Divine Illumination

These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God (v. 10).”

- 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Today, we are concluding our brief study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit with a look at the Spirit’s work of illumination. You may remember that in our study of Romans 8:16-17, we spoke of the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, which tells us that the Spirit confirms to us that we are the children of God if we do in fact belong to Him. We noted that this subjective internal testimony operates in conjunction with His objective and external Word. Paul tell us that the Spirit confirms our adoption internally in the midst of a passage that tells us unequivocally that we have been adopted (vv. 12-17). The Word operates externally by our reading and hearing it, and the Spirit works internally to apply it to us. The Apostle did not expect the Holy Spirit to work apart from the Apostolic testimony in order to reassure us of our sonship; he expected the Spirit to work in and through the Apostolic preaching and teaching to confirm in our hearts that we are God’s children.

Divine illumination and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit are closely related. In both cases, the Spirit works in and through the inscripturated words of God’s prophets and Apostles. When it comes to divine illumination, however, we are speaking more about the Holy Spirit’s work to give us understanding of Scripture than we are talking about the Spirit’s confirmation that we are God’s children. There are times in our lives when we are reading the Bible and suddenly we are struck by something in the text that we have never noticed before. Perhaps we suddenly see how the passage applies to our specific context. Maybe we understand the contours of an argument that escaped us previously. These are examples of the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination.

In 2 Corinthians 2:6-16, the Apostle describes this work of illumination. It involves the Spirit searching the depths of God (v. 10), not because He does not know the mind of God—for the Holy Spirit is God—but in order to grant to us the understanding that the Lord wants us to have. In other words, He searches the mind of God for our sake. He does not just open our minds and hearts at conversion; instead, He continues throughout our Christian lives to make the gospel make sense to us and convince us of its truth.

This work of illumination does not operate by giving us secret insight that one cannot derive by reading the text in context. Scripture is not a code book or the basis for fanciful allegorizing. Illumination, rather, takes what is already there and makes it real to us.

Coram Deo

Without the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination, we will never understand the Bible in a saving way. Many people read the Bible, know what it teaches, but never believe its message. It is not that they are somehow less intelligent. They do not believe because they have not been granted the ability to do so. We should thank God every day that He has granted us the capacity to trust in His Word, and may we ask Him to illumine our study every time we read it.

Passages for Further Study

2 Corinthians 3:12-18
1 John 2:20

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