Over the years, many Christians have labored in study attempting to explain the relationship between the atonement of Jesus Christ and the salvation of mankind. This has resulted in the development of numerous atonement theories. We can always learn more about the atonement of Christ, but my position is that the combination of the principles of the Christus Victor and Moral Government models of the atonement gives us the most accurate picture of what God has done for us through the cross.
The theme of the Christus Victor model is that Christ was afflicted, not in the sense that God abandoned him (thus causing a lack of oneness in the Trinity) or that God’s wrath was directed toward him, but in the sense that evil men and evil spirits were allowed to have their way with him that he might deliver us from the power of sin, death, and Satan. The Lord Jesus voluntarily gave his life as a ransom, but this does not mean he had to pay God or the devil, or that sinners are “victims” as if they have no responsibility for their sins. A ransom is a price paid for the release of something or someone. Christ did not “pay” for our individual sins (as some teach), but he did pay a price (suffering and death) to free us from the power of death, the slavery of sin, and the oppression of Satan. Some Christians have been taught to look at the atonement in legal terms. God is viewed as an angry judge who is ready to send everyone to hell, while the Lord Jesus is viewed as a defense attorney who offers to take our punishment. If a person will only mentally depend on Christ as this substitute, he is saved, so some believe. What he does going forward has no bearing on his standing with God. With this being taught, it is no surprise that many people that call themselves Christians will hear the Lord say in a coming day: “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.” The Christus Victor model stresses the fact that we must participate in Christ’s death and resurrection in order to avail ourselves of his victory. We do this by abandoning selfishness and submitting our lives completely to Christ and his Kingdom purposes.