SPECIAL TOPIC: ILLUMINATION
God has acted in the past to clearly reveal Himself to mankind (i.e., creation, flood, call of Patriarchs, exodus, conquest, etc.). In theology this is called "revelation." He selected certain men to record and explain this self-revelation (e.g., John 14:26; 16:12-15). In theology this is called "inspiration." He has sent His Spirit to help readers understand Him and His promises and provisions, especially the coming of Messiah. In theology this is called "illumination." The problem arises, if the Spirit is involved in understanding God—why are there so many interpretations of Him and His will and way?
Part of the problem lies in the reader's pre-understanding or personal experiences. Often a personal agenda is advocated by using the Bible in a proof-text or atomistic fashion. Often a theological grid is imposed over the Bible allowing it to speak only in certain areas and in selected ways. Illumination simply cannot be equated with inspiration although the Holy Spirit is involved in each. Inspiration (see Special Topic: Inspiration) has ceased with the NT (i.e., Jude 3,20). Most NT texts which relate to illumination refer to knowledge about the gospel and the Christlike life (i.e., Rom. 8:12-17; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 1:17-19; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-13; 1 John 2:20-27). This, in reality, is one of the promises of the "new covenant" (cf. Jer. 31:31-34, esp. v. 34).
The best approach to allow the Spirit to help believers understand revelation may be to attempt to assert the central idea of a paragraph, not interpret every detail of the text. It is the topical thought which conveys the original author's central truth. Outlining the book or literary unit helps one follow the intent of the original inspired author. No interpreter is inspired. We cannot reproduce the biblical writer's method of interpretation (i.e., inspiration). We can and must attempt to understand what they were saying to their day and then communicate that truth to our own day. There are parts of the Bible that are ambiguous or hidden (until a certain time or period). There will always be disagreements on some texts and subjects but we must state clearly the central truths and allow freedom for individual believer's interpretations within the boundary of the original author's intent. Interpreters must walk in the light they have, always being open to more light from the Bible and the Spirit. God will judge us based on the level of our understanding and how we live out that understanding.
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