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SCRIPTURE REFERENCES » 1 Timothy 6:2-10

Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 6:2c-10, Godliness With Contentment Is Great Gain

Old Testament Reading: Ecclesiastes 5:10–20 

“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger. Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10–20, ESV)

Sermon Text: 1 Timothy 6:2c-10

“Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:2–10, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Truth Matters

Verse 2 of 1 Timothy 6 concludes with the words, “teach and urge these things.” I would like to begin the sermon today by considering these words. Paul’s command to Timothy was to “teach and urge these things.” 

I take this to refer to the preceding section wherein Paul gave instructions to Timothy concerning his ministry to young and old, male and female, widows, elders, and finally bondservants within the congregation. Now Paul exhorts Timothy to faithfully “teach and urge these things.” To “teach” is to instruct. To “urge” is to call others to obey what is taught. Of course, this was not all Timothy was to teach. Timothy, and all ministers of the gospel with him, must teach the whole counsel of God’s word. They are called to “preach the word”, to “be ready in season and out of season”, to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV). By now it should be clear that the central task of the minister is to teach God’s word and to urge the members of the congregation to obey it. This is the minister’s work. 

And have you ever wondered why the preaching and teaching of God’s word is such a central element of the work of the ministry? Why is the preaching and teaching of God’s word so crucial to the life of the church?

In brief, the answer is, because truth matters. It is through the truth of the gospel that men and women come to be saved from their sins. And it is through the truth of God’s word that men and women are sanctified — that is to say, changed so that they grow to be more like Christ. Truth matters. And so the truth of God’s word must be proclaimed if men and women are to be saved from their sins and grow up in holiness. This is the work of the pastor, to teach God’s truth and to urge men and women, young and old, to believe and obey it. 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a truth claim. To believe the truth of the gospel is to be saved. To reject the truth of the gospel is to remain condemned. Is this not what the most famous of all Bible verses teaches? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16–18, ESV). So, to be saved from condemnation one must believe upon Jesus the Christ. And if we are to believe upon him we must know the truth about God, Christ, and what it is that he came to save us from. Truth matters. The gospel must be proclaimed and taught if men and women are to be saved from their sins. 

And those who have believed upon Christ — those who have been saved from their sin and the condemnation that is due to them — grow in holiness as they grow in their knowledge of the truth. This is why the Scriptures speak to Christians saying, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV). Transformation — sanctification — comes through the renewal of the mind. 

Truth matters. It is by the truth that we are saved, and it is by the truth we are sanctified. As Christ has said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32, ESV). To live according to the truth is to walk in freedom, light, and life. But to live according to a lie is to live in bondage, darkness, and death. So many walk in darkness. They walk in darkness because they live according to a lie. They claim to be free, but they are bound. They appear to be alive, but they are dead. Not so for the people of God. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:8, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8–10, ESV).

Truth matters. And the truth must be proclaimed. 

But what is truth? That question has haunted men for a long time? And I can understand why men have been haunted by this question. It is hard to know for sure what the truth is when left to ourselves with only our emotions and reason to depend upon. But what do we say in response to the question, what is truth? We say God is truth! And more than this we say, God has revealed himself to us generally in the world that he has made, and much more clearly in his word. In other words, the God of truth has not left us alone to wander about in the darkness. No, God has spoken. The truth may be known, therefore. Now, this does not mean that the truth may be known exhaustively. There are many things that remain a mystery to us. But the truth of God may be known sufficiently as we encounter it in the world, and especially in God’s Holy Word. 

So why are ministers called to preach the word? Why are they called to “teach and urge these things”? Because truth matters. It is by the truth of the gospel that we are saved, and it is by the truth that our minds are renewed and our lives transformed. And for this reason Timothy (and every minister with him)  was to “devote [himself] to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”He was to “Practice these things, [and] immerse [himself]  in them, so that all [world] see [his] progress.” He was to “keep a close watch on [himself] and on the teaching.” He was to “persist in this, for by so doing [he would] save both [himself] and [his] hearers” (1 Timothy 4:13–16, ESV).

Brothers and sisters, the word of truth is our spiritual bread. It energizes our spiritual life. But if it is corrupted, then that which once brought life and nourishment brings only sickness and death. And this why we have heard Paul throughout this letter exhort Timothy to “teach and urge these things” within the Christian congregation. 

Application: 

There is obvious application here for elders. Elders must be faithful to uphold and guard the teaching ministry of the church. Pastors must be faithful to teach God’s word and to urge the congregation to obey it, because truth matters. 

 But what is the application for the congregation?

