hinn, and right down to your local neighborhood foursquare church pastor.
“Began with the curse of the Reformation”
Began with the curse of Rome, with Popes who sleep with other men’s wives and get killed on the spot for it.
Founded in 1995.
I’ll stick with the Church founded in 33, by Jesus.
“Began with the curse of Rome, with Popes who sleep with other mens wives and get killed on the spot for it.”
And the murder of men like William Tyndale.
Lordy, Lordy, Doug.
Wasn’t the last one enough?
I must defend the author who you call a liar. Pretty strong accusations not coming from you actually, but from the religious spirit that speaks through you. Just one, and only one Truth that was twisted and perverted at Nicea and that was the 4th Commandment. I have proved you wrong and publically rebuke you for calling a man a liar, when he is not. Please do not respond to me as I refuse to deal with a religious spirit. I pray you come to the Truth.
Amen...! The rest are apostates...!
But was it just a few weeds growing in the field with the greater crop of wheat? No, as Jesus said the majority was on the wide road to destruction with only a few finding the narrow path to salvation.
The poisonous weeds are being exposed.
Thank you for that.
Reread point #3 in the document you cited.
It directly contradicts the idea that Constantine unilaterally decided anything at the Council of Nicea.
In fact he had no say in deciding any religious issue for Christians beyond asking for the convened Bishops of the whole Christian Church to proclaim what is correct.
IAccording to the second author you cite, historian Eusubius, The Emperor had no vote on any issue before the council of Bishops, and was present as an observer.
I take it you are not a fan of the 1st Amendment.. You know the one that forbids this Government to establish an official religion.. Reformation was a good thing..
WHO STARTED YOUR CHURCH?
There are more than 30000 different Christian churches teaching different doctrines.
How did they split into so many?
Starting about 400 years ago:
If you are Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.
The Anabaptist religion splintered from the Lutherans in 1520, founded by Nicholas Storch and Thomas Munzer.
The Menonite Church is an offshoot of the Anabaptist Church founded in 1525 and takes its name from Menno Simons, a former Catholic priest.
The Angelicans belong to the Church of England and your religion was founded by King Henry the VIII in the year 1534, because the Pope wouldnt grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.
If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Sctland in 1560.
Protestant Episcopalian? Your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England and founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.
If you are a Baptist, John Smyth began it in 1605 in Amsterdam.
The Congregationalist religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.
Quakers began their religion in 1647 by George Fox in England.
If you are Amish, your Church was founded by Jacob Anman in 1693.
If you are Methodist, you religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.
Unitarian religion founded in 1774 by Theophilus Lindley in London.
If you are Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, N.Y. in 1829.
If you are Dutch Reformed church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder. Originated in 1828.
If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect was began by William Booth in London in 1865.
If you are a Christian Scientist, 1879 was started by Mary Baker Eddy.
If you are a member of the Assemblies of God, your religion was founded by Charles Parham in Topeka Kansas in 1901.
If you belong to the Church of the Nazarene, your religion was started in 1908.
If you are a Jehovas Witness, your religion was started by Charles Taze Russell in 1931.
If you are a Catholic , you belong to the Church that was founded around the year 33 by Jesus Christ the Son of God. Jesus appointed the first Pope (Mathew 16:19) and as Catholics we can trace our apostolic lineage from Pope Peter to Pope Francis.
For 1500 years Christians were united in one Church. The splintering that has taken place since the Catholic Church began has been a failed experiment. Pray for Christian Unity.
This is some what paraphrased form a Mathew Kelly article that was emailed and I could not get it to post.
I still see many who take Jesus Old Covenant preachings (we were under the Old Covenant until He arose) as requirements to get to Heaven under the New Covenant. Many ascribe to the words that we must keep the Commandments or be banished to hell. If we could keep the Commandments, He would not have had to be sacrificed for us - those who think they are really keeping all the Commandments are like the Pharisees of the day and delusional. Satan has a foothold in the religions and churches and it is up to members of those religions/churches to point it out when they see it and to question it if they suspect it - daunting tasks given the human condition. My non-denominational preacher ensures that every service is used to declare Jesus as Lord and Savior and as Ordained Ruler of all. He tells us that if ever confronted by any seemingly miraculous people we should require that they declare the same before we give them the time of day. If all churches practiced the same (I hope many here belong to churches that do) consistency and purpose of message, Evil would not be growing like kudzu among us.
Second question. How can Jesus and the Father be "two members of the God family" when the holiest prayer of the Jewish people is, "Hear, O Israel, the L-rd your G-d, the L-rd is ONE"?
