Thessalonians 5 v 19 Quench not the Spirit
The 4 elements of Public Worship that can be clearly identified in the verses that appear towards the end of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.
1. We should be Joyful Christians in worship – v 16 2. We should be Prayerful Christians in worship – v 17 3. We should be thankful Christians in worship v 18 4. We should be attentive Christians in Worship v 19 – 22
Over the past 3 weeks we have considered 3 of these worship imperatives from the Apostle Paul. And this morning we arrive at the Fourth –
19 Quench not the Spirit.
Do not quench the spirit is the first part of a group of verses that apply to Our Christian worship with respect to our hearing of the Word of God.
19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Let us first of all discover the Specific intention that Paul the Apostle had in writing these things to the church at Thessalonica first.
1. Primary application of verses 19 – 22.
Paul wanted the believers to know that they must listen to the Word of God. This was one of the responsibilities that the early church had when they came together as a church to worship. As is seen from 1 Corinthians 11 believers were to gather together in local assemblies –
17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
This was a corrective passage to the Church at Corinth – but the principle holds true – Christians in a locality should meet together as a gathered group of saints. Paul was highly influential and used of God the Holy Spirit to give instructions to the fledgling Churches of the first century as to how they conducted themselves in Church Order.
1 Corinthians 7 v 17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
There was a recognised body of Apostolic Teaching about how churches behaved and there was a general line of standard activity and policy laid down in those early days under Paul’s guidance.
I bring to you a list of some of these characteristics of the early churches – for this reason – we need to understand how things were in the churches BEFORE the Bible, the Word of God, was completed as the Book that we have today. Before the New Testament was completed God spoke directly to the churches through His Holy Spirit.
Notice these characteristics -
1. They came together weekly to Break Bread –
Acts 20 v 7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
2. They came together for mutual building up of each other in fellowship and exhortation –
Hebrews 10 v 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
3. This building up was done through a variety of ministry in those early days –
1 Corinthians 12 v 4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
4. Such ministries were appointed by God the Holy Spirit –
1 Corinthians 12 v 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
5. Such ministries were made effective by God the Holy Spirit and His direction –
1 Corinthians 12 v 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
6. In these churches there were men who were qualified for, and called to, the Ministry of the Word –
Ephesians 4 v 1 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
7. Only these men were to take part in the Ministry of the Word –
1 Corinthians 14 v 29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
It was a critical time in that first century of the Christian Churches. They were pioneer days and dangerous days. And there was the ever present danger of those who ministered in the Word – in other words who were the channels, conduits or mouthpieces of the Holy Spirit as He gave them the Word – to lose their sense of self control. If a man was charged with speaking on God’s behalf – supernaturally influenced by the Holy Spirit – then he could be in grave peril of his own human nature becoming proud of the gift and consequently abuse the gift. Merely because the Holy Spirit had energised such a man to speak from God, it did not mean that self control flew out of the window!
1 Corinthians 14 v 30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
8. These Spiritual Prophetic gifts were to be used diligently and wisely –
Romans 12 v 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
9. The dignity of ministry of God’s Word must never be despised and the minister’s themselves should recognise their own insufficiency –
1 Peter 4 v 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
10. Finally the ministers were to submit to the judgment of others on their ministry –
1 Corinthians 14 v 29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
Having recognised from the teachings of Paul that they were to have a policy we can now observe that peace, order and building up of the Christians were EVIDENCE of the work of the Holy Spirit among them.
1 Corinthians 14 v 33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
On the other hand if through ignorance of the ways and intentions of the Holy Spirit; or if through failure to recognise His directions, disorder, strife and division appeared – these were evidences that there was a serious problem – namely what is called here THE QUENCHING OF THE SPIRIT.
There was always the danger that the impulses of the flesh might usurp the place of the energy of the Spirit in the assembly.
Recognising then that God the Holy Spirit had much to say to the gathered churches; and yet also recognising the danger that overbearing restraints through heavy mechanical church order could silence the Spirit’s voice – Paul orders – QUENCH NOT THE SPIRIT.
Having then understood why Paul needed to say this to the Thessalonians and to warn them not to be ruthless in restraining prophetic utterances in the assembly for fear of self will in the speakers – we can notice immediately the difference between then and now.
Then God spoke through Prophets as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance in an orderly fashion.
Today God speaks through His written word as it is preached and taught by called and equipped men in the assembly.
Then quenching was prohibited so that God’s word, which came through the inspired prophets, could be heard and be a means of building up the saints.
Today quenching is prohibited so that God’s word taught by His ordained teachers and preachers might be heard when the saints are prepared and ready to hear God’s voice when the word is preached.
The Spirit was quenched then when the gifts were restricted.
The Spirit is quenched today when God’s people refuse to give Him a hearing.
There is an enormous advantage and blessing to us today over the early church – it is the completed canon of Scripture. We have the whole of the written Word of God – which they did not have.
