Introduction to the Son of God
Tim Temple

Introduction

In our last lesson, we looked at an overview of the concepts that are in the book of John. In this lesson, we begin the study of the text. It may be as we begin this study that some of you may feel like I felt when I first began to think about whether or not to teach the Gospel of John, and that is, you may feel that everybody already knows all there is to know about the Gospel of John.

It is one of the most basic books in the Bible and one that we know a lot of verses out of. You may feel that way, but as I thought about it and prayed about teaching it, I realized that we don't need to feel that way about any book. Even if you already know all there is to know about the Gospel of John, I think you will be refreshed to go back over some of it again. As we go through the book, you will find, as I have, that you don't know all there is to know about the Gospel of John after all, and you will learn some new things. So, whether it is a matter of review and enjoying hearing and seeing things in the Scripture that you have already seen before, or if you are looking at it for the first time, it is important for us to look at this very basic book of the New Testament.

In this information-saturated age in which we live, people don't look at details very closely. We have information just piped into us everywhere we go. We get dressed in the morning or eat meals while we are listening to the news, and I think for that reason most newspapers, magazines, and even paperback books give a preview of what we are going to find inside. The purpose in doing that usually is to inspire us to read further and to look more deeply into what we are seeing there on the surface. They hope to get our attention and perhaps keep us away from the competition and get us farther into their material.

It may be that God knew that in this age people would be faced with those kinds of problems and would still be looking at the Gospels in the New Testament because it is interesting to notice that each one of the Gospels begin in just that same way. They begin with an overview of what we are going to see in the book as a whole. We are not going to take the time to look at that in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but in the Gospel of John, we find the overview in verses 1-18.

In this book, John is going to talk about Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God. Each of the Gospels has a little different emphasis about Jesus, but John's emphasis is that this Man that so many people heard about and a lot of people knew, this Man Jesus in actuality was the very Son of God. That subject is introduced in verses 1-18. The fact that He was the Son of God is emphasized in verses 1-8. He is going to talk about the prevailing darkness in the world at the time that Jesus came, and that is introduced in verses 9-11. Then in verses 12-18, the theme is the blessings of the minority that did accept Him. He is going to show that the majority did not accept Jesus as He was on the earth. Many of those who didn't accept Him while He was on earth did accept Him later after He had returned to Heaven, but he is going to show that the minority who did accept Him received great blessings.

Those are the three themes that we are going to see all through the book, and they are previewed in these first 18 verses: the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, verses 1-8; the prevailing darkness of the world into which Christ came in verses 9-11; the blessings of the minority that did accept Him in verses 12-18.

The chapter as a whole falls into three parts. The first section of the chapter has to do with the introduction of the Son of God. The second section of the chapter in verses 19-36, we have the introducer of the Son of God. Then in section three, verses 37-51, is the inception of the ministry of the Son of God.

The Word

We are going to begin our study by looking at the first few verses of that first section. The first thing that we see in the chapter is what I am going to call the Word , in verses 1-5. Later, we will see the witness of the Word that God gave to the Lord Jesus Christ, and then the walk of Jesus Christ .

We will begin our reading of the Word with John, chapter 1, verse 1:

John 1

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

It is interesting to notice that John opens his Gospel with the very same words with which God inspired Moses to begin the first book of the Bible in Genesis, chapter 1—“In the beginning…” Moses moved forward in time from those introductory words and began to describe what happened at creation and after creation, but in contrast to that, John moves backward in time from the beginning to what was before what we know. He says, “In the beginning was the Word,” and he comes to that word that confuses so many people as they try to study the Gospel of John.

These first five verses are mystical verses to some people. If you haven't ever heard them before, or if you back off and think of those words as they would sound to someone who had never heard them before, it is a mysterious way to begin talking about Jesus Christ:

John 1

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This word Word is a translation of the Greek word logos , and it is used four times in these first eighteen verses. It contains much more meaning than our English word word . The Greek word logos had a very technical meaning in the first century world in which John wrote these words. It was a term that was much more familiar, probably, in the way that John uses it to those first century readers than it is to us. It was used in Greek philosophy to refer to what they called the first cause . It was referring to the great unknown, intelligent reason, will and power behind the universe.

