Emblems of the Holy Spirit-the Dove


Emblems of the Holy Spirit-the Dove

July 11th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM

Luke 3:21-22

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost 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.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Luke 3: 21-22

7-11-65    10:50 a.m.


The title of the message this morning is The Emblems of the Holy Spirit.  And I thought in preparing that I would preach one message on all the emblems of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.  But I had opportunity in preparing this message to present just one, just one, and that will be the emblem of the dove.  In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3, verses 21, 22:

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

And the Holy Ghost 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.

[Luke 3:21-22]

“And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove”; a simile, “like a dove upon Him” [Luke 3:22]  The Bible, this Bible is a book of similitudes.  In Hosea 12:9-10, “I am the Lord thy God…I have used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.”  This Book is a book of similitudes.  It is a book of similes.  It is a book of metaphors.  It is a book of allegories.  It is a book of parables.  It is a book of types.  It is a book of emblems.  It is a book of symbols.  “I have used similitudes by the ministry of the prophets” [Hosea 12:10].

This Bible is a Book of similes.  A simile is comparing one thing with another using the words “like” or “as.”  In the one hundred second Psalm, in his loneliness and dreariness, the psalmist said, “I am like a pelican in the wilderness: I am like an owl in the desert”; a simile [Psalm 102:6].  In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Proverbs, Solomon says, “As a drink of cool water to a thirsty man, so is good news from a far country” [Proverbs 25:25].  And in the ninth verse of the first chapter of the Song of Solomon, he compares his beloved to a horse [Song of Solomon 1:9].  Now to us that seems rather strange.

I heard a comedy program and the man stood up and said, “I will now sing you a song entitled ‘You Stole My Wife, You Horse Thief.’”  To us, these things aren’t quite as they were to some of them.  But in the Song of Solomon when he compares his beloved to a horse [Song of Solomon 1:9], we must remember that horses were brought out of India into Egypt; and there they were very precious and very costly, and only the very rich could afford to have them.  So his beloved, like a horse, meant her preciousness, and her dearness, and her extreme worth––a similitude, comparing something to something else.

This Bible is a book of metaphors.  A metaphor is calling a thing by something else; naming a thing that stands for something else.  In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, when the prophet says “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,” that is a simile; “He was led as a lamb” [Isaiah 53:7].  But in the first chapter of John, when John the Baptist says, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29], that is a metaphor; “Behold the Lamb of God.” The object stands for a great spiritual truth, and it is called something that means something else.

The Bible is a book of allegories.  An allegory is an extended metaphor.  It is a story that is told in metaphorical language.  People and things are called by names that refer to something else.  In the ninth chapter of the Book of Judges, Jotham tells an allegory defining the wicked, and vile, and violent life of Abimelech.  He tells an allegory.  Remember it?  The trees of the forest said to the olive tree, “Reign over us”; said to the fig tree, “Reign over us”; said to the vine, “Reign over us”; they refused.  And they said to the bramble, “Reign over us”; and the bramble accepted their sovereignty––an allegory [Judges 9:8-15].

The Bible is a book of parables.  A parable is a factual story that has some other moral or spiritual truth in it. like the little girl described, as being an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  In the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord tells seven parables of the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 13:1-52].  It will be a factual story, “A sower went out to sow, and some of his seed fell on This soil and that soil, and that soil, and some fell on this soil” [Matthew 13: 3-8].  A factual story, but it has a heavenly meaning; a spiritual truth.

The Bible is a book of types.  A type is an event or an object that antitypes, that prefigures another event or another object.  In the story of the Passover night, the Passover lamb was slain and its blood poured out [Exodus 12:6-7, 21-23].  In the fifth chapter of First Corinthians, Paul says, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” [1 Corinthians 5:7].  The Passover lamb is a type of the sacrifice, the atoning, pouring out of blood of the Son of God; a type.  In speaking to Nicodemus in John 3:14, the Lord said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”  The raising of the serpent in the wilderness, for one bitten, if he looked he would live [Numbers 21:8-9].  That was a type of the lifting up of the Son of God [John 3:14-15].  If we look to Him we shall live [John 3:16-17].

The Bible is a book of emblems.  An emblem is a visible sign of an idea and it has also this accompanying characteristic.  An emblem brings to mind also the characteristics of the idea that it represents, an emblem.  You could take a circle and call that an emblem of eternity, for it has neither beginning nor ending.  A dove is an emblem of peace.  The flag, the red, white, and blue, with the starry field, is an emblem of the United States of America.  The great soaring eagle is an emblem of our mighty nation.  The cross is an emblem of the Christian faith.

