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Acts 8:4-25 (2)

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Acts 8:4–25 ESV
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city. But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

Main Idea

The advance of the gospel will always face fierce satanic opposition, but advance it will.
14-17 divine authentication
18-24 - wicked opposition
Miraculous Transformation
Gospel Authentication
Satanic Opposition

Introduction

This week we are officially beginning a new phase in the story of Acts
We have already seen the transforming power of the gospel in Jerusalem:
At Pentecost - the Holy Spirit coming upon the 120, evidenced by signs and wonders
The transforming effect on their lives - had all things in common, sold everything
The transforming effect on their courage - Peter, who denied Christ 3 times, preaches and stands against the same Sanhedrin he once feared
The transforming effect on the whole city - thousands in Jerusalem have joined the church
In chapter 8 we see the next chapter in the story: the spread of the gospel and its transforming power in the surrounding regions of Samaria and Judea
One of the key features of Acts is that nothing that happens, happens by chance.
Rather, we see that the Lord Jesus is sovereignly at work in the world to bring about his sovereign will.
That is why this series is called “The Continuing Acts of Jesus” - Jesus has risen and he is ascended to heaven, but He is still very much at work in the world - even today...
…working all things according to his purposes.
He chose the 12th apostle -
says “they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen”
He heals the lame beggar -
Peter invokes the authority of Jesus name and tells the lame man to get up and walk
The Sanhedrin ask by what power the man was healed, and Peter says in that “by (Jesus) this man is standing before you well”
He is building the church -
Acts 3:47 “...the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Acts 3
Now we arrive in , and immediately we are reminded again of Jesus continuing work in the world...
Acts 2:47 ESV
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
…because in we see His instruction to the apostles to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria...
and in we see that Jesus takes the attempts of the enemy to stop the spread of their witness, and uses it to spread the gospel out of Jerusalem and into the surrounding regions of Judea and Samaria.
And this is a great comfort to the church, because there is plenty to feel negative about in the world today.
BUT, we know that the Lord is at work in the world, and that ultimately, His purposes will prevail - even in the midst of fierce opposition.
That is what today’s sermon is about -
The main thing I want you to leave with today is this:
The advance of the gospel will always face fierce satanic opposition, but advance it will.
Acts 1:24 ESV
And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen

1. Gospel Transformation

As we turn to our text, the first thing we see is the transforming power of the gospel.
Acts
Acts 8:4 ESV
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.
Verse 4 says that “those who were scattered went about preaching the word
Now 8:1 says that the church was scattered throughout the regions of Judea - except the apostles.
So the ones preaching the word as they went about were not the apostles, but ordinary Christians.
We need to be reminded that the call to be Jesus witnesses in the world and to proclaim the gospel wherever we go was not only for the apostles, or even for church leaders, deacons, elders, pastors and preachers… but to every Christian.

Philip

In verse 5, Luke focuses in on one particular Christian and his preaching in Samaria - a man named Philip.
This is the same Philip who was one of the men chosen to serve the widows in the church in chapter 6.
Here we see him taking on the role of evangelist - in fact, in he is referred to as Philip the evangelist - the only person in scripture to be given that title.
Clearly, although Philip was called to a specific role of serving in the church, he didn’t use that as an excuse to avoid proclaiming the gospel or witnessing about Jesus.

Samaria

Now let’s turn our attention to the area in which Philip was preaching: he was preaching in the city of Samaria.
Now if you’ve read through the gospels, you know that there was always hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans.
The Jews regarded the Samaritans as unclean half-breeds.
Hundreds of years before this, pagan Assyrians relocated to and settled in the northern regions of Israel.
The Samaritans were the descendants of intermarriages between the Assyrians and the Jews of Northern Israel.
In racial terms then, the Jews regarded the Samaritans as unclean half breeds.
But they also had significant religious and theological differences.
The Samaritans retained some aspects of the Jewish faith, and they had some formal service to the God of Israel in their own temples.
But… they only accepted the 5 books of Moses and rejected the rest of the OT Scriptures, and they combined service to the Lord with devotion to pagan idols.
So their was a significant racial and religious divide between the Jews and the Samaritans.

Crossing the divide

Jesus was the first to cross this divide and reach out to the Samaritans to offer them salvation in His name.
He shocked the disciples by not only going into Samaria in , but actually holding a conversation with a Samarian woman at a well.
Now Philip is following in the footsteps of Jesus and standing in the city of Samaria and proclaiming Christ to them.
He is following in the footsteps of Jesus, who was the first to reach out to the people of Samaria.

