Penal Substitution & Christus Victor: Means and Goals Of Atonement

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo MiniChrist Jesus is Christus Victor because his life, death, and resurrection have overpowered and destroyed that works of the devil, removed the sting of death, freed his people who were held captive by the power of sin and oppressed by the devil. Christ is victorious because he crushed all his enemies. He is Triumphus Christi because he triumphed over rulers, principalities, dominions, thrones and cosmic powers of the god of this age.

Christ Jesus has victoriously turned his people from darkness to light, from death to life, from the power of Satan to the power of God, from chains of this present evil age to freedom in the new created age. The means to which Christ Jesus became Christus Victor is by voluntarily lying down his life for his people. Because of the joy set before Christ Jesus, He became their sacrificed Passover Lamb. At the cross Christ Jesus’ precious blood redeemed His people. He ransomed them by being wounded for their transgressions, bruised for their iniquities. Christ Jesus took upon Himself their punishment.

God made Christ Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for His people. God laid on Christ Jesus the iniquity of all His people as He in Christ reconciled the world, making those who are in Christ Jesus to become the righteousness of God, to Himself. God has made His People alive together with him, by forgiven them all their trespasses, canceling the record of debt that stood against them with its legal demands. “This he set aside,” continued Paul, “nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him”(Col. 2.14-15)

Thus Jacobus Arminius corrected argued that Christ Jesus paid “the price of redemption for sins by suffering the punishment due to them.”(Arminius 1.419) Expounding God’s two-fold love, viz., God’s love for the creature and God’s love for justice Arminius wrote:

[God] gave satisfaction to his love for the creature who was a sinner, when he gave up his Son who might act the part of Mediator. But he rendered satisfaction to his love for justice and to his hatred against sin, when he imposed on his Son the office of Mediator by the shedding of his blood and by the suffering of death; (Heb. ii. 10; v, 8, 9;) and he was unwilling to admit him as the Intercessor for sinners except when sprinkled with his own blood, in which he might be made the propitiation for sins. (ix, 12).( Arminius 2.221)

Critically exegeting what Paul’s statement in Romans 3:24-26 means, Charles E. B. Cranfield contended that:

We take it that what Paul’s statement that God purposed Christ as a propitiatory victim means is that God, because in His mercy He willed to forgive sinful men and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against His own very Self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved. ( Cranfield 1975: 217)

For the joy set before him Christ Jesus endured the cross for His people. In their place condemned He stood. The penalty that was upon His people He bore. Christ Jesus became Christus Victor through Penal Substitution¹.

¹ Christ Jesus atoning work, suffering for His people, is also example given to His people that they may follow in Christ Jesus’ steps. His people are called to humble themselves and to love, trust and obey God perfectly.(Phil. 2:5-11 & 1 Peter 2:21)


Cranfield, Charles E. B. (1975) A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.  Vol. 1 Edinburgh: T & T Clark

Arminius, Jacobus (2007) The Works of James Arminius. Trans. James Nichols and William Nichols; Nashville: Randall House

New Testament (Gospels, Paul’s Epistles and Hebrews)