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Romans 6

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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A. The believer’s relationship to sin ch. 6

"Subduing the power of sin is the topic of Romans 6." [Note: Moo, p. 350.]

Verse 1

One writer counted 74 rhetorical questions in Roman. [Note: B. Kaye, The Argument of Romans with Special Reference to Chapter 6, p. 14.] This chapter begins with one of them. Paul had just said that grace super-abounded where sin increased (Romans 5:20). Perhaps then believers should not worry about practicing sin since it results in the manifestation of more of God’s grace and His greater glory. One expression of this view is Voltaire’s famous statement, "God will forgive; that is his ’business.’" [Note: Cited by Moo, p. 356.] W. H. Auden voiced similar sentiments.

"I like committing crimes. God likes forgiving them. Really the world is admirably arranged." [Note: W. H. Auden, For the Time Being, p. 116.]

Paul probably posed the question to draw out the implications of God’s grace.

". . . justification by faith is not simply a legal matter between me and God; it is a living relationship." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:531.]

Verses 1-14

1. Freedom from sin 6:1-14

Paul began his explanation of the believer’s relationship to sin by explaining the implications of our union with Christ (Romans 6:1-14). He had already spoken of this in Romans 5:12-21 regarding justification, but now he showed how that union affects our progressive sanctification.

"The focus of his discussion, particularly in chapter 6, is not on how to obey God and avoid sinning, but on why we should obey God." [Note: Robert A. Pyne, "Dependence and Duty: The Spiritual Life in Galatians 5 and Romans 6," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands, p. 149.]

The apostle referred to Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection in this section. Seen from the viewpoint of His substitute sacrifice these events did not involve the believer’s participation. Jesus Christ alone endured the cross, experienced burial, and rose from the grave. Nevertheless His work of redemption was not only substitutionary but also representative. It is in this respect that Paul described believers as identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection in the following verses. Paul previously introduced the idea of Christ as our representative in Romans 5:12-21 (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14). Sin has no further claim on Christ because He paid the penalty for sin. Sin no longer has a claim on us because He died as our representative. We are free from sin’s domination because of our union with Him. This was Paul’s line of thought, and it obviously develops further what Paul wrote in Romans 5:12-21.

"In ch. 6 there are four key words which indicate the believer’s personal responsibility in relation to God’s sanctifying work" (1) to ’know’ the facts of our union and identification with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3; Romans 6:6; Romans 6:9); to ’reckon’ or count these facts to be true concerning ourselves (Romans 6:11); to ’yield,’ or present ourselves once for all as alive from the dead for God’s possession and use (Romans 6:13; Romans 6:16; Romans 6:19); and (4) to ’obey’ in the realization that sanctification can proceed only as we are obedient to the will of God as revealed in His Word (Romans 6:16-17)." [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1217.]

Verse 2

This is definitely not a proper conclusion (cf. Romans 3:8). It is illogical that those who have died in relation to sin should continue to live in sin. Paul personified sin and described it as have a ruling power or realm. We died to sin when we experienced conversion.

"How despicable it would be for a son or a daughter to consider himself or herself free to sin, because he or she knew that a father or a mother would forgive." [Note: Barclay, p. 86.]

Note that Paul did not say that it is impossible to live in sin or that sin is dead to the Christian (i.e., that it no longer appeals to us). He meant it is unnecessary and undesirable to live in sin, to habitually practice it.

For example, if a man’s wife died it would be unrealistic for him to continue living as though she were alive. Her death changed his relationship to her. He could, of course, continue to live as though she were alive, but such a man no longer must do so and should not.

It is incredible that one advocate of lordship salvation wrote the following.

"What is no-lordship theology but the teaching that those who have died to sin can indeed live in it?" [Note: MacArthur, p. 106.]

This expositor caricatured those of us who believe in salvation by faith alone as "no-lordship" advocates, implying that we do not believe in the lordship of Christ. We do believe in it, but we do not believe that submitting to Jesus Christ’s mastery over every area of our lives, or even being willing to do so, is a biblical condition for obtaining justification (cf. Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; et al.). Romans 6:13; Romans 12:1-2 are three of the clearest verses in the Bible that submission to the lordship of Christ is the duty of every Christian. It is not optional or unimportant, but it is a command addressed to Christians, not unbelievers.

