Symbols of the Spirit

This entry is part 49 of 60 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

I grew up in a Pentecostal church. But the more I learned about other denominations and religions, the more I realized that people want to learn about the Holy Spirit. They don’t necessarily have as strong of a background as I do.

Of the three members of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the one most people are either uncomfortable with or unfamiliar with. I feel that growing up in Pentecost, I and other Pentecostals have a lot to contribute in this area.

First of all, I must assure you of the Holy Spirit’s connection to holiness. Throughout this post, you will see how the Holy Spirit is directly connected to our sanctification. He is one of the main characters involved in our growth into holiness.

One of the best ways to get to know him is through seeing how Scripture depicts him. It uses symbols to show some of the ways that he helps us grow. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the symbols of the Holy Spirit.

Wind

In the Gospel of John, Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit as the wind of God (John 3:8). He is in the middle of a conversation with Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders of Israel. Nicodemus is a teacher of his people.

But he can’t seem to grasp the ideas that Jesus presents to him in their conversation. He comes to Jesus in the middle of the night because he is afraid that his colleagues will find out about it. He’s one of those “closet disciples.”

But John makes it clear to us that a closet disciple is not really a disciple of Jesus. And Nicodemus proves that as the conversation progresses and he understands less and less of what Jesus is saying.

Nicodemus begins the conversation by telling Jesus he believes that Jesus is a teacher that God sent (John 3:1-2). And Jesus gets right into it. He tells him that unless he is born again he can’t see God’s kingdom (John 3:3).

Jesus sees through the guise of coming to him late at night with no one else around. Nicodemus is probably curious about Jesus. So far, none of the religious leaders have been able to thwart Jesus in his teachings.

In fact, the tables are usually turned on them. They knew this wasn’t only the cunning of a Galilean carpenter’s son. God had his hand in Jesus’ authoritative teaching. Truthfully, they were probably just jealous. Jesus had the ear of the people and they were no longer popular among them.

Nicodemus takes Jesus literally and asks how a man can be worn again when he is already old (John 3:4). Jesus follows up by explaining that a person must be born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5). Being born of the Spirit talks about the regeneration that the Holy Spirit does in our hearts so we can receive the gospel. The water may refer to being water baptized after we are saved.

But Nicodemus still can’t understand. Jesus tells him to not marvel at his sayings and teachings (John 3:7). He tries to approach it by explaining the Spirit’s prerogative and movement in believers.

He describes the Holy Spirit as wind (John 3:8). There’s a reason for this. Both in Hebrew and Greek, the languages of the Old and New Testaments, the word for “spirit” and the “wind” is the same. It also means “breath.” It is that unseen power around us that we can feel and see the effects of but we can’t actually see wind. It is the same with the Spirit.

We can learn a couple of things from the symbol of wind. We don’t control the Holy Spirit, his movements, or his actions. He does what he wills. And he wills to do things in us. As he works in our sanctification, becoming holy like Jesus, he will tell us what needs to be changed. And our response must be obedience.

We can’t tell him we want to work on something else. He decides the agenda. Aside from that, the world will never understand what it means to have the Spirit dwelling in believers. Just like Nicodemus, the world is left scratching its head. And the Holy Spirit doesn’t have to explain himself.

What a fitting symbol of the Spirit. He does what he wants when he wants. We go along for the ride. And what a ride it is! He leads us into the presence of God. But because we can’t see him, we must be intimately familiar with him as believers. Don’t ignore the Holy Spirit in your life. If you know Jesus and follow him, the Holy Spirit wants to lead you into godliness.

Light

The Holy Spirit is also light. In 1 John 1:5, Scripture declares that God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. Even though it doesn’t mention the Holy Spirit specifically, he is divine as are the other two members of the Godhead.

And there are several reasons John depicts God, including the Holy Spirit, as light. Think of the properties of light. It illuminates. It provides warmth. It exposes. Let’s take just these three. The Holy Spirit illuminates God’s Word to us. He is the one who reveals to us insight into Scripture, application from Scripture we read, and guides our study to understand God more.

Countless times I have read the Scriptures and received insight from the Holy Spirit. I’m not smart enough to come up with these things on my own. It is the Holy Spirit who guides my reading and understanding of God’s Word for me each day.

It is only because the Spirit is involved in my reading that I learn from God. This may be what the Scriptures mean when they tell us the Holy Spirit will teach us all things (John 14:26; 1 John 2:27). Through God’s Word the Holy Spirit teaches us all we need to know. We can trust in the truth of what he teaches us.

So as he illuminates and reveals Scripture, he also reveals the situations we face to us. If we listen closely to him, we will find his counsel infinite and wise. He shows us the truth of every situation and every matter.

Light also provides warmth. The Holy Spirit dwells inside of every believer in Jesus. He brings us closer to God, an intimate relationship we wouldn’t have without him. We enter God’s presence by the power of the Spirit. He gives us a relationship with God unmatched in any other religion.

He also exposes the darkness around us (John 16:8). If we sin against God, he exposes it through correction, exposing the desires we had before we met Jesus (1 John 2:16). So the Spirit in us does all of these things as light.

Fire

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist pointed to him as the one who would baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). On the Day of Pentecost Jesus baptized the apostles in the Holy Spirit with fire (Acts 2:1-4). When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit by Jesus, we are immersed into everything the Spirit has for us.

Fire represents the power of the Spirit and his purifying and refining ability in our walk with God. The prophets speak of fire as a refining agent (Malachi 3:3; Zechariah 13:9). God says that he is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29). The Spirit is the one who burns away all of the impurities in our character so we can conform to Christ (Romans 8:29).

In the wilderness, a pillar of fire guided the Israelites throughout the nights (Exodus 13:22). The Spirit guides us into God’s truth. He lights the way to the next steps we must take with Christ. He is our Leader who dwells in us.

Oil

For the three offices of the prophets, the priests, and the kings, each person was anointed for service in God’s kingdom. Anointing was a ceremony in which the person going into ministry was anointed with oil. “Anoint” means to smear or splatter.

For the priest Aaron, they don’t oil on his head and ran down his beard and his garments (Psalm 133:2). There are several accounts of kings being anointed for service as rulers and leaders of Israel. The anointing, splattering or smearing of each person, symbolized the Holy Spirit coming upon them for service in that office.

It remains a symbol of his guidance, bestowing gifts upon us, and walking with us through ministry. The big change between the Old and New Testaments is that instead of coming upon a person for a time, Holy Spirit now dwells within all believers. We have full access to God’s presence through him.

Dove

At the moment of Jesus’ water baptism to begin his ministry, the Holy Spirit joins the rest of the Trinity in the physical form of a dove (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). This is one of the places all three Persons of the Trinity can be seen together.

The dove represents peace and gentleness. The Holy Spirit does not force his way upon us. He leads us with meekness. We must choose to submit in obedience to his will. Otherwise, it takes much longer for us to be conformed to Christ.

Conclusion

These are the main images the Bible uses to describe the Holy Spirit and his work. They are all applicable to our walk with Christ as we grow in godliness. The Holy Spirit facilitates all of our growth. He is our leader and our guide.

The more we submit to him the more we become like Jesus. He knows the way and has led many other saints in this process. We look to him. Leave a comment and tell me how some of these symbols impact your understanding on the road to holiness.

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