Christus Victor and Propitation

Any adequate understanding of the atonement must include within it this aspect of Christ’s disarming of the powers of darkness. It is personally gratifying in this context to be able to quote some apt words from the late Professor John Murray:

Redemption from sin cannot be adequately conceived or formulated except as it comprehends the victory which Christ secured once for all over him who is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air. . . . It is impossible to speak in terms of redemption from the power of sin except as there comes within the range of this redemptive accomplishment the destruction of the power of darkness.

A comprehensively biblical exposition of the work of Christ recognizes that the atonement, which terminates on God (in propitiation) and on man (in forgiveness), also terminates on Satan (in the destruction of his sway over believers). And it does this last precisely because it does the first two.

In this respect, [Gustav] Aulén’s view was seriously inadequate. He displaced the motif of penal satisfaction with that of victory. But, as we have seen, in Scripture the satisfaction of divine justice, the forgiveness of our sins, and Christ’s defeat of Satan are not mutually exclusive but complementary. Each is an essential dimension of Christ’s work. Each is vital for our salvation, and each provides an aspect of the atonement from which the other aspects may be seen with greater clarity and richness. Moreover, these aspects are interrelated at the profoundest level. For the New Testament the dramatic aspect of the atonement involves a triumph that is secured through propitiation. Aulén therefore failed to recognize that in setting the dramatic view over against the penal view of the atonement he inevitably enervated the dramatic view of its true dynamic.

—Sinclair Ferguson
For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper

Via: Justin Taylor