Transformation

Now Philip is proclaiming this same Jesus to the city of Samaria,
And the transformation that the preaching of the gospel brought to this city was incredible.
Consider the state of the city:
They are enveloped in false religion and idolatry
Most likely as a result of that, many are demon possessed
They were captivated by the dark magic of a man named Simon - a magician who had made a name for himself in that city
The people of Samaria were deceived by him and his magic, and believed his own claims of being somebody great.
Luke says in verse 10 that they ALL paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying “This man is the power of God that is called Great”
Many are paralyzed and lame.
Now Philip comes into that dark environment and starts preaching the gospel
And with the preaching of the gospel:
demons are screaming and coming out of the people they were possessing and torturing
The paralyzed and lame are being healed
And all kinds of signs and miracles are being done
Signs so powerful that they far overshadow Simon’s magic...
And all this is causing the crowds to pay attention to Philip’s preaching about Jesus...
… and the crowds start to pay attention to Philip’s preaching about Jesus and the kingdom of God, and verse 12 says they believed and were baptized
Even Simon himself was amazed by the great miracles that are being performed - so much so that Luke says even he believed, and was baptized, and began following Philip
Simon and the people who were once thought him to be great,
Luke says in verse 12 that t
Verse 8 says that there was much joy in that city
That is what the preaching of the gospel does.
It brings light to the darkness and hope to the hopeless.
And now - again, with no big revival tents or big bands, just the clear preaching of the gospel - a city is being transformed.

TheGospel is Authenticated

Where the gospel is preached, people, communities and cities are transformed...
…because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation - to the Jew and to the Gentile.
At this point Luke introduces a character by the name of Simon
The Good News is not to be withheld from anybody - we are called to take it to everyone - even those we might hold serious prejudices against.
The Jews had a serious problem with evangelising the Gentiles - we see a classic example of that in Jonah...
...who got angry with God because He wanted him to go and bear witness about Him to the people of Ninevah.
Jewish Christians had reservations about witnessing to Samaritans - maybe that’s why Jesus caused persecution to arise against the Church to scatter them (maybe they wouldn’t have gone on their own?)
Even today, there are Christian scholars arguing about whether or not we should have interfaith dialogues with Muslims
Is there anybody who you are not witnessing to because of a prejudice that you are holding in your heart towards that person’s ethnicity, religious background or any other differences?
Are you harbouring doubt in your heart that the gospel really is the power of God for salvation, and can cross all divides to bring about transformation?
Is there somebody you think is beyond the reach of Jesus? Or doesn’t deserve to be saved by Jesus?
Do you think you deserve it?
Where the gospel is preached faithfully, the power of God to save and transform is revealed.
Here in Samaria, we see a miraculous transformation of the city through the preaching of the gospel, and the conversion of those who the Jews would have thought were beyond being saved.
We also then see a divine authentication of their conversion.

Divine Authentication

In verse 14, Luke says that when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people in Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them
Peter and John hurried down to Samaria to pray for these new Samaritan believers, “so that they might receive the Holy Spirit”....
… they sent Peter and John to them
… “because He had not fallen on them.”
They come, they lay hands on them, pray for them, and these newly converted and baptized Samaritan believers received the Holy Spirit.
Now this raises some questions.
Does this mean that when you believe and are baptized, you really are saved, but you only receive the Holy Spirit at some later time when another specially anointed Christian lays hands on you?
Or does this mean that
Or does this mean that you receive a part download of the Holy Spirit at conversion, but need a second spiritual experience to receive the full portion of the Holy Spirit?
Well that isn’t what Peter said in his first sermon, when he said to the Jews in ...
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
But apparently in this case, there were no manifestations, so that the apostles felt that they needed to go and lay hands on them and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit.
There’s nothing there about needing someone to lay hands on you, or any mention of a partial receiving on the Holy Spirit
Or what about , where Paul says:
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
Paul is clearly there saying that in the moment we believed, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit.
So then why does there appear to be a disconnect between what Peter and Paul say, and what we see happening here with these Samaritan believers?
Ephesians 1:13 ESV
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

