Saturday, October 24, 2009

Propitiation as the Ground for Christus Victor

The "Christ the Victor" approach is a helpful way to present the Gospel to Muslims because, among other things, it goes straight to many Muslims' felt needs- a fear of Satan, demons, and jinn.  Many Muslims in the world live in constant anxiety of the unseen world, so sharing Jesus as the one who has defeated Satan can be helpful starting point for talking about the cross.  Interestingly, the Christus Victor theme appears first in the Biblical storyline of the Messiah (Gen. 3:15).

But it is important to relatize how Jesus' victory over Satan relates to Jesus' substitutionary death for our sins.  "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).  How does Jesus' death constitute a victory over Satan? Keep reading.

Propitiation as the Ground for Christus Victor: "
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 . . .

[I]t 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.
(Redemption—Accomplished and Applied, p. 50)
Colossians 2:14-15 is a key verse in this regard.

Paul lists two results of Christ’s work on the cross: (1) Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities, and (2) he publicly shamed them.

How? By triumphing over them in himself.

So how does Christ bearing God’s wrath for sinners, taking their sin as a substitute, constitute a victory over Satan?

George Smeaton (1814–1889), Professor of Exegetical Theology at New College, Edinburgh, provides the answer.

Sin was (1) the ground of Satan’s dominion, (2) the sphere of his power, and (3) the secret of his strength; and no sooner was the guilt lying on us extinguished, than his throne was undermined, as Jesus Himself said (John 12:31). When the guilt of sin was abolished, Satan’s dominion over God’s people was ended; for the ground of his authority was the law which had been violated, and the guilt which had been incurred. . . .

[A]ll the mistakes have arisen from not perceiving with sufficient clearness how the triumph could be celebrated on His cross. (The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1870), 307–308; my emphasis and numbering)
In other words, Satan’s power is based on sin and guilt; Christ’s death meant the ultimate death of sin, guilt, and death itself; and thus Satan was ultimately defanged by Christ’s atoning work.

As Smeaton says, “it was on God’s part at once a victory and a display of all God’s attributes, to the irretrievable ruin, dismay, and confusion of satanic powers.”

So it’s not Christus Victor (Christ defeating his enemies) instead of propitiation (Christ bearing God’s wrath)–rather, it’s Christus Victor because of propitiation. Both are gloriously important, but only in that order."

What are the other benefits of the "Christus Victor" approach in sharing the Gospel with Muslims?


Timothy said...

السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

I think there are a lot of benefits. A couple that come to mind as VERY significant are:

1. The destruction of the misconception that we the Bible teaches belief in a weak Messiah who was defeated on the Tree. I think it is necessary to verbalize we believe in a powerful and victorious God who is incarnated and retains the same qualities.

2. The concept of victory through obedience to God, self-sacrifice and love. Muslims tend to value these things, both as Muslims and as humans. More importantly they are very significant to redemptive history and clearly demonstrated in the Messiah's incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension.

I think the key is to keep them in balance as you have said here. It is by the Messiah's incarnation, life and substitutionary death that he is victorious and this is demonstrated in his resurrection and ascension.

الله معكم

Marti said...

Appreciate you sharing the fruit of your studies and experience, W. Just wanted to let you know we're including a link to this blog in Missions Catalyst e-Magazine,