The church catholic has never designated any single theory of the atonement as orthodox. Or so we are often told. Nonetheless, those of us who claim the sermons of John Wesley as doctrinal standards do have some guidance on how to speak of the work of Christ.
Here are Wesley’s words in the sermon “Justification by Faith.”
And as such it was that “he bore our griefs,” “the Lord laying upon him the iniquities of us all.” Then was he “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.” “He made his soul an offering for sin:” He poured out his blood for the transgressors: He “bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” that by his stripes we might be healed: And by that one oblation of himself, once offered, he hath redeemed me and all mankind; having thereby “made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.”
Not really Wesley’s words, of course. Most of the passage is constructed from the words of scripture and the Anglican Articles of Religion.But the thrust of it all clearly plays in the realm of satisfaction, sacrifice, and substitute.
Oh wait, though. We don’t have to go to Wesley’s sermon for our language. We have it right in our own Articles of Religion.
The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit.
We believe God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The offering Christ freely made on the cross is the perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, redeeming man from all sin, so that no other satisfaction is required.
My interpretation of this as a pastor and candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church is that my teaching and preaching is most faithful to my vocation in the UMC when I speak of the cross in these terms.