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Fourth Quarter 2014 (October–December)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF JAMES
Week 13: December 20–26
COMMENTARY ON THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
The intent of this week’s commentary is to show that according to Scripture the “Everlasting Gospel”, the eternal good news of Rev. 14:6, is about nothing other than the salvation of sinners, which was foreknown by God before ‘the foundation of the world’. That this gospel is the one and only gospel that brings salvation to lost sinners. That anyone who alters any part of this gospel has a curse placed on him/her as recorded by the Apostle Paul because the only entry into the kingdom of God is through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Furthermore that salvation and the eternal security of sinners is totally and only a work of our Savior Jesus Christ which fully addresses the condition of fallen sinners. While we must preach the complete ‘good news’ to a lost and dying world we must not add to or take away from this message if what we preach is to remain the biblical gospel.
GOD’S PLAN FOR SALVATION WHICH IS THE BIBLICAL EVERLASTING GOSPEL
• GOD’S PLAN FOR THE REDEMPTION OF SINNERS WAS FOREKNOWN BEFORE ADAM SINNED:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph. 1:3-10)
In this quote Ellen G. White contradicts Scripture:
“The kingdom of grace was instituted immediately after the fall of man, when a plan was devised for the redemption of the guilty race. It then existed in the purpose and by the promise of God; and through faith, men could become its subjects. Yet it was not actually established until the death of Christ. Even after entering upon His earthly mission, the Saviour, wearied with the stubbornness and ingratitude of men, might have drawn back from the sacrifice of Calvary.” (The Great Controversy, Pages 347-8)
In this quote Ellen also says that Jesus could have “drawn back” from the death at Calvary. Since God does not lie and will not fail to do what he says he will do, this is both a false statement and heresy, Num. 23:19. The agony Jesus suffered on the night he was betrayed vividly portrays the terribleness of what he was willingly facing, not that he would fail to do what Scriptures foretold he would do to ransom sinners from the sentence of death.
Adventist apologists defend Ellen G. White with this quote:
"The plan for our redemption was not an afterthought, a plan formulated after the fall of Adam..." (The Desire of Ages, Page 22)
While the second quote does agree with Scripture we should remember that The Great Controversy was first published as a four-volume set of books from 1870 through 1884. The Desire of Ages came later being first published in 1898. The first quote clearly contradicts Scripture. Instead of clarifying when the plan of redemption was first devised by God, the second quote simply is an example of where Ellen G. White contradicts herself. Since she claimed both her books were the result of a revelation from God and God will not contradict himself, it is Ellen who is wrong and not God. The conclusion is that this is one example, of many, where she is shown to have been a false prophet.
• MANKIND CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26-27)
One demonstration of having been created in the ‘image and likeness’ of God is that the human race was given authority over all living creatures. To have an image or likeness that is patterned after our Creator implies that our perfect nature before Adam sinned reflected the nature of who God is. While certainly not equal with God in any way, God gave perfectly created mankind a nature and associated attributes that differed from all of his other creatures. This included direct communion (spiritual union) with God. In the Genesis account Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the cool of the evening.
God spoke (Gen. 1:20) and the earth was filled with living creatures. These creatures breathe air yet there is a difference in what the following verse says of the creation of Adam:
…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen. 2:7)
This ‘breath of air’ is something much different from all of God’s other creatures who were created because ‘God spoke’. Here Job says he has a spirit which is in his nostrils:
“As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. (Job 27:2-4)
Job also says:
The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)
All creatures have physical life with many of them breathing in the very same way as mankind. Yet it is only of mankind does Scripture record God as having breathed into him the “the breath of life”. The conclusion should be that this is a metaphor for something spiritual and non-physical that imparts mankind with an image that is in the likeness of God. Remember, our eternally existing Creator is Spirit and does not have a physical body from which to breathe into us atmospheric air when all that was needed was for God to speak and it would be so.
Turning to the New Testament, when the Samaritan Woman questioned Jesus about the proper place to worship God Jesus redirects the question to how we are to worship God:
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
There is only one way we can worship God. It is not about where or when to worship. The only way anyone worships God is to have a spiritual relationship with God. Notice that Jesus never says a thing about ‘Sabbath Keeping’ to the Samaritan Woman as having anything to do with worshiping God. In not understand that perfect mankind was created with a living human spirit, ‘Sabbath Keeping’ for Seventh-day Adventist has replaced the biblical sign and seal of the Christian faith, the indwelling Holy Spirit:
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:13-14)
• ADAM & EVE DIED ON THE DAY THEY SINNED:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:15-17)
When Adam and Eve sinned the human race acquired a two-fold problem. The first part is rather obvious. They were now sinners under the penalty of death. If they were to regain their relationship with God and eternal life someone other than the sinner must pay the debt of sin.
