On the Church of God and of Christ

For Arminius, as for Luther himself, faith is "the first part of our duty towards God and Christ," and through faith in and union with Jesus, we each have "obtained the blessings of justification and sanctification."1 Whence we also have been transformed from "children of wrath and the slaves of sin, not only constituted the children of God and the servants of righteousness, on which account it is fit that we should render obedience and worship to our Parent and our Lord."2 What other benefits does the worshiper receive from Christ?

Union with Christ, and being made a child of God, introduces one to the Spirit-baptism of the initiate into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) -- since the body of Christ "derives her origin from this faith, she comprehends within her embraces all those to whom the performance of worship to God and Christ is to be prescribed."3 The "church" is "a company or congregation of [men and women] who are called out," not merely called but also "the obedient compliance of those who answer the call."4 Arminius defines:
A company of persons called out from a state ... of natural life and of sin by God and Christ through the Spirit of both to a supernatural life to be spent according to God and Christ in the knowledge and worship of both; that, by a participation with both, they may be eternally blessed, to the glory of God through Christ, and of Christ in God.5
God the Father is the Primary Cause of our being called out of a life of sin, in His Son, since we must come to Him by way of Christ, and since He alone is the Mediator between human beings and God; and through the Holy Spirit, the "Administrative Cause," since He is the one who convicts us of sin (John 16:8), graciously enables us to trust in Christ, and, when that faith is expressed toward Jesus, He effects our sanctification and regeneration to a new life.6


Through the Holy Spirit we learn of the promise of God regarding salvation and threatening of God regarding punishment (John 16:8-11). He "illuminates the mind to a knowledge of" a new life in Christ; and, upon faith in the same, "imparts to us the feelings of love and desire for this life, and bestows on the whole [person] strength and power to live such a life."7

The primary purposeful goal of the Church, which "also contains the chief good of the church," is "blessedness perfected and consummated through a union with God in Christ." He continues:
From this results the glory of God, who unites the church to Himself and beatifies her [to make her happy, blessed]; which glory is declared in the very act of union and beatification: Also the glory of the same blessed God, when the church ... in her triumphant songs ascribes to Him praise, honour, and glory forever and ever.8
Arminius insists that a distinction should be made between people, as they are, and people who are called out and obey the call. People, retaining a sin nature that has yet to be eradicated, may still disobey both the LORD and His calling to be His people, the holy Church. But this fact does not weaken or render useless the Church of God in Christ. Christ threatened to "remove the candlestick" (or lampstand) from part of His body (cf. Rev. 2:5), and God threatened to write a "bill of divorce to His disobedient and adulterous wife," Israel (cf. Jer. 3:8).

"Hence," writes Arminius, " it is evident that the glorying of the Papists is vain on this point, that the Church of Rome cannot err and fall away."9 But members of the church -- even whole sections of the visible body of Christ -- can disobey and even fall away. Since we are made members of Christ's body by grace through faith, we can also be separated from the body by an active rebellion from the faith, and hence from Christ Himself.


1 Jacob Arminius, "Seventy-Nine Private Disputations: Disputation L. On the Church of God and of Christ: Or On the Church in General after the Fall," in The Works of Arminius, the London edition, three volumes, trans. James and William Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 2:410.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., 2:411.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid., 2:412.

9 Ibid.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.