They were Samaritans

Again, we need to be reminded at this point that much of Acts is narrative and is therefore descriptive, not prescriptive.
There’s no mention of someone laying hands on you the
It tells us what happened, and not necessarily what is normal.
Or d
in , the apostles chose the 12th apostle by casting lots
we don’t choose our elders by drawing straws
Acts 2:38 ESV
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Here we are told what happened - God waited until the apostles arrived and laid hands on the Samaritan believers, before giving them the Holy Spirit
But that is not normative and not how we are to expect it to be today.
Why?
Because this is a very particular and special event that is taking place.
This is the equivalent of the Samaritan version of Pentecost.
It is the first time that Samaritans are receiving the Holy Spirit - and God waited until the apostles could be there to witness it.
Why did God do that?
So that the apostles - who were ethnic Jews - could see that the Samaritans were receiving the SAME outpouring of the Holy Spirit that they received
So that they would recognize that in the Church, there is no distinction between Jew, Samaritan and Gentile and there are no second class Christians.
The reason God did that? So that all would be convinced that there truly is One Church, and that
So that they would know that the Holy Spirit brings people of all ethnicities, tribes, nations and tongues, and unites them in Christ so that they are one.
It had the desired effect.
In , Peter is preaching to the Gentiles and they too have a Pentecost experience - the Holy Spirit falls on Gentiles and they also begin speaking in other tongues...
… just like the apostles did in
And says that Peter was amazed because the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
Then in Peter is reporting back to the church in Jerusalem, and he says to the elders:
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
And verse 18 then says
Acts 11:15-
When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18 ESV
When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:15–18 ESV
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
So by waiting until the apostles arrived and could witness the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Samaritans...
Should Gentiles convert to Judaism first, and be circumcised before they can be recognized as true Christians?
… God demonstrated to the apostles that the Church was one people of all nations and all ethnicities...
Peter, probably remembering this experience in , says in verses 7-9:
Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
… and ensured that the Church would be united in diversity.
The conversion of the Samaritans and their adoption into the family of God together with those from Jewish backgrounds, was therefore authenticated.
I have been thinking a bit lately about the modern tendency to make distinctions in the Church...
… and it seems as if we have lost sight of the fact that all Christians are one in Christ and part of the same family.
More and more, churches are moving away from being a picture of the diverse nature of God’s kingdom.
Churches for metal heads
We will all say that the Church is one, and we are all one in Christ.
And yet we still have churches that are segregated by age, ethnicity, class, musical preferences, etc.
Churches Calvinists
We have:
childrens church.
Churches for Arminians
Churches for young adults.
Churches for older folk.
Black churches.
Indian churches.
White churches.
Poor churches.
Are we not united by one faith in the same Lord, having the same Spirit in us?
But what a beautiful picture we paint of the gospel when our churches reflect the diversity of God’s Church, being made up of people from all kinds of backgrounds...
The conversion of the Samaritans was authenticated by God by showing the apostles and Jewish Christians that He gave them the same outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Middle class churches.
So that they would know that they are one family in Christ.
it is like a stamp of authenticity
Upper class churches.
Churches for bikers.
And so, the gospel comes to Samaria, Samaritans are converted, and their conversion is authenticated by the
The gospel saves, transforms and unites.
Churches for hymn singers
Churches for rockers
Sometimes these distinctions are even seen in separate services held in the same church.
I wonder, what kind of gospel are we communicating by segregating the Church this way?
I don’t believe this is what the Lord intends for His Church.
The gospel saves, transforms and unites us in Christ.
The outpouring of the Spirit on the Samaritans in this way by God, by the laying on of hands by the apostles, was a stamp of authenticity on their conversion and their unity with the Jewish believers.
We glorify God when our churches reflect this unity in diversity.

Satanic Opposition

Acts 15:7–9 ESV
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
As I said to you in the beginning, the advance of the gospel will always face satanic opposition.
In ch 4 and ch 5, that opposition comes in the form of the arrest and corporal punishment of the apostles by the Jewish Sanhedrin
At the end of chapter 7 and beginning of chapter 8, that opposition comes in the form of the murder of Stephen and the ensuing persecution of the church.
It is a fierce satanic attack on the spread of the gospel and on the church from the outside.
But in spite of this fierce satanic attack, the gospel continues to advance, spreading even wider.
And so Satan changes tactics.
A false
He now tries to launch his most dangerous attack on the Church - and it is a tactic that he uses with the most success even today.
It is an attack from the inside, from a false convert and a false prophet
Acts 18