Verses 3-4

Our baptism into (with respect to) Jesus Christ resulted in our death to sin.

"It appears that Paul had both the literal and figurative in mind in this paragraph, for he used the readers’ experience of water baptism to remind them of their identification with Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:531.]

"Baptism . . . functions as shorthand for the conversion experience as a whole." [Note: Moo, p. 355.]

Water baptism for the early Christians was an initiation into Christian existence. Baptism joins the believer with Jesus Christ in public profession, which includes joining him or her with Christ in His death. Union with Christ in baptism then necessitates our burial and resurrection with Him.

". . . there is no evidence in Romans 6, or in the NT elsewhere, that the actual physical movements-immersion and emersion-involved in baptism were accorded symbolical significance. The focus in Romans 6, certainly, is not on the ritual of baptism, but the simple event of baptism. . . .

"’Burial with Christ’ is a description of the participation of the believer in Christ’s own burial, a participation that is mediated by baptism." [Note: Ibid., pp. 362, 363.]

"It is not that the believer in baptism is laid in his own grave, but that through that action he is set alongside Christ Jesus in his." [Note: G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the New Testament, p. 130.]

". . . baptism is introduced not to explain how we were buried with Christ but to demonstrate that we were buried with Christ." [Note: Moo, p. 364. See his excursus on Paul’s "with Christ" concept on pages 391-95.]

"From this and other references to baptism in Paul’s writings, it is plain that he did not regard baptism as an ’optional extra’ in the Christian life." [Note: Bruce, p. 128.]

Neither did Paul regard it as essential for salvation (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:17). Jesus’ burial was not part of His saving work. It simply proved that He had died (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Similarly His resurrection was not part of His saving work. It proved that death could not hold Him because He was sinless (cf. Acts 2:24).

God not only raised Jesus Christ but also imparts new life to believers. Walking in newness of life shows that the believer has received new life (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). "Glory" in Romans 6:4 has power in view (cf. John 11:40).

Verse 5

Paul apparently meant physical resurrection in view of what follows. He was speaking of the resurrection of the body at a future date rather than the believer’s resurrection to a new type of life with Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1). This is parallel to what he said about our death in the context.

We could paraphrase "united" as "fused together." The Greek word (sumphytoi) means "grown together." Our union with Christ in His death and resurrection is the basis for our future resurrection.

Verse 6

As we sinned in Adam, so we died with Christ (cf. Galatians 2:20). Paul said it is important that we "know" this because it is crucial to understanding our relationship to sin as believers.

"Christian living depends on Christian learning; duty is always founded on doctrine. If Satan can keep a Christian ignorant, he can keep him impotent." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:530.]

"Satan’s great device is to drive earnest souls back to beseeching God for what God says has already been done!" [Note: Newell, p. 213.]

Our old "man" or "self" refers to the person we were before we experienced justification. That person was crucified with Christ (cf. Colossians 3:9). That person is now dead; he no longer exists as he once was. Nevertheless we can adopt his or her old characteristics if we choose to do so (cf. Ephesians 4:22). The believer is not the same person he or she used to be before justification (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The old man (old self) is not the same as the old nature. [Note: See John R. W. Stott, Men Made New: An Exposition of Romans 5-8, p. 45.] The old nature refers to our sinful human nature that every human being possesses as long as he or she lives. The old nature is the same as the flesh (cf. Romans 7:5).

"’The flesh,’ which is sin entrenched in the body, is unchangeably evil, and will war against us till Christ comes. Only the Holy Spirit has power over ’the flesh’ (Chapter 8.1)." [Note: Newell, p. 212. See I. Howard Marshall, "Living in the ’Flesh’," Bibliotheca Sacra 159:636 (October-December 2002):387-403, for an excellent word study of "flesh."]

