Difference Between Conviction and Illumination

Do you know the difference between conviction of the Spirit and illumination of the Spirit? This might be exactly what you need in order to walk in step with the Holy Spirit and live in freedom.

The immanent (operating within) activity of the Holy Spirit is to reclaim, renew, reinvigorate, and redeem His fallen creation (John 6:44-47) for His glory. While a common grace can make an unbeliever moral and philanthropic, an inviting grace brings about a preliminary sanctifying work of the Spirit to illuminate the unbeliever’s mind when the Gospel message is proclaimed. The Spirit first convicts the world (all humanity), causing an individual to recognize his/her need to be reconciled to God (Ro. 5:6-11, 2 Cor. 5:17-21).

By definition, a conviction is the work of the Spirit to:

1.) convince an individual of personal sin,

2.) admit he/she misses the mark of complete holy righteousness,

3.) proclaim judgment on evil, and

4.) believe on Christ (John 16:8-11).

The nature of convicting is when the Spirit persuades an unbeliever that his/her condition (Eph. 4:17-24, 2 Cor. 4:3-4) is broken and in need. However, it does not have to stay broken. The need can be met with a living water called Jesus Christ.

After an unbeliever is convinced of his “lost,” “blind” condition, illumination can occur when the Spirit enlightens the mind, from a sinner living in darkness to being able to understand the truth about Christ (John 16:13-14). Illumination analogies such as light or being able to see (2 Cor. 4:3-6) describe this new perception.

Who does the work of convicting and illuminating? Strict Calvinists take an Augustinian view of God doing all the work. A humanist takes a Pelagian view of man doing all the work to search for God. A moderate Calvinist is semi-Augustinian where God takes the first step meeting the man half way. A Wesleyan/Arminian has a semi-Pelagian view where man takes the first step and meets God half way. Perhaps these differences existed in the ages past only because there are many different works involved such as convicting, searching, common grace, inviting grace, saving grace, salvation, and illuminating. In the work of illuminating divine truth, both God and man are working together.

In the study of salvation, called soteriology, God gives the gift of mercy to all who call upon him! He is the one who finished all the work at Calvary, a gift of salvation and eternal life in Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

2 Comments

  1. Great post Heather. I liked how you noted the views of Strict Calvinists, humanists, moderate Calvinists, and Wesleyan/Arminians. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Calvinism, Moderate Calvinism and Arminianism. I’ve settled on Moderate Calvinism as my view, (which is the view I’ve held most of my Christian life). I got a little confused reading Romans 9, but I’ve come to a Moderate Calvinist understanding of that chapter. Very interesting ideas about the Holy Spirit’s work, that must have been a good class you took. 🙂

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    1. I think this article is too simplistic. I’ve never known of an Arminian who believes that man takes the first step towards God. Even in the portions of the Catholic Church with which I am familiar, this is not the case. God makes it possible for human beings to co-operate with Him in these theologies.

      Also, Wesley’s hymns suggest he could never have thought such a thing. Take this from “And Can It Be?”

      Long my imprisoned spirit lay
      Fast bound in sin and nature’s night
      Thine eye diffused a quickening ray
      I woke, the dungeon flamed with light
      My chains fell off, my heart was free,
      I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

      I’m writing this because I would not want you to accidently make someone mad by misrepresenting their position, and thereby lose the chance to engage with them.

      Like

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