First of all, I wonder, are you aware of the power of the truth? Do you agree that when the truth is known and believed it is in fact transformational? Brothers and sisters, what we believe to be true determines the trajectory of our lives and impacts every decision that we make. I’m afraid we are often oblivious to this reality. Rarely are we even mindful of our deeply held beliefs and the way they affect our outlook on life, our priorities, our mood, the way we speak and act, and the way we spend our time and money. Everyone has beliefs and convictions that inform how they live. Some are more aware of these convictions than others. And some have thought them through more carefully than others. But all have beliefs and convictions. And here I am urging you to see that what you believe to be true concerning God and this world which he has made is powerful — it is very impactful. Truth matters. 

To illustrate I might ask you to think of the difference that believing, or not believing, in the existence of God makes in a person’s life. Use your imagination. Think of how differently you would live if you did not believe that God exists. Whether or not you believe in the existence of God will radically affect your view of the world, the meaning and purpose of your life, and the importance of the decisions you make, among other things. Friends, to believe the wrongs things means that your life is on the wrong path, but to believe what is true means that your life is on the right path. Please do not underestimate the power of the truth. In the truth there is freedom, light, and abundant life. But the way of falsehood is darkness and leads only to death. Do not underestimate the power of the truth. 

Secondly, to those who know the truth of God’s word I ask, are you eager for more of it? It should be clear to all that believing, or not believing, in the existence of God will have a significant impact upon the trajectory of your life. But what about other beliefs? What is the nature of God? What are his attributes? What are his plans and purposes? What is his relationship to the suffering we experience in this life? Is he in control of all things, or no? How can we stand before him right? What is his will for you? What is his will for the church? How does he change his people? On and on I could go. My purpose here is to move you to agree that truth matters. And having agreed that truth matters, I pray that you would desire more and more of it.  A man walking in total darkness would be grateful for just a little bit of light so that he could see the truth concerning his surroundings. But he would not be content with just a little light, would he? No, a little light would make him hungry for more! He would naturally desire more and more light until he is able to fully perceive the truth of the world around him. I pray this is true of you. But we know that some men love the darkness rather than the light. They love “the darkness rather than the light because their works [are] evil” (John 3:19, ESV). I pray that you all are lovers of light, and not darkness. “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8, ESV).   

Thirdly, having agreed that truth matters, and being hungry for the truth yourself, I urge you to pray the Lord’s blessing upon the ministry of the word in this congregation and for those who minister it. 

God’s truth will certainly prevail in the end. More and more I long for this characteristic of the new heavens and earth. There will be many wonderful things in the new heavens and new earth. And sometimes I find myself longing for one aspect of it more than others — no sickness or death, no sin, etc. But think of it, in the new heavens and new earth there will be only truth, and no falsehood. The question “what is truth?” will not be asked in that place, for all things will be seen clearly in the light of the glory of God. I long for that day. 

And I do also believe that truth will prevail in this world. Never will it be snuffed out. Why? Above all. because God is truth. He has given us his word and will preserve it till the end. But he has also designed this world in truth. God’s truth permeates and governs the created world. And so things that are false do, over time, self-destruct. Perhaps you have noticed this in the lives of individuals (maybe your own), in marriages, families, communities, and nations. Where falsehoods and lies predominate, there we find division and disorder leading ultimately to death. Things that are false will not last. God will judge all that is false in the end. He may even judge what is false now. But things that are false will also (naturally) self-destruct with the passing of time, for they are fundamentally flawed. Individuals, families, and governments that live contrary to God and to the world as he has made it will not last, much less thrive. Think of the parable that Jesus told regarding the man who built upon a rock compared to the man who built his house on the sand. Those who disregard God’s truth as revealed in his world and in his word are doomed for destruction. And this is why I say that truth will prevail in this world. Things that are true will last, by the grace of God. Things that are false will not, and this is according to his design.  

Truth will prevail. I am confident in this. But we should not forget that until the Lord returns to make all things new a battle will rage between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. We are the light of the world, brothers and sisters (Matthew 5:14). Do not forget it. But also do not forget that the world hates the light. “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:20, ESV). Please pray for the ministry of the word in Christ’s churches and also for those who minister the word of God. 

The word’s “teach and urge these things” remind us that truth matters, that the church is “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, ESV), and that ministers are to preach God’s word, urging men and women, young and old, to obey it. 

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Falsehood Produces Ungodly Division

Truth matters. And in verses 3-5 Paul warns against false teachers and their false doctrine by exposing their selfish motives and warning of their bad fruit. What does falsehood produce? Ungodly division.

Verse 3: “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Timothy 6:3–5, ESV)

There is a lot here, but we will be able to move through it rather quickly.

What makes a false teacher false

A false teacher is false because he teaches a  “different doctrine”. Doctrine means teaching. When Paul warns against a “different doctrine” he implies that there is a standard doctrine to which all teaching within the church is to conform.  

