The Heavenly Dove
By David Willoughby
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him (Matthew 3:16).
My message to you involves the nature of the Holy Ghost. I want to talk about some things we need to know, not just in our heads, but in our hearts.
I wonder why the verse did not read, “. . . he saw the Spirit of God descending like a hawk.” Or “like an eagle.” These birds could have been chosen to be emblems of God’s Spirit, but they were not chosen. Out of all species of birds, a dove was chosen.
I have done considerable research on doves, and I want to share a portion of this research with you.
Doves are found throughout the world – they are everywhere. This is representative of the Spirit of God. His Spirit is moving, not just locally, but universally.
Doves are monogamous. They mate for life. They live in strict “purity,” and have eyes for only one mate. This, too, speaks of God’s Spirit, for Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever” (John l4:16). When God filled us with the Holy Ghost, it was for life. He is not pleased with half-heartedness, lukewarmness or backsliding. Thank God for the Holy Ghost that will turn us around, and make us live for Jesus until He comes again!
Doves have no gall bladder, a thing which ornithologists say is unique among birds. The gall bladder is an internal organ that secretes a bitter fluid called bile, which supposedly counteracts poisons in the body. But God designed the dove without a gall bladder because He knew there would be no need for bitter fluid in its body, since no poison would be there.
How thankful we should be that there is no bitterness involved in the baptism of the Holy Ghost. There is nothing underhanded or deceptive about the experience. It is a wonderful Spirit! It is a marvelous spirit!
A dove is the traditional symbol of peace. Perhaps this is true partially because this bird has a low, cooing voice.
Does not this also speak to us of God’s Spirit? Once Elijah needed to hear from God. There was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. There followed a whirlwind, but God was not in the whirlwind. Then there came a great fire, but God was lot in the fire. After all these things, there came a still small voice, and spoke to Elijah. God help us to be in tune with that still small voice.Doves have an amiable, affectionate disposition. This speaks of the truth that by the Holy Ghost we can have our hearts knit together in love.
When I was a small boy, I had a knit sweater. It would get caught on a nail, and would stretch way out of shape, but as soon as it was taken off the nail, it would come back together.
That is the way it should be in the kingdom of God. We have our differences, but if we are a people whose hearts are knit together in love, these things will not keep us apart.
Doves are mentioned often in poetry, as, for instance, in the Song of Solomon. They are associated with mourning and grieving. Doves are not aggressive, but are timid and gentle. Hawks and eagles are aggressive birds. They sweep down from high altitudes, snatch their prey in strong claws, and carry it off. But doves are not like this; doves are gentle. And everyone who has the Holy Ghost, and who yields to God’s Spirit, will be gentle.
Jesus said to His disciples, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 16:10). There is nothing malicious about the Holy Ghost. There is nothing about it that gets into sweet people and makes them sour; it rather gets into sour people and makes them sweet. We are not “pickled” by the Holy Ghost; we are preserved until the day of redemption.
I would like to bring you some things which I have observed while on the evangelistic field.
First of all, the Holy Ghost is easily grieved. Paul said, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). A dove is a bird that is easily “grieved,” and this is also true of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, we need to be careful how we behave as we walk with the Lord.
Sometimes I wonder how God can bless us as much as He does in Pentecostal services, in view of what goes on there. We have the reputation of being the strictest church in town when it comes to doctrine and standards of dress. But we often have the reputation of being the weakest when it comes to respect for the house of God.
God is not pleased with the gum-chewing in our churches. I think it is a shame that God has to compete with Wrigley’s Spearmint or Juicy Fruit chewing gum. We do not attend church to sit on a pew and look like a cow chewing its cud. We rather attend church to magnify the Lord, and to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
There is too much running around in many of our services today. We are offending the heavenly dove when we do that. I have been in places where there was so much running around that I felt I was preaching in a street meeting. I thought to myself, “One of these nights I’m going to get me a fistful of tracts, stand in the center aisle, pass them out, and invite people to `come to church.’ We preachers know it is hard to hit a moving target.
The Bible says that the thief cometh not but for to steal. Some may not be faithful in attending church, but the devil attends regularly. He comes to fight, to bind, to hinder, to steal away God’s blessings. But if we will come in one mind and one accord, we can defeat the devil, and see a great end-time revival.
Among other things, we need a revival of respect. We read of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but never of Abraham, Isaac and Esau. Why was Esau replaced by Jacob, the cutthroat, the conniver, the liar? It is well-known that the birthright actually belonged to Esau. But Esau had no respect for things spiritual. On the other hand, Jacob had a healthy respect for the things of God, the power of God, the unction of God. And may God give us respect for His house, His Word and His man.
Yes, the Spirit of God is easily grieved, easily vexed. Sometimes it is the small things that frustrate God’s attempts to do what He really wants to do. For this reason we should come to church with the right purpose in mind. We are not coming to talk about Monday’s wash or Wednesday’s ironing. We are not coming to visit with a neighbor. We are coming to raise our hands and our hearts in worship to the holy God of heaven.
The Holy Ghost can be resisted. One of the most beautiful of all Bible stories is that of Abraham’s sending his servant back to their native land to find a bride for his son, Isaac. After the long journey, the servant was divinely directed to a girl named Rebekah. He met the girl’s family, and then asked her to come with him and be the bride of Isaac. The members of her family gathered around her, and asked, “Wilt thou go with this man?”
