Leave It On—1 Thessalonians 5:19

“Do not quench the Spirit.”

In verse 19-22, Paul is concerned with purity or sanctification—being set apart from the world to reflect the will and character of God. He warns the people that rejecting God’s view of sexual purity is synonymous with rejecting him and, therefore, the Holy Spirit whose function is to guide and instruct believers in truth and godly living (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8; see also Ezekiel 36:27; Nehemiah 9:20; John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-13).

Paul reminds the Thessalonians how indispensable the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to their spiritual well-being as individuals as a church body, so he exhorts them: “Stop quenching the Spirit!” The word “quench” can also be translated extinguish, put out, or restrain. Scripture sometimes associates the ministry of the Spirit with fire (Acts 2:3). Putting out this purifying fire does not merely interfere with the Spirit’s life-transforming work; it discontinues such work. Disobedience is a great offense to the indwelling Spirit of God, yet he remains with us and grieves over the selfish behavior that pushes him away (Ephesians 4:20-30; cf. Isaiah 63:10-14). To prevent this “quenching” of the Spirit, Paul suggests a four-point course of action (COA): 1) don’t despise prophetic utterances; 2) examine or test everything for its accuracy; 3) hold fast to that which is good; and 4) abstain from every form of evil (20-22).

One ministry of the Holy Spirit is the distribution of gifts to each believer (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 20-31). Half of the gifts address communicating the word of God publicly, the most desirable during the early years of the Church being prophecy—it offers the recipients edification, exhortation, and consolation (1 Corinthians 14:1-4). Early Church prophets were important because Scripture was incomplete and many of the churches did not have access to New Testament writings. Prophets were guided by the Holy Spirit to receive and teach God’s word (Acts 13:1-5), as well as predict future events (Acts 11:27-30—Agabus). Apparently, the Thessalonians had seen too many false prophets and, therefore, chose to despise or ignore anyone who thought himself one, thus effectively eliminating or quenching the work of the Spirit in their midst. The first course of action for avoiding the quenching of the Spirit is: Identify and use all of the gifts given by the Spirit to members of the local church. With the Word of God now complete, some of the gifts may not be utilized by the Holy Spirit, except in extraordinary situations where he might deem one practicable (e.g., prophesy, tongues).

Paul was not ignorant of the fact that false teaching and prophets abounded, so he admonished the Church to test or examine the trustworthiness of everything (COA 2; 1 Corinthians 12:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 John 4:1-6; cf. Jeremiah 6:27-30). Today, we have the Holy Spirit and the completeness of God’s word to separate what is good from evil. By walking in the Spirit and valuing God’s word, we obtain the fruits of the Spirit and do that which is good and profitable (COA 3; Romans 12:9-18; Galatians 5:16, 22-26; Ephesians 5:9; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; James 3:17). But if we choose to misuse our freedom in Christ, we will walk in the flesh, according to our own wishes, and be overcome with all manner of evil (COA 4; Romans 8:6-8; cf. 12:21; Galatians 5:17, 19-21; Ephesians 4:25-32). Love, walk with and appreciate him and he will forever remain a fire in your soul.

 

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I am a published author, co-author and editor of 13 books, written numerous articles, taught online at Liberty University and Grace College (Indiana), and appeared on numerous radio and TV programs. I am a theologian, bioethicist and retired veteran.

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