Does the New Covenant Abolish the Commandments?

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Does the New Covenant Abolish the Commandments?

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The Bible tells us that Christ came as the Mediator of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6 Hebrews 8:6But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
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). The popular belief that the New Covenant abolishes God’s law reflects a misunderstanding of both covenants. God tells us that He altered the original covenant and made “a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (verse 6). But it was not established on different laws. The law stayed the same.

There was, however, a weakness, or fault, in the original covenant. That fault was with the people, not with the law. “Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah’ ” (Hebrews 8:8 Hebrews 8:8For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days come, said the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
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). It was because the people “did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD” (Hebrews 8:9 Hebrews 8:9Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, said the Lord.
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).

In the Old Covenant, God wrote the law on tablets of stone. It was external, not part of the thinking and motives of the people. It was in their literature but not in their hearts. In the New Covenant, God writes the law in the minds and hearts of His people (Hebrews 8:10 Hebrews 8:10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
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; Jeremiah 31:33-34 Jeremiah 31:33-34 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, said the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
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).

To enable people to internalize His law—to love it and obey it eagerly and willingly—God makes this promise: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 Ezekiel 36:26-27 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.
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). God’s Spirit enables His people to obey His laws!

People lacking the Holy Spirit are incapable of wholehearted obedience. Why? “For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. For those whose lives are in the flesh are unable to please God” (Romans 8:7-8 Romans 8:7-8 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
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, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

This is why the Old Covenant and the New Covenant differ. Paul explains that “what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh” God has accomplished by sending Jesus, who overcame the flesh and “condemned sin [lawlessness] in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4 Romans 8:3-4 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
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; see also 1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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).

The International Critical Commentary, in reference to Romans 8:4 Romans 8:4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
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, says: “God’s purpose in ‘condemning’ sin was that His law’s requirement might be fulfilled in us, that is, that His law might be established in the sense of at last being truly and sincerely obeyed—the fulfillment of the promises of Jeremiah 31:33 Jeremiah 31:33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
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and Ezekiel 36:26 Ezekiel 36:26A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
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.1.”

In a footnote to Jeremiah 31:33-34 Jeremiah 31:33-34 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, said the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
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the commentary explains that this passage “is often misunderstood as a promise of a new law to take the place of the old or else as a promise of a religion without law at all. But the new thing promised in v. 33 is, in fact, neither a new law nor freedom from law, but a sincere inward desire and determination on the part of God’s people to obey the law already given to them.”

The following passages in the New Testament confirm, either explicitly or by example, that Jesus and the apostles viewed the Ten Commandments as necessary for true Christian living.

First Commandment: Matthew 4:10 Matthew 4:10Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.
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; Matthew 22:37-38 Matthew 22:37-38 37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.
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Second Commandment: 1 John 5:21 1 John 5:21Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
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; 1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
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; 1 Corinthians 10:7-14 1 Corinthians 10:7-14 7 Neither be you idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur you, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come. 12 Why let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it. 14 Why, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
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; Ephesians 5:5 Ephesians 5:5For this you know, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
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Third Commandment: Matthew 5:33-34 Matthew 5:33-34 33 Again, you have heard that it has been said by them of old time, You shall not forswear yourself, but shall perform to the Lord your oaths: 34 But I say to you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
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; Matthew 7:21-23 Matthew 7:21-23 21 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
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; Luke 11:2 Luke 11:2And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
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; 1 Timothy 6:1 1 Timothy 6:1Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
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.

Fourth Commandment: Luke 4:16 Luke 4:16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
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; Acts 13:14-44 Acts 13:14-44 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, You men and brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. 16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and you that fear God, give audience. 17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelled as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. 18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. 19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. 20 And after that he gave to them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave to them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up to them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, which shall fulfill all my will. 23 Of this man’s seed has God according to his promise raised to Israel a Savior, Jesus: 24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think you that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there comes one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. 26 Men and brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and whoever among you fears God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. 27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. 28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher. 30 But God raised him from the dead: 31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people. 32 And we declare to you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made to the fathers, 33 God has fulfilled the same to us their children, in that he has raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, You are my Son, this day have I begotten you. 34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. 35 Why he said also in another psalm, You shall not suffer your Holy One to see corruption. 36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid to his fathers, and saw corruption: 37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. 38 Be it known to you therefore, men and brothers, that through this man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins: 39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest that come on you, which is spoken of in the prophets; 41 Behold, you despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which you shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it to you. 42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles sought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
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; Acts 16:13 Acts 16:13And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spoke to the women which resorted thither.
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; Acts 17:2 Acts 17:2And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
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; Acts 18:4 Acts 18:4And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
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; Hebrews 4:4-9 Hebrews 4:4-9 4 For he spoke in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remains that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limits a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest to the people of God.
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Fifth Commandment: Matthew 15:3-6 Matthew 15:3-6 3 But he answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother: and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me; 6 And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
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; Matthew 19:17-19 Matthew 19:17-19 17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
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; Ephesians 6:2-3 Ephesians 6:2-3 2 Honor your father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; 3 That it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.
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Sixth Commandment: Matthew 5:21-22 Matthew 5:21-22 21 You have heard that it was said of them of old time, You shall not kill; and whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say to you, That whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
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; Matthew 19:17-18 Matthew 19:17-18 17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
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; Romans 13:9 Romans 13:9For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
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; Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
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; James 2:10-12 James 2:10-12 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
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Seventh Commandment: Matthew 5:27-28 Matthew 5:27-28 27 You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery: 28 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
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; Matthew 19:17-18 Matthew 19:17-18 17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
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; Romans 13:9 Romans 13:9For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
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; 1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
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; 1 Corinthians 10:8 1 Corinthians 10:8Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
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; Ephesians 5:5 Ephesians 5:5For this you know, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
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; Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
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; James 2:10-12 James 2:10-12 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
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Eighth Commandment: Matthew 19:17-18 Matthew 19:17-18 17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
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; Romans 13:9 Romans 13:9For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
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; Ephesians 4:28 Ephesians 4:28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs.
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Ninth Commandment: Matthew 19:17-18 Matthew 19:17-18 17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
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; Romans 13:9 Romans 13:9For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
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; Colossians 3:9 Colossians 3:9 Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds;
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; Ephesians 4:25 Ephesians 4:25Why putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
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Tenth Commandment: Luke 12:15 Luke 12:15And he said to them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.
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; Romans 7:7 Romans 7:7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet.
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; Romans 13:9 Romans 13:9For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
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; Ephesians 5:3-5 Ephesians 5:3-5 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becomes saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
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