Those people were a lot wiser than the intellectuals of our day who have simply done away with talking about some kind of a first cause of creation and have just adopted this silly idea that everything just came out of nothing—that somehow it all just started. At least those philosophers and intellectuals of the first century had enough sense to know that there had to be some kind of cause for it all.

Because of the darkness into which all of us are born, because of the twisting of their minds, because of the darkness of sin, they could not bring themselves to refer to this as a creator God , let alone Jehovah God of the Old Testament, but they did speak of the Word as this intelligent first cause that caused everything to be here in the first place. Of course, they disagreed among themselves as to exactly what the details of that first cause were, but it was a very important word in that first century. The power behind the universe was what they meant when they talked about the Word , the logos .

In fact, sometimes those pagan philosophers of the first century would refer to this first cause as God, so even though it is a confusing use of the word Word for us in this day and time, John chose a word that was very familiar to at least the educated people of his day. He takes this word that referred to the very heart of wisdom and power in the universe and applies it to this recently despised and crucified man, Jesus of Nazareth. If the intellectuals and scholars of John's day read his book—we do not know if they did or not—they would have been shocked to hear this word that refers to the first cause behind everything applied to that carpenter from Nazareth, but that is exactly what John does. It is a very important word, and he says, “That reason, that cause behind everything, that great unknown was Jesus of Nazareth”: “In the beginning was the Word…”

Along with that, John may have had in mind for his Jewish readers, in describing Jesus Christ, the phrase that is repeated over and over again, particularly in the Old Testament, among the prophets: “And the Word of the LORD came…” Remember, over and over again in the prophetic books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, we are told, “The Word came to Jeremiah,” or “The Word of the LORD came to Isaiah.” In a way, he is saying, “The Word of God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ.” He is talking about the historicity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the fact that in the beginning, He was.

The first thing John says about the Word in these verses has to do with His origin in verses 1-2. In verse 1, he says: “He was in the beginning.” As we work our way through these verses it is going to be important for us to look at several of the individual, specific words. They carry some real significance.

John uses the past tense in verse 1: “In the beginning was the Word.” He uses the past tense here to emphasize Christ's continuous, eternal existence in the past. This is something that we need to remember even though we all at least subconsciously know it. It is important to remember that Jesus Christ did not begin when He entered the world as a baby in Bethlehem's manger. In fact, Jesus Christ did not begin to be the Son of God at that point. In the beginning, He was already there. In the beginning, He was already past tense. He had already been there before the beginning of time as we know it.

Of course, here is another one of those places where we come in to that eternal presence of God. This is one of many things that I think we won't fully understand until we get to Heaven. The difference between God's existence on an eternal plane and our existence in time is difficult for us to comprehend, but when it refers to the beginning, it is referring to the beginning of the earth and human life. Eternity never had a beginning and that is so hard for us to comprehend, but before the beginning of the human race, before the beginning of the earth as we know it, Jesus Christ was there. The Word of God was there. Before the world was created or before time began, He was there already. Jesus Himself made similar statements about Himself in chapter 8, verse 58:

John 8

58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

He used that term that God used with Moses back in the book of Exodus to talk about His eternal existence. He was always there, the eternal present, I AM.

Relationship of Jesus Christ and God the Father

In chapter 1, verse 1, he goes on to say that not only was Christ there in the beginning, but that He was with God:

John 1

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…

In the Greek text, even more than in the English text, that word with is a word that suggests a co-relationship and a cooperation of two distinct personalities. We use that word in English and don't stop to analyze what that word means, but if you think about it, you realize that it means that I am with you and you are with me. I don't know if you are with me mentally or not, but we are with each other physically in this room. That is what John says about Jesus Christ and God the Father, but in the Greek it is a word that stresses a relationship between the two.

