1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 45

By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998
There are three things we’re going to see in verses 4 and 5. First of all, we’re going to see a willingness on each person’s part in this determination to make this thing work, a willingness to surrender one’s rights to their own body. Second, a willingness to surrender the desire for sexual intimacy. And third, the whole thing comes from a heartbeat of a willingness to surrender to God’s plan so that Satan can be defeated.

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1 Corinthians 7:4-5

Should I Marry or Remain Single?–Part 3

Well, we come to verse 4. Now remember, you cannot disconnect verses 2, 3, and 4. They all fit together. Verse 4 says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” What in the world is Paul talking about here?

A willingness to surrender one’s rights to their own body

There are three things we’re going to see in verses 4 and 5. First of all, we’re going to see a willingness on each person’s part in this determination to make this thing work, a willingness to surrender one’s rights to their own body. That’s got to be in every marriage. I keep remembering there are young people who aren’t married. I am glad they can hear this so they can grow up with a healthy understanding that there’s something to look forward to in marriage if it’s done God’s way, only if it’s done God’s way. We see a willingness to surrender one’s rights to their own body. The attitude that must be present when two married partners are determined to let God’s design work for them is that they must be willing to surrender their right to their own body.

In verse 3 the verbs are in the imperative mood. That’s a command. In verse 3 he says, “Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.” That’s a command. That’s not an option. That’s not a suggestion. That’s God’s command. But the verb in verse 4 is in the present tense. It’s as if the attitude is one of mutual consent. He’s showing you the pattern. He’s showing you how it’s supposed to work, that both of you enter into this relationship realizing how you’re surrendered to one another and you do not take a right over your own body for your own desire but you surrender that right.

Well, the man has been addressed first in verses 2 and 3, but when in verse 4 he addresses the woman first. That’s interesting to me. I don’t know why. He doesn’t tell you why. But he does change it. You know, Paul is doing something here that you cannot understand unless you go back to Genesis. So turn back to Genesis 2. We’ve got to see the original design God had so we can understand what Paul is doing here in 1 Corinthians 7. I believe you’ve got to go all the way back. This is where it started. This is where it comes from. We know most of our thinking about any kind of physical intimacy from what television tells us and what the world shows us but we should not get our information from that. We should get it from the Word of God.

Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’” This just hits me funny. Men, who think they’re so smart in this world, myself included, didn’t have a clue what they needed. Adam didn’t know what he needed. He’s just out in the field goofing around. It was God who knew what he needed. Isn’t that amazing? God always knows what we need. We think we’re so smart. God knows what we need. He said, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” The word “helper” is the word in the Hebrew that refers to one who perfectly matches the one to whom they’re associated.

Now mankind stood out amongst the animal world. There was nothing in the animal world that could come close to the higher creation of man. So, therefore, there had to be a match in mankind just like there was in the other animal kingdom. You had to have someone to match the male that God had made. Verse 19 reads, “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.” Out of all the different creations there was none that would perfectly match him and that means sexually and every other way. They did not perfectly match him.

In verse 21 we read, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.” Adam’s helper, the perfect match for him came from him, had to come out of him. Now, she didn’t come from his head so she could rule over him. She didn’t come from his feet so he could walk over her. She came from his side so that she would be a perfect match for Adam.

In verse 23 it continues, “And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’” I heard a guy preach on this one time. He said, “‘Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.’ Putting that in English it means hot dog!” From the very beginning man recognized that woman was flesh of his flesh and perfectly matched to him. God had purpose in all of this when he put them together. Verse 24 says, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

That’s why Paul can say that the man gives up the rights to his own body. That’s why he can say that the woman gives up her rights to her husband. Why? Because they belong to each other. They are one flesh.

I was thinking about the man who doesn’t like this design and came up with another story. He said that God really came to Adam and said, “Adam, I’ve got something perfect for you.” He described all this perfection, and the man looked at God and said, “God, what’s it going to cost me?” He said, “An arm and a leg.” He said, “Whooo! Got anything for a rib?” That’s not the true story, is it? The perfect match for man is found right here in Genesis 2. They’re one flesh. Can my right arm say it belongs to my left arm? I guess so. Can my left arm say it belongs to my right arm? Yes, I guess so. It’s all one body. It’s one flesh. They’re a part of one another.

