Chapter 2: The Pictures of the Holy Spirit
by John M. Riddle, England
The pictures or emblems of the Spirit of God employed in the Scriptures, with their deep and varied significance, serve to emphasise the immense privilege enjoyed by the children of God. The very facts that the local assembly is "the temple of God, and … the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" 1 Cor.3.16, and that the believer’s body is "the temple of the Holy Ghost" 1 Cor.6.19, indicate the marvellous variety in God’s provision for the maintenance and development of spiritual life. Most certainly, the statement that "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" 2 Pet.1.3, includes the bestowal and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the various ways in which He is described convey the diversity and depth of the resources available to every believer. The biblical pictures of the Holy Spirit are infinitely more than variations on a theme. Each emblem conveys a different aspect of His ministry, and all are immensely relevant.
The list of references in this chapter may seem a little abbreviated when compared with the more extensive work of some commentators. While, undoubtedly, there is great profit in pursuing the subject further, this chapter addresses those emblems of the Holy Spirit which are specifically confirmed by the Scriptures. This should not be taken as an implied criticism of the valuable and more extensive help given by others.
The reference to the Holy Spirit in this way is unmistakeable: "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" Matt.3.16. Luke expands this in saying, "the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him" Lk.3.22. This does not mean that the Lord Jesus was not already indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but that He was anointed with the Holy Spirit for service: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings …" Isa.61.1; "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him" Acts 10.38. It is often pointed out that in the Old Testament, the dove "found no rest for the sole of her foot" Gen.8.9, but here the Holy Spirit found complete rest in Christ. John the Baptist was told, "Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost" Jn.1.33.
As we might expect, it was most appropriate that the Holy Spirit should descend "like a dove" upon the Lord Jesus. Biblical emblems cannot be bettered and just three of the several biblical references to the dove will suffice to emphasise the point.
The Dove is Clean in Nature
In the words of the bridegroom, speaking of his bride: "My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her" S of S.6.9. In this connection, it should be noted that the dove was a clean bird, and could be brought in sacrifice, Lev.1.14; 12.6,8. It is not without significance that the Spirit of God is called the "Holy Spirit" and that in a passage which counsels moral purity it is said, "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit" 1 Thess.4.8.
It is equally significant that it was in the synagogue at Nazareth, of which place Nathanael said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Jn.1.46, that the Lord Jesus read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" and followed by saying, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" Lk.4.18,21. Never was it necessary to say to Him, "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God" Eph.4.30. In fact the possibility could never arise, for "in Him is no sin" 1 Jn.3.5.
The Dove is Gentle in Manner
When the Lord Jesus sent out His disciples they were left with no illusions about the reception they would receive: they would be "as sheep in the midst of wolves". But in it all they were to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" Matt.10.16. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Lord Jesus, He did not come as "a rushing mighty wind" or as "fire", Acts 2.2-3, but "like a dove", thereby indicating, amongst other things, the gentleness of His ministry. This had been long anticipated. Some seven hundred years before He came, it was said, "A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench" Isa.42.3. How gently He dealt with the enquiry of John the Baptist, a "bruised reed" beyond doubt! Lk.7.19-23. How gently He dealt with those two ‘bruised reeds’ en route to Emmaus! Lk. 24.13-32.
When the Lord was rejected by the Samaritan villagers, Lk.9.51-56, James and John were anything but "harmless as doves" in saying "Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?" The Saviour had well "surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder" Mk.3.17. But He exhibited the reverse: "Ye know not what spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them." He was the perfect example of His own ministry. The Saviour’s words illustrate His "meekness and gentleness" 2 Cor.10.1, and remind us that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness …" Gal.5.22. It is said that the body of the dove does not produce bile, and this emphasises the beauty and accuracy of the picture.
The Dove is Mournful in Expression
Hezekiah said, "Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn like a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward" Isa.38.14. In coming days of tribulation, Israel will cry, "We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves" Isa.59.11. According to Ellicott’s Commentary, the three birds in the former passage "each with its special note of lamentation, represent, as it were, the cries of pain and the low suppressed wail of the sufferer". As F. Cundick observed, "This bird of love and mourning fittingly sets forth the tenderness of the Holy Person who rested upon the Man of sorrows."1 It is the same Holy Spirit that enables God’s people, not only to "rejoice with them that do rejoice" but also to "weep with them that weep" Rom.12.15.
