Take a look at this recent article on Beginning with Moses by Simon Finders down in Sydney, the Anglican Evangelical stronghold. He's got a good briefing on preaching Genesis 3. Here's an exerpt.
After discussing how to read Genesis 3 in the context of the whole Bible (aka Biblical Theology) which (1) exposes the wickedness of the human heart, and (2) exalts the work of Christ...
Excursus: A False “Biblical Theology” Trail?
Whilst there is no doubt that Genesis 3 points in both these directions, I have long been intrigued by the way in which Biblical Theologians have articulated the latter. It is one thing to say that Genesis 3 exalts the work of Christ. But it is another thing altogether to show exactly how Christ’s work is honoured by our Biblical Theological understanding of Genesis 3. Moreover, in my experience there is a very popular and common Biblical Theological step taken from Genesis 3 that I’m simply not convinced of.
I’m referring to the idea (first articulated by Luther I believe) that Genesis 3:15 is the first explicit statement of Messianic expectation in the Old Testament. From that moment on, so people say, the narrative invites us to await the appearance of the Serpent Crusher- the one who will crush Satan under his feet and thus reverse the effects of the fall. This verse, cast as it is in the chilling context of God’s condemnation of all humanity, offers humanity some hope. For here we see the Christ. As Christian readers of the Old Testament (and especially as well-trained Biblical Theologians) we are taught to see in this verse what we see at every turn in the Old Testament narrative- that God plans to send his Anointed One to deliver humanity from themselves. Jesus is the Serpent Crusher of Genesis 3:15. Or so the story goes . . .
Up to a point, I agree with that interpretation of the verse. Verse 15 certainly jumps out of the otherwise bleak picture of Genesis 3 and shines its hopeful ray of future anticipation upon the reader. I think the narrative does invite us to expect the Serpent Crusher (or Crushers?) to come and to put right that which has been messed up by human sin. But my question is about whether or not this is to be seen as a Messianic expectation. Is this really a foreshadowing of our Saviour Jesus? Certainly as we read on in Genesis we are disappointed to discover that none of the immediate descendants of Eve are “crushing the serpent”- bringing evil to an end. We even reach the end of Genesis feeling frustrated by the continuing spiral of sinfulness which has yet to be reversed. We are left asking the question, ‘Who will crush the serpent’s head?’, ‘When will the effects of the fall be reversed?’, ‘When will we see this promised deliverance?’
I presume that if Biblical Theology has taught us anything, we will find ourselves turning to the New Testament’s articulation of the gospel for our answers. And surely one of our sacrosanct principles of Biblical Theological interpretation (and rightly so) is that we should inquire of the inspired Apostles to see what they make of this part of the Old Testament? So what does the New Testament say about Genesis 3:15?
One of the interesting things about that question is that there is only one place anywhere else in the Bible where deliberate reference is clearly made to Genesis 3:15 (I’m not convinced that either Psalm 110 or Galatians 3 have Genesis 3 in mind). That in itself is unusual in my opinion if Genesis 3:15 is really the fundamental building-block of Messianic expectation that people say it is. Why don’t the Old Testament prophets remind us of the coming Messiah in those terms? Why doesn’t Jesus ever speak of himself as the Serpent Crusher? Why is the New Testament strangely quiet when it comes to unpacking the work of Christ with respect to Genesis 3:15?
Nevertheless, we are not left in the dark to sketch the trajectories of Genesis 3:15 into the New Covenant by ourselves. The Apostle Paul offers us at least one inspired (in the theological sense of the word) thought. I’m speaking of course of Romans 16:20. At the conclusion of his epistle, Paul encourages the Roman Christians with these words: ‘And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’.
What do we learn, then, about how Paul would answer the questions raised for us by Genesis 3:15 and the unfolding plot of the Biblical narrative between Genesis and Romans? (a) Who is the Serpent Crusher? And, (b) When will the serpent be crushed?
Unless I’m very much mistaken, Paul’s answers seem to be- (a) the Roman Christians, and (b) ‘soon’. It appears to me that Paul’s answer to the “who” question interprets Genesis 3:15 as pointing not to a singular fulfilment in a messianic man, but to a plural (or corporate) fulfilment in the followers of the Messiah. It also seems to me that Paul’s answer to the “when” question points to an eschatological moment the world is yet to see.
As I read Romans 16:20, the Spirit casts my mind back to Genesis 3 and encourages me that I myself, as one of God’s New Covenant people, am a Serpent Crusher. I am a part of that great company of Jesus’ followers who will one day enjoy the overthrow of the curse as I dance on Satan’s head. But the Spirit also cautions me not to strap on my dancing shoes just yet. I’m not a Serpent Crusher right now. However, I will be ‘soon’, says Paul, and so I rejoice in that beautiful ‘soon’ of eschatological anticipation so common to the New Testament’s call for patience and endurance.
Of course, when I dance on Satan’s head and the curse is reversed it will be for no other reason than that my Lord Jesus defeated and disarmed Satan in his death and resurrection (Colossians 2:13-15, Hebrews 2:14-15). In that more muted sense, Jesus is anticipated in Genesis 3:15. But as far as Paul is concerned, Genesis 3:15 is not a prediction about Jesus and it’s not a prediction about when Jesus came the first time. It’s a prediction about the very end of time when God will finally and perfectly make everything right, when the effects of the curse will no longer be felt, and when God’s own people will enjoy the spoils of Christ’s victory themselves.
This is my question: Is it possible that the populist Christological interpretation of Genesis 3:15 has seen people exalt their debt to Luther and the Biblical Theological meta-narrative over and above sensible exegesis and sound hermeneutical principles?
I’m well aware that I’m taking a shot at a pretty “sacred cow”. But it’s important that we ask: Have we got it wrong? Should we speak of a “Serpent-Crusher” at all? Or should we prefer to speak of ourselves as “Serpent Crushers” even whilst we acknowledge our debt to Christ in making us one of that number?
In my sermon on Genesis 3 I deliberately resisted the lure of heading down this popular Biblical Theological track. I tried instead to be guided by the emphases of Genesis 3 and the New Testament in how I concluded and applied the passage.