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 Sermons on important subjects by Rev. Paul C. Jong

 

Are You Living in God’s Commandment?


< 1 John 2:7-11 >

“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

 

The Apostle John was someone who had reached a profound understanding of God’s love. He was the disciple that was loved the most by our Lord, the Son of God; he was the one who felt this love of the Lord most deeply, and who bore compelling witness of this love to us. This Lord had forsaken His throne of glory and came to this earth to save us from all the sins of the world.

The Apostle John believed that the Lord came to this earth incarnated in the flesh of man in order to save the entire mankind from their sins, and that He personally bore the suffering, curses, despise, insults, death, and the condemnation of sin that we were supposed to bear. And because John thus believed in the truth of salvation that Jesus had given Him, he could be saved from all his sins.

The Apostle John knew very well just how grateful he should be for his salvation from sin, and how great the love of our Lord was. John knew, in other words, how great a sacrifice the Lord had made to save him, and how deeply He had loved him. It was because he knew the love of Jesus so well that he wrote this Epistle of love to all the saints.

Apart from the Gospel of John and his three Epistles of 1, 2, and 3 John, the Apostle John also wrote the Book of Revelation. It was to him that Jesus had revealed Himself the most. It was through the Apostle John, above all other disciples, that God could tell us the most just how much He loved us. This bears witness to us of the fact that the Apostle John had the most knowledge of the love of God. So, John is called the “Apostle of love.” Because the Apostle John was the one who knew the love of the Lord more than anyone else, He also bore witness of this love the most.

It is actually no exaggeration to see 1 John as the “book of love.” We usually refer to 1 Corinthians 13 as the “chapter of love.” This chapter, of course, does talk much about love also. But the one who testified the love of Jesus in all its many aspects is this Apostle John, for he knew very well just how much Jesus loved His saints.



John Was One Bore Witness of the Lord’s Love


The Apostle John was one who spoke about the love of the Lord. In 1 John 4:18-20, he said, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

In accordance to what he said here, that there is no fear in love, John said that those who truly know the love of God and have received this love do not approach God in fear, but in true joy, and that they also love their brothers and sisters who have become God’s people. This is because we have all been clothed in God’s love.

This is why he declared, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

Like this, the main theme of 1 John is the “love of God,” and John concludes that the crystallization of God’s love is the gospel of the water and the Spirit. He deals with these two themes in turn in this Epistle, and finally in chapter 5, he explains what the gospel of the water and the Spirit, “which you heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:24), is.


What does God's new
commandment tell us?
It speaks of God's love, and it tells
us to live in this love.

1 John 2:8 says, “Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” Before we were born again, we used to be sinners who did not know salvation and had not received the remission of our sins; we knew neither God nor the Truth; we were not the people of God but the children of darkness; and we merely were seeds of evildoers. Therefore, we could not love each other in the Truth. If those who had remained as the children of darkness and had not come into the light of Truth still loved one another, cared for each other, and were unselfish and devoted to one another, this would be rather usual and strange. Honestly speaking, these acts were only hypocritical.

However, now, we have come to know that the darkness has passed away and the true light is shone upon us, and we have become God’s children who have received His true love and true salvation. None other than you and I, who have been born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, are the children of God. How can we then, as God’s children, hate each other? Those who hate each other will end up as liars before God. If we have indeed become God’s people, then hatred can never arise out of our hearts.

While we may bring each other’s mistakes, errors, and missteps to attention, rebuke one another for these failures, and admonish and help each other to repent, it is a sin for us to fundamentally hate each other out of our hearts, to push one another away, to reproach and to judge each other.

In our family of the born-again, in other words, we may have ill feelings toward one another temporarily, but we cannot really hate our brothers and sisters, the people of God and His servants, out of the depth of our hearts. Even the world has a motto: “Condemn the offence, but pity the offender.” This saying, of course, originated from the tendency for everyone to take justice into his own hands, when in fact the court has the sole legitimacy to judge secular crimes.

If we indeed know and believe in the true light of God, if we have indeed been perfectly remitted from all our sins by knowing and believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, if we know that God has blotted out all our sins, and if you also know and believe in this love of God that has saved you, then we cannot truly hate each other. Therefore, if anyone hates his brothers and sisters in his heart, then he is a liar before God.

Even before we were born again, God had given us the commandment to love. God had commanded us not to do evil deeds, but to do virtuous deeds. According to His commandments, we have to do these things before Him and people―that is, we have to obey what He commanded us to do: “You shall have no other gods before Me. Just worship, love, and honor Him. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Although God had told us clearly that we had to live by these commandments, we had failed to do so. We are fundamentally incapable of living like this. But the Apostle John tells us once again, “Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:7-8). He is reminding us here once again that God has told us to love one another.


