In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, the apostle Paul admonishes the brethren, saying, “Do not quench the Spirit.” But what does that mean? And does it apply today? There are many scriptures that deal with matters of the Holy Spirit that pertain solely to the first century, and therefore, have no direct application for us today. However, there are many other scriptures that also speak of the Holy Spirit, and these transcend the first century and apply throughout time; this is one of those scriptures. Today, if we are not careful, we can easily quench the Spirit of God in our lives, so we must be diligent to understand the meaning of this text, and make the necessary changes to our lives.
In this statement, “do not quench the Spirit”, Paul borrows the language of putting out a fire. To quench means to extinguish, to go out, stifle, suppress. By “Spirit”, Paul is not making reference to anything miraculous, but the general and common way that the Spirit of God is referred to: by his work in delivering the word of truth to man. We do have not the strength or capability to extinguish God, but we do have the power to stifle the word which He brought down and to suppress the influence He has on us through the word. To help us better understand what Paul is saying, let’s look at something similar that he said to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul says, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”. Again, Paul is using “the Spirit” in the same manner as he did to the Thessalonians; this is no miraculous filling of the Holy Spirit in our bodies, but it is to be filled with his influence, to be filled with the word. Notice the contrast: “do not be drunk with wine”, that is, do not come under the influence of wine, which results in losing control; but “be filled with the Spirit”, that is, come under the influence of the Spirit’s words, which results in control and soundness of life. So, going back to the Thessalonians, Paul admonishes them to not quench the Spirit. We should do nothing in our lives that causes any suppression of God’s influence. What are some simple steps we can take to allow the Spirit’s flame to burn hot? Let’s back up a few verses and let Paul answer that for us.
“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, (13) and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. (14) Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (15) See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. (16) Rejoice always, (17) pray without ceasing, (18) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18).
First, Paul urges them to “recognize those who labor” among them (like preachers and teachers), and those who are “over” them (elders), and to esteem each of them “very highly in love”. These men are some of our greatest allies in kindling the fire of God’s influence. Second, “be at peace among yourselves”, for there is nothing that snuffs out God’s influence quicker than battling within the church. The body of Christ at peace is the perfect environment for the Spirit’s flame to burn bright. Third, “warn those who are unruly”, as those left to be unruly will hinder peace. “Comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all”, for these are the actions of mercy and compassion that our Lord demonstrated to us when He walked this earth. Following in His footsteps exhibits that we have successfully filled ourselves up with His influence rather than the influence of the world.
Fourth, “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.” This is a command that is not so easy to practice. The world has always influenced us to render evil for evil and to get back at others for wronging us, but that is not the influence of the Spirit. Vengeance belongs to God and be assured that He will repay (Romans 12:19), but our task is to do good to others, even if they do not do good to us. Fifth, “Rejoice always”. The call to be a people of joy is impossible to accomplish if under the world’s influence. A sinful world knows no joy in having fellowship with God and His people; for to the world, joy is like a hopping bunny that we must be in constant pursuit of. Joy depends on material objectives, but this is not what the Spirit of God has taught us. Joy is found in Christ alone, and continues to be no matter the condition of our earthly existence.
Sixth, “pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks”. You guessed it, Prayer is foundational to the life of one who is filled with the Spirit. Without prayer, the flame is quenched. With little prayer the flame is dim, and difficult to see the way; this allows for the world’s influence to come boldly into our lives. To maintain the Spirit’s blaze, we must continue communicating with our Father in heaven. Add to this the positive attitude and thankfulness that comes through our prayers. The world is often so negative, and life is full of complaints, this quenches the Spirit. Let us be joyous and thankful, for this disposition enables our hearts to let the influence of the Word of God take full precedence in our lives.
Article by Tanner Campbell