Lesson 23: Don't Quench The Spirit . . ." - Part 1 (series: Lessons on 1 Thessalonians)
by John Lowe
Lesson 23: Don't Quench The Spirit Or Despise Prophecies, But Don't Be Gullible Either (1Thessalonians 5:19-22)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NIV)
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
In verses 19 and 20 Paul warns the Thessalonians not to despise spiritual gifts. The prophets were really the equivalent of our modern preachers. It was they who brought the message of God to the congregation. Paul is really saying, “If a man has anything to say, don’t stop him saying it.”
Verses 21 and 22 describe the constant duty of the Christian. He must use Christ as the standard by which to test all things; and even when it is hard he must keep on doing the right thing and keep himself aloof from every kind of evil.
When a church lives up to Paul’s advice, it will indeed shine like a light in a dark place; it will have joy within itself, and power to win others.
(5:19) Do not quench the Spirit.
There are many who do not realize the importance of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit as it has to do with believers. We know His primary work is to draw us to Jesus (John 6:44; 16:7-11).The Holy Spirit convicts us, convinces us and draws us to Jesus. He then is the attending physician at the new birth (John 3:3, 5). The Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, 13); He indwells us (Rom. 8:9); He leads us (Rom. 8:14); He assures us (Rom. 8:16); He seals us (Eph. 4:30). However, it appears from what Paul says here that it is all together possible to grieve the Holy Spirit. It is also possible to “quench the Spirit.” The apostle implies that some, at least, of the Thessalonians were quenching the Spirit. Paul calls on them to stop.
The word “quench” means “to extinguish, subdue, suppress, to make an end of.” That is the explanation given in Webster’s dictionary. Whatever obstructs, hinders or dampens the work of the Holy Spirit in the souls of men is forbidden. “Quench” is used here in the sense of putting out a “fire”a―i.e., we are not to extinguish the “influence”a of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
When the Holy Spirit directs you to a ministry or mission to the glory of God, do not request a road map, for when it is time to change course, the Holy Spirit will let you know. He speaks “with groaning which cannot be uttered”; He directs in many ways. “. . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). Anything that will tend to quench the passion of worship in the soul, to render us lifeless in the service of God, may be regarded as quenching the Spirit. Worldliness, pride, ambition will do it.
When we are willing to be led by the Holy Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh we will not follow a selfish, self-centered, self-glorying path, for the Holy Ghost came to glorify Jesus and to speak―not of Himself―but of Jesus. He leads us into paths of right living―paths which, even though they may be paths of suffering, will glorify the Lord Jesus. To refuse to follow His leading, for one reason or another is to quench the Spirit―and that is sin. We should go where the Spirit leads, we should say what the Spirit directs us to say, and we should minister wherever the Holy Spirit leads us to minister.
(5:20) Do not treat prophecies with contempt
To prophesy is to foretell things that will happen many years from now―but it is also to foretell things that have already been foretold. Every minister and Sunday school teacher is a prophet in one sense . . . not as Daniel and Ezekiel were Prophets―but we are forthtelling what they foretold. Every minister is a prophet, and believers are not to despise prophesying. In the days of Paul the “perfect law of liberty” had not yet come; the Bible was not complete. All the books of the Bible had not been given, and in that day God’s prophets (including Paul) had the power of declaring the mind of God by direct inspiration. It seems that in the Thessalonian church this great gift of prophesying was being despised by some of the more sober-minded men. Therefore, Paul gives a direct command that believers were not to despise what the prophets said. They might not like it; they might not agree with it―but they were to receive what God’s man prophesied.
Today, we have “that which is perfect”―the Word of God. We have the Bible in its completeness―the “perfect law of liberty”―and we need no extra epistles or chapters. In this Book of books we have all that we need to know about God and the devil, heaven and hell, salvation and sin, time and eternity. All the things we need to know about things eternal we find in the sixty-six books of our Bible. All Scripture is given by inspiration, and the Bible we now have is all the Scripture there is!
(5:21) but test them all; hold on to what is good
Just how are we to test all things? “B y the Word of God.” In other words, test the denomination you belong to by the Bible―not by books of doctrine, catechisms, and traditions of men or church covenants. Read the Bible. Put your denomination beside the Bible and see if it measures up to God’s specifications. No preacher (or layman) has any right to make the Word of God fit what he believes. Preachers are to believe the Bible and preach the unadulterated Word of God, and Christians are to believe the Word. Weigh any doctrine in the scales of the Bible, and pray for God to give you the spirit of understanding and discernment. (Read 1 Corinthians 12:3, 10.) Hear John the beloved as he admonishes, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits WHETHER THEY ARE OF GOD” (1 John 4:1-3).
When Paul says, “test them all,” he may mean that, although prophets may be held in high regard, everything they say is not necessarily to be accepted; those who hear them must apply tests to see whether a given saying comes from God. It is not only prophesy that is to be tested, but “everything.” And testing in turn leads naturally enough to the retention of the good and the rejection of the evil―if a thing is evil, then the believer must have no truck with it at all. What Paul has said in the previous verse might be misconstrued as a command to accept without further ado any utterance by a person who claimed to be a prophet and speaking by the Spirit. This would open the door to groundless gullibility and all kinds of evil, and it was far from the apostle’s mind. So he makes it clear that he expects his readers to use their “common sense” in such matters and to apply the necessary tests.
The point of this command, then, is that the Thessalonians are asked to apply tests. There are things that appear on the surface to be good. There are manifestations that are claimed to come from God. Such are not simply to be accepted at their face value, for it is not part of Christian simplicity to be gullible. All things must be tested. And not simply tested, but accepted wholeheartedly or rejected decisively as a result of the test. “Hold on to” denotes the firm acceptance of the good. There must be no half measures.
Every preacher should take note of Paul’s charge to Timothy: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim 4:1-5)
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Every believer should verify all things by the Bible. We should verify our habits, the places we go, the things we do, the language we use, the songs we sing, the company we keep, the job we hold, the church we join, the evangelists and missionaries we support, the tracts we give out on the street or from house to house.
If you are doing something about which there is a question in your mind, place that “something” beside the Word of God, weigh it in the scales of the Bible; and if it cannot be proved right, according to Scripture, let it alone! Do not ask preachers if it is harmful to do this or that―search the Scriptures: for preachers do not agree on many things. One preacher may tell you that it is a sin to dance, while another will tell you that he sponsors dances in the church he pastors! Whatsoever you do, wheresoever you go substantiate it by the Word of God. Hold on tightly to the good, and let go of the chaff.