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The Symbols of the Spirit #1

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Scripture:     Hosea 12:10, I have also spoken by the prophets, And have multiplied visions; I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets."   John 14:26, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”


Earlier, we had sermons on “Who Is The Holy Spirit?”, “The Characteristics of the Holy Spirit,” and Today our Subject is:

Title:   The Symbols of the Spirit #1                  


INTRODUCTION:   The Greek word symbolon had several use, e.g. as a sign, pledge, token, and its importance was derived from the fact that it was a representative object which guaranteed the reality of that which it symbolized.  For example:  The Cross symbolizes our dying Jesus taking on the sins of the world before He died and rose.

In religion, external objects were used to symbolize the presence of God, in representative or conventional manner.  For example the rainbow was accepted as the assurance that God’s wrath had passed and that He would remember His covenant.  In the New Testament symbols are represented in the things that Jesus did or spoke such as when He took the bread and wine and gave them to the disciples, in Luke 22:19-20, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."  Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

In this pericope, Jesus was not simply exhorting them to good fellowship, but giving them a sacrament by which they could symbolize His presence eternally with His Church.  Matthew 16:18, clearly establishes his church…on this rock I will build My church.”  The Greek word to describe church means to construct, to be the builder.  Jesus as the construction foreman and manager constructed and built His church.

As we study the Bible we would soon discover that it contains the mind and will of God as communicated to man in human and everyday language that he can readily understand.  By means of symbols and metaphors it pleases God to reveal Himself to our hearts.  Types, parables, and emblems abound to illustrate the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit, as well as the Bible’s own nature and ministry.  Summarizing these symbols we can tabulate them as symbols from natural life, wind (air), water, fire, salt, oil, wine, seed, seal, clothing, the number seven, dove, and symbols from human life, doorkeeper, Paraclete, witness, and finger.

Let us look at the first three, Wind, Water, and Fire and see how God use these symbols to illustrate His presence to us.

I.                    There is the Symbol of Wind – John 3:8 says “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."  

A.                 John is telling us that the wind is invisible, unfathomable, not amenable to human control, but is known by its effects.  It moves when and whenever it wants.

B.                 Wind is a great power, yet it can be modified and only by God.  It is varied in His manifestations and when He wants it.

C.                He can make it change directions, just as a thought.

D.                Sometimes it comes as a mighty tempest or cyclone and with the relentlessness of a tornado.

E.                 In Acts 2:2 we see the works of the spirit as it filled the house where those who had obeyed Jesus and stayed in the upper room.

1.      It was not wind but a sound like the wind, something resembling a rushing hurricane. 

2.      The sound was not of earth, but of heaven, and it was symbolic. It announced the presence of the Holy Spirit.

3.      The wind is one of the chose biblical symbols of the Spirit of God.

4.   He comes from heaven; He fills the world; He moves at will.

5.      He cannot be cornered or contained by any special interest group.

6.      His comings and goings are according to fixed laws, but He is sovereignty trammeled by none.

F.                 At other times, the wind is as gentle as a zephyr, the soft breath of the evening.

1.      As such the Spirit influenced Lydia, as she met the Apostle Paul at the Gangas River, and whose heart silently opened to the Lord.  Acts 16:13

Not only is Wind a symbol of the Spirit but:

II.                  There is the Symbol of Water – Water is one of the most common of symbols used to describe the varied ministry of God’s Spirit.  It can assume many forms, all of which are employed to unfold the blessings of the Spirit.


A.                 There is spiritual water.  John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

1.       This is Jesus talking to the Samarian woman at the well.  From this context we have the idea of the clear, clean refreshing work of the Spirit, who alone can quench the thirst of the human heart.

2.       It is He who brings satisfaction for the soul’s deep thirst.  The physical was used to introduce the spiritual.  Nothing can satisfy like the spiritual, nothing. 

3.       This water from Jacob’s well would satisfy only bodily thirst for a time. But the water Jesus gives provides continual satisfaction of needs and desires. In addition one who drinks His living water will have within him a spring of life-giving water (cf. 7:38-39). This inner spring contrasts with the water from the well, which required hard work to acquire. Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit who brings salvation to a person who believes and through Him offers salvation to others.