On the same side as the WCOG, hmm, GPH? Cults like the JWs, the Mormons, and the WCOG just take Protestantism to its logical conclusion, IMO. Either Christ was so incompetent that his church fell into utter desuetude and had to be rediscovered or “reformed” through the ministrations of ... (wait for it) ... *puny humans*, or He — as the Scriptures note — “did all things well,” including preserving his Church from apostasy, error, and disunity ... forever.
Yeah, it's much easier to shoot the messenger than have to deal with the content..... :-)
Well since I made so many friends on the last thread I figured I'd go all in with this chapter.... :-)
Thanks...I will check it out...
Hi Campion...I'll try to answer as best I can..
Where in the Bible does it say that Romans or Revelation or 1 Timothy are part of Scripture?
It doesn't explictily. But it doesn't say that any of the other books, old or new testament, are part of scripture either. If your question is "how" was the new testament canon decided upon then scripture seems to indicate that God was guiding it even during biblical times. For example:
2Pe 3:15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvationas also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
2Pe 3:16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
Peter ranks the writings of Paul with the "rest of the scriptures" which seems to indicate that they had already gained a preeminence among Christians.
How do you respond to someone who rejects the entire NT and says that only Tanakh is Scripture.
Usually I wouldn't. :-)
They haven't come to the point yet where they believe Jesus Christ is the prophesied messiah and Lord. That's a revelation that needs to be given by God and the difference between our positions is too vast to ever hope to be fruitful.
Thanks and take care...
Thanks, but I only posted someone else's article.. :-(
Thats a well done article and spot on. Probably the best analysis Ive seen.
It’s not shooting the messenger. It more like finding out who actually sent the messenger. You don’t really want to sneak up on people, I assume, so you should have no problem with us getting some info on ucog.
BTW, ladyL, I owe you a conversation and have not delivered. I apologize. I have been drowning in work, family, and Second Amendment activity. I honestly don’t know where some FReepers get the time for these huge, endless debates. Retirees? Independently wealthy? Dunno. Anyway, if you’re still interested, we could discuss it a little more on some new thread. But I’ll be honest and say I don’t know where I will get the time for a fair, well researched conversation. Anyway, my bad, and your call. Lemme know.
Thanks for posting. All true.
This anti-semitism resulted from a series of Jewish revolts against the Roman empire.
"So first, it was desirable to change the situation so that we have nothing in common with that nation of father-killers who slew their Lord."
The link provided was not to UCG. It's like getting information about Protestants from a Catholic website. These links are fairer:
You know what? . . . One of these days somebody's gonna get it right! [/sarcasm]
Thanks for the links. I will check them out.
But understand, I’m an attorney by training. I believe in the adversarial method of getting at the truth. I am as interested in what your enemies say as much as what you say about yourself. To rely only upon favorable sources would be like taking Baghdad Bob at his word without checking other sources. It’s even a biblical model. Remember that passage from Solomon, about you hear one side of the story and it all sounds true, then you hear the other side and they’re believable too. I forget the reference.
Anyway, I’ve used carm a lot for quickly getting a general context, and they’ve never steered me wrong. If you think they are factually incorrect, make your case. I’ll listen to almost anything once. But I won’t waste precious time going in endless circles. I’m not rich, can’t get away with that. :)
That’s a non sequitur. I wasn’t talking about government establishment of religion but rather the flood of heretical sects and sects within sects (think Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Jesse Jackson, Rev. Schuller, Tammy Faye Baker, and all these religious hucksters) caused by the Reformation.
They're steering you wrong. :-)
From the website:
The United Church of God is a non-Christian cult that denies the Trinity, the true divinity of Christ, and requires both baptism and obedience to the commandments to be saved. It teaches that there is a "God family" of which we can become members through keeping the Law.
The United Church of God is a non-Christian cult
They start off with a lie (non-Christian) and a pejorative use of "cult". If they wanted to be honest they could have said "non-traditional" or "unorthodox" Christian.
that denies the Trinity, the true divinity of Christ,
UCG doesn't embrace the trinity doctrine because the trinity doctrine is not biblical...it's an evolved doctrine that didn't become an offical part of church teaching until 3 centuries after the death of Christ. The second part implies that UCG denies the true divinity of Christ. This is either a deliberate lie or an error of massive proportion. UCG believes completely and fully in the true divinity of Christ.
and requires both baptism and obedience to the commandments to be saved.
A lie or half truth at best. The only thing "required" to be saved is the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift but obedience is expected in return.
Heb 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
Heb 5:9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
It teaches that there is a "God family" of which we can become members through keeping the Law.
