Christ First Discipleship Ministries

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THE WORKS OF THE FLESH

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, 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. (Galatians 5:19-21)

WHAT ARE WORKS OF THE FLESH?

The works of the flesh are characteristics of the sinful nature of man caused by lust [sinful desire]. They are opposites of the qualities which the Holy Spirit wants to develop in your life.

A SPIRITUAL BATTLE

There is a constant spiritual battle going on in the life of a believer. The works of the flesh are trying to destroy the fruit of the Holy Spirit:

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:17)

The fleshly desires of natural man are contrary to the nature of the Holy Spirit.

The works of the flesh are:

...Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like... (Galatians 5:19-21)

Although the results of these sins are visible in wrong actions, the cause is not visible. The cause is sinful desires [lusts] of the heart:

And He saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him... And He said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; And these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 7:18,20-23)

The sins listed in Galatians 5:19-21 are not all of the sins identified in the Bible. They are a group of sins called "works of the flesh" which contrast the fruit of the Spirit.

ADULTERY

Adultery is sexual intercourse by a married person with someone who is not their spouse.

One of the first ten commandments from God was:

Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)

In Old Testament times when a person committed adultery he was put to death:

And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)

Both Jesus and Paul repeated the warning against adultery in the New Testament:

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery...(Mark 10:19)

For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery... (Romans 13:9)

Jesus expanded the meaning of adultery to include evil sexual desires of the heart:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

Adultery also includes divorcing a mate and remarrying without Biblical cause:

But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:32)

And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. (Mark 10:12)

When a person commits adultery he is sinning against his own soul:

But whoso comitteth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. (Proverbs 6:32)

God judges those who commit adultery:

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)

Those who commit adultery do not inherit the Kingdom of God:

Know ye 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, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9)

One of the characteristics by which you can recognize false teachers is by the sin of adultery:

...there shall be false teachers among you...Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin... (II Peter 2:1,14)

The Bible warns:

...the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. (Proverbs 6:26)

FORNICATION

Fornication is sexual intercourse by two people who are not married to each other. This sin includes adultery which is sexual intercourse by a married person with someone who is not their mate. Fornication also includes sexual intercourse between people who are not married. It includes sexual deviation such as homosexuality [with someone of the same sex] and incest.

Fornication can be a Biblically permitted reason for divorce:

But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commiteth adultery. (Matthew 5:32)

Fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of God:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators..shall inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

The Bible tells us to abstain [refrain] from fornication:

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication. (I Thessalonians 4:3)

Nevertheless to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (I Corinthians 7:2)

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed... (I Corinthians 10:8)

The body is not intended for fornication because it belongs to the Lord. For this reason, you must flee fornication:

...Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body... Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (I Corinthians 6:13,18-20)

It is your responsibility to mortify fornication:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth...fornication... (Colossians 3:5)

Fornication is not to even be named among believers:

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints. (Ephesians 5:3)

If a person continues in fornication, he finally will be given over to it totally. According to Romans l, it can even lead to homosexuality. Eventually, his conscience will no longer be bothered by it:

For this cause God gave them up...Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication...(Romans 1:26,29)

UNCLEANNESS

Uncleanness is the opposite of being clean. In this passage on the works of the flesh, the word "uncleanness" means being spiritually or morally unclean.

God does not want His people to be unclean:

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints. (Ephesians 5:2)

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. (I Thessalonians 4:7)

It is your responsibility to mortify uncleanness and discipline yourself to live a holy life:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour... (I Thessalonians 4:4)

If you do not mortify uncleanness then you will yield to it:

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh; for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. (Romans 6:19)

If you continue to yield to uncleanness you will eventually give yourself over to it:

Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ. (Ephesians 4:19-20)

If you continue to live in spiritual uncleanness [sin], God will give you over to it:

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts... (Romans 1:24)

When a man is given over by God to something, his conscience ceases to function and he is totally controlled by it. He will perish in his sin unless he repents:

But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness … these as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption... (II Peter 2:10,12)

You have the power to either mortify or yield to sin. If you mortify uncleanness, it will lead to holiness in your life. If you yield to it, you will eventually give yourself over to it. Finally, God will give you over to it and you will perish in your own corruption.