A symbol can be an arbitrary sign, anything.  In geometry there would be many symbols.  In all mathematics, in algebra, in trigonometry, a symbol can be arbitrary, just chosen.  The Nazis for example had a symbol, the swastika.  And the Democrats have a symbol, namely the donkey.  And I don’t say anything about that.  I just point that out.  The difference between a symbol and an emblem is that a symbol can be arbitrary, have no relationship at all to the idea that it symbolizes.  But an emblem must have associating characteristics that present the idea for which it stands.  So in speaking of these things, I use the word “emblems” of the Holy Spirit.

Now in the Bible there are several emblems of the Holy Spirit of God.  One is the dove.  Another is the seal, the seal.  Another is the anointing oil.  Another is the wind; another, the fire; another, the water; another, clothing.  The Holy Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon [Judges 6:34]; another, earnest, a down payment, a promise.  And of these emblems of the Holy Spirit found in the Word of God, today we choose one, the dove.  In our passage we read that the Holy Spirit, in bodily shape like a dove, as a dove, descended upon the Lord [Luke 3:22].  And John’s Gospel says, “and it abode upon Him,” it remained [John 1:32-33]: it found “rest for the sole of her foot” [Genesis 8:9].

Now in the likeness of the Holy Spirit to a bird, to the dove, our first introduction to the third and adorable Person of the Trinity is in that form and in that imagery.  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth [Genesis 1:1].  And the earth was, tohu wabohu, translated here in the second verse, “without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God rachaph; and the Spirit of God rachaph,” translated here, “moved upon the face of the waters” [Genesis 1:2].  In the Book of Deuteronomy, “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth, rachaph, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, beareth them up,” rachaph [Deuteronmy 32:11]; the Spirit of God.

The Vulgate translates that incubabit, incubabit.  In so many of the versions of the Bible, the translations of that word rachaph into other languages, so many of them will use the idea of incubation; a bird over the nest, bringing life.  “And the earth was tohu wabohu[Genesis 1:2], nor are we told why it became that.  God created it in the beginning [Genesis 1:1].  The only thing we’re told is when He created it in the beginning, He did not create it tohu wabohu, waste and desolate, void, filled with violence and destruction.  In Isaiah 45 the prophet says, “For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens” [Isaiah 45:18]; God Himself that formed the earth, bara, created out of nothing, by fiat, spoke the word and flung this universe into orbit [Genesis 1:1].  “He created it not bohu, bohu”; He didn’t create it, says the Word of God, “void and waste”; it became that [Genesis 1:2].

Now the Bible doesn’t say how it became that.  But it intimates it, and I believe this, that it became waste by the judgment of God upon sin.  There were no people.  It must have been the sin of the angel Satan, Lucifer, and his cohorts in heaven [Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:15-18].  And out of the terrible sin found in the heart of Lucifer, of Satan, there came this judgment of God upon the created universe.  And it became tohu wabohu; it became void, and empty, and full of destruction, and waste, and darkness [Genesis 1:2].  Then according to the pattern that we follow in the Bible, over and over again, over that waste, and destruction, and violence, and void, and darkness, there hovered, there brooded––I think “brood” would be the best translation you could find for that rachaph—there brooded the Holy Spirit of God, bringing order out of chaos, and beauty out of ugliness, and light out of darkness, and all of the glorious cosmos that we see today [Genesis 1:3-31].

The Bible seems to follow, God seems to follow that kind of a pattern He did in the creation then in the re-recreation [Revelation 21:1].  In the beautiful garden of Eden, when sin destroyed it again [Genesis 3:1-6], and there came up the brier, and thorn, and the thistle [Genesis 3:17-18], there at the eastern gate of the garden of Eden God placed His cherubim, the emblems of His grace, and His brooding, loving, shepherding, guarding care [Genesis 3:22-24].  In the prophecy of Isaiah, in the thirty-fourth chapter of Isaiah, this is the prophecy concerning the time of the end, the great consummation, the Day of the Lord and the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16].  He uses those identical words, “In the violence in the earth, the earth became tohu wabohu” [Isaiah 34:11], and out of it God created the new heavens and the new earth [Revelation 21:1].  The Spirit of God, like a dove, brooding, bringing life and order out of chaos and out of the waste of iniquity and sin [Genesis 1:2].