As "the dove", the ministry of the Holy Spirit in assembly and personal life is to reproduce His purity and holiness, His grace and gentleness, and His tender sympathy. All were seen perfectly in God’s beloved Son Who was "full of the Holy Ghost" Lk.4.1.
The wind is an emblem of the Holy Spirit in at least two ways: it symbolises His sovereignty and it emphasises His power.
The Lord Jesus referred to the wind as an emblem of the Holy Spirit. See, for example, Jn.3.8, "The wind (pneuma) bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (pneuma)". It is worth pointing out the blunder of those who question this statement by arguing that science can explain the origins and movements of the winds. Such criticism overlooks the fact that the Lord Jesus was addressing Nicodemus at the time, and his inability to detect "the origin of a particular current of wind, and its destination"2 did not mean ignorance on the part of the Creator Himself, for "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made" Jn.1.3. This apart, the lesson is clear: the precise way in which the Holy Spirit works is beyond detection, but the result is beyond doubt, so that we rightly sing;
- I know not how the Spirit moves,
- Convincing men of sin;
- Revealing Jesus through the Word,
- Creating faith in Him.
(D. W. Whittle)
1 Cundick, F. Precious Seed, Nov/Dec, 1964.
2 Heading, J. "What The Bible Teaches – John", John Ritchie Ltd, 1988.
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come (‘was being fulfilled’, R.V. margin), they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting … And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" Acts 2.1-4. We should notice.
The Source. It was "from heaven". Tempests blow horizontally, but this came from above. It was not earthly: it was heavenly. The coming of the Holy Spirit attested the Lord’s resurrection and ascension: "This Jesus hath God raised up whereof we are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear" Acts 2.32-33. Compare Jn.7.39: "But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified."
The Sound. It was "as of a mighty rushing wind." It does not appear that there was any actual wind. The expression, "it filled all the house where they were sitting" refers to the sound of the Spirit’s coming. As the Lord Jesus pointed out to Nicodemus, like the wind, the Holy Spirit is invisible but powerful. Like the wind, the Holy Spirit cannot be seen, but like the wind, His presence is unmistakeable. An example of the power of the wind occurs in 1 Kgs.19.11: "And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD."
The coming of the Holy Spirit, "as of a mighty rushing wind", therefore indicated the imparting of Divine power. See Acts 1.8, "But ye shall receive power (dunamis) after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." That is, enabling power to witness. Hence Acts 3.12, "Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power (dunamis) or holiness we had made this man to walk?"; Acts 4.33, "And with great power (dunamis) gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all"; Acts 6.8, "And Stephen (one of the seven men "full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom"), full of faith and power (dunamis), did great wonders and miracles among the people."
Ezekiel experienced this same power. "Then the Spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from His place. I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing. So the Spirit lifted me up, and took me away" Ezek.3.12-14. It is significant that in this passage, the power of the Holy Spirit is connected with the throne of God. The "living creatures" are associated with the throne (the chariot throne) of God in Ezek.1.25-26. In Acts Chapter 2, the power came from that same throne. It came "from heaven".
Whilst we rightly deplore modern so-called ‘Charismatic’ practices, there can be no doubt that the presence of the Spirit of God should be accompanied by evidence of spiritual life! Absence of spiritual power and effectiveness is as lamentable as the excesses which some claim to be the work of the Holy Spirit.
The baptism in the Spirit, Acts 1.5, on the day of Pentecost was not only accompanied by "a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind", but also with "cloven tongues like as of fire" Acts 1.2-3. Leaving, for the moment, the expression "cloven tongues", we must notice that Luke describes the coming of the Holy Spirit as "cloven tongues of fire". The appearance of fire, or flame, has always been a striking emblem of the presence of God in holiness and purity. See Ex.3.1-8, "And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed … And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground … And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt … And I am come down to deliver them." Later, at Sinai, God descended "in fire" Ex.19.18; see also Ex.24.17. Deut.4.24 describes the LORD as "a consuming fire, even a jealous God". This is quoted in Heb.12.29, "Our God is a consuming fire".