Again, a deliberate lie or outright misrepresentation. We are children of God...God family is a way of describing our relationship with our father in heaven. We don't become children by "keeping the law". We become children through the grace of God through Christ...but again obedience to the Lord is expected of his people.
In short, this analysis seems to take the position of the counterfeit church described in the article. The main thrust of this false church is that the law of God is somehow "bad" and to be avoided and that obedience to the Lord is something that Christians shouldn't practice.
Thanks for giving me the chance to set the record straight. Clearly it's hard to sum up doctrine in a few words so I recommend you peruse the links provided earlier.
>> “Jesus spoke Aramaic and possibly a similar sounding word for passover.” <<
Yeshua spoke Hebrew only, and never went anywhere they spoke anything else. That was the language of Judea, Edom, and Samaria.
The Aramaic immigrants that moved into samaria were given unconditional orders to learn the language and customs of “the gods of the land” and they did so.
>> “Does the Author disagree with the Nicean creed decided by a majority of Christian Bishops at the time?” <<
The Nicean nonsense is counterfeit Christianity!
Torah is what Yeshua taught! Not one jot or tittle of Torah is to cease until all shall be accomplished.
That doesn't purport with the facts. The Galilee was a border region adjacent to Greek and other pagan nations and cultures. As a basis for common commerce even within in the towns and villages on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The working class, fishermen, carpenters, and tradesmen would certainly have had a working knowledge of Aramaic, Greek and Latin in addition to a ceremonial knowledge of Hebrew.
You have to also consider that Jesus spent a significant portion of his childhood (maybe as much as 10 years) in Egypt where Greek was the language of the Jews. Unless you are claiming that Jesus was incapable of learning languages other than Hebrew another answer is warranted to support your claim. I would certainly like to hear it.
Peace be with you.
the Democrats use Wallis as a counterfit in order to triangulate.
Yes, we were having a good conversation that has been interrupted. Unfortunately, with old age comes a poor memory, so I don't remember where we left off or what we talked about. I do remember you are very thorough and very polite.
When you get some free time I would like to start a public conversation with you concerning the question of What is the Gospel Jesus/Yahshua preached for 3 1/2 years? I think it would be very provocative and fits right in with this thread on the counterfeit Christianity perpetuated by the Greco Roman church.
“They start off with a lie (non-Christian) and a pejorative use of “cult”. If they wanted to be honest they could have said “non-traditional” or “unorthodox” Christian.”
That would be an even worse lie, since it paints a religious cult as being, somehow, valid. You are not “non-traditional,” and the phrase “unorthodox Christian” is wrong, insomuch that the UCG is not Christian. We might as well say the Baha’i are Christian, or Christian Scientists are Christian, or the source cult of your own sect as “Christian,” but no Christian is going to agree with this once we establish the details of your theology.
According to Paul, anyone preaching a different Gospel is accursed:
Gal 1:6-9 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: (7) Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. (8) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (9) As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
This does not refer to minor issues, such as dietary rules (which you follow) or holy days (which you follow).:
Rom 14:1-7 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. (2) For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. (3) Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. (4) Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. (5) One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. (6) He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. (7) For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
(The fact that you put so much emphasis on these matters is itself a warning sign of the nature of your religion.)
Paul’s warning, therefore, is on the matters of most importance, which he (and the Apostles) speaks on constantly throughout his espitles: The nature of salvation, and the nature of the God who saves.
On both of these issues, your religion proves itself to be utterly bankrupt. Let’s begin:
“UCG doesn’t embrace the trinity doctrine because the trinity doctrine is not biblical...it’s an evolved doctrine that didn’t become an offical part of church teaching until 3 centuries after the death of Christ.”
As has been previously discussed with you, the nature of God is clearly found in the scriptures.
That the Trinity is in the scripture, that cannot be questioned:
Mat_28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
2Co_13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.
Isa_48:16 Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.
That Jesus is literally God, there is no question of it:
Mat_1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
That the Father and Son are distinct, and yet one God, cannot be questioned:
Joh 8:17-18 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. (18) I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.
Joh_10:30 I and my Father are one.
God Speaking in the Old Testament:
Isa_41:4 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.