So what is the standard? What is our teaching to agree with? Look at the end of verse 3. Our teaching is to “agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word translated as “sound” means healthy and wholesome. Christ’s teaching is sound because it is good, right, true, and complete. It is wholesome teaching. It is sound teaching.

And where are these “sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Well, I suppose the first place we would look is to the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There the words of Christ are recorded for us. But if we listen carefully to his words we will see that we must look to the Old Testament Scriptures also. Christ appealed to them as authoritative. And Christ taught that he was the fulfillment of the law, prophets, and Psalms. So the words of Christ compel us to go to the Old Testament for true doctrine. And the words of Christ in the gospels do also compel us to go to the writings of his apostles, for they were his special representative. They saw him in his resurrection. They were commissioned by him. They performed signs and wonders just as Christ to show that their word was true.  What is our standard? The word of God is our standard. And we know that Christ is the eternal word of God come in the flesh.

And what do these “sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” produce? See the end of verse 3. His teaching leads to “godliness”. Godliness here means to hold to right beliefs and to be devout in practice. The teaching of Christ produces holiness, in other words. 

But the false teacher refuses to submit to the teaching of Holy Scripture. Why does he do this? I suppose there could be many reasons, but Paul mentions two things.

One, they are “puffed up with conceit.” Verse 4: “He is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words…” There are some very strong Greek words in this verse. The English phrase “he is puffed up with conceit” is the translation of only one Greek word. Listen to the definition that one Greek lexicon provides: “to be so arrogant as to be practically demented—‘to be insanely arrogant, to be extremely proud, to be very arrogant” (Louw Nida, 764). 

I think this is a very accurate description of the one who promotes false doctrine. His arrogance is so great that he thinks he knows better than God. He will not submit to the word of Christ in the church but seeks to promote his own doctrine. He is so arrogant he is practically demented. The one who is puffed up with this kind of pride will not do what James calls us to do, which is to “ put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21, ESV). This is the starting point of the Christian life. When God draws us to himself through Christ and by his word and Spirit, he humbles us so that we receive his word, submitting to it humbly.

But the one who promotes false doctrine in the church is “puffed up with conceit.” He “understands nothing”, though he thinks he understands everything, and “he has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words…” (1 Timothy 6:4, ESV). The English phrase “he has an unhealthy craving” is also the translation of a single Greek word which means “to have an unhealthy or morbid [sick] desire for something” (Louw Nida, 289). And what do these arrogant and ignorant false teachers desire? Controversy! They love to “[quarrel] about words…” And this makes perfect sense. If someone is “so arrogant as to be practically demented” then this one will love to engage in controversy and to quarrel, for this will be the way that they display their brilliance (sarcasm)!

I have known men like this. And of course, they defend their controversial and quarrelsome ways by saying, but doctrine matters! Word’s matter! It is important that we talk about these things in the church! And of course, that is true. Doctrine does matter. Words do matter. In fact, the church is called to contend for the faith. Paul himself did that, and sometimes very strongly! But that is not what Paul is condemning here. He is condemning those who are arrogant, who refuse to submit to the word of Christ, who love controversy and quarrels and seem to run to them at every opportunity. 

How can you tell the difference between a bold and righteous contender for the faith and one who is controversial and quarrelsome? Well, attitude has a lot to do with it. So too does where they place the emphasis. Do they run to the truth and seek to uphold it, or do they fixate upon the controversial things and run to them at every opportunity? Do they build up, or tear down? And what about their timing and delivery? It’s a little hard to describe. But you know it when you see it. As a parent you know the difference between an honest question and a defiant question, don’t you? The words spoken by the child might be exactly the same, but you know the difference. The attitude, posture, tone, timing, and overall delivery reveal the heart. And so it is in Christ’s church. Some ask difficult questions and raise controversial issues because they wish to know. Others run to controversy because in their pride they love to quarrel.     

Christ said, “you will know them by their fruits”, and the same applies here. What do those with an “unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words” produce? Verses 4 and 5 tell us: “Envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth…” This is why Paul wrote to his co-worker Titus, saying, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:9–11, ESV).

The second thing that Paul mentions concerning the motivation of the false teacher is found at the very end of verse 5 with the words, “imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5, ESV). In other words, these conceited people who love controversy and quarrels wish to have a place in the church thinking that they will profit from it somehow. I have stated this before. There is money to be made in religion. And it is clear that some are drawn to hold positions of power within the church because they desire wealth. They care little about the truth but are willing to say whatever needs to be said to gain a following and to prosper in the things of this world.

