Aug 28, 2006

A Dubious Messianic text in Genesis 3?

Finally someone said it. It's about Genesis 3:15 and the "Serpent Crusher" text. I've long heard that this is one of the first Messianic predictions in the OT. To be honest, however, I've always somewhat doubted it, because I could never find any other textual evidence or contextual evidence that supported this proposition.

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.

Aug 20, 2006

Sexual Immorality in the Church: An Exposition of 1 Cor 5

David Short's sermon at evening prayer at the ACN meeting in Pittsburgh. Not only a good exposition of the great encouragement of Paul's message to the church of Corinth, but a wonderful example of good expository preaching. This is the kind of preaching I long for. He tells it like it is. He gets down to the core, that sexual immorality imperils the holiness, gospel witness and unity of the church. These are important things!!! Therefore, says Paul, expel the immoral person from among you. Well done, David!

A New Beginning: An Exposition of Nehemiah 8

David Short, a fine expository preacher and teacher of preachers, gave this exposition of Nehemiah 8 while meeting with the ACN in Pittsburgh.

Simeon Trust Preaching Workshop Nov 1-3 in Upland, IN

Workshop on Biblical Exposition
November 1-3, 2006 | Upland, Indiana
A Workshop for Men Engaged in Fulltime Ministry of the Word

About the Instructors:

Dick Lucas is Rector Emeritus of St. Helen's Bishopsgate in London, England. His formal education was at Camrbridge University and he served in the Royal Navy as a youth. Though retired from the pulpit at St. Helen's, he is an author and frequent lecturer both in London and here in the United States. Rev. Lucas is also well-known as the first chairman and a founding Trustee of the
Proclamation Trust in London. His work with
the Proclamation Trust has included the development

of the EMA conferences as well as the Cornhill
Training Course and the distribution of a variety of
Gospel Resources through the Audio Partnership.

David Helm is Sr. Pastor of Holy Trinity Church, a multi-site church plant in the city of Chicago. He was ordained in the PCA after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1988. He authored the Big Picture Story Bible and coauthored the Genesis Factor. David also serves as the Executive Director of the Charles Simeon Trust.

Intro: Kingdom of God

Introduction to the Kingdom of God

As Christians we should be nominally familiar with the phrase, the kingdom of God. We’ve heard it everywhere. We might pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done.” Or we might remember Jesus making reference to the kingdom of heaven in Matthew’s gospel. Perhaps we’ve heard pastors or writers using language like, spreading the kingdom or kingdom preaching or bringing people into the kingdom of God. Ring’s a bell, doesn’t it? But do we know what it means? I’m not sure I always did. My experience isn’t probably very significant, but I’m not sure I ever really paid much attention to the phrase. I heard it used and it sounded important and authoritative, but I guess I didn’t give much more thought to it. I probably assumed it had to do with God and his people, the church. But I really didn’t know how.

More recently, however, my ears are tuned into the phrase, the kingdom of God. It started with a careful reading and teaching of Mark’s gospel. At the beginning, Mark records John the Baptist saying, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:15 // Matt 3:2). It wasn’t until I began to read Mark along with Deuteronomy, the Psalms and Isaiah that I really began to grasp hold of an incredibly important and far reaching theological theme under-girding the entirety of biblical revelation. That God is establishing his everlasting, glorious and righteous kingdom is perhaps the most central - and important - message of the Bible. What that means, in simple terms, is that the kingdom of God is really important to the message of the gospel.

George Ladd, a prominent evangelical of a former generation, specially studied and wrote about the kingdom of God. He stresses the importance of God’s kingdom in this way:

The kingdom of God is the redemptive reign of God dynamically active to establish his rule among men, and that this Kingdom, which will appear as an apocalyptic act at the end of the age, has already come into human history in the person and mission of Jesus to overcome evil, to deliver men from its power, and to bring them into the blessings of God's reign. The Kingdom involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history.

Ladd, NT Theology (italics mine).

As Ladd states, the kingdom of God is best understood to be both a reign and a realm. It is a dynamic act of God centered upon the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. It has both a present and future aspect. So understanding the intricacies of the biblical message is absolutely crucial.