Let me pause and explain why we do not agree with some modern churches who claim that prophets, such as those who were part of each early church congregation, are not still active in our day. The role of such prophets belonged to a period when the Lord was laying the foundation on which the church is built –
Ephesians 2 v 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
No additional foundation is necessary. God has spoken in His word and all that He has said is sufficient for us today! There is no need for any more declarations of what God has to say – except what is written in the Bible. The problem today is this – the Spirit is quenched – His fire is dampened – when His word is ignored by the people of God and they refuse to obey Him – when Christians shut their ears to the revealed authoritative word of God.
19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil,
are a set of verses that recommends intelligent listening, scrutiny and testing the validity of what we hear – and then having judged the preaching as good to go out and practice what we hear preached!
This is summed up by attentive worship – when Christians hear the word of God.
I don’t believe that I have to say this here this morning to such a congregation – but just in case there is someone who is not sure about worship and its elements I say this – you are now still engaged in worship. This element of the service this morning – preaching of the Word – is as much worship as was the rejoicing in praise, and the prayers of intercession, supplication and thanksgiving. We must not confine worship to the first three – rejoicing, prayer and thanksgiving.
The reading and preaching of the word is not the opportunity to switch off and stop participating! Each of us is to listen intelligently; scrutinise the message and test the validity of what we hear. We accept the authority of the written and read word – that is an absolute – this is God’s word written – but Spirit led teaching and preaching must always be evaluated with the mind and the heart – and then comes the heardest part – practiced in the life! Let us not then quench the Spirit this morning by treating God’s word lightly – worship in Spirit and in Truth is with the whole heart, centred on the whole truth of the Word of God.
This then is the Primary Application of these 4 verses taken as a whole. We will need to say more in detail in future sermons. But now we return to verse 19 and notice a second application of
Quench not the Spirit.
2. The Personal application of verse 19.
1. The words involved.
Quench is used several times in the New Testament.
It has a literal use and a metaphorical use.
Literally it used to describe the putting out of fire or of something on fire. For instance –
Matthew 12 v 20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.
Flax was used as wicks in candles and in oil lamps, such as the lamps of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. Without fuel such as wax or oil the flax would smoulder and eventually stop burning. ‘Smoking flax’ describes a wick about to go out but still has a little burning left. To squeeze it and exclude oxygen would be to quench it – stop the burning. This verse speaks of the kindness of the Lord God who will not abandon a weak believer who has not much spark about him – but will fan the smouldering wick into a bright flame.
Quenched used in a negative sense – ‘not quenched’ speaks in Mark 9 v 48 of the fire that does not go out –
… hell fire: 48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
This speaks of the doom of those who sin without repentance – everlasting suffering in unquenchable flames.
The Metaphorical use of ‘quench’ is seen in the picture of the temptations which come to every soldier of Christ – outlined in Ephesians 6 v 16. We use the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. Here quench means extinguish – the flaming warfare arrows were put out by the well made shields as soon as they struck the shield – rendering them harmless. So it is when we lift up the shield of faith – extinction of the fieriness of sinful temptations.
And it is in a metaphorical sense that we find ‘quench’ here in verse 19. To quench the Spirit is to hinder the operation of God the Holy Spirit in His oral testimonies in the gatherings of God’s people.
Spirit we can notice is with a capital ‘S’ and refers to the third person of the Holy Trinity, God the Holy Spirit.
The metaphor of not putting out the Fire of the Holy Spirit is apt for His person. His person is symbolised by fire –
Acts 2 v 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
John the Baptist spoke of the Lord Jesus Christ like this in Matthew 3 v 11
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
And taking the symbolism of fire into Paul’s expression of the work of the Holy Spirit is illustrated in some words to Timothy –
2 Timothy 1 v 6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
The Greek word for STIR UP in this verse has the word fire in it – in other words ‘Timothy – fan into flame the gift of God that is within you.’ The gift was the gift of Prophecy that came from the Holy Spirit.
Fire and quench go together. Sometimes when a fire gets out of control something is needed to quench it. Water, sand or foam is used to quench the flames.
But says the apostle, be careful not to put out the flames of the Spirit’s activity in the church. He has His place – do not quench His influence.
There is an important point to make now about the quenching of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is God. He, the 3rd person of the Godhead, CANNOT HIMSELF BE QUENCHED. The fire of God’s power cannot be put out in the sense that He goes out like a candle or flame snuffed and smothered.
What can be quenched by human intervention, neglect or sin are His gracious influences. When certain things get in the way He withdraws Himself. He is the Holy Spirit and He remains Holy always. Holiness and sin and wickedness and rebellion do not mix!
So much for the words involved – now for the application. We have already made specific mention of the danger of quenching the Spirit in our worship. We must pray that God the Holy Spirit is never given cause to withdraw Himself from our worship services because of our sin of quenching His influences.
But what about the gracious influence of God the Holy Spirit in our own personal lives as believers? Paul speaks to us as individuals too
2. We must not quench the Spirit in our own experience as Christians.
The first thing to say is that every true believer, born again by the Holy Spirit is baptised, at conversion, in the Holy Spirit and with metaphorical fire – I am glad that it is not literal fire! The Holy Spirit works as a fire in our souls. He enlightens us; enlivens us and purifies us. It is a Holy Fire within us. And we must be so careful not to quench this holy fire.