What is the greatest issue that
the Bible focuses on?
It is God's love.

God’s love for us is this: Our Lord came to this earth and has blotted out all our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit. This love, which God has for us, is the greatest and fundamental love that enables us to have true love for others. Owing to this love, we can have all kinds of love—the love that pastors have for the saints, the love that our brothers and sisters have for God, the love that we have for our pastors and for our brothers and sisters. These are not the carnal love but the spiritual love, for they all originate from the greatest love of God for us.

It is in this love of God, in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, that we experience these things. True fellowship is found only in this spiritual love. Since our very existence is made possible only in God’s love, it is because of this love of God that we can eat, drink, laugh, talk, breathe, and go on with our lives. It is because the love of God is so abundant that we can breathe on this earth and feel this love. In this love of God, we have received the spiritual blessings of Heaven. Because Jesus Himself loved us, in other words, you and I have become God’s own children who are now living in peace.

This is why we must love one another all the more. All God’s admonishments and rebukes are essentially rooted in His love. So when we see the weaker brothers and sisters, we come to have more compassion and deeper love for them. But those whose hearts are hardened before God are rebuked more harshly in His love.

For such people, it is God’s love for us to rebuke them harshly, to scold them, and even punish them in order to turn their hearts back to Him. Leaving them alone, even as it is obvious to us that they are heading toward a cliff, is not the love of God. Rather, God’s love is to prevent them from heading to their own destruction by any way possible. You need to realize that to point out the mistakes of our fellow believers in Christ is not meant to bring suffering to them, but it is meant to show them God’s love.

A heart that cares for each other—this is what love is. When one says welcome to the others with their lips, but his heart is filled with enmity and malicious intentions, then he is not in the love of God. Being kind with a dark, ulterior motive cannot be called as God’s love. When such a person, who had talked as if he was willing to do anything for us, instead ends up stealing everything that we have and flees, we do not say that the fraud was committed only at the moment that he fled, but from the very first moment that he laid out his trap to swindle us.

To care for each other from the depth of our hearts is what God’s love entails. It is from our hearts that love spring forth. If our hearts had harbored malicious intentions, then even if such intentions are not revealed through our acts, they are still all fraudulent.

The Lord said, “But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:24-25). This means that He has placed such weak members who cannot live but only by His love as even more precious members of His Church. We must care for all the people of God, and we must pray for all those who are yet to be born again.

We must pray for the Church, the Body of Christ, for our brothers and sisters, and for the servants of God. All these prayers are from God’s love. This is because we want every saint to prosper in God’s love. We pray for these things because when the saints thrive both in body and spirit, it is a blessing for us the servants of God also.

Since it is a joy to God for His people to do well in both body and spirit, and this is why we also pray for them in joy. Also, because the joy of our brothers and sisters is none other than the true joy of our Church, we pray for them with best wishes from the bottom of our hearts. All these things must be fulfilled by faith in the love of God. Without this love of God, nothing that we do has any meaning.

I do not want any members of God’s family to go astray. I never, ever want this to happen. This is why I sometimes try to prod you to return, even if it requires me to rebuke you harshly. I do not want you to get hurt, to suffer, to be lost, to wander and to cry. All that I want is for your souls to prosper. Why? Because I love all of you so much. When it is time for me to comfort your aching hearts, this is indeed what I do, but when this is not the case, it is my harsh rebukes that come from a loving heart. Just as God loves you, your spiritual leaders also love you always.

You need to realize that if you dislike listening to what your spiritual leaders say to you, thinking that they are only nagging at you, or if you think that they are being angry at you, and just want to cover your ears, you are actually rejecting God’s love. If your pastors have no love for you in their hearts, neither would they rebuke you, nor would they pay you any attention. The opposite of love is indifference. When we do not love someone, we do not say anything to him, but we just turn away in indifference.

By believing in the Truth of salvation that God has bestowed on us in His love, we have now become new creations. It is by our faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that we live. Therefore, those among our brothers and sisters whose hearts are wounded must be healed from their wounds. Those who hearts are arrogant must have their hearts humbled; those who are overflowing must be subtracted, and those who are insufficient must be filled. All of us must in this way be made new in the love of Jesus Christ. We must be made new, not perpetuate our old selves.