Even though the old man has died, the old nature lives on. I am not the same person I was before justification because sin no longer can dominate me, but I still have a sinful human nature.

I prefer not to use the term "new nature." It does not appear in Scripture. The New Testament presents the Christian not as a person with two natures warring within him or her. It presents the Christian as a person with one sinful nature (the flesh) that is in conflict with the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:16-23). It also speaks of the Christian as struggling with the decision to live as the new man that he or she now is. Our alternative is to live as the old man who we were but are no longer (cf. Romans 7:13-24).

"What we were ’in Adam’ is no more; but, until heaven, the temptation to live in Adam always remains." [Note: Moo, p. 375.]

Our "body of sin" is not the same as a sinful body since the body itself is not sinful (cf. Mark 7:21-23). Probably the body in this expression represents the whole person (cf. Romans 6:12-13). We express our sinfulness through our bodies. The result of our crucifixion with Christ was that the body no longer needs to be an instrument that we use to sin since we are no longer slaves of sin.

Verse 7

Death ends all claims. Paul illustrated his point in Romans 6:6 by referring to this general truth. Once a person has died he or she has no more earthly obligations. Because of our death with Christ we have no obligation to respond to the dictates of our sinful nature. We may choose to do so, but we do not have to do so, and we should not do so (cf. Ephesians 4:22-32).

This verse does not mean that the power of sinful habits or the effects of sinful influences will cease to bother a person when he or she becomes a Christian. It does mean that the Christian is no longer under the slavery of sin that he or she used to live under. Our senses create a problem for us here. The unsaved person may think he is not a slave to sin when he really is. Conversely the Christian may think he is a slave to sin though he is not. The fact remains: God has broken the chain that once bound us to sin, and, happily, we are free of its domination. Unfortunately we will not be free of its enticement until our glorification.

The translation "acquitted from sin" is legitimate but perhaps misleading. It implies a forensic relationship to sin, but Paul was speaking of our relationship to sin in daily living in this section (practical sanctification, not justification).

Verse 8

"If" could be translated "Since" (first class condition in Greek that in this case represents a condition genuinely true to reality). Believers have died with Christ. Paul now turned from discussing the effect that our union with Christ has on our problem with sin (Romans 6:6-7). He proceeded to explain the effect that our union with Him has on our problem with death. Death is the result of sin. Here physical resurrection is in view, as is clear from the future tense (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57). However some writers have taken this as referring to our life lived out here and now. [Note: E.g., Mounce, p. 152; and Cranfield, 1:312-13.]

Verse 9

Death could not hold Jesus Christ, our representative. It cannot hold the believer either. Furthermore neither He nor we will die a second time. We will never again come under the enslaving, spiritual death-dealing power of sin.

Verse 10

Jesus Christ will never have to die again because when He died for sin He died to sin. This means that when He died His relationship to sin changed. It was never the same again. Sin now has no power over Him. After He paid for our sins, He was free to resume His intimate relationship with God forever.

"This stands in opposition to the doctrine and practice of the so-called perpetual sacrifice of Christ in the Roman Catholic Mass." [Note: Witmer, p. 463. Cf. Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10.]

Verse 11

Since God has united us with Christ we should "consider," "count," or "reckon" ourselves as those who are not under the dominating influence of sin any longer. The verb is a present imperative in the Greek text indicating that we should definitely and constantly view ourselves this way. We must realize that we are free to enjoy our new relationship with God forever. One writer explained well how Christians should view themselves. [Note: See Don Matzat, Christ-Esteem.]

Paul previously stressed the importance of knowing certain facts (Romans 6:3; Romans 6:6; Romans 6:9). Now he said that we should count on their being true. We must not just understand them but believe them. He used the same Greek word (logisthesetai) here as he did in his explanation of justification (Romans 2:26; Romans 4:3-6; Romans 4:8-11; Romans 4:22-24). God puts righteousness down on the believer’s account. Similarly we should put it down as true that our relationship to sin and death has changed. Only as we do so will we relate to temptation, sin, and death realistically. If we fail to believe that sin no longer dominates us, we will be much more vulnerable to yield to temptation, to practice sin, and to fear death. However if we believe sin does not have that power, we will be more apt to resist temptation, to stay clear of sin, and to anticipate death less fearfully. "Consider" is in the present tense in the Greek text indicating that we need to maintain a realistic view of our relationship to sin (i.e., to "keep on considering").

