What is our faith built on? Why do we believe what we believe?
At the very base, it’s built on God himself and who he is. And it’s built on our experience of him. We’ve experienced God; we’ve tasted the Lord and seen that he is good.
The problem, of course, is that God is invisible. We can’t literally touch him or have conversations where we actually hear his voice. So how do we know that we are actually experiencing God in our lives? That it’s not just our imagination?
And people from all over the world claim to have had spiritual experiences as well, all the while denying the things we believe as Christians. How can we know that our experiences are superior to theirs? That it is our experiences, not theirs, that are based on reality and not on mere emotion or myth?
That is what Peter addresses here.
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (16)
Many people today try to deny that Jesus ever even existed. Or that if he did actually exist, we can’t possibly know the truth of what he actually said and did. They claim that the whole Jesus story was built on pagan sources and jump through hoops to try to prove that claim.
But Peter says, “No. That’s not what we did. We were there. We saw Jesus. When he was on the mountain of transfiguration, we saw his glory and heard the voice of God himself. (16-18).”
More Peter tells us,
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain. (19)
This verse is apparently a bit vague in the Greek. It’s possible that Peter’s saying that their experience had increased their confidence on the Old Testament writings. But the new NIV translates the verse this way:
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable. (19)
In which case, Peter is saying, “Not only do we have our experience, but we also have God’s word to back up our experience and show that there is reality behind it.”
But either way, we base our faith not only on our experience but on God’s word.
Through God’s word, we see how he has worked in the lives of people in the past, and we see there is consistency when we compare their experiences with our experiences of him today. We also see the words of the prophets and how the things they prophesied actually came true. We see this especially in their prophesies of Jesus.
How can we know that the things in the Bible were actually true? Well archaeology has gone a long way to proving a lot of the historical facts of the Bible. But how can we know that the things written about God are true? That they actually God’s words right?
Above all, you must understand that no prophesy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophesy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (20-21)
In other words, when people wrote the scriptures we had, they weren’t just writing what they thought was true about God. Rather, the Holy Spirit guided their thoughts and words. This is not to say that he dictated everything they said (although there are some examples of dictation). But God used each person according to their personality, education, and writing styles.
He used shepherds, fishermen, kings, priests, tax collectors, and doctors, among others. There were 40 different authors, from three different continents, using three different languages, and who lived over a period that spanned 2000 years. And yet their testimony all agree as to who God is and what he has done.
How can we not have confidence that our faith is true?
And so Peter says,
You will do well to pay attention to [God’s Word], as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our heart. (19)
The day dawning refers to Christ’s return, and the morning star is Christ himself. And so what Peter is saying is, until Christ, the true light of the world appears, pay attention to the light he has left us. His word is a lamp to our feet in this dark world. It shows us who God is and it shows us the path we are to walk in order to please him. So that’s what we are to build our faith on.
How about you? Is your faith based merely on your experience? Or on God’s word?