LASCIVIOUSNESS

Lasciviousness is the sin of lust, sinful emotions, and lewdness. It is filthy and shameless conduct. Lasciviousness is one of the characteristics by which you can recognize false teachers:

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)

In times past you may have been lascivious. As a believer, you are no longer to continue this behavior:

That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries... (I Peter 4:2-3)

The Bible teaches that if you continue to be lascivious, you will eventually give yourself over to it without conscience:

Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work uncleanness with greediness. (Ephesians 4:19)

IDOLATRY

Idolatry is the worship of idols. This does not just mean the worship of images made out of stone, wood, or precious metals. An idol is anything that is more important to you than God. Idolaters are those who practice idolatry and worship something other than the true God. Idolatry is the lack of acknowledgment of the rightful position of God in your life.

One of the first commandments given by God concerned idolatry:

Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:4)

Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 26:1)

The gods of heathen nations are called idols:

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens. (Psalms 96:5)

You will be confounded [or confused] if you serve idols:

Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols... (Psalms 97:7)

The idols of the heathen are the work of man. They have no power or true spiritual significance:

The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them. (Psalms 135:15-18) (See also Psalms 115:4-8).

A Christian cannot worship idols:

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? (II Corinthians 6:16)

You are not to even keep company with idolaters:

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one go not to eat. (I Corinthians 5:11)

You are warned to keep yourself from idols:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (I John 5:21)

Idolaters will not be part of the Kingdom of God:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived ...neither idolaters... shall inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

The Bible reveals the destination of idolaters:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:15)

The Bible calls covetousness a form of idolatry. Covetousness is wanting something with an intense and wrong desire. You are to mortify and destroy covetousness:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

You may have been an idolater in times past, but believers are no longer to continue with this practice:

That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries... (I Peter 4:2-3)

For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. (I Thessalonians 1:9)

WITCHCRAFT

Witchcraft is the practice of witches including white and black magic, sorcery, astrology, voodoo, use of potions, spells, enchantments, and drugs. It includes all Satanic practices and worship.

The meaning of witchcraft can be expanded to include any control and manipulation of others. Even though you are not involved in Satanic witchcraft, you can be guilty of "witchcraft" as a sin of the flesh if you try to manipulate, control, or pray against others.

Witchcraft is spiritual rebellion against God. God says the sin of rebellion is as bad as witchcraft:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft... (I Samuel 15:23)

HATRED

Hatred is the opposite of love. It is an emotion of intense dislike. It is evil feelings towards others. The Bible says that hatred stirs up strife:

Hatred stirreth up strife; but love covereth all sins. (Proverbs 10:12)

It is better to be where love is than with those who are filled with hatred:

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. (Proverbs 15:17)

Hatred covered by deceit will be revealed by God:

Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation. (Proverbs 26:26)

Deceit here means pretending to like someone when in reality you hate them.

VARIANCE

Variance is disagreement, disharmony, and dissension. It is similar to strife. This word is used only one other place in the Bible; when Jesus speaks of "variance" in the family as a sign of the last days of time (Matthew 10:35).

EMULATIONS

Emulation is the desire to copy others and to equal or excel them. It is a spirit of rivalry and a form of jealousy. This passage in Galatians is the only reference in the Bible where the word is used in this manner (Galatians 5:19-21).

WRATH

Wrath is violent anger, an angry act, rage. The Bible says wrath is cruel:

Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy. (Proverbs 27:4)

A man of great wrath will suffer because of it:

A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment; for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again. (Proverbs 19:19)

Wise men will turn away from wrath:

...Wise men turn away wrath. (Proverbs 29:8)

When you were an unbeliever you were a child of wrath:

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ephesians 2:3)

Now wrath should not operate in your life:

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice... (Ephesians 4:31)

You are to put off wrath:

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. (Colossians 3:8)

You are to forsake wrath:

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. (Psalms 37:8)

You are to be slow to wrath:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (James 1:19,20)

He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding; but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

There is a relation between wrath and the next work of the flesh you will study which is strife. The Bible describes this relationship:

A wrathful man stirreth up strife; but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife. (Proverbs 15:18)

Surely...the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife. (Proverbs 30:33)

STRIFE

Strife is quarreling, fighting, or conflict. It means a clash or dispute. In addition to wrath causing strife, hatred also causes it:

Hatred stirreth up strifes; but love covereth all sins. (Proverbs 10:12)

Forward [aggressive] men also cause strife:

A forward man soweth strife... (Proverbs 16:28)

Pride causes strife:

He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife... (Proverbs 28:25)

Angry men cause strife:

An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression. (Proverbs 29:22)

Scornful men cause strife:

Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea strife and reproach shall cease. (Proverbs 22:10)

To be scornful is to mock or show contempt for something or someone.

