Acts 10:28 "And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean."
Yesterday we looked at how the Holy Spirit is the Divine agent of illumination and began exploring how it is that the Apostle Peter was illuminated to the truth of God's redemptive purposes for Cornelius and other God-fearers like him. In today's post we will continue on our study of Acts 10 and drawing together what the Bible has to say about this crucial ministry of the Holy Spirit - illumination.
Illumination's work requires repeated exposure to the scriptures. Acts 10:9-13; 14-16.
It is rare for you and I to achieve understanding of a truth from God's word on the first pass. Often we need multiple exposures to the truths of God's Word before we "get it". Peter is being told to take up and eat all of the animals He was shown. As a practicing Jew, Peter evoked the passage from Leviticus 11 on God's admonitions on eating clean versus unclean animals. Peter's understanding was correct, but the way in which He was applying it was out of step with the seismic shift that had occured between Old and New Testaments. He was being told that what defines "clean" and "unclean" is no longer the ritual of the ceremonial law (which was done away with by Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection), but rather God Himself. Peter of course would not had known that, which is why God showed Him the vision three times. (Acts 10:16)
We can tell Peter is still struggling with all of this due to what we read of him being "perplexed" in 10:17. God used an Old Testament passage (Leviticus 11) and what would in practical terms be the revelation of New Testament truth (Acts 10:9-14) to illuminate to Peter the understanding that Gentiles like Cornelius were becoming the increasing objects of God's Divine working and salvation. Over a period of days Peter is wrestling and waiting to see when and where this illumination of God's truth is going to be applied. Which leads us to the third main thought about the Spirit's illumination....
Illumination's insights from the Spirit and His word must be applied. Acts 10:17-33
As Peter was mulling over what God had shown Him, the men who had been sent by Cornelius to Peter arrived. As Peter went with them, we see him arriving at Cornelius' house in Acts 10:24-33, with Cornelius explaining to Peter how an angel of God had dealt with him and prepared him for what would be Peter's representation of the Gospel. Clearly Peter was still nervous and somewhat unsure, nonetheless it was time to act out and apply what the Spirit of God has illumined. 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 states "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit,combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." As the remainder of Acts 10:34-48 shows, Peter preached God's Word to Cornelius and his household. As the Spirit intended, the outcome was not only salvation but the specific outpouring of Himself upon the other God-fearers who were gathered at Cornelius' house (Acts 10:44-48).
Unless the Holy Spirit had illumined Peter, such a meeting would not had occured. How do we know Peter was illumined? We can see that the Agent, the Holy Spirit, was illuminating Peter by several exposures to the revealed truth of God's Word. This in turn was demonstrated to be the case in Peter's life by how he walked it out.
Putting it all together - final thoughts on illumination
The chief reason why the Spirit of God illuminates truth to us is for us to walk it out. For us today, illumination is not the Spirit of God revealing truths never before revealed (which would be revelation). Nor is it obviously new scripture (inspiration). Rather illumination simply is the Spirit's work taking already completed revelation and inspiration and showing us how to apply it in different settings. In subdividing illumination into the ministries of teaching and guiding, John Walvoord notes: "While the teaching work of the Spirit in this age is directed to make clear the content of the Word of God, guidance is the application of the truths thus known to the individual problems of life."1
Illumination aims to put God's people on the move to fulfilling the will of God illumined to them in the scriptures. As only the Spirit can do, once the illuminated truth has been worked out in the mind and walked out in the actions, the child of God instinctively knows that they need further light to walk ever further in the things of God. The Holy Spirit is the Agent, who repeated illumines things to us through God's Word in order to teach and guide us in the application of it. Thanks be to God for the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.
1. John Walvoord. The Holy Spirit. 1969. Zondervan. Page 221