Wednesday Night Lesson: ‘The Holy Spirit as a Dove’


Tonight we continue in our study of the Holy Spirit. Many Bible teachers agree that our lack of understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is one of the major problems in the church today. Though the Holy Spirit is present in every believer, not every believer has learned how to walk in the Spirit. They don’t understand the nature of the Spirit and how He works and moves.

Thus far we have learned that the Holy Spirit is a part of the divine Godhead. He is equal with God the Father and God the Son. He is not an impersonal force, floating around and showing up on various occasions to perform in some mysterious way.  He’s not a spiritual energy pill that comes from God and puts us on a spiritual high. He is a divine Being Who thinks, feels and always acts in accordance with the will of the Godhead. We do not have to beg for Him to come for He already dwells inside of every believer from the moment of their salvation. It is the Spirit Who enables us to understand spiritual truth from God’s Word. It is the Spirit Who bears the fruit of Christ-likeness in our lives. It is the Spirit Who enables us to serve and minister according to the will of God. It is the Spirit Who is here to guide us in everything we do. It is the Spirit Who is to be in control of the church and therefore the church needs to learn how to have a deeper relationship with Him.

Perhaps it would help us if we could learn more about the nature of the Holy Spirit. How does the Spirit move and operate? Various symbols or emblems are used in scripture to help describe the activity and nature of the Spirit. Five of the more predominate symbols are:

  1. Fire
  2. Wind
  3. Water
  4. Oil
  5. Dove

We should note – the Bible doesn’t say that the Holy Spirit is a dove, or that He is fire, or that He is wind or water. He is ‘like’ these emblems in certain aspects of His character and conduct. Tonight let’s consider why the Spirit is symbolized by a dove.

I. Like a Dove

Perhaps the most familiar symbol of the Spirit is a dove.

Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22 And the Holy Ghost (pneumas – Spirit) descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

Here we not only see the Spirit as a dove, we also see the divine Godhead:

  • God the Son – being baptized
  • God the Father – speaking out of heaven
  • God the Spirit – anointing Christ for His earthly ministry

Knowing that the Holy Spirit is not a dove, we have to wonder why He appeared that day as such. All four of the gospels record this event and the Spirit’s manifestation. Perhaps first we should ask – ‘Why was Jesus baptized?’ John struggled with that, didn’t he. John said, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” (Mt 3:14) Yet Jesus responded by saying that His baptism was a ‘fulfillment of righteousness’, or in other words – this was the right thing to do and in accordance with the Father’s will. Warren Wiersbe says that Christ was baptized for two primary reasons:

1. It identified Him with the sinners He came to save.

We are baptized to symbolize that we as sinners are identified with the Savior. Christ, as the Savior, was baptized to symbolize that He was willing to be identified with sinners.

2. It was the official beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry.

Scripture tells us that Christ was now ‘about thirty years of age’ when He was baptized. That’s the age of most Jewish Levites when they began their work in the priesthood. Consider this with something that Jesus said in Luke 4 – 

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

Note – Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to …

Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at the time of His baptism. During Old Testament days, both kings and priests were anointed. Their anointing officially recognized that they had been chosen for a particular task and they had the power of God upon them.

The Spirit’s descending upon Jesus symbolized the He was anointed to perform God’s will. The title ‘Christ’ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’, and both mean – “anointed.” When we say that Jesus is the Christ we are saying that He is God’s Anointed One.

What did the Spirit anoint Jesus to do?

‘Preach the gospel to the poor’

‘Heal the brokenhearted’

‘Bring deliverance to the captives, sight to blind, freedom for those who are mistreated’

Malachi says – “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” (Mal 4:2)

The Spirit anointed Jesus to bring healing to a broken world. Why is this world broken? Is it not because of sin? Isn’t even physical suffering the result of sin? Therefore Jesus was anointed to bring spiritual healing to the broken souls of men and women. Jesus, as the Prince of Peace, came to make peace between fallen man and holy God.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:17 that Jesus – ‘came and preached peace to you which were afar off…’ Paul also wrote in Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: Jesus was anointed by the Spirit to become the Savior who would make peace between the sinner and  God.

What is the most common symbol of peace today? Is it not a dove with an olive branch in its mouth? Where did that symbol come from? We know that it came from God’s Word. While on the ark, Noah sent out a dove which returned with an olive branch in its mouth. What did that olive branch reveal to Noah? It revealed that the flood waters of judgment were receding and the time of renewal was near at hand.

The ark is a symbol of salvation in Jesus Christ. It was God’s divinely appointed place of safety from the storm. Why did the Lord use the symbol of a dove when He anointed Jesus for His earthly ministry? I believe that He did so tell the world that Jesus was the Lord’s Christ, the One anointed to become the Savior of the world.

Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

The ‘Acceptable year of the Lord’ was a reference to a time known as the Year of Jubilee. (Lev 25) During Old Testament days, every fiftieth year was known as the Year of Jubilee. During that year, every slave was to be set free, every piece of land that had a lean against it was to be restored to its rightful owner and all debts were to be canceled. Jesus applied this to His ministry and declared that through His coming, a spiritual jubilee had been sent to the land.

To my knowledge, the last time we find the Spirit symbolized as a dove is at the baptism of Jesus; yet this aspect of His ministry goes on in at least two ways:

1. By His power, we are equipped to be God’s ambassadors of reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

Though some were saved during Christ’s earthly ministry, it was not until He returned to the Father and the Spirit was sent to empower the church that an evangelism explosion began to take place. The Spirit is here today to equip us to be God’s ambassadors or reconciliation. In a sense, every time we present the gospel, the Spirit is manifesting Himself in the form of a dove.

2. By His power, we are enriched to bear the fruit of peace

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, (How is a man spiritual? Is it not when he is under the control of the Spirit?) restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

What will be the character and conduct of someone walking in the Spirit? Will they be angry, mad, harsh, cruel, critical and judgmental? No, they will be loving, patient, gentle and able to practice self-control.

If we’re going to walk in the Spirit, we need to learn how the Spirit walks. We have to understand what is His character and nature. We have to wise as serpents, yet as harmless as doves.


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