John observed "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God" Rev.4.5. Since in Scripture the number "seven" indicates completeness, the words "the seven Spirits which are before His throne" and "the seven Spirits of God" Rev.1.4; 3.1, convey perfection of power, but in the description "seven lamps burning before the throne" emphasis is placed on the absolute perfection of Divine judgment. Everything is subject to "the penetrating power and testing of the Spirit".3We can therefore understand still further (see our remarks in connection with the nature of the dove) why the Spirit of God is called "the Holy Spirit". We can also understand why Paul uses the words; "In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord" Eph.2.21.
The words, "cloven tongues like as of fire", call for attention. Whilst some (see, for example, ‘Barnes on the New Testament’) link the "cloven tongues like as of fire" with the fact that "they began to speak with other tongues", it is more likely that the expression is purely descriptive. It was not one great sheet of flame. To quote M. R. Vincent, "Many prefer to render ‘tongues distributing themselves’, or, ‘being distributed’ among the disciples, instead of referring it to the cloven appearance of each tongue".4 However, the translation, ‘tongues as of fire, parting and sitting upon each of them’5 probably gives the correct picture. James Anderson puts it as follows: "the thought is that each tongue was divided upon all the disciples".6 Compare 1 Cor.12.11.
3 Cundick, F. Precious Seed, Nov/Dec, 1964.
4 Vincent, M.R. "Word Studies of the New Testament", W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1977.
5 Scofield, C. I. "Reference Bible" – marginal notes.
- 6 Anderson, J. "What the Bible Teaches – Acts", John Ritchie Ltd, 1992.
It should be said that in Scripture still water is a picture of the Word of God, springing or moving water is a picture of the Holy Spirit, and seawater is a picture of the nations. John draws our attention to events at the "Jews’ feast of tabernacles" Jn.7.2. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)" Jn.7.37-39.
A. W. Pink makes the suggestion that the "belly" is "that part of man which constantly craves" and cites Paul’s words "whose god is their belly" Phil.3.19. Pink continues: "The ‘belly’ is that part of man which is never really satisfied, for it is constantly crying for something else to appease its cravings. Now the remarkable thing, yea, the blessed thing, is, that not only is the believer himself satisfied, but he overflows with that which satisfied - out of his innermost parts ‘flow (forth) rivers of living water’. The thought is indeed a striking one."7 This would be accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. With regard to the words, "as the scripture hath said", it seems likely that the Lord Jesus was referring to Isa.58.11, "And thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
There can be no doubt that oil is an emblem of the Holy Spirit. Amongst other things, we should consider the way in which oil depicts His sanctifying power, His strength for witness and testimony, and His sustaining provision for spiritual life.
His Sanctifying Power
Men were anointed with oil in the Old Testament, signifying that God had set them apart for their particular service and empowered them to undertake their work. When Saul was anointed to be king, Samuel said, "the Spirit of the LORD shall come upon thee" 1 Sam.10.1,6. When David was appointed king in his place we are told that "Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward" 1 Sam.16.13. Attention has already been drawn to the words of the Lord Jesus: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings to the meek" Isa.61.1. Believers today have been similarly anointed: "Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ (J.N.D. margin, literally ‘unto Christ’, meaning ‘attaches firmly to … connects firmly with’), and hath anointed us, is God; who also hath sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" 2 Cor.1.21. John writes: "But ye have an unction (anointing) from the Holy One, and ye know all things … But the anointing which ye have received abideth in you" 1 Jn.2.20,27.
His Strength for Witness and Testimony
The book of Zechariah provides an excellent example of Divine provision for witness and testimony. Amongst other things, the prophet saw "a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it … Then he (‘the angel that talked with me’) answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts" Zech.4.2-6. The "two olive trees" which "through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves" are identified as "the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth" Zech.4.12-14.
The vision presents an immediate problem. If, as in the tabernacle, the lampstand speaks to us of the Lord Jesus, how can it be fed by the "two olive trees" which are clearly stated to be "the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth?" v.14. The oil for the lampstand is supplied by them, and Zechariah was told that this represented the Holy Spirit. Whilst the ministry of the Lord Jesus is always in the power of the Holy Spirit, He does not receive the Holy Spirit from others. That much should be obvious to us all.
What then is the significance of the lampstand seen by Zechariah? A lampstand has a specific function, which is, obviously, to give light. This is precisely God’s intention for Israel; "I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth" Isa.49.6; "For Zion’s sake will I not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth" Isa.62.1-2.
