Series: Navigating the Spirit of Prophecy
Now that we have set the stage in Part One (foundational principles for interpretation) and Part Two (how the Ellen White’s writings relate to the Bible)—we can begin looking at additional principles that will help us correctly interpret and practically apply the writings of Ellen White in our lives.
At the outset, it is important to note that many of these principles of interpretation are the same for correctly interpreting the Word of God. Why? The answer is simple, both the Bible and the writings of Ellen White are written works AND they are both of divine origin (again, as noted previously, this writing series is not designed to defend the ministry of Ellen White—however, I am happy to personally discuss this with anyone who has questions).
The first principle we will look at is the principle of illumination.
What does the word illumination mean?
Illumination has to do with light. When you walk into a dark room, likely you do not know what or who is in the room but as soon as you switch the light on, the room is now illuminated and you are able to see!
That’s the point, illumination is about enabling a person to SEE.
In a spiritual sense as we think about the Word of God and the writings of Ellen White, illumination is the process by which a person comes to see, understand, and discern what the message meant and how God wants you to apply it in your life today.
There are many steps in the process of illumination but the first and most important step is asking the Holy Spirit to be our teacher and our guide.
The Bible says “darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples” (Isaiah 60:2), therefore, we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit in order to push back the darkness. This is the only way to flip on the switch.
Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to fumble around in the dark and figure out what objects are in the room, but we will never be able to clearly see the details and the beauty that is hidden by the darkness. The same is true with the Word of God and the writings of Ellen White—we can have a basic understanding or even a twisted understanding of the inspired words—but we will never be able to clearly see the great and profound truths that God wants us to understand.
We know this because the Bible teaches us that spiritual things are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). We need the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds enabling us to discern the truth AND the true conditions of our heart (Psalm 139:23-24, Ephesians 1:17).
This principle of illumination is something most of us are familiar with but let me explain, in addition to what we have already discussed, why the illumination of the Holy Spirit is such an important principle of interpretation.
Illumination is not merely about CORRECT knowledge, but ultimately about application and life change.
Are you willing to be changed and transformed by what you read?
Jesus says, “If anyone wills to do [God’s] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). The basic principle here is that as we choose to obey and act in accordance with the will of God, we will know the truth and understand it more and more, but if we do not live by every Word that God teaches us personally, then our minds will grow more and more dim.
As a side note, John 7 in it’s immediate and wider context reveals that all throughout Jesus’ ministry He was questioned and doubted regarding His claim to be the Messiah. In another place, Jesus mentions that we are slow in heart to believe the prophets. The problem of belief and obedience is an age old problem, Jesus was doubted, His prophets were doubted, and Ellen White has been doubted. However, the nuanced teaching in John 7:17 is, IF we believe and obey God—by doing His will to the best of our ability, we will KNOW and be able to DISCERN the teachings and doctrines of any prophet or messenger, including Ellen White.
Could it be that the reason we have trouble accepting the ministry of Ellen White is that we have failed to live up to what we know and have been taught in the Bible?
In summary, we have learned that the first step in the process of illumination is the gift of the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and ears—BUT the critical question is, what do we do with that knowledge? Knowing the truth is not enough, we must be transformed by the truth—and then we will know IF it is from God, "concerning the doctrine/teaching” of Ellen White, the Bible or any other prophetic message that comes to us between now and the second coming of Christ!
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19).
Sincerely, Pastor Royce (May 6, 2021)