"The work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil" (compare 1 Jn 3:8; Col 1:13; Heb 2:14)
The Early Church did not have a set doctrine of the cross and the atonement it was more of a collection of images and dramatic metaphors. The main focus theologically was on the incarnation and what they saw in the cross flowed out of their understanding of the incarnation. The Early Church saw Christ as God come among them. John writes in his Gospel,
" The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth. (John 1:9,14) "
Irenaeus taught that Jesus’ redemptive work in his Incarnation, perfect life, death and resurrection was a "Victory in Christ" over all of God’s enemies. He wrote: "[Christ] fought and was victorious…for he bound the strong man, liberated the weak, and by destroying sin endowed his creation with salvation."