Think of the magnitude of the decision she was now called upon to make. She was being asked to leave father, mother, brothers and sisters, along with the familiar scenes of her homeland, and go with a stranger. But something in her heart said, “Go! Go! Go!” The voice was compelling; the Spirit of God was moving. So she said, “I will go.”
What a beautiful type of the way God deals with, people today. The servant is typical of the Holy Ghost that deals with men, moving, calling, wooing. This is taking place throughout the world, in every nation under heaven. God is knocking on heart-doors, calling people out of sin. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Yes, the Holy Ghost is calling people today to leave kindred, and the things of the world. But this call of the Spirit can be resisted, just as Rebekah could have resisted the invitation to be Isaac’s bride.
The Holy Ghost can be quenched. Paul said, in 1 Thessalonians 5: 19, “Quench not the Spirit.” Just one verse with four words, but it is a big one. The word “quench” means to “put out.” If we are not careful, all of us may well be guilty of this. We quench the Spirit when we fail to move in the direction God wants us to move. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” May God give us strength and grace to follow the glory cloud all the days of our lives, until He returns from heaven, and takes us to be with Him.
What has happened to so much of our spontaneous worship? Have you noticed that we seem to have to resort more and more to mechanics? Our preachers sometimes have to be “cheerleaders,” instructing the congregation: “Say this, say that, stand up, sit down, do this, do that.” What has happened to spontaneous worship from the heart?
I do not believe there is any danger from wildfire today. For one thing, we have so many “wet blankets” around that, even if it did get started, it would not last long.
If you are filled with the Holy Ghost, worship should be second nature to you. Take your liberty! Enjoy yourself in the presence of God!
The Holy Ghost can be withdrawn. Saul learned this the hard way. He had the touch of God on his life, but he lost it. Of him we read, “But the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” (1 Samuel 16:14).
I do not believe in the false theory of unconditional eternal security. Some teach that once you have salvation, you’ll always have it, regardless of what you do. By disobedience, Saul lost God’s Spirit, and so can you. That same gentle dove that flew into your life can turn around and fly out again. You need to covet God’s Spirit, desire it, entertain it, hold on to it, believe God for more of it.
Psalm 51 is a penitential psalm of David. He prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” This should be the prayer of our hearts, the burden of our souls. As individuals, we should pray, “Oh God, please don’t ever let me be guilty of losing that precious, tender touch of your Spirit from my life.” It can be lost, but, thank God, it does not have to be.
The Holy Ghost can be blasphemed. People have asked, “What is the unpardonable sin?” Jesus said, ‘And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” That is it. When we speak of the Holy Ghost, we had better take our shoes off, for we are on holy ground. One may blaspheme Jesus, and be forgiven, but when he blasphemes the Holy Ghost, he is sure to spend eternity in the damnation of hell.
But what does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Ghost? Jesus had been casting out devils. The hypocritical, envious Pharisees admitted that devils were being cast out, but declared that Jesus was doing it by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. That is when Jesus warned against blaspheming the Holy Ghost.
When someone today says that the baptism of the Holy Ghost, with the evidence of speaking with other tongues, is of the devil, he is treading on thin ice.I would like to turn now, and talk about the blessings of the Holy Ghost.The baptism of the Holy Ghost is God’s inward seal. According to 2 Corinthians 1:22, God “. . .hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” And Paul said in Ephesians 4:30 that we are sealed by the Holy Ghost until the day of redemption. I call this “God’s Seal of Good Housekeeping.” When one repents, and is baptized in Jesus’ name, thus cleaning up the “house,” God gives him the Holy Ghost, thus stamping him with His seal of “good housekeeping This is God’s seal of approval.
The Holy Ghost baptism is also God’s Spirit of adoption. Paul said, “For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
The story is told of a Jewish boy who boasted to a Gentile boy of his Jewish ancestry.
To this, the Gentile boy replied, “I have a more blessed testimony than you.”
“How is that?” the Jew asked.
The Gentile boy answered: “To begin with, you are a Jew outwardly, while I am a Jew inwardly. Then, too, you did not choose your nationality, but were born a Jew. You might say that God had to accept you as a Jew. But I am in the family of God by adoption. He chose me.”
The baptism of the Holy Ghost can be described as “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy
The Bible speaks of the Holy Ghost baptism as a treasure in an earthen vessel. It makes us shout. It makes us weep. It makes us sing in the night. All these things, and many more, or mere samples of what is to come. They are the earnest of our inheritance. The full inheritance is yet to come. The river of life is yet to come. The tree of life is yet to come. The city of God is yet to come.
The Holy Ghost is the power to translate. It is God’s resurrection power. If one does not believe in the Oneness of God, he is certain to become confused over Jesus’ resurrection. Galatians 1:1 plainly states that God the Father raised him from the dead. But Jesus said that He would raise Himself up (John 2: 19). Then in Romans 8:11 we read that the Spirit (Holy Ghost) raised Him from the grave.
Thank God for the truth of His Word that solves this “puzzle.” The Father, the Spirit of the Son, and the Holy Ghost are all one Spirit. And the same Spirit that brought Jesus out of the grave is going to translate God’s people from this planet. We are going to be Holy Ghost astronauts. We are going up in Jesus’ name.
The Holy Ghost is the breath of God. Before His death, Jesus breathed upon the disciples, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” On the day of Pentecost, the mighty breath of God blew upon the waiting disciples, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.
In a sense, God exhaled at Pentecost. He will “inhale” at His second coming, and we shall all be caught away to meet Him in the air. It will be done by His Spirit, as Paul explained in Romans 8:11.
Paul described this glorious event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”