Quenching the Holy Spirit

Straight Talk

The Question

What does quench not the Holy Spirit mean – 1 Thessalonians 5:19?

LT from Paterson, NJ

The Answer
Part 1: Throwing a wet blanket on God’s Spirit

Throwing a wet blanket on God’s Spirit

Let’s read the scripture in its context to see if we can get a better idea of it. I really like the way the Holman CSB translates it because of its simplicity. “ Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t stifle the Spirit. Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

We live in the age where we often reduce communications to sound bytes so we ought to really appreciate these little nuggets written way before their time. They express in a nutshell how a Christian should conduct life. What if one did nothing more than these simple admonitions? They could live a pretty successful life, couldn’t they?

Now in particular, what does it mean to “quench not” the Spirit? Some other synonyms for quench might be: stifle, suppress, dampen, extinguish, or smother. The sense is of a fire burning and someone comes along to put it out. Remember that the Holy Spirit is often likened to fire. When he fell on the 120 in the upper room on Pentecost “tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them.” (Acts 2:3) That’s when they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

To quench the Holy Spirit thus means to reject his work. The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day tried to extinguish the Spirit’s work. They criticized every miracle, rebuffed every healing, scorned every deliverance and ultimately they rejected God’s gift to them and their nation. All of those same actions are possible today. Apparently even the Thessalonians were succumbing to that cynical sour attitude and that’s why Paul warned them.

He gives one particular example of quenching the Spirit: despising prophecies. That can be extended to rejecting any of the Holy Spirit given gifts and is usually what people mean when they quote 1 Thessalonians 5:19. The Holy Spirit is moving in some way and people resist because it doesn’t fit their doctrine or style. However, as long as we follow the guidelines to test all things and hold fast to the good we should never shy away from the continued work of our great Comforter and Counselor.