As we have seen over the past few months, revelation, inspiration, inerrancy, and canonicity make theological and historical claims about the Scripture. Revelation says that Scripture is God’s written revelation of his nature and will, including the good news of deliverance and glorification, to humanity. Inspiration teaches that Scripture was breathed out by God and written by human authors. Inerrancy refers to the truth of the original transcripts of Scripture. It says that Scripture is true, conforming to reality and speaking the truth in everything it affirms. Canonicity is a historical concept that refers the authenticity of Scripture.
Illumination is different in that it makes a theological claim about God's interactions with his people with regard to Scripture. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit clarifying the meaning of Scripture to believers who are maturing in faith and fellowship with Jesus. The Spirit's illumination can take place directly with each believer or indirectly through the spoken or written words of teachers. Whatever the means, illumination is always a work of the Holy Spirit connecting the mind of God with the minds of his people. God gave us the Bible because he wants his people to understand. He then helps us understand by acting as our guide to the meaning and significance of his Word. God the Spirit illuminates the Scripture as we engage its truth.
The Spirit illuminates the Scripture, helping believers to understand and know how to live out that understanding. He reveals the things of God that have been hidden (Ephesians 1:15-23). He uncovers the deep things of God, interpreting the significance of spiritual things that human wisdom cannot explain (1 Corinthians 2:6-14). He illuminates the Scripture for believers who are maturing in Christ, but does not do so for those who cater to the flesh (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
Illumination is one side of a two-sided partnership, for it requires our participation. Believers must take a prayerful approach to Scripture. We must hone our skills as we practice the principled study of Scripture. We must practice informed and open listening to Christian teachers who unfold God’s Word through spoken word, the written word, or life.
1 Corinthians 2:6-14
1 Corinthians 3:1-4
C. C. Ryrie. Illumination. Ed. Elwell, W. A. (2001). In Evangelical dictionary of theology: Second Edition (pp. 590–591). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.