2 Peter 1:19-21 -And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, 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, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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.
This passage is one of the most significant texts to impact my own life over the past year or so. Why? Although you may not know it, this text says something astounding, something amazing, something that most people, even if they would admit this truth with their lips, would not actually be willing to live.
So, what’s the big deal. Let me set the context. Peter has just been reminding his readers that he did not make up anything about Jesus. No, he saw it all. Peter cited his experience on the mountain of transfiguration, a place where Peter saw Jesus’ appearance glorified and heard God’s voice affirming his son, as proof that Peter’s own testimony was true. Basically, Peter was telling his readers that his testimony is true because he saw it with his own two eyes.
And for many of us, what Peter said leading up to this passage makes great sense. We love to hear people’s stories about their own experiences. We don’t even tend to question those stories. If the person is a good person, a trustworthy person, and if that person tells us they have experienced something, that is good enough for us. And, if someone claims a cool, supernatural experience, we say to them that we’re very happy for them.
But things change in Peter’s writing starting at verse 19. I actually find this text so incredibly meaningful for the first few words, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word.”* Peter, after citing his own experience, trumps it and lays down the ultimate standard by which we judge the truth or falsehood of any claim. Peter cites the scripture. And notice how he speaks of the scripture. Peter tells us that we have something more sure. More sure than what? More sure than opinion and more sure than experience, more sure than anything you have ever seen or heard with your own eyes and ears, is the written word of God.
Now, think this through for its significance. We live in a culture that thrives on the experiences of others. We do not question what someone claims to have seen or felt. We love watching those mysterious television shows about strange phenomena. We love listening to people talk about something weird they or their family members went through. And often we perform no form of critical thinking about what they claim to have experienced. As a professor of mine once said, “You just can’t argue with someone’s experience.”
Peter, however, takes away our cultural reliance on experiences. He tells us that there is something more sure, more firm, more solid, and more trustworthy than our own or another’s experience. The word of God is the ultimate. So, if someone claims to have experienced something that the Bible clearly declares to be untrue, we have to make a decision. Do we trust their experience or the word of God. And, if we are to follow the standard here set down in the word of God, we had better trust the perfect, infallible scriptures over the supposed experiences of others or even our own experiences. It does not matter what you think you have seen. It does not matter what came to you in a dream. It does not matter what your uncle swears he went through when he was a teenager. If the Bible says that it is not true, it is not true.
This standard is especially helpful in discerning the will of God. So very often, people try to make important life decisions based on revelation that is outside the scriptures. We try to say that we have heard from God because of emotional feelings we have or circumstances that have “all lined up.” But what is for sure, what is firm, is that we must never, not ever, let our experiences, our feelings, or our “leadings” ever take us anywhere that goes against the command of the Bible. God’s word is solid. Our experiences are errant and open for misinterpretation.
OK, as this diatribe comes to a close, ask yourself if you are using the word of God as your ultimate standard of truth. Does your life experience trump the word, or does the word trump what you think you have seen, heard, or felt? We have been given something that God declares to be “more sure,” we have been given something more reliable, we have been given God’s holy word. Always check your experience and the experiences of others against the revelation of God in the Bible. If you let the word of God truly be your standard, you will truly know how to hear from the Lord.
*Some translations of the Bible word this passage, “And we have the prophetic word made more sure. . .” Such a wording would indicate that Peter’s experience heightened his trust in the word. But the original Greek simply says, literally, “We have more sure the word of the prophets.” Peter is not saying that his experience heightened his trust in the word; he is saying that the word is more sure than any experience. Thus, I trust the ESV’s translation of this passage.