“Christus Victor” is the Latin phrase the early church fathers used to describe Jesus and His atonement. Roughly translated, it means, “Our victory is not in ourselves, but in Christ.” If we defeat an enemy when the odds are fifty-fifty, we are tempted to think, “I won the battle.” But when our enemy is nine feet tall; when we have rebuked him but he comes back stronger; when we have exhausted all our resources; when we have thrown up our hands and said, “I can’t do this,” then God says, “I have you right where I want you.”
Usually Old Testament stories are taught to children not as spiritual truths but as moral instruction. For example, the lesson of Jonah is usually presented as, “Don’t disobey God or you’ll get into deep trouble.”
Most of us were taught the story of David and Goliath in Sunday school and the lesson is, “Be brave and courageous.” The trouble with this interpretation of David’s story is that we are teaching our children to do something they are unable to do. There was not a single Israelite soldier who could have survived a hand-to-hand fight with Goliath. That battle was beyond even the bravest man.
Likewise, when we are in a spiritual battle, bravery and boldness are not sufficient. David knew he was no match for Goliath. In fact, he wasn’t even a soldier yet; he was too young. The only thing David was armed with when he showed up at the battlefront was bread and cheese for his brothers. Yet the difference with David was that he knew the battle was not his but God’s. When he heard Goliath’s taunts, he testified:
“This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head . . . that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand” (1 Samuel 17:46-47).
Spiritual victory is never our own—it comes from our Deliverer. In this story David is a picture of our Deliverer, Christ. He cuts through all our anguish and despair with an authority no demon can stand up to. Goliath had no chance that day, for one reason: The battle was the Lord’s.