What is Illumination of the Bible by the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit Guides Our Understanding

Bible teachers use the word illumination to describe the work of the Holy Spirit which enables us to understand and apply the spiritual message of the Scriptures. When Jesus met two disciples on the Emmaus Road, “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Later, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (Luke 24:31). In illumination, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes so that we may know the Scriptures.

Illumination is a ministry of the Holy Spirit, Who is given “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12). When the Holy Spirit does this work in our life, it results in our gaining a fuller understanding of the Scriptures (John 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:12­16). The illuminating work of the Holy Spirit depends on our relationship with God. Sin can hinder our understanding of Scripture. Like David, we need to pray, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Ps. 119:18).

We cannot understand the Scriptures apart from the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination. This is because our spiritual eyes are blinded so that we cannot see the things of God. The Bible speaks of the judicial blindness of Israel brought on by their rejection of Christ (Rom. 11:25), the blindness of hatred (1 John 2:11), the blindness of Gentiles who had not yet been exposed to the light of the Gospel (Isa. 9:2), the inability to see the kingdom of God apart from the new birth (John 3:3), and the work of Satan in blinding people to the Gospel today (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

When the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures, two things happen.

  1. First, unsaved people are convicted of their sin (John 16:8). The word “convict” is derived from a Latin expression which means “cause to see.”
  2. Second, Christians gain a greater understanding of the Scrip­tures. Spiritual illumination is also called the anointing of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27).

As you study the Bible, make full use of the spiritual principles of interpreting the Bible. Pray as you study the Scriptures, asking God to help you understand His Word (Ps. 119:33­34). Seek cleansing from all known sin in your life (1 John 1:9). Rely on other Scriptures to help you understand what you are reading, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13).

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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