Religion is good, brothers and sisters. But there is such a thing as bad religion. We must keep this in mind. Some men wish to be honored as leaders within the church so that they might profit from it. Some desire money. Others desire notoriety. Neither are appropriate motivations for Christian service. And I would imagine that persecution and suffering has a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. What will those who imagine that “godliness is a means of gain” do when persecution comes against the church? One of two things. They will either run away or alter their teaching to conform to the world around them to remove the offense and escape the threat.  

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Truth Produces Godliness And Contentment

False teachers imagine that “godliness is a means of gain”, but in verse 6 Paul reveals to us what is truly beneficial, saying, “But godliness with contentment is great gain…” (1 Timothy 6:6, ESV). 

This is what truth produces — godliness and contentment. And pay careful attention to this: godliness (that is to say, devout belief and right practice) is not a means to gain, but is itself “great gain” when accompanied by contentment. 

Think about that.  

The false teacher pretends to be godly not because he sees godliness as beneficial in and of itself. No, for the false teacher religious devotion is a means to earthly gain. But the true believer and the true servant of Christ understand that godliness along with contentment are themselves the true treasure. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain…” That is one to memorize. “But godliness with contentment is great gain…” In other words, do you want something of supreme worth? Do wish to be truly blessed? Then pursue godliness. And do not pursue it because you think by having it you will gain something else — wealth, health, prosperity, or some other thing. No, pursue godliness because godliness is itself a treasure. And pursue contentment too! To be content is to be satisfied with what you have. The one who is content is satisfied in God and with God’s will for them. As I have said before, contentment does not equal complacency. There is nothing wrong with working to better your circumstances or praying for relief from some suffering. But even as we work and pray for change, we must pursue contentment with our station in life.  “But godliness with contentment is great gain…”, the apostle says. And of course, he is right.

In verse 7 he explains why: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” Clearly, Paul had that Ecclesiastes 5 passage that we read earlier in mind as he wrote these words. That passage is filled with truth and wisdom as it warns against the vanity or emptiness of spending your life chasing after wealth. We came into the world with nothing, and we will leave this world with nothing. Or to quote Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.” And because he knew this he was able to then say, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21, ESV). The one who spends their life chasing after money and positions lives an empty life, but “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8, ESV). It is far better to chase after godliness and to be content with what you have, as Ecclesiastes 5 so beautifully says. “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:10–20, ESV). This is contentment. The one who is content is free from covetousness. The one who is content is thankful. The one who is content is filled with joy, whether he has little or much. In fact, Paul calls us to be content with “food and clothing”, which has the meaning of food and adequate shelter. 

So few find this gift of contentment. How sad to think that men and women spend their days miserable inwardly because they choose to be ungrateful, jealous of others, and fixated upon what they do not have, even if they have much. But what a beautiful gift contentment is. Those with much and those with very little may have it if only they would choose to be grateful to God for his provision, to rejoice in their lot in life, and to truly enjoy what is theirs — their work, their food, and their relations — all to the glory of God. 

In verses 9 and 10 Paul contrasts the great gain of godliness and contentment with the curse of worldliness and discontentment saying, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9–10, ESV)

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Conclusion

As we move now towards the conclusion and some final points of application please allow me to draw your attention to how prevalent the theme of “desire” is in this passage. Truth matters, and for this reason it is important for us to guard our minds. But our desires matter too, and for this reason it is important for us to guard our hearts.   

Not only do the false teachers fail to conform to the teaching of Christ, they are also described as being conceited,  having “an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words”, and desiring the things of this world they imagine “that godliness is a means of gain”. They “desire to be rich [and thus]  fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:2–10, ESV).

Why do I draw your attention to the theme of desire which permeates this passage? It is to show you that filling our minds with sound doctrine cannot be our only concern. As important as sound doctrine is, if we are to be found faithful we must keep our hearts too. We must keep even our desires in check, learning to love that which God loves and hating that which God hates. I’m afraid that the world, and even some within the church, have forgotten that we have control over our desires. There are some things that we should love, and other things we should hate. There are some attractions that are right, and some that are wrong. Just as we are responsible to control our thoughts, words, and deeds, so too we are responsible to control our desires or affections. Our affections are simply another aspect of our inner life over which we have control. And this is why the scriptures command us saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…” (Matthew 22:37, ESV), and they warn us saying, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV). The scriptures command us to love God supremely, and they warn us against the love of money and other sensual desires because we are responsible to control even our desires bringing them into conformity to God and his word, by his grace. 

Indeed, in Christ we have been set free to do this very thing, for “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:24–26, ESV).

Truth matters. Let us be sure to guard our minds. And desires matter too. Let us be sure to keep our hearts pure, lest we “[wander] away from the faith and [pierce ourselves] with many pangs.” Godliness with contentment is indeed great gain. 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, 1 Timothy 6:2-10, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 6:2c-10, Godliness With Contentment Is Great Gain


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(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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