We must live in God’s love, believing in this love and practicing it. It is in God’s love that we must live our lives of faith by having faith in all His Word. What is the greatest commandment in Christ? It is love. This one word called love is the greatest commandment of all.

God’s love for us is so strong that anyone or anything cannot separate us from His love. It is written, “For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave” (Song of Solomon 8:6). There was someone who, when those whom He loved were deceived by Satan and facing death, showed His love for them by laying down His own life—this someone is none other Jesus. Jesus loved us, and yet deceived by Satan, we had fallen into sin, and we had been suffering and dying. But to save us, who had been teetering at the edge of Hades, Jesus did not hesitate to face the death of His body. This is the very love that God has for us. None other than this unconditional love God has given us, the love with which He gave up His life to save us, is true love.


Can those who have become
the righteous people by believing in
the light of truth continue to dwell
and live in darkness?
No, they cannot.

The Apostle John said in 1 John 2:9-10, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” My dear fellow believers, the Bible clearly points out here that those who claim to dwell among the righteous and to abide in the light, and yet hate their brothers—that is, those who say that they know and believe that God has delivered us from our sins and brought us to life, and yet hate their brothers—have dwelt in darkness until now. He who hates his brothers from the depth of his heart is one who still abides in darkness. John said here that it is those who love their brothers that truly abide in the light, and that there is no cause for stumbling in them. If, on the other hand, you and I really hate our brothers in our hearts, then our consciences feel uneasy. But if we do not hate anyone in our hearts, then there is no such uncomfortable feeling.

Let’s say here that one of our brothers, sisters, or the servants of God did something wrong to us. If this incites anger in our hearts, leading us to hate this person wholeheartedly, to abhor him and to hold him in contempt, then there is something seriously wrong with us. If such a hateful heart is what is actually found in your own hearts as the born-again, you must realize here that your hearts now lie in the wrong place. It is because you hate someone in your hearts, are angry at him, and detest him that you come to have such an uneasy feeling over him. We come to feel uncomfortable before God and even to ourselves. Put differently, we feel guilty in our consciences.

“I hated him because he hated me first, and so what have I done wrong here?” The people of this world may think like this and justify themselves in this way, but for those of us who believe in the gospel Word of the water and the Spirit, this is not feasible, because we are the light of Truth. Because we have been shone with the true light, and because we have been remitted from countless sins beyond any description, we just cannot live in darkness. The righteous are walking in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in their hearts.

However, the Apostle John also said, “But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” Those who hate their brothers, in other words, are still living in darkness. John said here that such people walk in darkness and do not know where they are going. Those who are in darkness do not know that they are bound to make misjudgments, for they do not know right from wrong.

At times, you and I, who have become righteous, may also find ourselves in darkness. Because God has shone His light of truth on us, by faith we have become the true light, God’s own people, righteous and sinless saints. Therefore, when we find a cause for stumbling in our hearts, we must truly realize our mistakes and come before God in faith. How could we continue to abide in darkness?

If we really hate someone in our hearts, this becomes a cause for our stumbling and a wrongdoing before God, and if we fail to realize that it is wrong for us to hate and continue to harbor hatred in our hearts, we will turn spiritually blind. Unable to discern right from wrong, we will then end up falling into grave fallacies and ultimately turn into the Devil’s servants.

So we must not let hatred linger in our hearts for more than a day, we must not abide in sin, but we must instead remove all the remnants of darkness by confessing them in faith. Only when we thus live by having this pure faith in our hearts can we live our lives before God as His pure and bright light.

Has darkness passed away from us or not? Of course it has. The true light has now shone upon us. So for us, “old things have passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have already escaped from our accursed fate. Because God has saved us from our sins, given us new life, and brought us alive, and because we believe in all this, we have become His own people, and we have received eternal life.

As the people who have received eternal life, then, where must we abide in? We must abide in the light of Truth that knows God. Our hearts must dwell in the light of salvation. We must abide in the light of God’s love. God has indeed saved us like this through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and He has illuminated us with the light of Truth. By perfectly saving us from all our sins, in other words, He has made us His light. So even if we are told not to abide in the light of Truth, we must dwell in this light, shine this true light on every nook and corner of the world, and live our lives by faith. It is the love of God that He spoke to us through the Apostle John.

When the Apostle John says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin,” what he wants to convey to us is that we may not commit the fundamental sin of not believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.

This passage is particularly relevant to all Christians. Those who say they abide in Christianity but do not believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit have not yet discovered the true light of salvation. Before God, such people are still abiding in darkness, not in the light, for they have not been illuminated with the truth light.