So now go back to 1 Corinthians 7 and let’s just see if we can figure out what Paul is saying here in light of all this. He gives up the right to his own body and she gives up the right to her own body. First Corinthians 7:4, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”

The word for “authority” is the word exousiazo. There are four words for authority or power in Scripture. This is a very clear one. It’s one which has the right and the might, particularly in a relationship with another. He does not have the right and the might over his own body when it comes, particularly, to the sexual context that Paul is in with the intimate relationship in marriage. In other words, they don’t have the right to deny the other, particularly when it comes to sexual satisfaction, either by refusing or by gratifying themselves without any thought of the other. You must connect the previous verses for this to make sense. Verse 2 says, “But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife [as part of himself], and let each woman have her own husband [her very own husband]. Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife [He owes a debt], and likewise also the wife to her husband [in the sexual context here].”

Then in verse 4, by surrendering their own rights to their own bodies, that’s the way they pay that debt that they owe to one another. Now, neither one has the attitude that they have the right and authority over their own bodies. If you leave verses 2 and 3 out of this, verse 4 could give all kinds of allowance for crazy things that go on. One even could be in an abusive relationship in a marriage because a man says, “Hey, you don’t have any right over you own body,” without remembering that he doesn’t have any right over his.

You see, I want you to know in God’s point of view, abuse, sexually, in a marriage or a family is absolutely wrong when it comes to God. I also want you to know that as far as I’m concerned, for whatever it’s worth, a man who would abuse his wife physically is the biggest coward who ever walked on the face of this earth, to take the weaker vessel and to treat her in that way. Of course, over the years I’ve known a few women who could whip their husbands. But when it comes to that kind of thing we must remember this in no way gives anybody the right to anything. You’re giving up your right, remember? That’s what the whole thing’s about. You surrender your right to your own personal gratification and you surrender your rights to your bodies to the other person when it comes to the sexual fulfillment within marriage. He’s simply saying, “The man, considering the wife to part of himself. The woman, letting the man know that he’s her very own and no one else. The man, realizing that he owes a debt to his wife to sexually fulfill her and not himself, and the wife, the same to the husband. Each treating one another with mutual respect and good will. Each realizing that they’re part of one another and have no right to deny the other.” That’s what he’s saying so far just as you follow the sequence from verses 2 through 4.

I want to tell you something. God’s design works. In chapter 5, in case you’re confused, the first four words clarify everything he’s saying very clearly. It starts off and says, “Stop depriving one another.” You can’t change the context. The context is what it is. “Stop depriving!” The King James says, “defrauding.” What’s defrauding? Defrauding means to deprive someone of what belongs to them. The tense of the verb is present indicative active. That suggests all kinds of things. Because when he says to stop doing it, evidently they were doing it.

You’ve got to remember the immoral society that Corinth was in. What was making them do this? What was causing them to deprive one another of this sexual fulfillment in marriage? It had to be a perverted understanding of what sex relationships are in marriage as opposed to immorality that’s in the world.

Of course, it is clear what Paul is saying. Many people use deprivation. They deprive the other marriage partner as a weapon. “You spent more money on deer hunting this year than you did on me. You can sleep on the couch.” I hate to tell you this, wife, but if you’re doing that, you’re putting that husband into a trap you don’t want him in, as we’ll see later on, because you’re pushing him right out of the house. You’re pushing him right to where he covets another person’s wife. Look out. It says over in Exodus not to covet your neighbor, your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s wife, their servants, whatever stock, their animals that they have. So you’ve got to be real careful. When you start depriving one another you’re going against the system of what God has set up. When you start taking the rights back in your own hands and trying to manipulate the situation, that’s going to cause problems down the road, somewhere down the road.