So marvelously is that also seen in the story of the sending out of the dove from the ark.  The Bible is like a mountain.  It rises in elevation and progressiveness, up, and up, and up, and up.  But there is still a unity of substance in it.  Shelley, one time in one of his little verses, said, “And the high mountains kissed the heavens and the waves clasped one another” [from “Love’s Philosophy,” P. B. Shelley]. This testimony of the Word of God rises, and rises, and rises, till it kisses the very throne of glory.  And the Old Testament and the New Testament clasp one another in their glorious symbolism, and emblemism, and revelation of the truth of God.  That is marvelously seen in the sending forth of the dove out of the ark in the waste of the earth [Genesis 8:8-12].

“And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made; and he sent forth a raven, which went into the world to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth” [Genesis 8:6-7], and never returned—the raven.  Expressly in the Book of Leviticus, it is an unclean fowl, and unfit for sacrifice, and unacceptable on the altar of God; the raven [Leviticus 11:13-15], a voracious, carnivorous bird; representative of all of its kind, the buzzard, the vulture, the cormorant.  And in the antediluvian age when the world was filled with violence, the judgment of God came upon, as always that judgment falls [Genesis 6:1-8, 7:17-24].  And when the raven was sent out over the earth destroyed, it never came back [Genesis 8:7], for it is a carnivorous, voracious, flesh-eating, carrion-eating bird, and the whole earth was filled with the corpses of the dead.  It was an earth of death and destruction.  It was a world of sin and violence and the dead were everywhere [Genesis 7:21-23].  And the raven ate, and ate, and from place to place fed upon the carrion of the judgment of the earth.  This earth sees that same spread of death, and of carrion, and of violence, and of corruption, and of darkness, just today as God always does.

Two of our finest preachers, two of our friends in the gospel, this minute, this minute, languish in prisons in Cuba beside their many brethren, our fellow Baptist preachers.  The raven flying over the land: here are those executed by the firing squads; here are those butchered by machete knives; here are those rotting in dungeons and in prison and the raven feeds on the carrion of the land.  One of the men in this church said to me last night, he said, “Pastor, in Cuba there were thirty-eight free daily newspapers.  Now there are less than five.”  The raven, in the corruption and the death of the land.

Last night, late at night, a telephone call came to the house.  And a young woman said, “Would you speak to my mother and have a prayer over the telephone with my mother?  She has just received word from Vietnam that her boy is killed.  And that boy loved you so; you baptized him.  And he used to follow you around the church.  Would you have a prayer with my mother?”  Oh, the raven over the land; and wherever that awful, awful, violence and blasphemy, as in this antediluvian age, as in this age, as in this world, as in these countries; wherever it is found, there death stalks, and the raven flies over, and the cormorant and the vulture feeds to a voracious excess!

“And Noah sent forth a dove, the dove…But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot” [Genesis 8:8-9].  Why, why did she not light upon this bloated corpse?  And why did she not rest upon this floating body?  Somehow the dove was repulsed by the sight that she saw.  And as she flew over the breadth of the earth, filled with violence and death, she came back to the ark [Genesis 8:9]; a testimony to the sin, and the wrong, and the judgment in the earth.  And Noah waited and sent forth the dove again [Genesis 8:10].  And this time she came back with an olive leaf plucked [Genesis 8:11]; an olive leaf, a promise, a sign, a hope, please God, a hope.  Then the third time he sent forth the dove, she found rest for the sole of her foot and she abode in the earth [Genesis 8:12].  This is a type and this is an emblem.

In the passage that we read out of Luke, when Jesus was baptized [Luke 3:21-22], as the earth was filled with the water of the judgment of God and there was death [Genesis 7:17-23], so all the baptismal waters of the Jordan represent death; dead and buried.  Our Lord went through the baptismal waters of the swollen river of Jordan.  And after the suffering, and the substitutionary atonement, and the agony, and the cross, and the crown of thorns, and the tears, and the blood, after His death, then the Holy Spirit of God came down in the likeness of a dove, and abode upon Him [Luke 3:22].  After the waters of the world were assuaged, then the dove found rest for the sole of her foot and she abode in the earth [Genesis 8:12].  Had there been no substitutionary death of our Lord, there would have been no forgiveness of sins [1 Corinthians 15:17].  And had there been no substitution at Calvary [2 Corinthians 5:21], there would have been no blessings at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-42].  It is only as our representative Man, the second Adam, dies and is buried [Matthew 27:32-61]; then when He is raised in triumph [Matthew 28:1-7], the holy dove of God finds rest for the sole of her foot, and she abode upon Him [Isaiah 11:2], and in that representative Man, abides upon us.

