Friday, October 07, 2016

A Bigger Picture, Part Five

What are the differences between inspiration and illumination? Does the Holy Spirit still “speak” to believers today? How should you respond to somebody who says that the Holy Spirit “told them” to do something?


Inspiration is defined as the Holy Spirit’s work in the Biblical authors’ lives causing them to communicate the word of God to us.[1] The Scriptures are God-breathed, and as a result, they are perfect and sufficient for every person and every situation. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states that Scripture is inspired by God and have “the power and authority to shape our lives because it comes from God himself.”[2] Illumination refers to the “ongoing work of the Spirit”[3] to bring people to Christ and receive the truth of the gospel. The inspiration of the biblical canon is complete and closed, but illumination still carries on. Jesus’ teachings continue to work in hearts and minds. The Spirit and the Word go together. Because of the inspiration of the Scriptures and the illumination of the Spirit, personal experience, emotions, situations, or general opinions do not stand above the Word of God. We do not add meaning to Scripture; rather, we discover the meaning already there in the inspired text.[4]

The Holy Spirit does indeed still speak to believers today. However, this is not typically by hearing an audible voice, as some people suggest. The Bible is sufficient for everything, and the Word of God, through the illumination of the Spirit, continues to speak to believers and unbelievers. Peoples’ emotions, opinions, needs, and wants do not always line up with what the Bible teaches, so when people say “God spoke to me and told me to do this”, they must be sure that it does not contradict Scripture in any way. Many of our desires are God-given and are good desires, but that does not necessarily mean that God spoke to us in a dream, revelation, vision, etc. It may simply mean that the desires we have (the good ones) reflect the image of God in us, and must be used for His glory. God continues to speak to us, but through His inspired Word. “The Spirit enables us to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures at a deeper level.”[5] He gives us the ears to hear and the heart to understand what the revelation of the Word means, thus helping us to hear “God speak to us”. This isn’t new revelation, but new understanding for the individual. It enables Christians to align their emotions and thoughts to the Word in a new way, and it helps new believers know the differences between their feelings and what the Holy Spirit commands. The Spirit and the Word never contradict one another; therefore, if what someone feels, desires, does, or thinks, goes against Scripture, then it is not of or from God.[6] To quote Steven Lawson, “Do you want to hear the audible voice of God? Read the Bible out loud.” 

[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God's Word (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 226.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 230.
[6] Ibid.

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