Should One Give His Personal Experience?
Larry Ray Hafley
Mr. Wayne Camp, President of the Illinois Missionary Baptist Institute and Seminary, was asked the following question in his weekly newspaper article (Feb. 10, 1971), "What is your opinion of one giving an account of his experience when he is trying to win someone to the Lord?" His answer:
"The Bible has several accounts of people who tell their experience of salvation. When Paul was being prosecuted for preaching the gospel of Christ he gave his personal experience (Acts 22). When he was before Agrippa, he also told him about his experience. He was so convincing that Agrippa declared: 'Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.' See Acts 26. When Paul wrote to 77mothy and to the church at Philippi he gave them an account of his conversion (I 77m. 1: 12-14; Phil. 3: 7-10). David seems to be giving his experience and that in a wonderful way, in the first three verses of Psalm 40:1-3."
Mr. Camp attempts to justify the giving of personal experience accounts by the Scriptures. In that, he is to be commended. He cited divine testimony written and inscribed by the Spirit of God, but this does not justify our use of our personal experiences. The "experiences" to which he referred in the Book of God are the ones we are to use. We can be agreed on the experiences selected by the Holy Spirit, but when each of us begins to give his own view, we confront confusion and contradiction.
We must "learn not to go beyond the things which are written" (I Cor. 4:6). "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (I Pet. 4:11). Use the "experiences" stamped with the unerring veracity and infallible authenticity of the Holy Spirit.
Note the result of relying upon our personal experiences instead of upon the accounts in the word of God.
"Sir, how do I become a child of God?"
First Answer: "Well, if your parents had sprinkled water on you when you were an infant, you would already be one. That was my experience. "
Second Answer: "I went to a certain church, and they told me to pray and beg God until I felt I was 'taken over' by the Holy Spirit. Finally, after several nights of trying to get 'under conviction', I felt an inner glow, and I just knew I was saved. That was my experience."
Third Answer: "I got real sick one time and was afraid I was going to die, bat one night Jesus just came into my heart. I told a preacher and they voted on me and I was accepted into their church. That was my experience."
Each of these accounts represents the experiences of individuals. Which one may we depend upon to know if we are saved or not? Feelings, personal experiences, may be deceitful, but the word of God is sure and settled. To convert one to Christ, plant the seed of salvation, for "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10: 17). My personal experience will not save. Christ and His word can (Jno. 8:32; 17:17)!
Let us study the "personal experiences" selected by the Holy Spirit. Let these be our guide in leading people to the Lord.
(1) Acts 2: The word was preached (v. 41. They were convicted by the word (v. 37). They repented and were baptized "for the remission of sins" (v. 38).
(2) Acts 8:5-12: The word was preached, and the people believed it and were baptized (v. 12). They were saved, for Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16).
(3) Acts 8:26-39: The Eunuch heard the word; he believed and was baptized, and then rejoiced.
(4) Acts 16:30-34: The jailer heard the word; he also believed and was baptized and then rejoiced.
These are "personal experiences" upon which we can rely! Why not accept the Bible standard as the pattern for our lives? Paul said that his "experience" is the one we should use. It was given "for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (I Tim. 1: 16). Let us use Paul's experience and not our own.
Mr. Camp cited Acts 22, but he will not accept Paul's experience as there recorded. Paul was told to "arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Baptist doctrine says, "arise, wash away thy sins, and then be baptized."
Paul was saved by God's own "purpose and grace" (2 Tim. 1:9). He was "justified by faith" (Rom. 5: 1). He was "baptized into Christ" (Rom. 6:3). If he was saved before he was baptized, he was saved before he was IN CHRIST, for he was "baptized into Christ." Paul received "redemption through his blood" IN CHRIST (Eph. 1: 7). So, he was not redeemed by the blood of Christ until he was "baptized into Christ" (Rom. 6:3). Paul's experience included obedience to the words of Ananias, "arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).
We should be satisfied by the "personal experiences" which were recorded by the Author of the Bible. They are our pattern (2 Jno. 9; Phil. 4:9).
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 21, pp. 9-10