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
A lack of proper understanding of the verse above has led many Christians to symbolize or represent the Holy Spirit with a dove. However, neither this scripture nor any other likens or typifies the Holy Spirit as a dove; He’s not a dove. Acts 17:30 says “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.”
The construction in our opening verse isn’t describing the shape of the Holy Spirit when it says He descended like a dove on Jesus. Rather, it describes the manner of descent: He descended the way a dove would, not that He descended in the shape of a dove. I’m aware of those who have the Holy Spirit symbolized by a dove in their church or ministry logo. While not trying to undermine their intelligence, it’s important to point out exactly what the Word teaches. We’re not supposed to represent God with a face or shape of an animal!
Deuteronomy 4:15-19 say, ‘Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: 16 Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, 18 The likeness of anything that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: 19 And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.’
Acts 17:29 says, ‘Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.’
The only replica of God that the Bible reveals is the new creation; 1 John 4:17 says “…as he (Jesus) is, so are we in this world.” Jesus said “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). The Greek rendering for the phrase “another comforter” is “allos paraklētos.” That means “another one that is exactly like me”; one who goes along side with you, to help you. That means the Holy Spirit looks exactly like Jesus.
Recall the dialogue between Philip and the Lord in John 14:8-9, where Philip asked Him to show them the Father. Responding, the Master said, “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father….” Therefore, the Holy Spirit looks like Jesus, who looks like the Father, and we’re His icon—the express image of His person! Glory to God!
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As Jesus is the effulgence of God’s glory and the exact representation of His person, so am I. His glory, beauty, aura and perfections are manifested in, and displayed through me to the world. Glory to His Name forever!
Further Study: Hebrews 1:3; John 14:16-17