We do the Scriptures a disservice when we discount the power of personal experience in forming doctrine. I have read and heard it said that the Scriptural narrative accounts are not to be used to form doctrine; instead we should only seek to formulate doctrine only from the Epistles, or direct teaching from Jesus.
The problem is that we run the risk of much error when we do this. The writers of scripture, the Apostles and early disciples formulated much of their doctrine through their personal experience. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob formulated their belief about God through personal experience. Joseph, Moses and Joshua formulated their belief about God through personal experience. Each generation built upon the knowledge of God from their previous generation, with their personal experience of God. The prophets of the OT built their ministry around a personal experience of God. And so did those Jesus called to be his disciples.
Peter, John, and the other Apostles and disciples reformulated their belief about God through their personal experience with God. They experienced God while living with Christ in a deeply personal way for three years. They experienced God in a deeply personal way when the Holy Spirit was poured out. In fact after the ascension, Peter continued to reformulate his doctrine through personal experience with God. Take his vision on the roof top, where three times he was told to take unclean food and eat it, and that he was not to call unclean, what God was calling clean. It was through this vision. It was through this personal experience that he came to realise that the Gentiles were also included in God’s plan of salvation.
We do the Scriptures a disservice when we don’t closely allow ourselves to look at how the personal experiences of God, helped shape the authors of Scriptures doctrine of God. Take as an example, the Scripture that says – No one can call Jesus Lord, except through the Holy Spirit.
In many circles this passage is proof texted to state that every one who calls Jesus Lord has received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Yet, does the narrative account of the Scriptures support this doctrine? And the answer is clearly no, it doesn’t.
Before his crucifixion Jesus asked his disciples, who do the people say I am? To which a variety of answers were given. He then asked Peter directly, who do you say I am, and Peter replied. You are the Messiah, you are the Christ, you are the Lord. And Jesus once again tells him, you did not come to this revelation on your own, it was the Father who revealed this to you…or in other words Peter received this revelation through the Holy Spirit, for Scripture tells us that the Spirit takes the words of God and reveals them to us.
Within the narrative accounts of Scripture, we clearly see that Peter called Jesus Lord, via the Spirit, yet he had not yet received the Baptism of the Spirit. We see the many Samaritans calling Jesus Lord, and yet they had not then received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Did they not call Jesus Lord by the conviction / revelation of the Holy Spirit? And then once again we see Paul, calling Jesus Lord, and yet it was a number of days before he too received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
If all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, we need to closely look at the narrative story as well as the more doctrinal letters and be careful that we match the two together…otherwise we run the risk of wrongly dividing the word of God.