The difference would be the difference between riding in an elevator with somebody you don't know and riding in an elevator with somebody you do know and are traveling with. It always is interesting to me, and I get some humor out of this situation. If there are just one or two people in the elevator, if you speak to that other person in the elevator who is two feet away from you, they jump as if they didn't expect you to say anything. Whereas, you may be standing no farther away than that from the person you know who is going up in the elevator for the same purpose, and you don't think anything about it when you speak to that person.

You see, there is a difference in being with somebody and being with somebody, and that is the idea here. Jesus Christ was with God. The Word was with God, but not just in the sense that they were in the same location, but the fact that they were cooperating in what they were doing where they were. To use an illustration, they were on that elevator together for the same purpose. They were going up to visit the same person on the floor above, or whatever they were doing in eternity past. The Word was with God. He wasn't just there by happenstance. He wasn't there as a nonparticipating fellow traveler; He was with God. The emphasis is upon the fact that Jesus Christ and God the Father are two distinct persons, but they have a dynamic cooperation between themselves.

There are two other references that make this same point. Proverbs, the last half of chapter 8, is a beautiful passage to read. Read this chapter, particularly verses 22-31. This chapter starts out talking about wisdom. The first few verses are all about the beauty of wisdom and the importance of wisdom, but when you get down to verse 22, you begin to realize that when it is talking about wisdom, it really is talking about the Lord Jesus Christ in His pre-earth form. The thing that I think is so beautiful about these verses is that it talks about the loving relationship that existed between God the Father and God the Son. Verse 30 says:

Proverbs 8

30Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

It is touching to just think about that loving, rejoicing kind of relationship that God the Father and God the Son had in eternity past. Really, in the strictest sense of the word, God did not need to create the human race. In His grace and in His love, He did; but there was perfect peace and fellowship, joy and love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit before the earth was ever created. He takes joy in us and He created us for His own pleasure, but in doing that, He was just opening the circle of the fellowship that the Trinity already enjoyed. In His grace and mercy, He chose to include you and me in that perfect love and fellowship that they were already enjoying, and that is the idea that John has in mind when he says, “…and the Word was with God…” He was with God in cooperation, and He was with God in love and in joy.

Psalm 110, verse 1, makes this same emphasis:

Psalm 110

1The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

The emphasis again is on the relationship, the cooperation between the two distinct persons of the Godhead—God the Father and God the Son. Jesus, incidentally, applied that Psalm 110 reference to Himself when He made a reference to that a little farther over in the Gospel.

The third aspect of the origin of the Word of God is in the last phrase of verse 1:

John 1

1…and the Word was God.

This is the climax of this declaration that John is making about the Son of God, and it presents Christ as having the same nature or essence as God himself. He has already said, “The Word was with God,” but again theoretically it would be possible for the Word to be with God, yet not be God. The angels were with God. Satan, the archangel, was with God and still had the ability to be with God even after he fell. John leaves no question about it. Not only was Jesus Christ with God, He was God: “The Word was God.” It presents Christ as being the very essence of God Himself. All the attributes of God are also the attributes of Jesus Christ. The deeds and words of Jesus Christ while He was on the earth are the deeds and words of God.

We are used to hearing that, but put yourself back in that first century and think about how you would feel if you were reading this for the first time. You are reading that a man you might have known, that you might have gone to hear, or at least you had heard about, was God. John is saying that the words that He said and the deeds that He did were the deeds and words of God.

That is what John wants us to understand. That is his purpose in this book, that we might understand that fact about Jesus of Nazareth. That is why he places it in the very first verse of his book. He is going to elaborate on it and build on it many times in the next chapters, but he puts it first.

If that is not true, then what we have here is a blasphemous book. John claims that a carpenter from Nazareth was God, and if John can't sustain that thesis, then he is a blasphemer and this book ought to be banned and burned. But, of course, we know that down through the years, this book has been burned and it has been banned, but they have not been able to destroy it. It has stood the test of time. The lives of thousands of people down through the years have been saved by the reading of this message.