B.                 There are rivers.  John 7:37-39 “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”


1.       How many rivers are there in this world, yet not two of them are alive. 

2.       In the plural of our Lord’s prophecy (rivers of living water), suggests the many sidedness of the Spirit’s work.  He is not confined to one avenue of expression.  Diversity characterizes His activities.

3.       There would be rivers of living water, an overflowing supply able to minister to the needs of others.

4.       The Spirit would dwell within the believer to satisfy his or her need of God, and provides them with regeneration, guidance, and empowerment in doing His will and not theirs.  Too often we dwell in the secular and not the spiritual.  That is why our churches are not moving as God would like for them to move.  Resistance to the Spirit slows down the Spirit.

5.       John 4:24, tells us “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." NKJV

C.                There are floodsIsaiah 44:3, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;

1.       Even though water comes as an avalanche, it is still water. 

2.       God flooded the earth with a judgment of water in Noah’s day and is just as able to flood it today with blessings (Rev. 21:6, “And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.)

D.                There is rain.  Psalm 72:6, “He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, Like showers that water the earth.”

1.       Absence of rain means famine, scarcity, ruin.  As rain, the Spirit is the fertilizing, life giving power of God. 


2.       He can transform the desert, causing it to blossom as the rose as in Isaiah 35:1, “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;”

E.                 There are springs.  John 4:14, says “A well of water springing up” Psalm 87:7, says “All my springs are in thee.”  Under this figure we have the Spirit as the perennial source of supply.  Within, He is the Creator of all spiritually.”

F.         There is dew.     Hosea 14:5, “I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, And lengthen his roots like Lebanon.”

1.       Here we have represented the secret, unnoticed, yet effectual work of the Spirit. He is the early dew of the morning.

Not only do we have the symbol of wind or water, but:

III.        There is the Symbol of FireIn Scripture “Fire” is used in    many ways.  It is the consistent symbol of the Holy presence         and character of God of God (Deut. 4:24); Hebrews 12:29.

A.                 At various times, fire is applied to the Spirit (Isaiah 4:4 and Acts 2:3, where the latter says “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.” 

B.                 Used of the Spirit’s operation, fire is the most expressive figure for fire gives warmth and light. 

C.                It consumers what is combustible and tests that which is not so.

D.                It cleanses that which neither air nor water can cleanse.

E.                 Its action is life-giving, as is the warmth of the mother bird while she broods upon her nest.

F.                 Fire gives light and therefore indicates the knowledge and illumination the Holy Spirit imparts.  Ephesians 1:17-18, says “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,…” 

G.                Fire gives power, generates steam, and represents the energizing influence of the Spirit, Acts 2:3-4, “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

H.                It is the Spirit which permits us to save souls.  It is the Spirit which allows us to do the work of the Master and to live according to His percepts and concepts.  Without the Spirit we cannot please God for the Scripture says, we must worship God in Spirit and Truth.  Spirit because in Him we live, move and have our being.

I.                    As spirit, God relates to us without the limitations that we possess:

1)     He is never tired.

2)     He is never distant.

3)     He is never distracted.

4)     He is not limited by time and space.

5)     He can be present in all people, and

6)     He cannot be destroyed or overpowered.

J.                  Worship is to spiritual rebirth what growing up is to physical birth. Our life of worship begins when we are born by God's Spirit.

In 1 Kings 19:10-13, Elijah needed a message from God. He thought he was the only person left who was true to God.  A Word from God told him to leave the cave and stand on the mountain at attention before God, and God would pass by. There was a great and strong wind which tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.   God came not in the symbols which demonstrate His power, but He came Himself.  God will and can use dramatic methods to work in our life; or He may speak to us in a still small voice.  Let us wait patiently and always listen for the visitation. That is how God is today; He will come when you need Him!

Conclusion:      As Jesus was crucified on Calvary, there was another symbol which He identified with and that was the symbol of the cross.  The songwriter, Isaac Watts, wrote this chorus “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away.  It was there by faith, I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!

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