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Summary: When Jesus came up from the river Jordan a dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit descended from heaven

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A Dove Descending From Heaven

Matthew 3:16-17

When Jesus came up from the river Jordan a dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit descended from heaven and lighted on Jesus and a voice from heaven was heard declaring Jesus was God’s beloved Son. Jesus saw the dove. John saw it and it is possible that all the standers-by saw it; for this was intended to be His public inauguration.

In the beginning of the old world the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2) as a bird upon a nest. Here in the beginning of this new world, Jesus didn’t need to receive the Holy Spirit. He was God in the flesh. But it was predicted that the Spirit of the Lord should rest upon Him (Isaiah 11:2; 61:1). The prediction was fulfilled when the dove descended from heaven and lighted upon Jesus.

Jesus was to be a prophet and the prophets always spoke by the Spirit of God who came upon them. Jesus was to execute the prophetic office, not by His divine nature but by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was to be the Head of the church and the Spirit descended upon Him and by Him sent to all believers, in his gifts, graces, and comforts.

Whether it was a real, living dove, or, as was usual in visions, the representation or similitude of a dove is uncertain. If there must be a bodily shape it must not be that of a man, for the being seen was peculiar to the second person of the Trinity, none would be more fitting than the shape of one of the fowls of heaven and of all fowl none are as significant as the dove. The Spirit of Christ is a dove-like spirit; not like “a silly dove, without a heart (Hosea 7:11), but like an innocent dove, without gall.

The Spirit of God did not descend in the shape of an eagle, which is often pictured as a royal bird, yet a bird of prey, but in the shape of a dove, a creature that is harmless and inoffensive. Such was the Spirit of Christ, such must Christians be. The dove mourns much (Isaiah 38:14). Christ wept oft; and penitent souls are compared to doves of the valleys. The dove was the only fowl that was offered as a sacrifice (Leviticus 1:14). The good news of the decrease of Noah’s flood were brought by a dove, with an olive-leaf in her mouth; fitly therefore is the good news of peace with God brought by the Spirit as a dove. It speaks God’s good will towards men, that His thoughts towards us are thoughts of good news and not evil. That God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, is a joyful message, which comes to us upon the wings of a dove.

The Holy Spirit manifested Himself in the likeness of a dove, but God the Father by a voice. When the law was given the people only heard a voice (Deuteronomy 4:12). Here the voice heard when the law was given declares Jesus His Son. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all the worlds were created (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3); and by supernatural conception. He was called the Son of God because He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). He is the Son of God by special designation to the work and office of the world’s Redeemer. He was sanctified and sealed, and sent upon that errand by the Father.


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