And do you notice that word “and abide?”  John adds it [John 1:32].  And then the Holy Spirit came, stayed upon the Lord Jesus, never went away; no, made her dwelling place; the dove [Genesis 8:12], the presence of God in our Lord, upon our Lord, and through the gift of our Lord, in us and upon us, abiding.  The Holy Spirit of God in the Old Testament went to and fro, seeking a place where she might rest the sole of her foot [Genesis 8:9].  And in the Lord Jesus, after the waters of judgment, after the sin and iniquity had been assuaged, and atoned for, and washed away then she found a dwelling place, a home upon and in that representative Man; and through Him, in and upon us [Ephesians 3:16-17].

Three times in this Bible is that Greek preposition meta used with reference to the Holy Spirit of God.  One is in John 14:16, the Lord says, “And I will pray the Father, and He will send you another Comforter, another Paraclete, even the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of God, that He may meta, abide with you for ever’” [John 14:16-17].  Second time that word meta is used [is] in the beautiful, incomparable benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit meta, be with you, abide with you for ever.”  And a third time it is used is in 1 Thessalonians 1:6.  Paul says to the saints at Thessalonica, “You received the word of God, meta, with joy of the Holy Ghost,” meta, with us and abiding for ever, finding rest for the sole of her foot [Genesis 8:12]; never returning but staying with us always [John 14:16-17].

Oh, the richness and the blessing of the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives.  And oh, the call of the Lord, of the Spirit of Jesus, to listen, to be quiet, to be still; God has something to say to us.  God has an answer for us.  God has something to mediate to us.  Listen to it.  Listen.

As you know in our singing, were it all just one note, were it all just one chord, it’d be all just one noise.  But it is dividing it up.  It is placing rests that make music, music.  Now John Ruskin, the great essayist and critic of England of this last century, John Ruskin was writing to a little friend named Katie.  And he uses that counting that you use in music and the rests.  He uses it as an illustration of what I’m speaking of listening to the voice of God.  Here’s what John Ruskin wrote:

There is no music in a rest, Katie, that I know of; but there is the making of music in it.  People are always missing that part of the life melody, and scrambling on without counting.  People are always talking of perseverance, and courage, and fortitude; but patient waiting is the first, and finest, and worthiest, and the rarest, tune.  In every life, there’s a pause that is better than onward rush, better than hewing our mightiest doing, ‘tis the standing still before Sovereign will.  There’s a hush that is better than ordered speech, better than sighing, or wilderness crying; ‘tis the being still before Sovereign will.  The pause, and the hush, sing a double song in unison low, and for all time long, all human soul, God’s working plan goes on, nor needs the aid of man; stand still, and see; be still and know.  Stand still and see.

[“The Ethics of the Dust”; John Ruskin, 1875]

Surrounded on every side, Israel cried to Moses, “Pharaoh’s army behind us, and the mountains on one side of us, and endless desert on the other, and the sea before us” [Exodus 14:10-12].  And when Moses cried to God, the Lord replied, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” [Exodus 14:13].  And the waves parted and God’s people passed through [Exodus 14:21-22].  And the psalmist, so downcast in despair, and the Lord said, “Be still, and know that I am God” [Psalm 46:10].  The shining face of Moses did not come by a precursory adventitious call at heaven’s gate but by tarrying in the presence of the Lord forty days and forty nights [Exodus 34:28-30].  Stand still, and see.  Be still, and know the voice of the Holy Spirit, the presence of the third Person of deity, in the form of a dove, alighting and abiding with His people for ever [Ephesians 4:30].

Now we must sing our hymn.  And while we sing it, somebody you open his heart and his soul to Jesus [Romans 10:6-13], come, come, come, come.  A family you, to put your life in the presence of God in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], come.  One somebody you, a couple you, as the Spirit of the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, come today.  In this throng, in the balcony round, on this lower floor; into the aisles, down to the front, “Pastor, I give you my hand.  I’ve given my heart to God” [Ephesians 2:8].  When you stand up, stand up coming.  On the first note of the first stanza; make it now.  Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.