I love the testimonies that the Gideons give. People write to the Gideons all of the time telling them how they were saved by reading the New Testament. Many times what they read are the verses, many of them from the Gospel of John, that the Gideons have placed in the front of the New Testament. God has used this book to bring eternal life to countless people down through the years. This is not a blasphemous book, because it is true. If it were not true, it would be a terrible, blasphemous thing, and John should be in great trouble with Christians.

It is important to realize that belief in this fact of the deity of Christ is absolutely essential to the Christian faith. A profession of faith in Christ that does not include this truth about Christ is not saving faith. It is not enough to believe that there was a man who lived on the earth 2000 years ago by the name of Jesus. It is not even enough to believe that that man did miracles or did great teaching. There are many people in the world today who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ whose belief in Christ extends only to that, but to believe in Jesus Christ is to believe what John says here—that He was God.

If He was not God, then He is no better than any of the other important men who have lived down through the years. He did more impressive things than most of them, but if He is not God, then there is really nothing worth staking your life for in following Him. Saving faith is built on the fact that Jesus Christ was God. That is an extremely important thing to keep in mind.

Verse 2 is kind of a swing verse. It restates the facts of verse 1, and it sets the stage for what is going to be brought out in verses 3-4. It is a very simple verse. If you are in a contest to see who can memorize the most Bible verses, this one would be a good one to have on your list:

John 1

2The same was in the beginning with God.

His Origination of All Things

Verses 1-2 speak of His origin, but in verses 3-4, He is going to move on and talk about His origination of all things. Look at verse 3:

John 1

3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Verse 3 seems to be a very simple statement, but it is full of important implications. First, this is one of the many, many verses in the Bible that puts the lie to the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution is just one more in a long, long list of attempts by men to explain away God's creative work.

We tend to think because it is so prevalent and our government insists that it be taught as science, that it is true. You hear about the separation of church and state. What they ought to have is the separation of science and state. Why does the government get to dictate what is truth and what is not, or what is science and what is not?

All down through the years, evolution is just one in a long list. Moses had to put up with the theory that the world developed not by creator God, but was created out of the mud of the Nile River. Now, you explain to me how something could develop from a part of itself. But, that was the prevalent theory in Moses' day, although that is not very much sillier than the idea that everything just came together out of some slush in eternity past.

There has always been some theory to explain away God's creation, but the Bible says that God created everything. Verse 3 says that everything that is was made by Him. The second implication of that was that it was Jesus Christ as God who was the creator.

It said in verse 3 that all things were made by Him. That may seem like a minor distinction to make, but the word by is more accurately translated by the word through in the New King James Version . It means by means of . It means that the things that He created came through all of what He was. It isn't that Jesus Christ created something that didn't bear His personality. It is a term to describe what an artist produces. The artist produces something that bears the mark of himself, so the use of this word which is accurately translated through Him reminds us that the whole creation has the mark of God all over it. It is like a painting that does not need the artist's signature. You can tell by looking at it that it is God's creation.

That is exactly what Romans, chapter 1, and Psalm 19 are saying. The Scripture says over and over again, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Romans says, “From the creation of the world the things of God are clearly seen.” That is the idea that is expressed here in John, chapter 1, verse 3: “All things were made through Him.” This is a clear statement of His creativity.

Then, it says that all things were made by Him. This would include the things that are seen and the things that are unseen. It includes angels and humans and animals and plant life at every level, every aspect of science, all the things that haven't yet been discovered. One of the truths of life is that the more we know, the more we realize we don't know. The more we discover, the more we realize there is to be discovered. Jesus Christ as God created all of those things. He created the things that are seen and the things that are not seen. He created the things that we don't understand and the reasons we don't understand. Sometimes a doctor will say, “We don't understand why the body does this, but it does. We have established the fact that it does.” Jesus Christ created all of those reasons that haven't even been discovered yet. John says in the last statement of that verse: “Without Him not anything was made that was made.” Just take it for granted that even those things that have not been discovered yet, Jesus Christ created.