This series on the kingdom of God will talk about how this theme is clearly taught in the New Testament. From there, we will spring-board back to the Old Testament, to which the NT writers refer us. We’ll then have the opportunity to grasp a biblically-broad picture of the whole idea of the kingdom of God. Following this foundation, I’d like to talk about texts in both the OT and NT that have a forward looking perspective, especially in the prophets, gospels and epistles. My reading has lead me to believe that a good deal of instruction for Christian living is directed towards God’s people that has it’s framework or context or logical grounding in a kingdom of God theology. As we will see, the message of the kingdom of God is intended to give people hope, confidence in God and motivation for Christian mission on the grounds of God’s momentous work of sending his king into the world.

Aug 19, 2006


I'm listed on this dude's blog! I feel honored.

Aug 14, 2006

Piper, Justification and a Response to Wright

John Piper has returned from his Sabbatical at Tyndale House, Cambridge where he spent time researching the topic of Justification and the New Perspective. See Desiring God here for an exciting recount of his sabbatical. Makes me want to take a sabbatical. Here's an excerpt:

Which brings me to the labor side of the sabbatical. I was able to finish writing the main body of two books. One is called What Jesus Demands from the World, which will be published by Crossway Books in late September (Lord willing). It is a 365-page book on the commands of Jesus, in an attempt to obey Matthew 28:19, “Teach them to observe everything I commanded you.” Not just to know everything, but to observe (obey!) everything. How do you handle the Gospels in such a way that the teaching results in obedience? That was my goal. The other book is a response to N. T. Wright on the doctrine of justification. I have no immediate plan to publish it until I get the feedback from critical readers. My motivation in writing it is that I think his understanding of Paul is wrong and his view of justification is harmful to the church and to the human soul. Few things are more precious than the truth of justification by faith alone because of Christ alone. As a shepherd of a flock of God’s blood-bought church, I feel responsible to lead the sheep to life-giving pastures. That is not what the sheep find in Wright’s view of Paul on justification. He is an eloquent and influential writer and is, I believe, misleading many people on the doctrine of justification. I will keep you posted on what becomes of this manuscript.

I can't wait to read what he has to say. Piper's logic is always tight and I find that helpful and difficult at the same time. I think that's good because Piper makes me think.

Many people have chimed in regarding Wright and his views on Paul and the Law and Pual on Justification. You can read D.A. Carson and P.T. O'Brein's work, Justification and Variegated Nomism, if you are ambitious and fully aware of the questions under consideration. You can read something more accessible from helpful theologian like Mark Siefried; Christ Our Righteousness. There is a good review of his book on Beginning with He has an address available here.

Aug 11, 2006


Check it out...another great Anglcian blog out there. Good stuff. Take a look at their music page that outlines what music is used in worship. There are some cool things starting to take place in the Carolinas...

Aug 5, 2006

NT Wright on 'Evil'

Evil is Still a Four-letter Word

Take a look at this article on the Anglican Media Sydney Website. As Christians, how should we think about evil in the world? Is the world. "basically a good place"? Despite WWI and the change in thinking in the West about the problem of evil, why do we only really think about it when it hits us in the face? Wright's answer is simple in this excerpt. For more, see Wright's Evil and the Justice of God.

Aug 1, 2006

Garver on NT Wright

As one who has studied NT Theology and read Wright, I don't always get what he's trying to say. But, if you want a good breakdown of his thought, like I do...go here.

(Hat Tip: Sacra Docrina)

A Chappo's Guide to Holiness

How could I have failed to talk about John Chapman, or "Chappo" to his friends, on the Anglican Evangelical blog? I beg your forgiveness. For those of you who have never heard of him, he is a compelling and energetic evangelist from Sydney, Australia. And he's a really fun and generous guy too!

See the Confessing Evangelical's blog entry here. He's got a .mov file link to an interview on Chappo's recent book, A Sinner's Guide to Holiness.

From Matthias Media

What is holiness? Why do I need it? And why is it such a struggle for me to achieve holiness in my everyday life?

In A Sinner’s Guide to Holiness, well-known evangelist John Chapman explores what the Bible has to say about holiness—where it begins, how it makes progress in our lives, and its ultimate fulfilment as we are changed into Christ’s glorious likeness on the Last Day.

This book is a timely publication in this day and age, when we have often lost sight of the holiness of God. And when we do, it seems like an impossible task to achieve our own holiness. But ‘Chappo’ tells us that becoming holy is a vital, worthwhile goal for every Christian—even though the first 60 years may be the hardest!

This is the first title in a new series from Matthias Media: Guidebooks for Life. As the series unfolds, it will deal with the important nuts-and-bolts topics that Christians need to know about as we walk each day with our Master.

Read the first book in this new series, and rediscover the joy of being a sinner on the path of holiness.