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Do Not Quench the Spirit

Do Not Quench the Spirit

Sermon Transcript

Do not quench the Spirit! Join us this week as Dr. Marty Baker takes us through 1 Thessalonians 5:19 as we discuss one of the ways you can prepare yourself for His revelation is you make sure you are obedient to Him and His Word.

Mrs. Lelia Morris (1862-1929) wrote Christian hymns as she did housework.  She must have done less cleaning because she wrote over 1,000 texts and many tunes to accompany those texts.  One famous song she wrote is titled What If It Were Today.  Of course, the question this homemaker poses concerns the imminent return of Jesus Christ for His Bride, the Church:

Jesus is coming to earth again--
What if it were today?
Coming in power and love to reign--
What if it were today?
Coming to claim His chosen Bride,
All the redeemed and purified,
Over this whole earth scattered wide--
What if it were today?
Glory, glory!
Joy to my heart 'twill bring;
Glory, glory!
When we shall crown Him King.
Glory, glory!
Haste to prepare the way;
Glory, glory!
Jesus will come someday.

It will be a glorious moment when we see Christ appear in glory to take us to our heavenly home (1 Thess. 4:13-18).  Yet, as the song suggests, each believer must ask: Am I ready for His spectacular arrival?  Am I living as I should, or are there areas of my life I need to align with His teaching concerning holiness?

Paul helps believers prepare adequately for this divine day in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, which follows his exciting teaching in chapter four about the Lord’s imminent arrival. He does this by answering a hermeneutical question that naturally arises from the chapter in question:

How Should We Live In Light Of Christ’s Arrival? (1 Thess. 5:12-14)

Through a series of divinely inspired commands, Paul informs us of three crucial areas where believers need to give sound time and attention:

Our Duty Toward Leaders (1 Thess. 5:12-13). Follow your church leaders so there is unity in the body, spiritual maturity is realized, and the church is a gospel light to the community. Are you a supporter of leadership?
Our Duty Toward Followers (1 Thess. 5:14-15). Is your inner and outer life reflective of Christian virtues first toward believers and secondarily toward unbelievers?

Paul’s closing teaching zeroes in on . . .

Our Duty Toward The Lord (1 Thess. 5:16-22)

Because we fully understand the Lord’s sovereign rule over our lives and world, we naturally should be joyful in our demeanor (v.16), known for praying more often than not (v. 17), and being thankful to the Lord no matter what occurs.  How are you fairing in these pivotal areas?  To these present tense commands, Paul adds two more.

Command number four is as crucial as the prior three:

“Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19).

The phrase “the Spirit” is to pneuma ( τὸ πνεῦμα ).  It is used to identify the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12; John 1:32; 14:26).

In John 14, Jesus promised to send “another Comforter" before His crucifixion” (KJV).  In Greek, there are two words for “another.”  Heteros denotes “another of a different kind,” while allos, as used here (ἄλλος), means “another of the same kind.”  By using this particular adjective, Jesus underscored the divine nature of the coming “Comforter.”  Christ’s statement in John 14:17 leaves no doubt about this:

17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you (John 14).

Truly, believers would not be orphans (John 14:18) insofar as the Spirit would be with them individually.

What does the Spirit do for believers?  The word comforter in Greek is parakletos (παράκλητος ). Friberg’s Analytical Greek Lexicon provides us with a helpful definition of this critical term:

παράκλητος, ου, ὁ a verbal adjective with a primary meaning one called alongside to help; (1) as a legal technical term, as one who appears in another's behalf advocate, defender, intercessor (1J 2.1); (2) as one who gives protection, help, and security helper, comforter, counselor (JN 14.16).

The NIV correctly translates this term as “Advocate,” underscoring how the Spirit acts as your counselor in life and as your legal defense attorney when the Devil brings vile accusations against you in God’s heavenly courtroom (Job 1; 1 John 2:1).  He also stands before the Father to argue on your behalf when you confess your sin:

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; (1 John 2).

Aren’t you thankful for the Spirit’s presence in your life constantly?

When did you receive the Spirit? You received the Spirit the moment you became a believer. After speaking about how our faith in the person and work of Jesus justifies us as saints, not sinners, in God’s courtroom, Paul adds:

5 and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5).

At the moment of justifying faith, you received the indwelling of the Spirit.  At the precise moment of faith, the Spirit also sealed you forever as God’s child (Eph. 1:13). He also mystically baptized you into the body of Christ, the Church (1 Cor. 12:13).  This is the “one baptism” Paul speaks about in Ephesians 4:5. Nowhere in the NT are you ever commanded to get more of the Spirit by being baptized a second time by Him.  You have all of Him now. The rest of your Christian life is about being filled and controlled by Him so you grow in holiness and maturity (Eph. 5:18ff).  As you yield to Him, you spiritually flourish and logically/naturally produce the fantastic fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). As you resist Him, as you wilfully choose not to submit certain areas of your inner life to Him, you founder (which means to collapse, sink, or fail), resulting in you producing the fruits of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).

This work of the Spirit directly relates to what Paul puts in command form in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Quench not the Spirit.”  The present tense verb and the Greek negative denotes an action in progress.  Translated, Paul commanded the saints to stop quenching the work of the Spirit.”  The Greek word for quench is sbennute (σβέννυτε ). Again, Friberg’s Analytical Greek Lexicon gives us helpful insight into the precise meaning of the term:

σβέννυμι fut. σβέσω; 1aor. ἔσβεσα; literally extinguish, quench, put out something, as fire (MK 9.48) or lamps (MT 25.8); metaphorically, of an activity cause to cease, thwart, block (MT 12.20; EP 6.16); figuratively stifle, suppress, restrain (1TH 5.19).