Well, remember the age-old misconception that all sex talk is bad. You see, that came from the world. That didn’t come from God’s Word. And when God says it, it’s good because God said it. He commands it in a marriage relationship. So remember when you deprive the other person, you don’t even realize the damage that you’re causing.

I tell you what. You can see clearly by now what Paul means when he says that it’s good for a man not to touch a woman. You realize the context that he’s having to answer that question. He’s not at all talking about a husband and a wife because everything we’ve looked at goes right into the physical intimacy of marriage. God’s design is based on mutual love, verse 2, mutual respect, verse 3, and mutual selflessness in verse 4. But it all begins when they’re willing to adapt the attitude by grace God gives to them that they don’t own their own bodies and they’re not living for their own personal gratification. The other person doesn’t own it either. They had that mutual attitude towards each other, owing a debt to each other, etc., and then God’s design begins to work. So a willingness to surrender the rights to one’s own body.

A willingness to surrender the desire for sexual intimacy

Secondly, a willingness to surrender the desire for sexual intimacy. This is interesting. Having said all of that, then Paul goes on to say there are times for restraint within the marriage and he’s very clear about the boundaries. He says in verse 5, “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” So restraint in the marriage intimacy is always to be by mutual consent.

The word “agreement” there is the word sumphonos. Guess what word we get out of that in English? Symphony. When we two people of mutual consent, neither one imposing their view upon the other, come together and make an agreement, there’s harmony like there should be harmony. One cannot impose his view upon the other. You have this macho society, particularly coming out of legalistic places, I’m telling you, where a man says, “You’re submissive to me, woman, and you don’t have a right over your own body.” That person ought to be kicked in a place on a southern end of his body for saying that. That has nothing to do with the Word of God. That’s a perverted view of submission to begin with. Good grief! But it comes out of a lot of religious circles. They do it in the name of God. That’s not what he’s talking about. What he’s saying here is there’s got to be a mutual agreement. If you do impose anything on any one of yourselves, you make sure it’s by mutual agreement, equally agreed. Stop depriving one another except in agreement.

Then he says, “for a time.” The word for time is not the word chronos. We wear a watch and that’s chronometer. You measure time by a chronometer. But the word kairos is used here. It is not a measurement of time. Kairos is an opportunity, or it can be translated as season. You can see why. Every year after the summer’s over and it’s been hot for a while the weather patterns change and it’s an opportune time for fall to set in. Then it’s an opportune time for winter to set in. So it’s the word “opportunity” here. In other words, you come together by mutual agreement for an opportunity that is beneficial to both of you. Therefore, there is restraint to back off for a while. He says, “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer.”

Now the word “devote” caught me a little off guard. It’s an interesting word. It’s the word scholazo. Guess what word we get from that. We get the word “school” from it. I think it’s kind of funny in a way, because I didn’t grow up with this meaning of it. It means to have leisure. School has the idea that you’re free from physical labor and are at leisure to learn. School was never quite that for me. As a matter of fact, it was physical labor for me to go to school. I loved school. I just hated class. But any way, that’s what the word means: to be in a place free from physical labor so that you’re free to learn.

So the couple, in mutual agreement, come to the point that they willing, it’s an opportunity to back away from physical intimacy so that they can be in an environment where God can do something that will increase their understanding or whatever else is involved in that spiritual situation.

Verse 5 says, “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer.” That’s in the plural. That’s interesting. It’s not like the husband walks in and says, “Hey, I think I’m going to pray for a while and we need to back away for a few days.” No, no. It says “yourselves to prayer.” The first idea that you get out of it is both of you are going into prayer. The King James adds the word “fasting,” which I think should be added there. You’re going into it together.

Now, it may be that the wife is going to pray and fast, and she gets the mutual agreement of the husband that they, during that time, are going to seek the Lord and not have any physical intimacy. But I also want to say this. It also should say to us that to pray and fast you don’t have to break relationship with one another in the sexual side of marriage. That’s not what he’s saying. But if it’s by mutual consent, you can and it’s for an opportunity where God is going to bless you.