How is it possible for us to do this? There are many ways.
1. We can ignore His presence and deny that we have been saved.
It is possible to deliberately deny that we have been saved. A person can come to faith repenting of sin and tasting of the goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His mercy – but then proceed to think again and revert to worldliness – and deny the Lord’s presence. This action is bound to quench the Holy Spirit and His gracious influence. The further the person goes into the world and back to sin, the more the quenching of the Spirit and the less His gracious influence will have in the person’s life. How tragic this is! How grievous to the Lord to see His child straying and less susceptible to His leading and less conscious of His presence within.
Is this process happening in someone’s life here this morning? The world and its influences are re entering your life and you are drifting? Be careful – you may quench the Spirit!
The Answer! Acknowledge God’s work of Grace as a genuine work and thank Him for salvation! Deal with the intrusion of such thoughts and pursue righteousness and holiness.
2. We can resist His leading when He prompts us to obey a command or take some action.
Ananias and Sapphira were prompted by the Holy Spirit to sell property and give the proceeds to the church. But they lied about it and appeared to be doing one thing but were doing another. They did not follow the promptings of the Spirit whole heartedly – and they quenched His influence in their lives. Instead of trusting the Spirit for honesty they succumbed to lying. We all know that they died – were taken to heaven before they could do any more damage. The Lord God knows what He is doing! Quenching the Spirit in one area of life and behaviour can lead to more and more damaging effects in a believer’s life – leading to ineffectiveness for the Lord. Let us avoid this at all costs – resisting Him in disobedience.
3. We can covet other Christians’ gifts thinking that we should have what they have.
Covetousness is a sin. Covetousness dishonours God but also eats at the soul and quenches the Spirit. Not being satisfied with what we have and using such for the glory of God, some people lose God’s gracious power to do what they should do when they are resentful of someone else’s gifts. The Spirit is quenched and the believer fails to thrive. Is this our problem my friend? Are we dissatisfied with the two talents given to us and we desire five? God knows our capabilities and gifts – our responsibility extends to fully use those gifts for His glory. We must not quench what we do have by coveting what we don’t.
4. We can fail to rejoice, pray and give thanks in our own devotional life.
Quenching of the Spirit usually starts in believer’s devotional life. Prayer and thanksgiving can become mundane and routine. Personal worship and devotions can become a duty rather than a delight. Gradually we can find a diminishing of power in life – and quiet times are neglected and prayer almost ceases. The Spirit is quenched and His voice ceases to be heard in the secret place. The answer is constant watchfulness over our souls – yielded submission to the Spirit who is more ready to speak to us than we are to listen to Him. Let us be those who shrink from quenching the Spirit at all costs.
5. We can indulge in sins and rebellions wilfully and carelessly.
We wish that it were not so – but every one of us can identify with the Psalmist when he struggled with the result of his sin in Psalm 51. Of course this is not to say that we all identify with David’s specific sin of adultery and murder – which prompted his contrite expressions in the Psalm – but his thoughts apply to us all – all are sinners – and all can fall into sins of many kinds as believers. David is fearful of the Spirit being quenched – in his case being taken from him altogether – read Psalm 51 v 1 – 12.
David knew the real possibility of God withdrawing from him totally – for this is how the Spirit moved in the Old Testament – he came upon men and women – but could easily withdraw totally – as he did with Saul.
However now, since Calvary, since our Savour’s Resurrection and since His gracious giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, believers, once converted and baptised with the Spirit need not fear the loss of the presence of the Holy Spirit – BUT – they SHOULD fear his withdrawal of influence, power and help. We can quench His work. So let us fear to do so – and let us mortify, put to death our sins and sinful habits – and let us die daily to self and seek to realise the Spirit’s full influence within our souls.
We are nearly at the end of our time – but a last way that we can quench the Spirit.
6. We can neglect what we call the means of Grace.
Corporate and family worship, prayer meetings and spiritual activities of all kinds keep the believer in happy routine and willing duty – near to the Lord Jesus. Neglect of these things – partial or reluctant attendance WILL – not may – but WILL quench the Spirit in your life. This particular application could occupy a whole sermon. We quoted earlier from Hebrews 10 v 25
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
The means of grace are the means by which we receive more grace and blessing from the Lord as the days, weeks and years go by. He showers with more and more blessings. We need to come together to recognise and enjoy the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ by His spirit. He said
Matthew 18 v 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Jesus in the midst of us – meeting specifically to rejoice, pray, give thanks for mercy and so many other blessings; to Hear His word and to remember Him in His death, and to rejoice when the ordinance of Baptism; all these means of grace keep us from quenching the Spirit.
If you neglect a fire it will go out.
If you pour sand or water on a fire it will be extinguished. No more light or heat to bring benefit.
Let us never do anything to quench God’s work or influence in any aspect of our Christian lives and Church life – rather let us stir ourselves up to holiness, devotion and love towards God – and fan into flame all that we are and do – for the glory of our wonderful saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.
Quench not the Spirit.