Israel was the one nation chosen to be the witness to the one true God, and the seven-branched lampstand at the heart of her national life was a symbol of her vocation in this way. Sadly, Israel failed, and the height of her sin was the rejection and crucifixion of her Messiah. This brought the removal of national testimony, and the commencement of a new testimony - hence "seven golden lampstands" Rev.1.12 etc. The Zechariah vision shows us, however, that God’s purpose for His earthly people will be fulfilled: Israel will again be a light-bearer. The power of its light - the power of the Holy Spirit - will be supplied by the "two olive trees" or "the two anointed ones". The fact that they are described as "olive trees" and "empty the golden oil out of themselves" v.12, shows that they have the resources to maintain the work of the lampstand.
At the time of Zechariah’s vision, the testimony was maintained by two men: Joshua and Zerubbabel. Joshua was the high priest: Zerubbabel was the civil leader, and being descended from David, was an ancestor of the Lord Jesus (Matt.1.12-13). The two men are frequently mentioned together (see Hag.1.1,12; 2. 2 etc.), and some important lessons emerge from this connection. The position of Joshua is emphasised in chapter 3: the position of Zerubbabel is emphasised in chapter 4. We should notice that the source of the supply is not actually mentioned. The expression, "two anointed ones" (‘two sons of oil’), describes two men filled with the Holy Spirit.
But this does not exhaust the passage. Revelation chapter 11 describes God’s "two witnesses" in the end-time when Jerusalem will become, spiritually, "Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified" v.8. They are described as, "the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth" v.4. So God will have a testimony even in those dark days, and it will be maintained by the Holy Spirit. But the passage surely anticipates more than even this. The ultimate testimony of Israel to the world does not depend on Joshua and Zerubbabel, or on the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11.
Zechariah chapter 6 refers to a "priest upon His throne" v.13. Not now Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel of the royal line, but both offices combined in one Person. (This recalls Melchisedec, Gen.14.18 etc.). Who is the "priest upon His throne?" The priest-king is none other than "the Branch". "Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man Whose Name is the Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD" v.12. The vision of Zechariah chapter 4 will be finally fulfilled when Christ comes to reign. He will give His people the spiritual power to give light to the whole world. His ministry then, as before, will be in the power of the Holy Spirit: "The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD" Isa.11.2.
His Sustaining Provision for Spiritual Life
An event in the life of Elijah provides a beautiful picture of God’s unfailing provision for "life and godliness". Having been told, "Arise, and get thee to Zarephath … and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee", the prophet obeyed implicitly, and with the widow and her son, he was sustained by a "barrel of meal and a "cruse of oil" for "many days" 1 Kgs.17.8-16. We are specifically told that it all began with "an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse". To the onlooker, the resources were practically nil, and continued to look practically nil. But the living God was involved, and this gave the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil, limitless sufficiency. The barrel of meal is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus Himself, and the cruse of oil is a lovely picture of the Holy Spirit. Unsaved people are likely to scoff, and suggest that these are poor resources on which to live, but the child of God knows differently! "The secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him" Ps.25.14.
The "barrel of meal" draws our attention to the gracious Saviour Who sustains and strengthens us, and of Whom it is written, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" Heb.13.8. Truly, "the barrel of meal shall not waste!" Even creation, the work of His hands, will be dissolved, but He is unchanging and unchangeable. The Lord Jesus clearly taught that the Holy Spirit would be an unfailing source of blessing to His people: "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be abide with you for ever" Jn.14.16. We are able to rest on the unfailing resources of the Lord Jesus, and on the unfailing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Most certainly, "neither shall the cruse of oil fail!"
The widow’s home at Zarephath is a beautiful picture of the Church. Elijah, the Jew, and the widow and her son, Gentiles, were sustained by provision unknown to both Israel and the Gentile nations, reminding us that the Church is sustained by the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is emphasised in the New Testament: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" Eph.2.19-21.
God’s provision through the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil was promised "until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth". We are called to work and witness in a barren world. All the exciting progress in a thousand years of science and technology, has not altered the moral and spiritual character of the world one iota. It remains barren and unfruitful, because men and women have rejected the living God. But the time will come when the prophecy will be fulfilled: "He shall come down like rain upon the new mown grass: as showers that water the earth" Ps.72.6. That promise remains. The world is yet to be blessed, and until that time comes, we can rest on the unfailing and sustaining grace of the Lord Jesus, and the unfailing presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit. To the carnal mind, as, initially, to the widow, these are no resources. But how different to the child of God! Our God is the God of salvation, not the God of starvation!