However Adventist theology does not understand or address the issue of what died on the day Adam and Eve first sinned. This death was separate and different from their physical death that occurred many years later. The second part of the problem is that sin impaired mankind’s relationship with God and the way mankind was created in the image of God. Adam’s spirit died the moment he sinned and is why Jesus said you must be born again of your spirit before you can be in the kingdom of God. Furthermore, the only way to worship God is through the spirit.
• YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN OF THE SPIRIT:
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
Jesus uses the same metaphor of the working of the Holy Spirit that is recorded in the Genesis creation account. When Jesus says we must be “born again” he is saying that as sinners we have had a physical birth with a human dead spirit that must be resurrected before we can become a part of the kingdom of God.
Jesus also had this to say about entry into the kingdom of God:
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:23-26)
What sinners can never do, before or after the moment of salvation, is why we need a Savior. Only through an act of God can a sinner gain into the kingdom of God. When Jesus paid the penalty for our sins through the shedding of his blood at Calvary he also had the authority to give us the indwelling Holy Spirit which brings life to our human spirit thereby conveying us into the kingdom of God where we then grow in sanctification and once again “walk and talk” with God.
• CONCERNING SALVATION THERE IS ONLY ONE MESSAGE OF ‘GOOD NEWS’:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-9)
The Adventist attachments to the work of Jesus Christ will not get you into the kingdom of God because the shed blood of Jesus and his gift of the Holy Spirit is the only way for you to experience the rebirth of your human spirit. The pure gospel is totally a work of Jesus.
The Quarterly lesson for Thursday references Rev. 10:7 in association with Rev.14:6 and the Everlasting Gospel:
But that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. (Rev. 10:7)
The lesson author is correct in that the word ‘announced’ or ‘preached’ comes from the Greek word that means ‘good news’ and where we commonly use the English word ‘gospel’. So yes, you could understand this verse to mean that this angel will preach the ‘gospel of the prophets’. However the lie is that the Adventist version of the ‘everlasting gospel’ is not the true gospel of Jesus Christ which was foretold by the Old Testament prophets and recorded in the New Testament for our understanding.
• THE GOSPEL MESSAGE & RIGHTEOUSNESS:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
Sinners cannot keep the Law, meaning the Old Covenant Mosaic Law, because all sinners, both the Jews who were under this Law and Gentiles who are outside this Law, fall short to the glory of God. Only Jesus, the perfect Son of God, who is inherently perfectly holy and righteous could and did keep the Law.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Cor. 15:1-5)
The Apostle John is addressing fellow believers in this passage:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)
It is a lie to say sinners can ‘learn’ to perfectly keep this Law (the obsolete Old Covenant Law) and be able to withstand the Anti-Christ without a mediator in the ‘End Times’. Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and will never be without a Mediator:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
• THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL:
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)
The lesson references numerous Old Testament passages that point to the mystery of the gospel but failed to mention the one quote Jesus described as the prophetic metaphor of his coming death, which is the gospel message of our salvation:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt. 12:38-40)
While many Old Testament passages point to the gospel we must keep in mind it was a mystery until completed by Jesus Christ our Savior. As Jonah came back from the belly of “the great fish” Jesus implied to the Pharisees that he would die to save those who were perishing, would conquer the grave and be resurrected three days later. This metaphor portrays a work of our Savior and is the total and only “good news” for the salvation of sinners. Nothing in it allows for a work sinners perform to supplement the gospel. In the account of Jonah, the people of Nineveh humbly responded to the message and repented of their sins.
• WHAT YOU MUST DO TO HAVE ETERNAL LIFE:
This is the question asked by the Philippian Jailer as recorded in Acts 16:25-34.
And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:29-30)
Paul and Silas were asked a sincere straightforward question and they gave him a simple complete answer:
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. (Acts 16:31-32)
Since it was the Apostle Paul to whom the jailer was asking about how to be saved we can be assured that the ‘word of the Lord’ the jailer heard Paul preach is the gospel recorded in 1 Cor. 15:1-5. Jesus died at Calvary, was buried and was resurrection from the grave three days later for the sins of the world. Believe this work of Jesus in repentance and you will be saved.