Now, listen to me. Fasting has never yet made anybody spiritual. Prayer and fasting is not some great spiritual thing the two of you are going to commit together. Some people take that thing and make it a spiritual rung of a ladder that they climb up to. They make it look, then, that restraint from physical relationship in marriage is a spiritual thing. That’s hogwash. Fasting is just the environment in which you put prayer. When you put prayer in that environment, you back away from eating to where you become more sensitized to hear what God is wanting to say to you.

That really fits the context very well, because you’re in a time backing away from physical labor so that God can speak to you in a way to where both of you can hear. That’s what he’s saying. But don’t ever look at it as some great spiritual thing that you do. I thought the Pharisees taught us that lesson. You see, that’s all fasting is. So there comes a time of mutual agreement where you back away. It’s for a purpose of God’s doing something else in your life, but it’s by mutual consent. The key is mutual consent.

Now, is this the only reason that Paul gives for us to be able to have that restraint from physical intimacy? It’s the only reason he gives right here, but that’s not the only reason. Just common sense tells you that. Why he singled that one out, I don’t know, but there are other reasons. For instance, sickness is another way that you have that mutual consent and respect for one another. There’s a time of pregnancy when a woman is carrying a child. There’s also the time of absence. Peter traveled as much as anybody else did, and he was married. There’s a time of mutual consent here and there are other things that would fit into this, but the key is that both of you are agreed. The reason’s going to come crystal clear to you in the last part of the verse. That’s what he’s saying. By mutual agreement that there’s restraint. What he’s saying is that these are rare times.

If you look at the nation of Israel, God was going to come off of Mt. Sinai after He had spoken to Moses and He was going to speak to the people. They told them to fast and to pray and refrain from any kind of marital relationships. Everybody was to get apart from one another and prepare themselves for this glorious occasion when God came down to speak. Over many centuries later when He gives them the prophecy of what’s going to take place in the end times in the book of Joel, He says basically the same thing. But you can’t find more than two or three times all through the Old Testament that God ever said that this is a requirement, that the man and the woman back away from any physical relationship to prepare themselves to what God is doing. So this is a rarity. This is not in any way the rule. This would be the exception, never the rule. But there comes a point that you may have to surrender your desire for sexual intimacy because of a greater burden that God has put upon you that’s by mutual consent.

You see, continuously laying down your rights, continuously laying down your desires is the whole point of living the Christ life, dying to self so God can accomplish His will in and through you.

A willingness to surrender to God’s plan in order to defeat Satan

So first of all, we see the willingness to surrender your rights to your body. Secondly, we see even to surrender your desire for sexual intimacy. The whole thing is wrapped up in the third point. The whole thing comes from a heartbeat of a willingness to surrender to God’s plan so that Satan can be defeated. That’s the bottom line. You see, we’re protecting one another. God says, “Here’s how you do it. Follow the directions. Husband, follow the directions. Wife, follow the directions. And when you follow the directions, you can escape the temptations that Satan has already set for you all around you in the world.

Verse 5, “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer [and fasting], and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” “Come together again” comes from two words, the word sun, which is the intimate coming together and then the word erchomai, to come. That refers to the sexual union until you come back to where that is taking place. By the way, this ought to show you that sexual intimacy in marriage is not just for procreation which a lot of religious, spiritual people say. Baloney! It’s for the continual enjoyment of husband and wife from now on. God set it up, and God said, “That’s good.” That’s what His idea was. That’s the way God does it.

I want to tell you. All the perverted things we have in our minds given to us by society, whether it came over the computer or came off the television set or wherever it came from. You’ve got to get that garbage out and let the word of God renew your thinking so that you can see it from God’s way. Sexual intimacy in marriage is good. It’s commanded. And if done God’s way, is mightily fulfilling.