Such people are the ones who try to receive the remission of their sins everyday by giving their prayers of repentance. They are trying to follow God by following fallacious doctrines. But no one can understand the gospel of the water and the Spirit through their prayers of repentance, nor through the teachings of the doctrine of incremental sanctification. Those who try to understand the Word of God based on their own thoughts, in other words, cannot be illuminated with the light of Truth. Put differently, they simply cannot receive the remission of their sins.


How must the righteous live?
The righteous must live by
loving one another.

After receiving the remission of our sins, how are our spiritual lives? Those whose sins have been remitted away abide in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and they love all souls as well. In other words, because we have been remitted from all our sins, we love our brothers and sisters whose sins have also been remitted, and in this love we have fellowship with each other and cherish one another as the co-owners of new life. And we do not harbor hatred in our hearts, nor do we have any malicious intentions toward others.

If, by any chance, such minds do arise, then we must first think of the light of God, consider whether the people whom we are dealing with have received the remission of their sins or not, and then decide how to treat him. We are more than able to examine ourselves and each other, to withdraw our misplaced hatred, and love one another in God’s love. Since our Lord has blotted out not only my sins but also the sins of all our brothers and sisters, and the sins of all human beings, it is only proper that we should love one another by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We really must love another as we live our lives. This is the message that the Apostle John is giving to all those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.

How are our lives of faith? Where are your hearts abiding now? Have you ever hated someone with all your hearts, even to want to kill this person? Do you have, by any chance, such a hateful heart even now? If so, then your hearts are absolutely misplaced. When the Lord has already cleansed away all your sins, why are you holding onto each other’s sins? Though our sins were as red as blood and as many as the sand in a desert, our Lord has washed them all away through the gospel of the water and the Spirit and turned our hearts as white as snow. When this is the case, and if you have indeed been completely remitted from all your sins by believing in this, shouldn’t your hearts, now that they are clean, abhor darkness?

When our Lord has blotted out so many sins that we had, all those sins that were as thick as dark, stormy clouds, how could we hold onto these sins that God had already made disappear, to continue to harbor anger, to sin, and to abide in darkness? From the very moment God blotted out all our sins and turned us into His children, we no longer have had to live in darkness. Since He has blotted out all our sins, in other words, we, too, must confess our wrongdoings to each other, rebuke one another for such wrongdoings, and apologize to each another as well, but we must cast aside fundamentally wicked hearts.

By any chance, my dear fellow Christians, is there anyone among you who is still grinding his teeth in hatred? Is there anyone who is always carrying such a hateful heart? Does anyone think, “Whenever I get a chance, I’ll surely have my revenge”? If there is such a person, this person is not someone who has come into Christ. Such people are not only spiritually blind, but they are deceiving themselves and lying. They themselves are being hoodwinked. If you have truly come into Christ and been illuminated with the true light, you may hate sin, but you will not hate the sinner. Is this not true? Of course it is!

We must listen carefully to what the Apostle John told us. In 1 John 1:5, he said, “God is light.” Is God light or not? In this light, are there some black dots at times, or is it full of only light itself? It is entirely light. This then means that our hearts, as believers, are also entirely filled with the light. Are there any black spots in this light? No, there is none! Has God left some of our sins around, instead of blotting them all out, or has He made them disappear completely? Our Lord has indeed blotted them all out perfectly, and therefore we have no sin whatsoever.

This is why we the righteous, as the people clothed in God’s love by faith, must love and cherish each other, and why we must illuminate the light of truth to those who, still not knowing this Truth, have not come into Jesus Christ, and embrace them into our arms as well. At least among ourselves, who have received the remission of sin, we must always remember that our fellow believers are our race, our family, our people, our brothers and sisters. Such thoughts, such faith, and such hearts must always accompany us as we live our lives.

Once, Jesus asked those who were sitting around Him, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” He then answered His own question, saying, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (Mark 3:33-35).

What, then, is this “will of the Father”? The same phrase is used in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). It is for Him to save us from all our sins through the propitiation of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. It is to save souls from their eternal death, as it is written in the Bible, “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:39). Therefore, we are the Lord’s family as long as we are dedicating ourselves to the gospel of the water and the Sprit.

The Lord has led us, who only had darkness, to the light by wholly saving us from our sins. Jesus Christ, conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, was born unto this earth; when He turned 30, He took upon all the sins of mankind by being baptized by John the Baptist; and by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead again, He has illuminated us with the perfect light. He has given us His perfect salvation. By believing in this truth, we have been perfectly saved, and we have therefore become God’s children who do His will. Those who believe in this way are our family.

