The Revelation of God – Part 2
A father was approached by his young son who proudly said, “I know what the Bible means!” His father replied, “So son, know what the Bible means?” “Sure,” the young fellow confidently answered. “It means Basic Information Before Leaving Earth” (B.I.B.L.E.).” That’s a pretty good way to put it!
What is inspiration?
We saw in the previous article that God has actually revealed Himself and that His written revelation is the Bible. Dr. John Cawood defined inspiration as “that act of God whereby He causes to be written that which He wants people to know.” So, inspiration deals with the supernatural guidance of the human authors of the Holy Bible that — without violating their personalities and style–assured that the original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments would be holy, inerrant Scripture.
The classic New Testament text on this topic is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The phrase ‘inspiration of God’ is literally ‘God-breathed’ (Greek-‘theopneustos’).
The Lord Jesus confirmed the inspiration of the Bible by verifying the Old Testament (Luke 24:25-27) and predicting that the sending of the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles to complete the New Testament (John 16:13). He rebuked the religious leaders for not adhering to the Bible’s teaching: “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). And He appealed to the Bible’s authority when He resisted the Tempter (Matt. 4:1-10), and refuted the skeptics: “… the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). If the Son of God–the giver of revelation–respected holy Scripture, how much more should we! I had a teacher who used to say “I believe the Bible from cover to cover. I even believe the cover–‘the Holy Bible'”!
In a way, God’s written Word is also inscribed spiritually in the hearts of His people. As we live in light of this renewed mind, we become a positive testimony to God’s truth. As Paul testified, “Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3).
What is illumination?
So, we have clarified the nature of God’s revelation in general and the inspiration of God’s Word in particular. We now ask, “How do we benefit from this written revelation?” Here we come to the vital ministry of the Holy Spirit to God’s children–illumination. Back to that lecture by Dr. Cawood. He gave this definition:, “Illumination is that act of God whereby He causes people to understand what He wants them to know.”
Paul described this process to the Corinthians:
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know [illumination] the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12-13).
Notice that unsaved people do not have a human spirit that is alive toward God, so they do not have the faculty to apprehend spiritual truth: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
But the believer who yields to the indwelling Holy Spirit will benefit from His guidance: “He who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:12-16). Marvelous–we have the mind of Christ, “who has become for us wisdom from God…” (1 Cor. 1:30).
If we do not yield to the Holy Spirit, but rather live out of our own resources, we miss out on His illumination because of our state of carnality. This happened to some folks at Corinth:
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able” (1 Cor. 3:1,2). But if we respond to God’s light, He gives more light. His Word then becomes a source of spiritual nourishment as we walk in fellowship with the LORD. “… ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”‘ (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3).
And as Peter counseled, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). We never outgrow the need for constantly taking in God’s Word! (Psalm 119).
Isn’t it amazing that the more you abide in Christ, the more the Bible becomes an open book to you? God uses it in a powerful way for life-change: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
When we see Christ as our Savior, Lord and Life, the Bible no longer seems like a list of do’s and don’ts; rather, it is God’s love letter to us: “The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jer. 31:3).
It is all too possible, however, to assume that Bible knowledge equals spiritual maturity. Alas, we can have knowledge, but miss out on illumnination and application. Watchman Nee gave a testimony of a humble brother in Christ who benefited from the Holy Spirit’s illumination.
“One day in Peking I met an elderly believer. He did not have much Bible knowledge…, yet he really knew God. During our conversation he said, ‘Christ is responsible for everything.’ Though his family was quite poor, both he and his wife were happy. He asserted that in spite of many difficult problems in his life, Christ took responsibility for each one of them. So I asked him, ‘What responsibility do you bear? ”I am responsible for singing hymns,’ he answered. This was just like King Jehoshaphat going to war, with singers before the army to sing praises to the Lord (2 Chron. 20). I inquired of him further by saying, ‘You have forsaken all for the Lord’s sake. Do you have any regrets over what you have done?’ He replied candidly, ‘Why, you don’t seem to understand; Christ, not I, is responsible for all these.’ Concerning this matter of Christ being responsible for all things, anyone can see that this believer is well ahead of us and that we have to learn this lesson from him. He is indeed an expert on this particular aspect of spiritual life. What we must have is not mere Bible knowledge, but knowledge which is learned from God.” 
One of the ways we become more receptive to God’s illumination is through prayer. See how Paul interceded for deepened insight for those he discipled (Eph. 1:15-20; 3:14-21).
Let’s sum up with an illustration of revelation, inspiration, and illumination. A friend of mine is an artist; I’ll call him ‘Mr. C.’ How can we discover what is in Mr. C’s heart and mind? He must express himself (revelation). The artist now has an exhibit of his paintings in a museum in a nearby city. Let’s say that I drive down and discover the reality of these paintings; they are truly a tangible, objective expression of his artwork (inspiration). But what if it is evening and the lights are dimmed in the exhibit hall? I could only make out the general outline of his landscapes. But If I find the dimmer switch and turn it up, the room becomes flooded with light (illumination). Now I appreciate the colors, detail, and beauty of the scenes that he painted!
Even so, if we are to fully appreciate God’s revelation in inspired Scripture, we need His ongoing illumination. May we pray with the writer of Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.” There is no better way to discover Basic Information Before Leaving Earth.
Part 2 of 2
 Watchman Nee, Spiritual Knowledge (N.Y.: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1973) p.21.
Copyright 2000 by John Woodward. 2nd edition, 2017. Permission is granted to reproduce this article for non profit purposes if credit is given to the author and Grace Notebook. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (Copyright by Thomas Nelson).