"The word reckon is a word for faith-in the face of appearances." [Note: Newell, p. 225.]

In some parts of the United States, "I reckon" means "I guess." For example, "I reckon it’s going to rain this afternoon." That is not its meaning here. It means to count on something being true, to believe it.

"This is no game of ’let’s pretend’; believers should consider themselves to be what God in fact has made them." [Note: Bruce, p. 132.]

Verse 12

Paul had expounded the reality and implications of the believer’s union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:1-10). He had also urged his readers, therefore, to consider themselves dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). He now proceeded to call on them to present themselves to God in a decisive act of self-dedication (Romans 6:12-23).

"Therefore" draws a conclusion on the basis of what has preceded. Since believers know that we are no longer subject to sin’s domination, and since we believe that is true, we should not let sin reign in our bodies (selves) any longer. Sin is no longer our master, so we can and should stop carrying out its orders. Paul undoubtedly was giving a general prohibition, not implying that the Roman Christians in particular were letting sin reign over them (cf. Romans 15:14-15). When temptation comes, we do not have to yield.

". . . ’passions’ would include not only the physical lusts and appetites but also those desires that reside in the mind and will: the desire to have our own way, the desire to possess what other people have (cf. Romans 7:7-8), the desire to have dominance over others." [Note: Moo, p. 383.]

Verse 13

In particular, we should not use our natural capacities to commit sin. Positively we should "present" or "offer" ourselves to God and our members (eyes [representing what we look at], ears [what we listen to], mouths [what we say], hands [what we do], feet [where we go], hearts [what we love], minds [what we think about], wills [the decisions we make], etc.) as His tools to fulfill His will (cf. Romans 12:1). The believer has a choice. We can present ourselves to sin or to God (cf. Ephesians 4:17-32). The unbeliever only has this choice to a limited extent since he is the slave of sin.

"Some commentators think that Paul . . . pictures this ’presenting’ as a ’once-for-all’ action, or as ingressive (’start presenting’), or as urgent. But the aorist tense in itself does not indicate such nuances and nothing in the context here clearly suggests any of them. In fact, the aorist imperative often lacks any special force, being used simply to command that an action take place-without regard for the duration, urgency, or frequency of the action. This is probably the case here. However, we may surmise that, as the negative not presenting ourselves to sin is constantly necessary, so is the positive giving ourselves in service to God, our rightful ruler." [Note: Ibid., p. 385.]

I find that it is helpful for me to make this conscious presentation of myself to God daily.

The Christian’s Three-Fold Enemy
The World (1 John 2:15-17)
Lust of the flesh
Lust of the eyes
Pride of life
(1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22)
The flesh
(Romans 7:18-24)
(Romans 6:12-13; Romans 8:13)
The devil
(1 Peter 5:8)
(1 Peter 5:9)

"The moment we come to exhortation, we have to do with the will; whereas believing is a matter of the heart: ’With the heart man believeth.’" [Note: Newell, p. 229.]

"Paul’s first instruction (’know’) centered in the mind, and this second instruction (’reckon’) focuses on the heart. His third instruction touches the will." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:532.]

Some Reformed interpreters believe that progressive sanctification is automatic. They believe that God automatically transforms every true Christian into the image of Christ during his or her present lifetime. If this transformation is not obvious, then the person professing to be a Christian must not be one. I would respond that he or she may not be, but there is another possibility.

"Is the Holy Spirit being allowed to transform your life?

"There are only two possible answers: yes or no. If your answer is no, there are two possible reasons. Either you do not have the Spirit within you (i.e., you’re not a Christian), or He is there but you prefer to live life on your own." [Note: Charles R. Swindoll, "Is the Holy Spirit Transforming You?" Kindred Spirit 18:1 (January-April 1994):7. This article is an excerpt from the same writer’s book Flying Closer to the Flame.]