You and I cannot avoid but continue to sin throughout our entire lifetime. But our Lord came to this earth over 2,000 years ago, and when He turned 30, He completely took away all our sins by being baptized by John. At the age of 33, He gave up His body and died on the Cross, rose from the dead again in three days, and has thereby brought us to life in perfection. He has washed us from all our sins, delivered us from all our condemnation, and has saved us perfectly. And He has given us new life. Do you believe this? We have now become the perfect light. You and I therefore must now live our lives in this light.

My fellow saints, can light and darkness mingle with each other, mix together, or exist in harmony and accord side by side? Light and darkness cannot coexist together. Why? Because when even the slightest amount of light is shone on darkness, it is all turned into light. Take your church building as an example. In the evenings, when darkness descends, with the light switch turned off, the whole church building is enveloped in darkness, but when the switch is turned on, the light once again illuminate the whole building and all darkness fades away.

If we have become one with Jesus Christ, then we are also the light, for Jesus Christ Himself is the light. If we believe that He has saved us perfectly, we are also the light because of this faith. We are no longer darkness. The Bible says, “Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Because we are the light, we must live the life of light by faith.

Have you really united with Jesus Christ by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit? If so, are you then light or darkness? You are the light. Light is still light, even if you may be insufficient in your deeds. If you have held a grudge against a fellow saint and then realized that you have committed sin before God as a child of light, then the light that had almost been buried in darkness shines even more brightly.

When God has already written off all our sins, where is the need for us to still hang onto them? When Jesus took upon all the sins of the world by being baptized, and completed His salvation by bearing all our condemnation on the Cross, how could we, as the brothers and sisters of faith and the servants of God, bear a grudge against each other for the slightest wrongdoings and grind our teeth over them? How could we have this kind of darkness with us?

When such darkness visits us, we must immediately confess that we have this darkness, admit our wrongdoings to God, abide in the light and look to the fact that Jesus Christ took away even these sins when He was baptized in the Jordan River, and meditate upon this truth. Because Jesus bore all our sins by receiving this baptism, carried the sins of the world to the Cross to be crucified, and thereby fulfilled all the righteousness of God, we can always abide in the perfect light. Our hearts become illuminated when we once again ruminate on the Truth that Jesus has saved us perfectly by accepting all our sins through His baptism, shouldering them all, and bearing all our condemnation in our place. We must then thank God with our faith for enabling us to live the kind of life that can once again tolerate each other, cherish one another in our hearts, and love each other. This is the life of light that the Apostle John is speaking of.

Because we human beings are insufficient, it is more than possible for us to wrong each other, but if we were unable to tolerate this, and instead turn such mistakes into defects to harp on and harbor hatred against each other at all times, then this cannot be the proper life of faith. If, by any chance, your hearts are like this, then think about how God has blotted out all your sins, how He has saved you from all your sins. Even if there were some wrongdoings that we have done to each other, when the Lord has blotted out all such sins also, how could we judge one another? If your hearts are hurt, then all that you have to do is say so and explain why, and then the other person can just admit his wrongdoing and apologize. Like this, in the love of our Lord, in His light, we must be able to reconcile with each other from our hearts and live in harmony.

All of us must know the Truth of the water and the Spirit that has enabled us to be born again. I thank the Lord for allowing me to know this Truth. Those who still do not know this gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit must listen to and learn from those who know, and thereby come into the light of Truth.

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The First Epistle of John

One thing that I would like to say clearly here is that human beings are human beings. There can be no doubt that everyone is a human being who cannot avoid but sin because of his weaknesses. Humans are such that they always disobey God, flout His will, and commit wrongdoings against Him. However, the Lord still shows His mercy to us, the wrongdoers, saying, “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32). It is because our Lord had compassion for such people like us that He has illuminated us with the light of truth. It is because God loved us that He has saved us. Our Lord ultimately tells us that He made us as weak beings so that we may be saved.

You must not look at your own thoughts and your own deeds, but you must look at the Lord. Do not think only of your own knowledge, but listen carefully to what the Bible is actually telling you. True salvation will then come into your hearts and be planted. When all the confusion that had plagued your minds is removed, you will realize that God is indeed the Savior who has saved you from all your sins. And when you believe that God has saved you from all your sins, you can become united with the Lord, and also with His Church in such faith. By believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we have become one body with God, and therefore His own people. God has already given you such blessings.

But if there is anyone who still has not received these blessings of God that He has bestowed through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then it is my hope and prayer that such people would all believe in and come into this God-given gospel of the water and the Spirit.

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