Quest. 15: What is meant by “illumination”?
Ans: Illumination is the spiritual insight into the Scriptures given to the believer by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
1 Jn. 2:20, 27. 20But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things....27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
1 Cor. 2:9–10. 9But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
See also: Matt. 4:4; Lk. 24:13–32, 44–47; Jn. 17:17; 1 Cor. 2:9–16; Eph. 1:15–21; Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; Heb. 5:10–14; 2 Pet. 3:18.
The Spirit of God, who especially indwells every true believer, gives spiritual insight into the Scriptures, and through the Scriptures, into spiritual or doctrinal truth. Illumination, therefore, not only concerns the mind; it also includes the life in a two–fold sense: first, the end of all Bible study is the arrival at propositional or doctrinal truth. Every Christian in this sense is to be a theologian. Second, doctrinal truth is to have a profound effect upon the believer’s life, i.e., “theology determines one’s morality,” or, “everything in life is ultimately disciplined by one’s theology.” There is a necessary relationship between Scripture rightly learned and held, and the personal character, i.e., a person’s life is necessarily the reflection of his theology.
This anointing or illumination is distinct, a mark of grace, and utterly necessary for the Christian’s experience and growth (Rom. 1:18–22; 1 Cor. 2:9–16; Eph. 4:17–19). This spiritual insight or perception enables true Christians to study the Scriptures, feed upon the Bible as their spiritual food, receive instruction, become doctrinally consistent and astute, be completely outfitted for their spiritual lives, and grow toward spiritual maturity.
Although there are not degrees of inspiration, there are degrees of illumination, depending upon one’s faith, godliness, study of the Scriptures and spiritual maturity (1 Cor. 2:9–13; Eph. 1:15–19; 2 Pet. 3:18).
It must be carefully noted that spiritual illumination is not static, but may even decrease due to unconfessed sin, grieving the Spirit of truth, unbelief, spiritual sloth, or from turning away in fear or unbelief from any aspect of Divine truth (Eph. 4:30; Heb. 5:10–14). To come to terms with any aspect of scriptural truth and then reject it, for whatever reason, necessarily results to the same degree in the inability to discern truth from error. Do we pray for understanding and illumination (Psa. 119:18)? Do we seriously seek to live up to the standard of what truth we know?
By Dr. W.R. Downing