Well, the word “Satan” is interesting to me. There are many words for this fallen angel that causes so much havoc in this world. There’s the word “devil,” diabolos, the one who comes between, separates, and divides. I don’t know how many times people have been arguing about where the devil’s doing something or not and dividing in the middle of it and don’t realize he’s already won. You’ve got Beelzebub. You’ve got all these other names. But the name used here is Satan, Satanaz in the Greek. The word means adversary, the one who comes against everything God has desired.

So what he says here in the verse is so clear, “lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” He wants to put you in a compromising situation. He’s got the people out there. He’s got the message out there. All you have to do is be susceptible to it. But as marriage partners you can protect each other from this and become willing to do what God says so that you can protect one another from the temptations that are going to be there. You cannot escape them there in the world, but Satan cannot tempt you for your lack of self-control. That’s very key. We know he’s there.

By Paul’s bringing Satan up we must conclude something out of this by what he said, by your lack of self-control. He’s showing us that all of us in our flesh are incapable of defeating Satan. I’ll tell you. If you want to try it, help yourself. But the temptations are there.

I remember one time I was preaching on the fact that the lust of the flesh and the lust of the world are passing away. Some of you remember that when I was in 1 John and I talked about it as if when you get older those passions leave you. I remember one of my elders came up and corrected me one night. He’s 76. It doesn’t leave you. The body’s a body of sin and we have temptation. The temptation’s just as strong when you’re 70 as it is when you’re 30. Sometimes it can even be worse because of your frame of reference that you have. But no man in the energy of his flesh can do this right here. He cannot do it. This is why you better understand the message of grace, friend, because you can’t do it. You cannot defeat the temptation Satan has around you. But God in the marriage, by your willingness to trust Him and let Him through His grace enable you, you can defeat him.

It’s interesting what people think about the devil. I was in one city not long ago doing a meeting and a guy came up to me and said, “Man, you’d be so proud. We’ve got a group of people here and we’re going to defeat Satan in this whole city.” I said, “You are? That’s so good. How are you going to do it?” He said, “We’re finding the places where Satan’s working and we’re getting together and fasting and praying and we’re going out and we’re standing in circles around them and we’re just casting Satan down and binding him in that city.” I thought to myself, “I bet Satan’s sitting over there listening to that being scared to death.”

Why is it that we all just want to fight Satan out there but we don’t want to go home and live the Christ life, which defeats him automatically? What’s wrong with us? I think people would rather talk about spiritual warfare as if it’s external, rather than dealing with their own flesh.

What he’s saying is if you’ll die to your flesh, if you’ll give up your rights to your own body, give up even your desire for sexual intimacy, whatever it is, you lay it down and you choose to do it God’s way, God will enable you and by His enabling you, you’ve already defeated Satan. That’s what he’s saying.

But oh, no. We’ve got husbands and wives. All of us are the same. I can’t point a finger at you. There are days I’m the same way. I just say to myself, “Alright, you’re going to act like that and I’m going to act the way I want to act.” I’ll tell you what it does. It drives a wedge in that beautiful intimacy God has for you. Then it comes Christmas time or Easter and everybody’s celebrating and you’re miserable and you blame the stores and you blame all the publicity and you blame all this stuff, but the problem is it’s not anything out there. It’s something in here. And if you’re not celebrating Christ in the design He has for you and your wife or your husband, if you’re not celebrating Him in that family, if you’re not experiencing Him, the grace truth of Him in you giving you even the desire to do what He’s commanded you to do, then how in the world are you going to celebrate Him outside? It starts right in the home, folks.

This is where we are in America. We’ve let the world dictate our thinking towards certain things instead of letting the Word of God renew our minds. He says, “because of your lack of self-control.” The word is akrasia. It means without control there. It’s found in Matthew 23:25 when Jesus said, “Whoa to you, scribes and Pharisees hypocrites!” There are a lot of scribes and Pharisees around in the church of Jesus Christ today, aren’t there? “For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” Self-indulgence is the word akrasia. It’s the same world. Indulge yourself, you see. That’s what’s going to happen if you start depriving one another. That’s what he’s saying. Stop doing it lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control. You’re not programmed to go long periods of time in a marital situation without the sexual intimacy unless God has intervened and there’s a higher spiritual thing that He’s doing at that particular point and it’s by mutual consent.

