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Illumination is the process by which the Holy Spirit enlightens the human mind with spiritual understanding. It is, as the Apostle Paul teaches, wisdom given by the indwelling Holy Spirit that enables the spiritual man (Christian) to understand spiritual things.1 When it comes to the “natural man” (non-Christian), however, Paul teaches that he or she cannot understand “the things of the Spirit of God,” being void of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit and devoid of all spiritual discernment.
Make no mistake about it; there is no understanding of the Holy Scripture apart from the Holy Spirit. Unless the Spirit, the Author of Scripture, enlightens the human mind to the truths of Scripture, the Scripture remains incomprehensible, as well as nonsensical to man. There is simply no way the “natural” or unspiritual man, a man without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, can make sense of the Scripture, regardless of his great scholarship or high IQ.
Another important passage of Scripture penned by the Apostle Paul on the subject of illumination is 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. Here, the great missionary apostle writes: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
In these important verses, the Apostle Paul explains the essential role spiritual illumination plays in the regeneration of spiritually blind sinners. According to Paul, unbelievers cannot see the truth of the Gospel, because Satan, who is “the god of this world,” has blinded their minds to the knowledge of the glory of God found in the face of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Still, Paul charges us, in spite of the Satan induced spiritual blindness prevalent in this fallen world, to continue to preach Jesus Christ to spiritually blind unbelievers, since there is, as Paul proposes, always the hope that God will speak His command—“Let there be light”—in the dark heart of some sinner. 
Where have we heard this command of God elsewhere in Scripture? Is it not in Genesis 1:1-3? Here, we read: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” 
According to these opening verses of the Bible, the earth was not only in darkness, but also empty and meaningless until the Spirit of God began to move upon it. Then, God spoke the command, “Let there be light!” Immediately, there was light and the earth was no longer in darkness; neither was it any longer empty and meaningless.
To the man in spiritual darkness, the Word of God is empty and meaningless. However, when God’s Spirit begins to move upon a man and God’s command—“Let there be light”—is spoken in a man’s heart, spiritual illumination occurs. The sinner’s blind eyes are opened so that he or she can see both “the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ” and “the glory of God in the face of Jesus.” No longer is the Bible empty and meaningless, but compelling and comprehensible.
Whether we’re talking about the sinner seeing the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the saint seeing the truths of God’s Word, neither is possible apart from the Spirit of truth, whose mission in this world is to lead and guide us into all truth.2 Spiritual illumination, the enlightening of the mind so that man can understand the truths of the Scripture, is essential to the evangelism of sinners, as well as to the edification of saints. Without it, the sinner won’t be swayed by the Scripture to come to Christ nor will the saint be spurred on by the Scripture to Christlikeness.
1 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
2 John 16:13