Verse 4 takes it a step further:

John 1

4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

We have been talking about Christ's creativity. It is one thing to make objects and works of art. It is a wonderful gift and a wonderful skill that some people have. Not all of us have that skill, and those of you who do should thank God for it, but it is something else to breathe life into those things. The most gifted artist, craftsman, and builder doesn't have the ability to put life into those things, so verse 4 emphasizes that Christ not only created all things, but He brought them to life.

This is better understood if we think about the way John uses these two words. He uses two words all through these verses, and he uses them a lot through his entire Gospel. The two words are light and life . These are similar words. The word life is used 36 times in John's Gospel, and eleven of these times it refers to eternal life, or spiritual life. That is the tie-in to these two words. Life, as John uses it most of the time and as he used it in this verse, refers not just to physical life, but to moral and intellectual and spiritual life as well.

Paul said this same thing to the intellectuals on Mars Hill when he was speaking there as is recorded in Acts, chapter 17, verse 28. He is speaking about God and He says:

Acts 17

28For in him we live, and move, and have our being…

God's creativity extends to the fact that we can understand things, and we can learn things, and we can come to know things—all of that that separates us from the animals. It fits right in with what we see in Genesis, chapter 2, verse 7:

Genesis 2

7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Life is not just the ability to draw breath, but the way that John is going to use it is that it has to do with our intellectual capacity and our moral capacity as well as our ability to breathe and to see.

He uses the word light in the same way to refer to spiritual truth and the way that life is enlightened by spiritual truth. The word light in verse 4 refers to the way in which life is enlightened by spiritual truth.

Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 27, makes an interesting statement. It says:

Proverbs 20

27The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

God has made our spirit as His means of enlightening our understanding. The New Testament tells us in II Thessalonians that man is spirit, soul and body. Romans, chapter 8, says that the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God. The spirit is that part of the tripartite human being that enables us to know and to communicate with God. The soul is the psychological part of man and, as I have mentioned many times before, the way to remember that is that the word soul is a translation of the word psuche from which we get our English word psychology . The soul is that part of us that enables us to understand the concept of God. It enables us to understand these extra material things. Another of the parts that separate us from the animals is that we can understand the psychology of things because we have a soul. Animals act on instinct because they do not have a soul.

The spirit is not the same thing as the soul. For many, many years we talked about our souls being saved and winning souls to Christ, but that is not biblically accurate. What we ought to talk about is winning spirits to Christ, because it is our spirit with which the Spirit of God bears witness. Anybody who is unsaved is handicapped. They are operating on just two-thirds of their capacity because it is only when the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we understand that we are sons of God. Anybody who does not know Jesus Christ as Savior, the spirit is there but it is not functioning. It is not doing that which God gave it to us to do because until the Spirit of God does bear witness with our spirit, we don't have any spiritual insight. We have psychological insight. We can understand the concept of God, but we can't know the things of God without the work of the Spirit in our lives, and He does that through our spirit. We will talk more about that later on. Paul tells us in Corinthians that the things of God are spiritually discerned, and a human being without God's enlightenment cannot understand those things.

In John, chapter 8, John records people speaking to Jesus and He said:

John 8

12…I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Obviously, He was speaking to them in the daytime. He wasn't talking about physical light and darkness, He was saying, “If you follow Me, you will have spiritual understanding.” John is teaching that the only truly enlightened life comes from following Jesus Christ. He is the one who makes life worth living—not just knowing what Jesus taught, but obeying and following what Jesus taught.

His Overcoming Power

We have seen the origin of the Word, and His origination of all things, so in verse 5, we find one final thing about Him, and that is His overcoming power. Look at verse 5:

John 1

5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

This light that we have been talking about that comes from Christ shined into a world that had been darkened by sin—the sin of Adam, the sin of each one of us right down to you and me. Our ability to understand things has been darkened because of our sin. When Jesus came into the world, He came into a world that was full of people who were darkened by sin. The light shines in the darkness, and He says that the darkness did not comprehend it.

