Bible - Inspiration & Authority

What's the Difference Between Inspiration and Illumination? Why Is This Important?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
We must ask the Holy Spirit to protect us from imposing our own agendas on His inspired Word.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Christians need to ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate His inspired Word for us, to protect us from imposing our own agendas upon it.

Inspiration: God Alone Breathing Out Scripture

Inspiration is the means by which God the Holy Spirit caused the Scriptures to be written by human beings. The Scriptures are, literally, "God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16). The human writers did not work on their own initiative, but were moved by God to write His words (Hebrews 1:1, 2 Peter 1:19-21). The Holy Spirit's influence upon the secondary writers of the Bible was such that it gave their writings divine truthfulness, and in this way He constituted the Scriptures as the infallible and sufficient rule of faith and practice for mankind (Matthew 4:4, John 10:34-35, 2 Timothy 3:16ff, Romans 15:4, 2 Peter 3:15-16). The human writers investigated documents, gathered facts, and chose words (e.g., Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:1-3) - but all under the direct guidance and supervision of the Holy Spirit, so that the products of their labors were the very words of the infallible God. This guarantees infallibility in all that Scripture teaches.

Illumination: God Alone Making Scripture Understandable

Illumination is the means by which the Holy Spirit makes the Scriptures understandable to the believer (1 Corinthians 2:10). In John 6:45, Jesus promises that those whom the Father draws to Himself "shall all be taught by God." Jesus is here quoting Isaiah 54:13, and this thought is also the force of Jeremiah 31:34, Micah 4:2, and Hebrews 8:10.

Why is this an Important Difference?

The things of God are revealed by the Holy Spirit, and do not come from the heart of man (1 Corinthians 2:9-13). Correct interpretation of the Bible is therefore impossible without the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in the mind and heart of the believer. God's Spirit must enlighten human darkness - not as an addition to our wisdom, but as the absolutely essential source of the only true wisdom - first of all in order that we may be saved, and secondly so that we may understand His Word properly.

The illuminating work of the Holy Spirit does not give the believer special mystical insight on the Bible or beyond the teachings of the Bible. There are no new "words of knowledge" that can be given equal standing with Scripture, or placed in de facto authority over Scripture. God's Word is complete, and uniquely authoritative. Rather, by His illuminating work God gives us teachable hearts - the ability to read the Bible in a sanctified, spiritually responsible way. The illumination of the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit protects the believer from the dangers of handling the Word of God deceitfully (2 Corinthians 4:2).

An important part of God's work of illumination is "comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:13) - literally, "comparing things from the Spirit with things from the Spirit" - in other words, comparing Scripture with Scripture in order to understand it fully and properly.

The wonderful truth is that every believer in Christ has God the Holy Spirit, the Author of all Scripture, living within him. In a day when we are bombarded by the influences of worldly presuppositions, postmodern thinking, and higher-critical unbelief, every Christian needs to ask God the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Bible for us - so that we will not fall prey to these influences, and so that we will not impose our own agendas upon the Word of God.


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