People who meddle, are argumentative, and talk about others cause strife:

He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears... Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife. (Proverbs 26:17,20-21)

Foolish questions cause strife:

But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. (II Timothy 2:23)

Strife is a carnal work of the flesh:

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (I Corinthians 3:3)

Where envy and strife is, there will be confusion:

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not...For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:14,16)

The Bible says nothing should be done through strife:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3)

Strife is one of the characteristics of false teachers:

He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth... (I Timothy 6:4-5)

SEDITIONS

Sedition is the stirring up of unrest or discord. This passage on the works of the flesh is one of the few where this term is used in the Bible.

HERESIES

Heresies are beliefs contrary to the Word of God. They are opinions of man which are in error and lead to division in the church. Heresies are characteristic of false prophets:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies... (II Peter 2:1)

ENVYINGS

Envy is jealousy excited by the success of others. It is resentment of the spiritual, financial, or material blessings of others. It is wrong longing and desire.

Envy is one of the characteristics of false teachers:

He is proud knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. (I Timothy 6:4)

Envy comes from the spirit of man:

Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? (James 4:4)

Envy is a sign of being a carnal Christian:

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (I Corinthians 3:3)

Those living in sin are filled with envy:

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers... (Romans 1:29)

For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, and deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. (Titus 3:3)

Where there is envy, other problems arise:

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth...For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:14,16)

We are warned not to envy sinners:

Let not thine heart envy sinners; but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long. (Proverbs 23:17)

MURDERERS

To murder is to take the life of another with willful malice and forethought. Murder is not the same as self-defense or an accidental killing. One of the first commandments given by God was "Thou shalt not kill.”

Jesus said:

...thou shalt do no murder... (Matthew 19:18)

You should not be guilty of murder:

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. (I Peter 4:15)

The New Testament expands the meaning of murder to include hatred. If you hate other believers it is like being a murderer:

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (I John 3:15)

DRUNKENNESS

Drunkenness is a condition of having mental and physical faculties affected by excessive drinking. It is intoxication caused by strong chemical drinks. The Bible warns that the drunkard will be poor:

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty... (Proverbs 23:21)

You are not to live a drunken lifestyle:

Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. (Romans 13:13)

You are not even to keep company with those who are drunkards:

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one go not to eat. (I Corinthians 5:11)

The Bible warns that drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither...drunkards...shall inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

You may have been a drunkard in times past, but as a believer you are no longer to do this:

That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries...(I Peter 4:2-3)

The Bible contrasts being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit:

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)

In the natural world, a drunkard...

Is consumed with desire for drink.

Yields control of his emotional, and physical faculties to drink.

Has his speech affected by the drink.

Is free from inhibitions. He has no fear and often has great strength.

Is joyful while under the influence of intoxicants.

REVELLINGS

Revelling is to engage and delight in worldly pleasures, participating in worldly, boisterous merry making or festivity. It is riotous and wild living.

You may have been a reveller in times past, but as a believer you are no longer to behave this way:

That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness...(I Peter 4:2-3)

WORKS OF THE FLESH: THE RESULT

Paul explains the results of doing the works of the flesh:

...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. (Galatians 5:21)

God has given a way to avoid this penalty:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

WALK IN THE SPIRIT

How does one stop doing the sinful works of the flesh?

First: Repent of your sin and have faith towards God through accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)

God does not take sinful man and give him a self-improvement course. He creates a new creature. The old things pass away. The works of the flesh are to be replaced by the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Second: Be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who will enable you to walk in the ways of the Spirit instead of the sinful ways of the flesh:

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:17)

Third: Realize you cannot be freed from the works of the flesh and walk in the Spirit through your own effort.

The Apostle Paul described the struggle he had in his own effort to live a Godly life:

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (Romans 7:15-19)

Paul experienced the difficulty of living a holy life but he continued to pursue this goal despite his failures.

Ask God to put a desire to be holy in your heart. Whenever you fail and sin, confess it immediately and ask the Holy Spirit to help you overcome it. This is how you learn to walk in the Spirit and...

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death...That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. (Romans 8:1-9)


The fruit of Christ-like qualities only develop as you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why it is so important for believers to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Contrast the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24 with the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19-21.

 

 

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