The Holy Spirit is one of them most confusing elements in all of Christianity. It is easy for us to wrap our heads around God as a Father and God as Jesus, but an amorphous Spirit? Such a concept is something that has baffled theologians, preachers, and teachers for thousands of years. It is not something that you can quite put into words.
Ask someone how to explain the Holy Spirit and you’ll get so many varied responses. Most will stumble around trying to explain how the Trinity works. Others will try to explain how the Holy Spirit works in their life. Still others will begin to quote scripture about the fruits of the Spirit.
While all the bits and people try to explain may be true, we, as humans, still find it hard to put into words something that affects our heart more than physical lives. We see the works of God the Father. We see the reds, yellows, and oranges of sunsets and leaves in the North Georgia Mountains. We experience the waves crashing on the beaches of Savannah. We smell the fresh cut grass after the summer rain. Our senses are overloaded with the glory that God the Father has placed on Earth for us to enjoy.
Even understanding Jesus is not that difficult. We are given 39 books in the Bible that point to His coming, 4 letters that give biographies of his life, and 23 other letters that extrapolate on his teachings. We have a pretty solid base for who Jesus was as a man and as God. Since He was 100% God and 100% Man, it is easy for us, as humans, to understand and relate to His teachings. God walked in our shoes. It’s as simple as that.
But the Holy Spirit is not as physically visible as God the Father’s creation or as humanly personal as Jesus was (and is). So, not only is the third member of the Trinity shrouded in misunderstanding but also in mystery.
What if God knew this would happen? What if He knew that we would not fully understand His Spirit?
But, what if God made a way for humanity to understand?
If you look throughout the Bible, there are four major manifestations that Holy Spirit takes.
Fire. Wind. Water. Dove.
What if God used these metaphors as a means to help humanity understand not only His character but give us tangible examples that we can see everyday?
There is Fire.
In Acts 2, the Disciples have tongues of fire rest on them, which allows them to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the many nations that were present in Jerusalem. The fire represents the light that shines in the darkest places. The Holy Spirit is the light inside us that shows there is a difference in our lifestyle than who do not.
Then there is Wind.
John records a great conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus where Jesus describes the Spirit as a wind that blows but you do not know where it comes from. Jesus even explains that the ways of the Spirit are not easy to understand. We see the effects of the Spirit. We see how He works. But He is not visible to us in a physical sense. This is hard to understand, but does not diminish His place as God.
Throughout the Old Testament, authors reference God as “pouring out” His Spirit on Israel and His people. Isaiah says God will pour out His Spirit on Israel’s offspring. Matthew also tells of how John the Baptist preaches a baptism of the Holy Spirit (analogous to the water baptism John was performing). Water shows us the cleansing properties of the Holy Spirit and reminds us that God’s Spirit washes us clean.
Finally, the Dove.
When Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist, the Bible records that the “Spirit of God descended on [Jesus] like a dove.” The dove’s presence symbolizes purity. The Spirit’s motives are pure and work in conjunction with God’s ultimate will. Although the Spirit is an individual, working specifically in the lives of believers, He ultimately works to glorify God the Father and the Son.
So what if God used these metaphors not only to give us examples that we could understand, but when we see these simple elements we are reminded of the importance of Spirit.
Every time we see fire we are reminded of the Spirit’s power to shine in the darkest places.
Every time we feel the wind off the ocean we thank God that He is more complex than our minds can fathom.
Each time we drink water we humble ourselves as we confess our sin that is in need of cleansing.
Every time we see a dove, we are reminded of the new creation we are and new life the Spirit has given us.
While we will never fully understand the Spirit in His entirety, we can be thankful for the examples that God has given us in Scripture. For the tiny glimpses into the complexity of His heart and mind. While it may not answer every question we may have, God gave us the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us the rest of the way. Thank God for His Spirit.