One of the distinguishing features of the Churches of God is a unity of practice worldwide; that doesn’t mean that the churches are simply identical clones of each other, but it does mean you would notice important similarities in every local church of God you visited, whether it was in Melbourne or Malawi! These similarities haven’t been developed over time to suit ourselves, rather they are rooted in the New Testament example of the early churches of God.
Acts 2:41-42 lays out seven actions involved in the formation and operation of the very first church of God, the Church of God in Jerusalem: “Those who accepted his [Peter’s] message (1) were baptized (2), and about three thousand were added (3) … They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (4) and the fellowship (5), to the breaking of bread (6) and the prayers (7).”
These seven actions are placed in order for a reason – the first three describe what had happened to bring them into the Church of God, and the last four describe what they then did together only after those first three steps had been taken. Some take the view that these verses are simply a description of an historical event, but we see them as a prescription, a sequence that God wants every believer, and every local church of God, to follow.
Let’s look briefly at how these seven steps are put into practice in Churches of God today:
Those who accepted his [Peter’s] message (1)
(1) Every person in the local church of God has accepted God’s good news. It was the Christian message of salvation that Jesus died on the cross to save them from the penalty of their sins – a lost relationship with God, and eternal separation from him. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We want to share that good news with others, too, and every church of God has its own way of doing that!
were baptized (2),
(2) Every person in the local church of God has been baptised in water in the way the Bible teaches – fully immersed as believing adults, not sprinkled as babies. Baptism is not required for salvation, but that doesn’t make it optional for a disciple – it’s an important picture that demonstrates our understanding that our old life is buried (represented in the full immersion), we have been raised to live a new life in Jesus (represented in emerging from the water), and we are publically declaring our allegiance to him. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commanded his followers to baptise other followers, and so we love to do that!
and about three thousand were added (3) …
(3) God doesn’t want people to follow him in isolation, nor does he want us to keep moving from church to church to simply suit ourselves. In Acts 2, the new baptized believers were “added”, or joined to, existing group of baptized believers to serve and worship together in the same Bible-based way, where they “continued steadfastly”, as some Bible versions describe it. We are always delighted when other believers make a long-term commitment to serve God together with us!
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (4)
(4) The apostles’ teaching is found in the New Testament and contains all we need to follow and serve God today. Although the specific times of the week can vary from one church of God to another, we aim to regularly spend time discussing the Bible together, or listening to Bible-based teaching. We also produce a wealth of teaching material that is available via this website in a variety of media. We are devoted to this – come and learn with us!
and the fellowship (5),
(5) The word “fellowship” has the meaning of a “partnership” – a firm commitment to mutual support. We help each other in whatever practical ways are needed and, as well as assisting people in the local church, we support other churches of God around the world, many of which are in developing countries (check out some of the work we do).
to the breaking of bread (6)
(6) The Breaking of Bread happens regularly at every church of God every Sunday morning, although the exact start time may vary from one church of God to another. This is where we remember, worship and gives thanks to God for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and what He means to us and to God. It’s also sometimes referred to as “the Remembrance” (because Jesus directed His followers to eat bread and wine together to remember Him). We believe that participating in this is one of the most important and wonderful privileges that any believer can experience. We go into a lot more detail as to what happens at this gathering, but we invite you to come to one of our churches and observe it for yourself!
and the prayers (7).
(7) Prayer is vital for all Christians and churches of God gather each week to pray about our own spiritual and physical needs, the needs of our local communities and the wider world, and God’s work across all Churches of God around the world. If you are not able to attend a Church of God, then please let us know if you want us to pray about something for you!