Paul’s reference to anointing, 2 Cor.1.21, is accompanied by two further emblems of the Holy Spirit: "Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" v.22. We must now consider these.
A seal, whether it is impressed on wax affixed to a document or directly upon paper, establishes the identity and right of the owner of the property to which the legal deed refers. Jeremiah describes (uniquely) a property transaction in which this took place: "I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle’s son … and weighed him the money … And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: and I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch …" Jer.32.9-12. The prophetic significance of this transaction need not detain us, but it does enable us to understand our spiritual security. It has been said that in sealing, "the leading idea is that of security: ‘so they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch’ Matt.27.65-66".8 Like the deed in respect of Jeremiah’s field, we have been sealed. In writing to the Ephesians, Paul says: "after that ye believed (‘having believed’, margin), ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" Eph.1.13; "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" Eph.4.30. The context of the expression, "that holy Spirit of promise", suggests, not so much the promised Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit whose presence guarantees the fulfilment of the promise.
8 Cundick, F. Precious Seed, Nov/Dec, 1964.
In his reference Bible C. I. Scofield defines the significance of a seal as "A finished transaction … Ownership … Security". In modern terms, contraband retrieved by H.M. Customs and Excise is packaged and sealed, and becomes the property of the Crown! At the moment of our conversion, we were sealed by the immediate indwelling Holy Spirit and God said ‘You are mine’ and this was "Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity".
In passing, this may help us to understand why the 144,000 (who could be looked upon as the true Jehovah’s witnesses and all of them are Jews) will be sealed with "the seal of the living God" Rev.7.2-3. None can touch or harm them in any way. They will enjoy complete security even when the demon-locusts which emerge from "the smoke of the pit" are tormenting mankind in general. See Rev.9.1-6. In fact, the witnesses will be preserved, without a single loss, through the dreadful persecution at the end-time, and ultimately accompany the Lamb - every one of them - on Mount Zion, Rev.14.1.
"Ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory" Eph.1.13, 14; "Now He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit" 2 Cor.5.5. "The term "earnest" (arrabon) means a deposit which is in itself a guarantee that the full amount will be paid later."9 According to W. E. Vine10 the word denoted "originally, earnest-money deposited by the purchaser and forfeited if the purchase was not completed, and was probably a Phoenician word, introduced into Greece. In general usage it came to denote a pledge or earnest of any sort". W. E. Vine also points out that "in modern Greek, arrabona is an engagement ring". This is quite illuminating. If an engagement ring embodies the pledge of a man to fulfil his promise by marrying his sweetheart, then the Holy Spirit is in Himself the Divinely given pledge that God will perfectly fulfil every promise made to His people.
9 Hughes P.E. "The Second Epistle to the Corinthians", New International Commentary, Eerdmans, 1962.
- 10 Vine, W, E. "Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words", Published in 1940 without copyright.
The equivalent word in the Old Testament is rendered "pledge" in Gen.38.17,18,20. "Judah promised to send the gift of a kid to Tamar, but she was not satisfied with a mere promise, she wanted a ‘pledge’, so her gave her his signet, bracelets and staff, which she afterwards produced to his shame. The Spirit as the Earnest is God’s Pledge that He will keep to all He has promised", F. E. Marsh.11
11 Marsh F. E. "Emblems of the Holy Spirit", James Clarke & Co., Ltd, 1957.
The presence and activities of the Holy Spirit in the present dispensation are some of the fruits of Christ’s exaltation. To be indwelt by the Holy Spirit is a most wonderful favour, but, as always in Scripture, privileges incur responsibilities. The wonderful variety in His ministry gives weight to the injunction "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" Rom.8.4. In view of the manifold significance of the way in which He indwells believers, we might well ask ourselves, to quote the apostle Peter in another context, "what manner of persons ought ye to be in all manner of conversation and godliness?" 2 Pet.3.12. The Holy Spirit not only sustains us in present trials and is sufficient for every task - His presence within us as "the earnest of our inheritance" is a constant reminder that it will not be long before we surround "the throne of God and the Lamb" Rev.22.3.