Simon

Acts 8:18 ESV
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,
“Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 8:18-
But this was no
Who is Simon?
As Luke has already pointed out, he was a magician - but not the kind that you bring to your childrens birthday parties
He was a practitioner of the dark arts,
a man who had held the attention and amazement of the Samaritans for a long time with his magic
So amazing were his miracles that Luke says in verse 10, the Samaritans called him “the power of God that is called great”
Most likely, the source of his magic was demonic
After all, Luke says there were many who, when they heard Philip preaching the gospel, had demons come out of them
You say “demons can’t perform miracles”
They sure can -
Pharoah’s magicians were able to turn staffs into snakes
Jesus warned in that “false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
warns that there are demonic spirits, performing signs
Can false prophets produce miracles and great signs and magic through demonic power - absolutely
Revelation 16:14 ESV
For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.
We don’t know for sure, but this Simon could very well be the same Simon that is written about in early church history from the 2nd century
A well known church father and native of Samaria - a man by the name of Justin Martyr, wrote in his apology to the emperor about a man named Simon Magus who lived in Samaria, performed magic and was considered a god.
This Simon became the founder of gnosticism and a source of much heresy that crept into the church
Matthew 24:24 ESV
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Whether this is the same Simon, we don’t know for sure, but it definitely sounds like the same guy
Now Simon, Luke says, when he saw the apostles laying hands on the believers and saw them receiving the Holy Spirit, - (saw - there must have been some physical manifestation that resembled the experience)...
… he offers the apostles money.
Acts 8:18–19 ESV
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Simon didn’t really know what was going on
He says to the apostles “give me this power also, so that I can also...”
Simon has a very wrong view of the Holy Spirit
He had apparently made a profession of faith of some kind, but it wasn’t a genuine faith in God based on truth
He was just drawn to the power that he saw
And he wanted to have that power
He didn’t see the Holy Spirit as the 3rd person of the Trinity, or as the Spirit of the Living God -
He didn’t see that the Spirit is given as a gift of God’s grace to every man and women who believes, as a seal and guarantee of their inheritance and their part in the family of God...
He saw the Spirit as a powerful force
A force that could be manipulated and bought with money
A force that if he could get his hands on, could make him a tidy profit, and restore him to the top dog status - make him legit a powerful man again
Simon earlier made a profession of faith and was even baptized based on his profession...
… but it is clear now that he made this profession and was following Philip with the wrong motive
He didn’t come to Jesus because he had understood that he was a sinner who deserved hell, and that Jesus was the One who could save him and give him eternal life -
- No! He wasn’t drawn by a desperation to be saved, he was drawn by the power of miracles
It wasn’t Jesus He wanted, but power
Signs and wonders are not a legitimate drawing card to draw people to Christ, and they are not the power of God unto salvation - The clear preaching of the gospel is
What is Peter’s response?
“May your silver perish with you”
Literally - to hell with you and your money
You have no part or share in the gospel
Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven
You are still in the bonds of sin
Do we see a repentance from Simon?
He replies: “you pray”
These were strong words - VERY strong words by Peter
Too strong, some in Christian circles would say
The Lord himself also rese
But Peter recognizes the danger of false doctrine and the devastating effect that it can have on the church
Especially false doctrine concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit himself
False doctrine can tear the church apart if it is not confronted
We are still seeing this kind of false view of the Holy Spirit today
He is not treated as the 3rd person of the Trinity but as a powerful force that can be manipulated and used to make people fall down
This is rampant in charismatic churches
There is even a charismatic evangelist who refers to himself as the Holy Spirit bartender, as if he has the ability to pour out this force on anyone who asks
He is treated as a force that others can be taught to wield
BSSM - $10,000
As a result of this false view of the Holy Spirit today, and the emphasis that is placed on signs and wonders and miracles...
… many churches today are filled with confessing Christians who are drawn more to being able to wield power to perform miracles than they are to Jesus
And so we have churches that are filled with false converts who think the gospel is the power of God to heal people and perform magic,
… people who are attacking the church from the inside with false teaching
… literally, people who preach a view of the Holy Spirit that makes him look like a humourous blue genie that you can summon
The Church is sick with the myriad of false beliefs and false doctrines that have been allowed to gain a foothold...
… because pastors, elders and leaders do not have the discernment or the courage to stand against these doctrinal errors and rid their churches of them.
And yet they are meant to protect the flock
Peter didn’t for a moment tolerate the threat of false doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit being allowed to infiltrate the church through a false convert
He knows that sound doctrine and right believing about the person of God is absolutely vital to the health of the church
Some say doctrine divides - no! False doctrine divides
There is no such thing as no doctrine - every Christian is a theologian
True doctrine unites.
The faithful preaching of the gospel and of true doctrine concerning God has at this point:
What you believe about God is important
brought miraculous transformation to the city of Jerusalem and now to Samaria
united people from both Jewish and Samaritan descent into a singular and united people in Jesus Christ
If we want a healthy and united church, then we mustn’t avoid doctrine - we must focus on studying and teaching sound doctrine
It unites us in Christ and protects us from the constant demonic attacks on the church by Satan
And if we
It may sound scary, but we take heart from the reality:
That the advance of the gospel will always face fierce satanic opposition, but advance it will.
and that is because Jesus is still at work in the world, and he is working all things according to His purpose.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us; The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
One of the reasons I love the old hymns is because they bring out truths like this with such clarity.
Like Luther’s famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God”...
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us; The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
And so the gospel advances until Jesus comes.
This passage ends in verse 25 the same way it starts in verse 4: with the preaching of the gospel in every village
This is our calling. Lets join them. Lets fulfill our calling and be a part of the advancement of the gospel...
Bookends with v25
Those who were scattered...
Acts 8:25 ESV
Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
Persecution and the scatter of the church out of Jerusalem serves God’s sovereign purpose
…went about preaching the word.
the Christians - not the apostles (they stayed in Jerusalem
every Christian is a missionary
as they went, they proclaimed
Acts 8:5 ESV
Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.
Philip...
One of the deacons named in
would later be known as the evangelist ()
…went down...
always go up to Jerusalem, go down to somewhere else
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