"Why does the Lord want your body? To begin with, the believer’s body is God’s temple, and He wants to use it for His glory (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Philippians 1:20-21). But Paul wrote that the body is also God’s tool and God’s weapon (Romans 6:13). God wants to use the members of the body as tools for building His kingdom and weapons for fighting His enemies." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:533.]

Verse 14

"In Romans 6:1-11 the Apostle has shown what it means to be united to Christ; in Romans 6:12-13 he has shown the consequences and made his appeal to the believer; and now in Romans 6:14 he assures us of the Divine provision for the complete fulfillment of these exhortations." [Note: Griffith Thomas, St. Paul’s Epistle . . ., p. 171.]

The apostle concluded this section of his argument with a word of encouragement. Sin will no longer master the believer. The basic reason for this is that we are not under the Mosaic Law as the authority under which we live but under grace. Satan can no longer use the Law to hinder the believer’s progress (cf. Romans 3:23). God has redeemed us, not by the Law but by grace. We now live under that authority. Paul dealt with the tension this situation creates for the believer in chapter 7.

Usually "grace" refers to the principle by which God operates. Yet it also describes the sphere in which the believer lives, as here (cf. Romans 5:2), as "the Law" describes the old realm. "Under grace" is not, however, a condition in which we are free from any responsibility (cf. Matthew 11:28-30; Titus 2:11-12), as Paul proceeded to clarify in Romans 6:15-23. Neither was there no grace under the Mosaic Law.

"Romans 6 is the classic biblical text on the importance of relating the ’indicative’ of what God has done for us with the ’imperative’ of what we are to do. Paul stresses that we must actualize in daily experience the freedom from sin’s lordship (cf. Romans 6:14 a) that is ours ’in Christ Jesus.’" [Note: Moo, pp. 390-91.]

Verse 15

Paul’s question here is not a repetition of Romans 6:1. There he asked if we could "continue in sin" or "go on sinning." Here he said, Shall we "sin?" There he was looking at continual sinning. Here he dealt with specific acts of sin. A sinful lifestyle and acts of sin are both inappropriate for a believer who is living under God’s gracious authority.

"Surely, the objector says, we may take a night off now and then and sin a little bit ’since we are under grace.’" [Note: Robertson, 4:364.]

Verses 15-23

2. Slavery to righteousness 6:15-23

In the first part of this chapter Paul explained that Christ has broken the bonds of sin that enslave the Christian (Romans 6:1-14). In the second part he warned that even though we are free we can become enslaved to sin by yielding to temptation (Romans 6:15-23; cf. John 8:34). Rather we should voluntarily yield ourselves as slaves to righteousness.

"Three words summarize the reasons for our yielding: favor (Romans 6:14-15), freedom (Romans 6:16-20), and fruit (Romans 6:21-23)." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:533.]

Verse 16

Having presented himself to God in dedication (Romans 6:13), the believer needs to obey Him. Obligation always follows dedication whether the dedication is to sin or to obedience. The outcome of dedication to sin is death (Romans 5:12; Romans 8:13), but the outcome of dedication to obedience is righteousness. Imparted, moral righteousness (progressive sanctification) is in view here, not imputed righteousness (justification, cf. Romans 5:19).

"Many people who have been convicted of the guilt of sin and have relied on the shed blood of Christ as putting away that guilt, have not yet, however, seen a state of sin as abject slavery." [Note: Newell, p. 238.]

Verse 17

The form of teaching Paul had in mind was the teaching that the Lord Jesus Himself gave during His earthly ministry and then through His apostles (cf. Galatians 6:2), in contrast to the Mosaic Law. God had not forced Paul’s readers to yield to it as to law. They had willingly embraced it as law for themselves. They had committed themselves to it from their hearts. Paul was not stressing the fact that the Lord had committed His teachings to his readers, as the AV translation implies, but that they had committed themselves to it.

