Good Friday as Celebration of Conquest
Message Delivered at
San Lorenzo Valley Good Friday Service
First Baptist Church, San Lorenzo Valley
April 10, 2009
There are numerous and momentous implications of our Lord’s death that we celebrate today. I draw attention this afternoon to just one of them: Christus Victor. This view emerged very early in the church, and with good reason — the Bible teaches it. It means “Christ is Victor.” Satan and sin are our enemies. In dying on the Cross, Jesus vanquished these enemies. Jesus’ death defeats the Devil.
Sin enslaves us (Rom. 6:17), and Satan is our captor (2 Tim. 2:26). We’re born into his clutches. We head down the wrong road from the very beginning. Satan and sin snare us. Sin addicts us. We fall into sin and then we despair at the inevitable, destructive consequences, but then we keep on sinning. More ominously, if we persist in sin, we’ll face God’s judgment in the end (Rom. 6:23). Sin separates us from God. It makes us God’s enemy. We’re at war with God (Rom. 8:7).
We know that Jesus’ death paid for our sins (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18). But it did more. On the Cross, Jesus trounced Satan and sin and death itself. He liberated sinners from their shackles. The Cross isn’t just about paying the penalty of sin; it’s also and equally about liberating us from the power of sin.
The Bible’s clear about this. The writer of Hebrews (2:14-15) tell us of Jesus:
[T]hrough death He . . . destroy[ed] him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release[ed] those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
We read something similar in Colossians (2:15), where Paul declares that in his death, Jesus
. . . disarmed principalities and powers[;] He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
The Cross means that Jesus is stronger than Satan. He’s our mighty defender. Hebrews calls him the captain or prince of our salvation (Heb. 2:10). He willingly endured unspeakable agony to liberate us. Like the Allied soldiers who liberated the horrifying Nazi POW camps, Jesus emancipated the prisoners only by great personal cost. But liberate they — and our Lord — did.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a liberating Gospel. The Gospel isn’t just the Good News that our sins are forgiven in Jesus. It’s also the Good News that Jesus has broken the power of the world, the flesh and the Devil in our lives.
Let me mention two implications of Christus Victor.
Sin Is No Longer Our Master
First, Christus Victor means that sin is no longer our master. Jesus died not just to get rid of the penalty of sin — and not just one day in eternity to deliver us from the presence of sin. In addition, today he’s delivering his people from the power and pleasure of sin.
This is Paul’s message in Romans 6. In our union with the crucified and risen Lord, we have died to sin and risen to righteousness, just as Jesus did.
We’re not destined to sin. We do sin, and we confess our sins, and God grants forgiveness (1 Jn.1:9); but the life of the Christian is a life dominated by victory over sin. We may struggle with an untamed tongue, with lovelessness, with doubt, with immorality, with pride, with cowardice, with avarice or with Phariseeism. But because of the Cross and resurrection, we can be victorious over these — and all other — sins. Enslavement to sin is not our destiny.
Ask yourself this question: what sin must I commit? True, we’ll never gain sinless perfection this side of the resurrection, but we can — and should — gain consistent victory over sin.
Christian: the message to you and me is that we’re not destined to live in the stranglehold of sin. We celebrate on Good Friday our liberation from the dominating power of sin.
Satan is a Defeated Foe
Second, Christus Victor means that Satan is a defeated foe. Jesus once explained what was happening when he cast out demons (Mt. 12:29):
“[H]ow can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”
Satan and his demons enslave sinners, but Jesus came to plunder Satan’s kingdom. He came to rescue sinners — that is, us. We were Satan’s slaves, bound in sin and headed for Hell. But Jesus bound Satan and then entered the enemy’s slave quarters and liberated us. He’s our new master.
How did he do this?
Just days before his death, Jesus declared to his followers (Jn. 12:31):
“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world [Satan] will be cast out.”
When Jesus died, he judged the world. The “world” is the system of life under Satanic control. On the Cross, Jesus threw Satan off his worldly throne. Because of the Cross, Satan will never be the same. He has been mortally wounded.
At the Cross, the promise of Genesis 3:15 made in the Garden of Eden was fulfilled. The seed of the woman crushed the head of the serpent’s seed. At the Cross, God got the last laugh.
For too long the church has seen itself as an embattled minority, predestined to increased irrelevance and failure. But if the Cross is what the Bible says it is, the church marches forward in great victory. Despite failures and setbacks and sins, the church revels in the wake of her Lord’s great Cross-victory, preaching and living the Gospel, and longing for the day when all Christ’s enemies will be made his footstool (Heb. 10:13).
The Cross vanquished Satan’s Kingdom, and history is the relentless outworking of that Gospel victory.
The Gospel Question
Perhaps you haven’t settled the Gospel question. Perhaps Jesus isn’t your Savior and Lord. But he died for the sins of the world, and if you vest your faith in him; if you trust him and not your own works or goodness or ritual or virtue; if you make him your Lord, today you, too, can be gloriously saved. Jesus will become your Lord and King. He’ll be your great defender and avenger. He’ll progressively crush the Devil and sin and the world for you and me and the church.
This is Christus Victor, and we should celebrate it this Good Friday day — and every day.