One of the things that we have to fight all the way through our study of the Gospel of John is that we are so familiar with the words of this Gospel. Try to think about this as if you had never read it before. What does this verse mean? It really doesn't make much sense, does it? The key word in understanding this verse is the word comprehend . The Greek word that is translated comprehend is used in Greek in two ways. It can mean “to understand something,” and that is what our English word means. When it is used this way, it means that the spiritual darkness cannot understand or comprehend the things of God.

We have just been talking about that, for the Spirit of God bears witness with our human spirit. When people have not heard of the light of Jesus Christ, or when they have heard of Jesus Christ and choose to ignore God's truth and live in unbelief, or if they have even trusted Christ as Savior but choose not to walk in the light of life that Christ provides—all of those who refuse to walk in the light that Christ's truth brings—they walk in darkness. A Christian who chooses to walk in darkness can't comprehend the things of God, and they cannot benefit from that whole spiritual dimension that comes from the light of Christ, and it is certainly true of unbelievers. As I said a moment ago, I Corinthians, chapter 2, verse 14, says:

I Corinthians 2

14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

If you are out of fellowship with the Lord, if you have sinned and not confessed that sin and dealt with it in your life, then you are not going to fully comprehend. You may comprehend some of the concepts of some of these verses that we are talking about, but you are not going to get the spiritual blessing and the spiritual meaning out of it that you would if you were walking in fellowship with the Lord. Certainly if you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, you are not going to understand any of this because these things are spiritually discerned.

The Greek word that is translated with our English word comprehend can have a second meaning. Our English word basically means “understanding it,” but the Greek word that is translated with our English word for comprehend has a second meaning. Many Greek scholars today think that this is probably closer to what John had in mind. It not only means to understand spiritual things, but it means that the spiritual darkness cannot overcome those spiritual things. The word comprehend in this passage demonstrates that unbelievers cannot understand spiritual things, but it also means that spiritual darkness cannot overcome spiritual truths.

It is a wonderful thing to know that when Christ came into the world there was this conflict between light and darkness and light was victorious. He came into a world that did not know what He was talking about, but He also came into a world in which He did bring light to those who would accept it. All down through the years, from that day until this, the darkness has not been able to overcome the light of God's truth manifested in Christ. The darkness has tried to overcome it. We have seen the end of a seventy year period when a huge part of the world was under a government that tried every way it could to overcome the light with darkness. It was illegal to deal in the light of the glory of Jesus Christ in the Soviet Union for all of those years, but now that the Iron Curtain has parted, we see that even in that situation, there were many wonderful believers in Jesus Christ who persevered and who brought others to know Him. The light was not overcome by the darkness.

Isn't it encouraging to realize that no matter how deep the darkness in the world may be, it cannot and will not be overcome. In spite of persecution or oppostition, the light of the glory of God will not be overcome by all of the darkness. Many times we feel that we are in the minority.

In the political situation in the United States, thankfully we are hearing the theme, whether they use this term or not, of the moral darkness and the godlessness of our nation and how we need the light of God's principles. Whether they talk in terms of them being God's principles or not, they talk about the principles upon which our nation was founded. Some politicians even speak outwardly about the fact that these are God's principles.

We need to hear that the darkness does not overcome the light. To whatever extent our hope is based upon the light that Jesus Christ gives, we can have confidence and we can have encouragement because the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.

In chapter 15, John is going to talk about our being in Christ, and Christ's being in us. If you are in Him, you are in Him because of a deliberate choice that you made. You have chosen to be in Him and He has consented to be in you. In one of John's letters that he was to write later to his followers, he said, “The life that is in you is greater than the darkness which is all around you.”

I don't know whether God is going to let the light of His principles prevail on a national scale in our nation. I'm encouraged to hear some of the politicians talk about these things, and we should pray every day for those politicians, those talk show hosts and those journalists who speak and write in terms of the principles of God's Word as they relate to this country. It may be that God, by His grace, may allow more people to come to power who will operate on the basis of His principles and His Word and the principles of this nation. But, whether that comes true or not, we have the personal confidence that “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” The darkness has not and will not overcome it.


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