Christus Victor and Penal Substitution

I’ve been working on the 4th lesson of our Wednesday night study of the atonement in youth group.  The series is called “The day God died…”  So far, we’ve looked at propitiation, reconciliation, peace (corporate), and this week we are looking at victory.

I find it so hard to believe that many who push the “Christus Victor” model of the atonement flat out deny the validity of penal substitution.   My main text I’ve been looking at has been Colossians 2:13-16.  Here, Paul’s argument is not just that Christ disarmed the powers by “letting evil get its best shot in” on the cross and exposing it as fraudulent.  His argument is that our legal debt from our trespasses was wiped out on the cross.  Only then, are the rulers and authorities disarmed and disgraced.  The lesson to be taken away is not that Christ’s subversive act of submission to death merely puts a stink-eye on improper uses of power.  Rather, Christ freed us from the death sentence we were due by taking it upon himself in our place.  Now, as Paul says in Romans 8, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  The accuser of the brethren is thrown down because he no longer has grounds for accusations.  “The just indictment (my translation of “righteous requirement” based on its use in Romans 1:32) of the law is met in us who walk not according to the flesh but to the Spirit.”  Who can bring any charge against God’s chosen ones?”

The victory of Christ over the forces of evil, including Satan and demons, is found not apart from propitiation and the satisfaction of legal demands, but precisely in those things.


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