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Good Stuff Bible study

Good Stuff Bible study

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Published by Mark Surburg
This Bible study looks at how God's material creation plays a central role in the Christian faith. It considers how the biblical faith is creational, incarnational, sacramental and eschatological. It is based on the article, “Good Stuff!: The Material Creation and the Christian Faith,” Concordia Journal 36:3 (2010): 245-262.
This Bible study looks at how God's material creation plays a central role in the Christian faith. It considers how the biblical faith is creational, incarnational, sacramental and eschatological. It is based on the article, “Good Stuff!: The Material Creation and the Christian Faith,” Concordia Journal 36:3 (2010): 245-262.

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Published by: Mark Surburg on Sep 05, 2013
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Good Stuff!: God’s creation and the Christian faith
Rev. Mark P. Surburg
I. IntroductionA. The material creation and the Christian faith
On a Sunday morning, the Divine Service sets before us the many ways that the material creationis involved in the Christian faith. In the invocation and sign of the cross, we remember our  baptism using water. In the First Article of the Nicene Creed we confess faith in one God, theFather almighty who is the “maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.”In the Second Article we confess that the Son of God became flesh when we say that He “wasincarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” In the Third Article weconfess the water of baptism when we state that it is “for the remission of sins” and we then goon to confess the resurrection of the body as we say that we “look for the resurrection of thedead.” Finally in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, our Lord uses bread and wine to comeinto our midst as He gives us His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.The Christian faith that we believe, teach and confess involves God’s material creation again andagain. The faith presupposes the importance of the material creation from beginning to end. It istherefore very helpful to pause and ponder the role that God’s material creation plays in theChristian faith. In doing so, we will gain greater insight into who we are, what God has done for us, what God is doing now and the goal towards which all of God’s work is headed.
B. The Christian faith: Creational, Incarnational, Sacramental and Eschatological
As we think about the material creation and the Christian faith, we can summarize the content of our faith under four heading that are intentionally listed in this order: Creational, Incarnational,Sacramental and Eschatological. In these headings, and in the
 progressive relationship
betweenthem, we gain greater insight into the manner in which God works. This can be depicted in thefollowing diagram:
EschatologicalEschatological action
Eschatological goal(Now) (End of Not yet)
Before we begin, it will be helpful to define what we mean by these four terms.1.Creational: In Genesis 1-2 God makes a material creation and the Christian faith operateson the presupposition that the material creation is
very good 
. The Bible’s starting point isthe
of the material creation and we find that God operates on this basis from beginning to end; from Genesis to Revelation; from creation to restored creation.2.Incarnational: When sin arrives on the scene in the Fall, both humanity and creation itself are warped and twisted. However, the God who considered His material creation to bevery good does not abandon creation. Instead,
 He Himself enters into that creation
in theincarnation as the Word becomes flesh (John 1:14). In Jesus Christ - the One who is trueGod and true man - we find the ultimate affirmation of humanity and the material1
creation itself as God works to deal with the sin that has caused things to cease to be verygood.3.Sacramental: In the incarnation God used His material creation – He used the body andflesh of Jesus Christ – as the means by which He located Himself in the midst of His people in order to work their salvation. It is not surprising then, that when God wishes todeliver the benefits of the incarnation, He does so using the located means of His materialcreation – he uses water and bread and wine. This continuing action by God is simplyconsistent with his starting point (the goodness of the material creation) and with thelocated means by which He has acted to restore humanity and creation (the incarnation).4.Eschatological: In Greek, the word “eschatos” means “last.” The word “eschatologicalis used to describe everything that has to do with God’s End Time action and the LastDay itself. All of God’s action moves towards a goal: the restoration of humanity andcreation on the Last Day when Jesus Christ returns in glory, raises the dead, pronouncesthe final judgment and restores creation. It moves towards the goal of a restoredhumanity and creation that is once again
very good 
. In accomplishing this goal, God actsin a way that is consistent with His creational starting point, and with the incarnationaland sacramental means He has used in order to restore humanity and creation. Note: While the eschatological goal is appropriately listed last, it is necessary to realize that eachstage moving towards this goal is in fact eschatological (it is part of God’s End Time action). Asthe diagram indicates, the incarnation and the sacraments are eschatological actions by God thatare working out this final goal – they are “the now” that are pointing towards the end of “the notyet.”
II. CreationalA. The fundamental goodness of God’s material creation
1. Look at the statements in Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, and 25. What kind of creation is Godmaking? What is God’s evaluation of this
creation?2. Genesis 1:31 What is God’s concluding evaluation when He has completed making thecreation?God considers His material creation to be
very good 
. It is essential that we grasp this starting point – this presupposition of biblical thought - if we are to understand correctly all that followsin Scripture. God’s attitude toward his material creation is that it is very good. In one sense thisshould not be surprising – after all, He made the stuff. Yet we will see that all too often this basic starting point and its implications have been hidden from view by philosophical presuppositions derived from a source other than Scripture.2
B. Human beings are a body and soul joined together in a unity
1. Genesis 2:7 Describe the process by which God created Adam. What does this tell us aboutthe make-up of human beings?2. Matthew 10:28 How does this verse aid our understanding?In the biblical worldview, a human being is comprised of a body and a soul
 joined together in aunity
. A living human being as created and
 by God is the unity of a body and soul.Human existence apart from a material body does not match God’s original creation and divineintention.3. Sometimes, we use language in the Church such as “there are souls that need to be saved.”Does this fully reflect the biblical worldview about human beings? What kind of language canwe use to more fully reflect the biblical worldview regarding human beings?4. Genesis 1:28-29; 2:8; 2:15 Where did God intend for Adam and Eve to live? How did their material body fit with this intention?By way of anticipation of the last section in this Bible study, we will point out now that thegoodness of the material creation and the importance of the material body shape all theexpectations that we will find in biblical teaching about the Last Day. We will see that whenScripture describes God’s future action, it does so in terms of a restored creation and aresurrected body that will live in a restored creation. This is only to be expected, since it reflectsGod’s intention for His created order that we meet in Genesis 1-2. God created a material worldthat was very good and He created human beings as a unity of body and soul to live in thatmaterial world. We will see that God refuses to allow sin to hinder this divine intention.
C. A competing worldview: Dualism
The biblical worldview operates on the presuppositions that the material creation is very goodand that a human being is composed of a body and a soul joined together in a unity. However,this is not the only worldview and set of presuppositions available for reading Scripture. Inwestern thought another worldview has exerted a tremendous influence and has had adevastating impact on the Christian faith.3

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