It’s very important to talk about these things in open assemblies like we’re doing. If Paul didn’t want all of us to hear it, why did he write it in 1 Corinthians 7? The satanic temptation begins in one’s heart when one marriage partner says to the other, “No, sleep on the couch.” At that very moment the satanic temptation begins to well up in the flesh. I want to tell you. Satan’s got enough out there who can catch it and take it further than you ever wanted to go. The road to destruction has begun.

I remind you of Ephesians 3:16-17 again. What He commands, He enables. He gives us ability to go through what His design is all about.

So a willingness to surrender one’s rights to their own bodies, a willingness to surrender one’s desire for sexual intimacy, and when you put it all together what’s the whole attitude? A willingness to surrender to God’s plan so that Satan might be defeated. The moment you die to self and submit yourself to Christ, that is your resistance to Satan and, as I said before, he is already defeated. His temptations fall right off deaf ears when you’re doing it God’s way. Read the directions.

You know men are the worst about reading the directions. No wonder he addresses the men first because we don’t pay attention to any directions. We can do anything. Who needs God? Several years ago I got my son a Big Wheel bike. They’ve got a little more sophisticated now. Now they’ve got motors and clutches and everything else. Back then they didn’t have all that. Stephen really wanted a Big Wheel. It was green. It looked like a turtle. It had yellow on it and big green wheels on it. It was an awful looking color. That’s the one he had seen and had kind of liked so we got it for him for Christmas. I’m putting the thing together on the night before Christmas. Why did I wait until the night before Christmas? It’s 3:00 in the morning and I’m trying to put this thing together. Diana so sweetly says, “Are you going to read the directions?” I don’t need directions. I can handle this. I remember putting all the stuff on there and when I got it finished I was so proud.

I pushed that thing out across the floor and it looked like a crippled duck. I’m wondering why did it do that? I thought, “Oh my goodness!” Underneath the directions were four little red sleeves and I thought of all places to be up under the directions. I looked at them and said, “Where do these go?” Finally I looked at the directions. When all else fails, look at the directions. I found out what I had done. You know those little cap nuts that you put on something and you have to take a hammer and knock them on. I remember wondering if I had forgotten anything and I put that cap nut on. You drive them on. They’re tight. Then I rolled it out and I’m thinking, “Oh, no. I’ve got to take those cap nuts back off.” You know what happens. When you take them off, they never go back on like they went on the first time.

I took them off and put the little sleeves in there between the body of the little thing and the wheel. I got it all put back together and I rolled it out across the floor and it rolled like it was supposed to. I was okay. I was alright. Christmas morning comes and Stephen’s so excited he cannot stand it. It was snowing. We had about one inch of snow on the ground. We went outside, and we wanted to take pictures and watch them and everything. He gets out there on the little Big Wheel just riding that thing. It had streamers coming down out of the handles. All of a sudden one wheel went that way and one wheel went that way. Everybody in my family knew what I’d done. The thing just fell apart and Stephen was crying and broken-hearted. I had to run out there and say, “It’s okay, Stephen. It’s alright.” I had to look for those little things that had fallen off. You just can’t find them that easy. I found them and put them back on.

He gets back out and everything’s going to be alright. He goes 20 twenty feet and he’s crying again. I had to get some orange fluorescent paint and paint them orange so I could find them the rest of the day. I spent the whole day putting those cap nuts back on it. It’s amazing. If you’d just read the directions.

The apostle Paul says, “Here are the directions. Do you want it to work? This is the way it works.” But I don’t like talking about it in the presence of others. Well, get off that guilt trip and come down here and let’s do what God’s says. It’s good. It’s acceptable and it’s perfect. But you must commit to doing it God’s way. Then He gives you the grace to carry it out. And it’s beautiful. Ten thousand joys await you if you’ll do it God’s way.

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