A Thought on Penal Substitution
It is a tragedy of the highest degree that so many theologians today are emphasizing such models of the atoning work of the Savior as Christus Victor to the minimization of penal substitution. The tragedy is not that the reality of Christ's conquering Satan through his work on the cross is acknowledged or even emphasized, but rather that this idea is passed off to some degree as mutually exclusive of his bearing his people's sins, and undergoing the just wrath of the Father in their place. The Serpent's enmity against God has ever been waged in terms of tempting his children to sin, and thus barring them from his holy presence; and the final defeat of the enemy was won by a Substitute who found a way to reconcile them again to God, without compromising his righteousness. The weapon which destroyed the forces of darkness is only the spear which pierced Jesus' side as he hung upon the cross in the place of his people. Take that weapon away, and you may talk all you want to of how Jesus won a victory against Satan on the cross, but the victory becomes nothing but hollow words. I can't help but think that the Devil laughs at all those who make a great show of announcing his defeat, but forget the sin-bearing nature of the Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world by being lifted up as a curse. But mention Golgotha as the place where the Messiah bore the wrath of God, and in our place was lifted up to die, and he must flee in terror, acknowledging his final failure to accomplish his antagonistic designs. Jesus made an open show of the rulers of darkness, triumphing over them by his blood, when he took the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14-15). That is what we must ultimately emphasize, or we have cut away the very foundation of every other claim that we might make about what transpired on Calvary.