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:33-34)
The Philippian Jailer, along with his entire household believed were saved solely by the blood of Jesus Christ at Calvary. Then they were immediately baptized. At this moment in their lives they could have known little more than the gospel message of their salvation.
They were saved and ‘born again’ of their spirit by Jesus’ promised gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Just as they each once had a physical birth which leads to ‘growing up’ to adulthood they would have then matured spiritually in their sanctification:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:16-17)
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)
• SALVATION VERSUS OBEDIANCE TO THE LAW:
Our righteousness is established through the righteousness of Jesus Christ apart from the keeping of the Old Covenant law. All sinners fall short of the glory of God:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:21-25)
The death of Jesus Christ at Calvary fulfilled all the requirements (the Law) of the Old Covenant:
Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?...Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:1, 4)
The purpose of the Old Covenant written law was to show what sin is:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7)
Instead of fearing eternal death as a consequence of sin, it is sin that Christians have learned to hate along with that of ‘holy fear’ of displeasing our Savior.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25)
In the New Covenant Christians are sealed eternally into the kingdom of God and respond to the commands of our Savior written on our hearts by the indwelling Holy Spirit:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
While we live with this mortal flesh that still sins we can rest in the assurance that the indwelling Holy Spirit will convict as needed as we grow in the righteousness and sanctification of our Savior who has created in us a new life for good works founded upon the “everlasting gospel”.
• THE GOSPEL IS THE ONLY FOUNDATION FOR GOOD WORKS:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Cor. 3:10-15)
The ‘works’ of a Christian must be founded on nothing other than the ‘work’ of Jesus Christ which is the gospel of Jesus the Apostle Paul outlines in First Corinthians chapter fifteen. Notice carefully that the Adventist concepts of ‘Sabbath Keeping’ and the ‘Health Message’ are not part of the gospel.
Here is an example of the ‘Good Works’ that ‘The Brothers’ are to have:
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess. 5:12-22)
The Apostle Paul is giving a benediction to fellow Believers, those who have place their faith solely upon the blood of Jesus Christ shed at Calvary. If you avoid reading into the text what it does not say you will notice the practices (good works) that these Christians are to embody into their lives has nothing to do with a ‘Health Message’ or the practice of ‘Sabbath Keeping’. Whatever merit these things may or may not have, they simply are not part of the gospel of Jesus Christ nor are they works founded upon this gospel.
If your works are not placed solely upon the biblically defined gospel of Jesus Christ they will not survive the test of fire. If you faith isn’t founded solely upon the redeeming shed blood of Jesus Christ your works will not save you because ‘good works’ are the result of having salvation and not the other way around.
This is one of the reasons you must know that what Adventism teaches concerning the Everlasting Gospel isn’t in accord with Scripture.
• A REVIEW OF THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:
1. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, John 16:5-11.
“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” (John 16:8)
2. Jesus’ gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit regenerates our human spirit, John 3:1-21.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6)
3. In the New Covenant instituted by Jesus Christ (Jer. 31:31-34; Luke 22:20 & Heb. 9:15) the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit is the Seal of the gospel of a Christian’s salvation:
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:11-14)
No power in the universe can break the Seal of God, Romans 8:31-39.
4. Only through the guiding of the Holy Spirit can we truly understand of the Word of God, John 14:25-26 & 16:12-15.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
Jesus declares that his gift of the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance all things he taught the apostles. This would certainly include the gospel of salvation as the center piece of our faith as outlined in Scripture.
5. The Law of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-12) sets you free from the law of sin and death.
6. All Christians are equipped by the will of God with one or more gifts of the Holy Spirit for the common edification of the Body of Christ. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are equally important and no one Christian has all the gifts, 1 Cor. 12:1-31. Therefore the function of each member of the Body of Christ is equally important as that of all other members of the Body. Jesus, who is the foundation of our faith, is the only head of the Body.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12-13)
7. The Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God and the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ are both vital parts of the whole armor of God that protect Christians from their real enemy which is the Devil, Eph. 6:10-20. If you haven’t been ‘born again’ through our Savior’s gift of the Holy Spirit or if the foundation of your faith isn’t the pure biblical gospel your beliefs will be worthless to protect you from the evil schemes of the Devil.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph. 6:10-20)