We are continuing our message series The Holy Spirit at Work and today’s message is entitled the Holy Spirit at work in Scripture.
It’s common to hear in church that God speaks to us through the Bible- well at least I hope you’re hearing that! In the most basic way we believe that God spoke to people in the past and they wrote it down and so God speaks to us through what he said to them.
And it is up to us to figure out how this helps us in our faith today. That would be the least spiritual explanation of the process. In fact, it leaves the Holy Spirit out completely.
As Brent Hudson notes
Sadly though, that is what most people think when they consider reading the Bible. Often what we leave out is that it requires the Holy Spirit to be at work in us so we actually hear what God is saying.
That is the idea I want to talk about today. In Systematic Theology, this is called the doctrine of Illumination. It’s when God turns the lights on inside our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit so that we can see things as he sees them.
Specifically, the doctrine of illumination relates to that ministry of the Holy Spirit that helps the believer understand the truth of Scripture. In relation to the Bible, the doctrine of revelation relates to the unveiling of truth in the material of the Scriptures; inspiration concerns the method by which the Holy Spirit superintended the writing of Scripture; and illumination refers to the ministry of the Spirit by which the meaning of Scripture is made clear to the believer…ultimately it is the Spirit who is the direct connection between the mind of God as revealed in the Scriptures and the mind of the believer seeking to understand the Scriptures.
Spiritually speaking what people often struggle with is that they are spiritually blind and deaf in regards to hearing God…we need to God’s Spirit at work in us so that we can see and hear from God. We need illumination!!
In the Old Testament a certain farmer-turned-prophet was called Amos. He wrote that God was alive and well but no one was paying attention.
“…The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.” (Amos 1:2, NIV)
Have you ever heard a lion roar? If you have or haven’t we find a sound effect of a lion…take a listen? PLAY TRACK God is meant to be heard…but often it is our disobedience that causes us to be deaf…
As Brent Hudson points out
Israel was living in disobedience to God. They did not hear God but it was not because God wasn’t speaking. In fact, he was roaring as a lion from Zion and 130 kilometers away the grasses on the top of Mt. Carmel withered. God was speaking but God’s people were oblivious to it.
God is speaking. Are you listening?
For Amos, God was in the Jerusalem Temple and it was in the Temple that his word — the Torah — was being read on a daily basis. There was this connection between God’s presence, his word, and the roaring voice. Peter explains this connection more fully.
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19–21, NIV)
If we could take the words of Peter and put it in simpler terms, it would look like this:
This would be the inspiration part of the process. It is why we believe the bible is important for us and why we need to read it. It is more than just remembrances of great stories from the past — although it is partly that. It is more than just the reflections of spiritual people from the past — although is partly that. Partly, but more. It is in fact much more, it is God-breathed. Just as God breathed into Adam and gave him life in Gen 2.7, God breathed into people his Spirit who carried them along as they wrote down what they heard.
Our teaching pastor, Brent Hudson, made the point that every linguist knows that words are the clunky part of communication. Listen to his words on this:
I remember when I read a book on Greek Semantics and J.P. Louw wrote: “words do not have meanings, rather, meanings have words.” He went on to say that’s why we can communicate the same meaning in different languages. The human thought is the same — the meaning is the same — the expression of that meaning takes all kinds of forms.
For example think about idiom: wise sayings that said in a figurative way that is natural to native speakers of a language
At the drop of a hat –
Meaning: without any hesitation; instantly.
Back to the drawing board
Meaning: When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.
The ball is in your court
Meaning: It is up to you to make the next decision or step
Barking up the wrong tree
Meaning: Looking in the wrong place. Accusing the wrong person
You can see from those that the connection between words and meaning is arbitrary and yet the connection is real.
In the sci-fi show Star Trek there was this device called a transporter. Basically it turned matter into energy then they would beam that energy to another place and convert it back into matter. It is Sci-Fi fantasy — but really we do a similar thing every time we communicate to each other. We convert our thoughts into words so we can communicate those thoughts to others. When they hear our words, they decode the words back into meaning or thought. This is the same process for the Bible — God’s thoughts encoded into words that human beings can understand. That is how we understand the Bible.
We believe this is the truth of the Scriptures — they are God breathed ideas in human words. Grasping the the meaning of God’s Words is something that Paul helps us understand 1Cor 2:
11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (1 Corinthians 2:11–13, NIV)
Paul here is describing the Spirit’s work of illumination…let me give you another theological definition that unpacks this –
God reveals knowledge of himself through the Holy Spirit, who brings understanding of God to the hearts and minds of believers. Illumination refers to the divine enlightening of the mind to grasp the beauty of God’s being and the meaning of God’s Word. The gospel brings us to an encounter with God’s Word and God’s Spirit, and in that encounter we are not only informed but also illuminated….Think of this: if God has spoken, he needs to ensure that it is heard and understood. After all, if God speaks and if no one understands it, has there really been a revelation from God? God’s speaking is only effective through the Holy Spirit to provide people with a transformed awareness of God.
“… it is the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scripture that makes Scripture authoritative, it is the Spirit’s continuing work in bringing understanding to the reader of Scripture that makes Scripture an effective medium of divine revelation.” – M. Bird
Whereas it is the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scripture that makes Scripture authoritative, it is the Spirit’s continuing work in bringing understanding to the reader of Scripture that makes Scripture an effective medium of divine revelation.
The spiritual process of reading scriptures then would look like this:
Hearing God speak is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible. We want God to speak to us clearly. We want God’s wisdom and God’s direction. We want a connection with God.
Let me quote Brent again:
What Paul is speaking of is both profound and mysterious. God’s Spirit is at work in us communicating God’s thoughts and heart in a way that human words cannot fully encode. The Holy Spirit creates a frame of reference for us so we can understand what the Bible is saying. He “turns the lights on” so to speak. He ‘illuminates’ our minds and our hearts.
As a teenager, I thought I understood the word love – but now that I am married and a parent – I realize that I really didn’t fully understand. Experience has taught me what those words mean in a way the dictionary just cannot convey. That’s just human experience. The Holy Spirit does the same kind of thing helping us understand God’s message to us in human language.
That is why reading the Scriptures must start with prayer – where we place ourselves before scripture and let the Spirit of God beam into our souls hearts and mind the meaning, truth, mercy and grace of God.
Speak O Lord – for your servant is listening…
We are going to practice an ancient way of letting the Spirit Speak in God’s Word
Lectio Divinia – Divine Reading – is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.
Ephesians 2:8-10 – 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
4 times I will read it
- Listen – what word gets louder for you
- Touch – how does this word touch you
- Invite – what are you invited to do or be or cease
- Rest – in this word