Theology 101 — Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture: Illumination for Understandingcomment (0)
July 24, 2014
By Jerry Batson
The Spirit’s involvement with the Bible did not end with His inspiration of its production. He has continued to be active in the work of illumination. While we reserve the term “inspiration” for the origin of Holy Scripture, we use that of “illumination” to describe the Spirit’s work in believers who read, study and share the meaning of the Bible. As we handle the Bible the Holy Spirit stands ready to help us understand its meaning and to apply that meaning to our lives and our world. As we are blessed to illumine a dark room with the flip of a switch, so God’s Spirit works to enlighten our minds so that we see the truth embedded in the Bible.
Illumination seldom comes when we are sitting idly by with the Bible parked on a bookshelf or end table. We must be actively engaging Scripture in order for the Spirit to do His good work of illumining our minds with understanding. At the minimum level this means we must read the Bible regularly or maybe listen to someone read it. Since Spirit-revealed truth has been compressed into the words of human language, we must engage those words in order for the illumination to occur.
Illumination frequently happens when we go beyond mere reading by spending quiet time meditating or reflecting upon the words of the Bible. For many Christians the discipline of meditation is crowded out by busy schedules and misaligned priorities. A further step that naturally follows careful meditation on the words of Scripture is the committing of portions of the Bible to memory. Over time, the more we reflect, the more we remember. Meditation helps truth take root in our hearts. Memorized Scripture offers the Holy Spirit the material by which to illumine meaning and understanding in us. Remembered Scripture is often the channel through which understanding flows, sometimes at an unexpected moment, often connecting one part of Scripture with another part so that Scripture interprets Scripture. The commitment of the psalmist was, “I will meditate on Your precepts and fix my eyes on Your ways. I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your Word” (Ps. 119:15–16).
Often the Spirit’s illumination comes through the work of studying seriously portions of the Bible. We frequently use study helps along with Scripture. When we do, we find the Holy Spirit illumines our understanding by way of the illumination He has given others who have been faithful to share their insights.
Importance of prayer
The fitting prelude to reading, meditation and study of the Bible is prayer. We can ask that the Holy Spirit grant us understanding. The apostle Paul so valued the illumining work of the Spirit that he asked for the same to happen to others, praying that they have “the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:18–19).
When we expose our minds to the Bible we also can ask the Holy Spirit who dwells in us to turn on His illumination for our enlightenment. Praying before reading is a spiritual discipline that we do not commonly employ with any other reading material, but with the Bible as a perfect treasure of divine instruction such requesting of help from the same Spirit who originally inspired its writing is essential.