Isa_44:6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
Jesus Christ speaking in the new, calling Himself by the same name. Not two different gods who are made “one” by being in the same family, but One God:
Rev_1:17 ... Fear not; I am the first and the last:
Rev_22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Rev_1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
That the Holy Spirit is God, and not an inanimate force, cannot be questioned:
1Co_3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
Act_13:2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
Joh_14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
At the center of all of this is the fact that Christianity is monotheistic. We believe in only one God, as clearly taught in the scriptures. Is YOUR religion monotheistic? Let’s find out:
According to the papers on the UCG website, their war with the Trinity actually centers on their rejection of God being limited to “only one being” (11). According to the UCG, God is one in the sense of collective unity, when 2 different beings are one in a collective sense, as sharing common goals, but not one in substance:
“This idea of collective unity is clearly demonstrated in Genesis 2:23-24, And
Adam said: This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be
joined to his wife, and they shall become one [echad] flesh. Here two distinct individuals are
one flesh. This is not talking about one in number but one in collective unity, harmony, peace
and the sharing of common goals.” (10)
Thus, the idea of there being only one God, is changed to merely a devotion to but one God, but leaves the door open for many gods to exist, citing various scriptures to allege that they are “problematic if one concludes there
is only one being called God in the Old Testament” (14). And more:
“The purpose of Deuteronomy 6:4 is to show ancient Israel that their Elohim is the only
God and that all the pagan gods are to be rejected. Thus the purpose is not to explain the nature
of God but to show that He is unique and the only God to worship.” (11)
Due to the obvious problems of this theology, your religion uses the concept of the “God Family,” and the “collective unity,” in order to maintain the idea that they are yet “one” God, though there are actually two separate beings in the Godhead (the Holy Spirit is simply done away with, since His name does not fit the “Family” concept), as they say here: “God can be defined as a familyone God family, although currently consisting of two beings” (15).
The logic follows from hence, after they deny the idea of “adoption,” that we will partake of divinity and join with God in the God-Family, IOW, become “one” in the Godhead the same way their version of Jesus and the Father are one:
“Thus, the Godhead is not a closed Trinity, nor an absolute unity of only one God, but a dynamic family unity that allows for Spirit-born believers to become the very children of God.” (41)
Throughout those entire 40 something pages, not once were any of the scriptures addressed which refute their claims. What does the scripture really say of these ideas, in brief?
That there is only one God, not defined as a “family unit,” but having no other “God” beside Him:
Isa_44:8 ... Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.
This unity utterly precludes the possibility of there being “two” separate beings who are merely “united” in the sense of cooperation. There is only one God, united in substance, and yet not contradictory to when Isaiah writes the phrase “The Lord GOD, and His Spirit hath sent me.”
Neither can there be any other gods formed. There are no other gods joining the godhead, no “open” trinity. It is utterly closed. There is, and always will be, and always has been, just one God:
Isa_43:10 ... before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
None formed before, none formed after.
The UCG’s view, therefore, is a thinly veiled polytheism, very similar to the Mormon concept which argues that they themselves are monotheistic, because there is one Godhead, but that the Father literally had sex with a goddess wife and produced the Son. They make the same argument against “strict monotheism,” and veil it with the same concept of strict devotion to just one God, but not that there are not any other gods.
We can judge, therefore, that the theology of the UCG is utterly incompatible with the monotheism of the Bible and Christianity. It is not a Christian religion, but is actually a non-Christian religious cult, due to its drastically different theological beliefs, and its emphasis that they alone can “lay hands” on people to pass on the Holy Spirit, making them the “One true church of God” on Earth.
” Salvation is a free gift but obedience is expected in return.”
Typical equivocation that we can expect in such movements. They constantly use the same language, but redefine it, and equivocate when it is stated.
Either salvation is all of grace, or it is not. If grace, then works or the lack thereof can neither add nor take away from the work of God:
Rom_11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
The fruit (works) that follows from faith is also not from us, but the work of God who dwells within us. Therefore, it is God who receives the glory, and who wills for us to be conformed into the image of His Son. We, ourselves, receive nothing except what is given to us by God, according to His own purpose and grace before the foundation of the world, that we would be made holy, not because he foresaw that we would be holy or because we could be holy with our own power:
Rom_8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
2Ti_1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
Man, of himself, is simply unable to do good. He is, to the core, evil, and unwilling. Working on his own, his choice is to serve evil, and never to seek after God:
Rom 3:9-19 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; (10) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (11) There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (12) They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (13) Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: (14) Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: (15) Their feet are swift to shed blood: (16) Destruction and misery are in their ways: (17) And the way of peace have they not known: (18) There is no fear of God before their eyes. (19) Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Therefore, it is God who quickens us, and opens our eyes, and not ourselves who are “giving what is expected”:
1Co_12:3 ... and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
Thanks for that rather lengthy response. How’s things going today? Staying busy?
“Thanks for that rather lengthy response. Hows things going today? Staying busy?”
Staying busy educating infidels, though I should be doing my work. I enjoy educating, though.
Me too...we've put in some marathons the last couple of days!
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