Verse 18

The slavery of the readers to righteousness was therefore voluntary. It seems that because of his very nature man must be the slave of something. "Righteousness" here is the result of following Christian teaching, and it is the equivalent of godly living. It is righteous character and conduct.

Paul did not say that every believer takes advantage of his or her freedom from sin’s tyranny to become a slave of God. He said his readers had done so, and in this he rejoiced. Dedication to God is voluntary, not automatic for the Christian (cf. Romans 6:13; Romans 12:1). If a believer does not truly dedicate himself or herself to God, he or she will continue to practice sin to a greater extent than he will if he does present himself to God (Romans 6:16).

Verse 19

Paul had put his teaching in human terms. He had compared the believer’s situation to that of a free person on the one hand and to a slave on the other. He did this to help his readers grasp his point but evidently also to make a strong impact on them. Paul felt constrained to be very graphic and direct in view of their past. They had formerly deliberately yielded to sin. Now they needed to deliberately present (offer) themselves as slaves to God (cf. Romans 6:13; Romans 6:16). This would result in their progressive sanctification. [Note: See Larry J. Waters, "Paradoxes in the Pauline Epistles," Bibliotheca Sacra 167:668 (October-December 2010):435-41.] Note again that progressive sanctification is not totally passive or automatic. It requires some human action.

". . . what we most earnestly assert is that not only Paul here, but our Lord Himself, and Scripture generally, sets forth that only those that know the truth and walk therein, are free." [Note: Newell, p. 242. Cf. John 8:31-32, 34, 36.]

Verse 20

As an added incentive, Paul reminded his readers that when they had chosen the slavery to sin option in the past they did not gain any (moral) righteousness. They did not become more righteous in their conduct. What Paul said applied equally to their pre-conversion and post-conversion experience.

Verse 21

His readers reaped no benefits from their slavery to sin. Shame was its immediate result and death its final fruit.

Verse 22

Now, in contrast, they were free from sin’s tyranny because of their union with Christ. If they presented themselves as slaves to God voluntarily, they could anticipate the sweet fruit of progressive sanctification (holiness) and fullness of eternal life (cf. John 10:10; John 17:3). Scripture speaks of eternal life as both the immediate and the ultimate product of progressive sanctification. Quality of life is involved as well as quantity.

Verse 23

Paul brought his thoughts on this subject to a summary conclusion in this verse. The principle stated here is applicable to all people, believers and unbelievers. It contrasts the masters, sin and God, with the outcomes, death and eternal life. Paul also distinguished the means whereby death and life come to people. Death is the wage a person earns by his or her working, but eternal life is a gift free to those who rely on the work of Another.

Wages normally maintain life, but these wages result in death. Employers usually pay them out regularly and periodically rather than in a lump sum. Death also comes to the sinner regularly and periodically during the sinner’s lifetime, not just when he or she dies. Furthermore wages are a right.

"Man has rights only in relation to sin, and these rights become his judgment. When he throws himself on God without claim, salvation comes to him." [Note: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "opsonion," by H. W. Heiland, 5 (1967):592.]

Romans 6:15-23 teach truth by way of contrasts. Obedience to sin yields unfruitfulness, shame, and death. Obedience to righteousness results in progressive sanctification and the fullness of eternal life.

In chapter 6 Paul prescribed four steps designed to promote practical sanctification. First, we must "know" certain facts about our union with Christ, specifically that sin no longer possesses the dominating power over the believer that it has over the unbeliever (Romans 6:3-10). Second, we must "reckon" (believe) these facts to be true of us personally (Romans 6:11). Third, we must "present" ourselves to God in dedication as His slaves to perform righteousness (Romans 6:12-14). Fourth, we must obey God (Romans 6:15-23). If we do not, we will find ourselves falling back under the domination of sin in our lives and becoming its slaves once again. Each of these verbs has the force of an active command. Each represents something every believer should do. These are our basic responsibilities in our progressive sanctification regarding our relationship to sin. [Note: See Chafer, Systematic Theology, 2:351-54.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/romans-6.html. 2012.
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