We are a church in Chambersburg, in south central Pennsylvania.
Why We Believe
Our faith is centered on Jesus, the divine Son of God, who lived as a human on the earth. He taught his followers, the apostles, how to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God. He died at the hand of man and rose back to life through the power of God. Those who love and obey him are raised to a new spiritual life and will someday be raised to a new physical life when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. Since we are born again and living a new life, we are free from sin and other powers, and we live for the Kingdom of God.
How do we know that we are truly following Jesus? We trust the faith that God revealed to the apostles through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. To them was delivered the complete doctrines and practices of Christianity, and in their writings, the New Testament, we can read what the apostles taught as sound doctrine. We completely trust the apostolic teachings in the New Testament to teach us how to believe and live.
However, the New Testament has been used to support many different doctrines by many churches that believe different doctrines that can’t all be true at the same time. How do we know that we understand the New Testament correctly?
Principles for Reading Scripture
Well, we can always learn and improve in our knowledge of God and the faith taught by his Son and his apostles. However, here are some principles that we use to safeguard our understanding of Scripture.
- We read the New Testament through the lens of what Jesus, our divine Teacher, teaches in the Gospels.
- We endeavor to read Scripture as simply as possible, without complex interpretations, especially those that explain away our responsibilities as obedient followers of Jesus.
- We read Scripture passages within their context, seeking the whole voice of Scripture, since verses taken out of context can be used to support any doctrine.
- We do not accept the traditions of man, even educated religious people, as our lens for reading Scripture.
- We compare our resulting understanding of Scripture with the doctrines believed by those who lived and wrote directly after the apostles.
In the first four points, we are practicing as the Anabaptists have historically done. Our church grows out of the Mennonite branch of the Radical Reformation. In the fifth point, we are bringing our practice in line with what the apostles taught to the religious leaders who followed them.
Should We Trust the Early Church?
Often people aren’t sure why we should listen to the early church’s teachings. After all, there was never a time when the church was perfect or pure—even in the apostles’ day, there were major threats to the faith given by Jesus. For example, Paul wrote to churches that were tolerating very serious sins by their members, and John wrote against the Gnostic heresies.
However, the early Christian writers were not Gnostics and did not excuse sin. Instead, as we can tell from early Christian history, the apostles were able to build an imperfect but faithful church that lived and taught their faith for centuries. The early church was not so fragmented as to make it hard to know what its doctrines were.
What their leaders wrote is not binding on us, as Scripture is. Therefore, we don’t base our doctrines on their writings—we simply use their writings to help us to verify that we have read Scripture correctly, and to give us continuity with those who have based their lives on apostolic teaching through the ages.
Some of Our Beliefs
So how does this work out in real life? Here are some ways that we, like the early church and like the early Anabaptists before us, live out our faith:
- Actively loving God and obeying his commands found in the New Testament
- Actively loving our neighbors and not taking part in violence (or going to court) against other people
- Living like citizens of the Kingdom of God here and now—making the expansion of God’s Kingdom our first priority, and letting finances and other activities take a secondary role
- Living in unity and harmony within our congregation, bearing with each other and forgiving each other
- Living simply and dressing modestly
If you would like to know more, you can visit our YouTube channel (Sound Faith) or contact us.