What is the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation? Is it to illuminate and convict? What would be the difference or is it the same thing? Would it be possible to have your mind illuminated without being convicted of your heart’s need of salvation?


Hello Leah,

Thank you for this fine-tuned question. Let’s consider each concept.

The KJV does not use the term illuminate or illumine, but it does use the concept in regard to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the Spirit would take of what is Christ and would show (declare or disclose) Him to us (John 16:8). The Spirit reveals Christ. Paul refers to the Spirit as “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” and prays that the Spirit would enlighten the eyes of the Ephesian saints to truth (Eph. 1:16ff.). This work of the Spirit implies more is needed than just mental understanding.

Although the word convict is not found in the KJV, we have the term convicted used once (in John 8:9), referring to men’s consciences being convicted when Jesus confronted those who brought the woman taken in adultery. In other instances, the same Greek word is translated as either convince or reprove. Regarding the Holy Spirit’s work, the translation reprove is used in John 16:8 when Jesus says that the Spirit “will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

The word convict means to convince. It is the prove part of reprove. To be convinced is to be convicted, and it seems illumination and conviction are closely connected. The Holy Spirit illuminates the truth, and that illumination convinces regarding the truth. This is conviction. So, I’m not sure you can separate illumination from conviction. You can understand concepts without being convinced of their truth, but illumination brings “convincement.”

But you bring up a good point. Illumination at least starts in the mind. In the spiritual sense, however, it would involve more. When Paul prays for “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened” (Eph. 1:18), he seems to refer to a spiritual seeing. It would be seeing the realities of truth connected to words, not just an understanding of words.

The word convict moves beyond the mind to the affections, where you are affected by what you have come to understand. You are convinced. Therefore, you agree with what you understand. This is seen when Paul urges us to reckon/be convinced of the right facts in Romans 6. When you are convinced, then you can make faith choices.

In salvation, the Holy Spirit’s role is to convince sinners of the problem of sin, the need for Christ’s righteousness and inevitable judgment without it. This inherently involves illumination. The Spirit brings truth to bear on men for the purpose that they in response believe in Jesus. Conviction or “convincement” makes faith possible, but faith is not automatic. It is a responsibility. Once convinced, sinners have the opportunity to respond in faith.

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