Two important terms apply to the Bible. Inspiration refers to the process by which we received our Bible. Illumination refers to the process by which we comprehend our Bible. Let’s examine these two processes.
We received our Bible from God via inspiration. That is, He breathed His Word into the minds of the human authors. There were about 40 of them and they wrote over a period of over 1500 years. Yet together they told one story of God’s redemptive purpose woven together by the Holy Spirit. Inspiration reaches down to every word. That is called verbal inspiration. It involves the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation. That’s called plenary inspiration. The entire Bible is without error. That is, it is inerrant inspiration. Any honest person has to agree that it is impossible for such a miraculous book to simply be the work of fallible men.
II Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (God breathed into the minds of human authors) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect (complete) thoroughly furnished (equipped) unto all good works.”
II Peter 1:21 describes the process God used. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
These human authors were not human machines through which God passed His Word to us. Each of them were individuals with their own personalities and styles of writing. Each used his own vocabulary. God simply gave them His message and superintended them as they wrote so that every word they wrote was protected from error. The Bible is as much the infallible Word of God as if He had written it Himself with His own hand.
For that reason, the Bible is able to save and to change lives by its supernatural power.
As the Holy Spirit of God was instrumental in giving His Word by inspiration, so His Spirit is instrumental in illuminating us. That’s why the Psalmist in Psalm 119:18 prays, even as we should pray whenever we approach the Bible, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Law.” We can expand that today and pray, “Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Word (from Genesis through Revelation).
Without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, it is a closed book to us. We read in I Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he now them, because they are spiritually discerned.” That’s why the Bible is a closed book to the unsaved. They, along with the unconverted liberal scholars, perceive it as foolish and boring.
But for even the newest and youngest of born again believers, the Bible opens up as a treasure chest of God’s Truth. For a better understanding of how this works, go to my articles on EVOLUTION and learn how a scholar working on his PhD at PrincetonUniversity discovered the truth of the Bible and how God changed him from an evolutionist to a creationist.
Because the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit is so essential, Paul prayed for that illumination in the lives of the Christians in Ephesus. You can read that prayer and learn much about out incomprehensible God in Ephesians 3:14-21.
As Jesus prepared to go to the cross, He spent His last hours with His disciples in an upper room and prayed for the illuminating work of His Holy Spirit whom He would send to His disciples after He returned to Heaven. Read Jesus’ concern for this in John 14:26 and 16:13-14.
Understand, Christian friend, that whenever you talk to an unconverted person about the Bible, that the only thing you need to explain to Him is God’s plan of salvation. Until He receives Christ, the rest of the Bible is a closed, boring book to him.
SOME EXAMPLES OF ILLUMINATION
In Acts 10 you can read the story of Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was seeking God’s truth. It’s an amazing story of how God changed the heart of Peter to go to him with the Gospel. Up to this time, Peter and the other Apostles thought salvation was only for the Jews. Through this event God opened the spiritual eyesight of Peter to understand that the Gospel was for the Gentiles also, that is, the rest of the world.
When Peter presented the Gospel to Cornelius, immediately he was given spiritual illumination and understood and received the Gospel of Christ.
In Acts 16 we read of how the same thing happened to Lydia, a gentile woman from the city of Thyatira in Asia Minor. Her heart was opened to the Truth as she heard Paul explain the Gospel and she was saved. Also in that same 16th chapter of Acts, we read the exciting story of how Paul won his jailer to Christ. If you’ve never read it, I challenge you to read it now.
ILLUMINATION IS THE ONGOING WORK OF GOD
Understand then that inspiration is a once for ever work of the Holy Spirit. When the Bible was complete, the work of inspiration ceased. Nothing new has ever been inspired of God to be added to the Bible. In Revelation 22:18-19 God pronounces a curse on anyone who tries to add or subtract from His Word.
Understand also that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible also illuminates our minds and hearts to receive the Bible as God’s Word. Illumination is an ongoing work in the heart of every Christian. I understand much more of the Bible than I did when I first became a Christian at the age of 9 or when I first began preaching the Word as a 23 year old preacher.
Illumination rests on a once for all faith in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Jude 3 states that the body of The Faith was given once for all to the Apostles. I have spent a lifetime contending for that Faith once for all given to the Apostles. As a result, life has been anything but boring I can assure you.
God’s Word is filled with Treasures for the Christian who devotes himself to seeking The Truth. Psalm 119:18 speaks of these truths as being wondrous. Verse 118 describes these truths as sweet to our taste. Psalm 139:17 describes these truths as precious.
I Peter 1:23 explains that His Word is vital for salvation. No one can be saved apart from the Word of God.
Psalm 119:9 and I John 1 teach us that the Word teaches us of the shed blood of Christ that cleanses us from sin.
II Peter 3:18, I Peter 2:1-3 and Hebrews 5:12-14 teach us of the part Scripture plays in our spiritual growth.
John 4:23 and Job 23:11-12 teach us of the importance of the Word to truly worship God. Worship experiences not based on the Word of God are useless and sacrilegious.
The Psalmist in Psalm 119:18 as well as the Christian today understands that apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit it is impossible to understand the Bible.
We must approach the Bible with a humble, meek heart in order to receive the Spirit’s illumination. Psalm 22:26, 25:9, Isaiah 57:15 A proud heart approaches the Bible with a know-it-all attitude and is not open to correction or to learning further truths from Scripture. If there is anything we preachers need to understand, it is that the full complete truth concerning God is unsearchable and beyond anyone’s complete understanding. That’s what Paul taught in Romans 11:33-36. This should be a reason for genuine humility and worship.
We must also approach God’s Word with a clean heart. Hebrews 10:19-25 As a boy, I once heard this saying which has stayed with me throughout my life. ” This Book will keep your from sin, but sin will keep you from this Book.” Don’t ever forget that.
Look again at our text in Psalm 119:18 Understand that it is God who opens our eyes to understand the truth. After His resurrection, Jesus began to open the minds of His disciples to understand His Word. Read of that in Luke 24:45. After Jesus returned to Heaven, His Holy Spirit took over that responsibility of illuminating our minds.
In Ephesians 1:15-20 Paul prayed for that illumination in the hearts of the Ephesian believers.
TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES
As Moses took off his shoes as God spoke to him from the burning bush as recorded in Exodus 3:4-5, let me encourage you to figuratively take off your shoes, that is, turn from the defilements of the world, when you enter church to hear the preaching of God’s Word, or when you take time to read your Bible privately at home, or whenever you attempt to study God’s Word.
Note finally, that the Psalmist does not simply pray for illumination to understand spiritual things. He asks for illumination from God’s Word. If we are not reading the Bible and hiding it in our hearts by memorizing it, there will be nothing for the Holy Spirit to recall from our minds. God cannot illuminate a blank mind. We must fill it with His Word by reading it and memorizing portions of it. Then you can pray that prayer of Psalm 119:18 and God will recall Biblical truth from your mind and help you to put it all into perspective, applying it to your present needs.