What regulates truth? Maybe a better way to ask this question is: What makes something true or validates truth? Does personal experience ever trump what the Word of God says?
As I work my way through 2 Peter in my sermon series at my local church I almost made a costly mistake. Really it would have been heresy had I preached what I was about to preach. I had prepared my message in just the right way that I wanted it. I had even practiced it multiple times, but it seemed to me like something was wrong and I didn’t know what. Then, the Wednesday before I preached, I finally realized what was wrong.
My text that I was going to preach from was 2 Peter 1:16-21:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
So, what was I going to preach that was wrong? Well, I had made the mistake that Peter’s supernatural experience, on the Mount of Transfiguration during Jesus’ ministry, was confirming the truth of the Bible. The heresy or false teaching in that type of thinking is that experience is the ultimate source of truth. The truth however is that Supernatural Revelation, the Bible, is the source of truth and not supernatural experience. Peter’s wording in verse 19 shows that his experience wasn’t what regulated things that are true in God’s Word, rather the Word of God is what confirms what is true. Peter says that we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, or literally, “we have more confirmed the prophetic word.” The emphasis is on the confirmation that Scripture gives. The Bible and the Bible alone is our lamp in this dark world. Sure, we have other helpful tools in this life to aid us, but if it is not all built on the Word of God, well you can be sure you won’t live a life pleasing to God. You will end up being like those false teachers that Peter attacks head on in 2 Peter 2. These false teachers build all their teachings on their own understanding and interpretations. They do exactly the opposite of Proverbs 3:5. These false teachers do not trust in the LORD with all their heart and they end up leaning on their own understanding. In all their ways they will never acknowledge God, and God will not make their paths straight. They are wise in their own eyes; they do not fear the LORD, and they turn their faces to evil.
Ultimately, what the false teachers do and those who follow them is base truth on what they experience over what God’s Word teaches. They say that supernatural experience trumps what the Word says.
The believer cannot do this. God’s Word is the lamp in a dark place. Believe what it teaches, obey what it requires, and trust what it promises. God’s Word promises that Christ will return to usher in his Kingdom. When he comes for his sheep we will no longer need the lamp of the Word because Christ’s Kingdom of Light will banish all darkness. The Word of God is only like a nightlight. It shines while we need it in the dark. But, when the Day comes, when Christ comes, the light of the Son will be overwhelming.
Believe what the Bible teaches. Obey what it requires. Trust all that it promises.