These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.
The Bible holds promises like overcoming, victory, conquest, triumph; this was the first century vocabulary of followers of the risen Lord.
The cross disarmed and triumphed over the devil, along with all the powers and principalities at his command. They believed in Satan’s downfall, yet were victims of such violence for little more than having faith in the resurrected Jesus. So how did God triumph and have victory over the enemy? Stott explored six stages:
The Conquest Predicted: it all started in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) with the promise of the Messiah.
The Conquest Begun: this comes in the ministry of Jesus. As Satan recognized Jesus as the future conqueror, he made every attempt to get rid of Jesus (Herod’s rage, wilderness temptations, the crowds and leaders attempts to kill Jesus, Peter’s contradiction of the way of the cross).
The Conquest Achieved: this is the binding of the strong man, the Savior actually on the cross. Paul addresses two aspects of the saving work of the cross (Colossians 2:13-15):
- The forgiveness of sins: there is cancelling debt, the written code or IOU, (Romans 7:12) a broken Law of judgment. It was a signed confession, cancelled, wiped away, nailed to the cross.
- The overthrow of powers and authorities: three graphic verbs to explain their defeat.
- Stripped like foul clothing.
- Made a public spectacle, exhibiting powerlessness.
- Triumphed over them by the way of the cross; a captive’s procession through the victor’s city.
- What Christ did:
- Disarming them.
- Total resistance of the enemy.
The Conquest Confirmed and Announced: we cannot regard the cross as defeat and the resurrection as victory. The cross was where the victory was won, the resurrection was the victory endorsed, proclaimed and demonstrated. It was impossible for death to keep him because death was defeated on the cross, not the resurrection.
The Conquest Extended: the church is now out on its mission to preach the resurrected Lord. People are called to repent and believe in the risen Lord. People move from darkness to light; from death to life, from idols to the living God.
The Conquest Consummated: at the parousia.
The death and resurrection belong together in the New Testament, they go together. Seldom is one mentioned without the other (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, John 10:17-18, 2:19, Acts 2:23-24, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Romans 6:1-4, Luke 24:30-35).
Remember that it is by his death that our sins are dealt with, not the resurrection: the blood brought propitiation, redemption, justification, and reconciliation. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention that Christ rose for our sins. True, had he not been raised, our faith would be in vain and our preaching would be futile. Nothing would be accomplished by his death if he had not been raised from the dead. The gospel emphasizes the cross, since that is the place of victory. The resurrection did not achieve our deliverance from sin and death, but it brought us an assurance of both (1 Peter 1:3, 21).
Entering into Christ’s victory: although the devil has been defeated, he has not yet conceded defeat. He is overthrown but has not been eliminated. Stott mentions a tension between our theology and our experience:
- On one hand we are alive, seated and reigning with Christ with powers and principalities under God’s feet.
- On the other hand we warned that spiritual forces have set themselves in opposition to us (as in Ephesians) and have no hope of standing against them without the Lord’s strength.
There is an element of “already” and “not yet.” Triumphalists see the victory and command the dark forces, while defeatists see only the malice of the devil and overlook the victory of Christ. Jesus literally came to confront and defeat the devil and undo the damage he has done.
- We are no longer under the tyranny of the Law.
- We are no longer under the tyranny of the flesh.
- We are no longer under the tyranny of the world.
- We are no longer under the tyranny of death.