What were some of the saints in Thessalonica guilty of before God? Extinguishing, stifling, and suppressing the work of the Spirit in their lives and church.  How did they do this to the Spirit, who is biblically likened unto fire (Matt. 3:11; Acts 2:3)?  Flip it and make it personal. How do you extinguish, stifle, and suppress the Spirit’s movement in your life and church?

Let me give you some ideas of how saints thwart the Spirit’s work by touching on a few enlightening NT texts. My list is not exhaustive by any means, but here are some areas where we extinguish, stifle, and suppress what the Spirit attempts to accomplish in and through us:

• When He convicts us of a particular sin, we continue to enjoy it instead of confessing it (Eph. 4:25-30). Do you have a sin that rules and reigns over you when this doesn’t have to be the case (Rom. 6:19)?
• When we argue against revealed biblical truth, choosing to compromise our faith. The church in Pergamos had the corner on this sinful activity (Rev. 2:14-15).
• When we tolerate and rationalize immorality, especially of a sexual nature, in our lives. The church in Thyatira sadly brought this sin into their lives and church, and that is why Jesus, the High Priest, castigated them (Rev. 2:18-29). Nothing restrains the Spirit’s desire to move saints toward sexual purity like a little sexual compromise, be what it may, here and there. Do you have any in your life?
• When we have no passion for following hard after Christ anymore.  When we go through the spiritual motions without any great zeal for truth or any real aversion to error. Christ’s pointed words to the saints in Laodicea are a warning to all saints. Nothing stifles the word of the Spirit like apathy (Rev. 3:14-22).
• When we purposefully, selfishly, and arrogantly create division in the church as the “enlightened” Corinthians did by choosing which spiritual leaders they thought we better and more gifted than others (1 Cor. 1:10-13).  Nothing thwarts the fire of the Spirit igniting the local church's work than carnal cliques pitted against each other.  Are you convicted? Are you creating unity or disunity?
• When we tie up unsuspecting believers with legalistic rules and regulations we have devised. Concerning this sinful, Spirit-fire-stifling belief system, Charles Swindoll writes in his book The Grace Awakening: “Legalism is an attitude, a mentality based on pride. It is an obsessive conformity to an artificial standard to exalt oneself. A legalist assumes the place of authority and pushes it to unwarranted extremes. As Daniel Taylor states so well, it results in illegitimate control, requiring unanimity, not unity: The great weapon of authoritarianism, secular or religious, is legalism: the manufacturing and manipulation of rules for illegitimate control. Perhaps the most damaging of all the perversions of God’s will and Christ’s work, legalism clings to law a the expense of grace, to the letter in place of the spirit.”  The Church struggled with legalism at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), and Paul constantly battled it in churches as he did in Colossae (Col. 2:16-23).  Legalism is, unfortunately, still alive and well in churches today.  I’ve dealt with it from those who say, “The church is out of God’s will unless they use the King James Version,” and from folks who vehemently argued, “Unless the church gives 10% of its tithes to the Lord, the Lord will not bless the work.” Really? Where does the NT say anything like this? It doesn’t. It’s just the “spiritual” legalist working overtime to light the fire of the Spirit from his perspective when in reality is extinguishing the Spirit’s fire of grace.

I could add many more concepts to this short list, but you get the point: Stop extinguishing, stifling, and suppressing the work the Spirit is attempting to do in you and your church.  Confess the sin you are guilty of, come clean before the Lord right, and ask Him to forgive you and fire you up to be used by Him in a radical fashion.  This is your duty before the Lord before His arrival. Make Him proud you were a sizzling saint, not a stifling saint. 

Command number five hones in on another area of our lives that might need fine-tuning. Let’s read it in several translations to illuminate the meaning:

NAS 1 Thessalonians 5:20 do not despise prophetic utterances.

NIV 1 Thessalonians 5:20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt

NKJ 1 Thessalonians 5:20 Do not despise prophecies.

As with the prior command, this one also is composed of a present tense imperative wedded to a negative.  This grammatical formula was designed to prohibit an action in progress.  Ostensibly, it contextually means the believers in Thessalonica did not readily embrace prophecies uttered among them.  They would hear them and respond with disdain and outright rejection . . . perhaps even ridicule.

How are we supposed to process and obey this particular command correctly?  Please permit me to offer some salient biblical points to help you move toward obedience correctly.

One, the word prophecy, as used by Paul here, points to the gift the Spirit gave to the Church at Pentecost.

28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues (1 Cor. 12).

These are charismatic (charisma,  χάρισμα, 1 Cor. 12:4) gifts, for they are tied to the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, they are not earthly but spiritual abilities, ones you did not possess until you became a Christian.

Second, some of the gifts were, and are, permanent, while others were temporal.  How do I know this? Consider the spiritual gift of apostleship.  What were the qualifications for the first significant spiritual gift of apostleship?

1. The man must have had personal contact with Jesus during His earthly ministry (Acts 1:8, 21-23).
2. The man must have witnessed Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; Luke 24:48; 1 Cor. 9:1-2).
3. Jesus must have appointed the man directly (Luke 6:13-16).
4. The man must have performed signs and wonders of biblical proportions  (Rom. 15:15-19; 2 Cor. 12:12).

Since no one today can fulfill these tests for apostleship, the gift is no longer available to the Church.  Yes, the word apostle does, in its base form, denote sending someone on a (divine) mission.  In this sense, there are “apostles,” for there are always saints doing great work for God by following His leadership anywhere to advance the gospel; however, this is a far cry from those individuals meeting all of the divinely ordained qualifications for the role apostle. This is just one reason why the gift was temporal and not perpetual.

Additionally, Ephesians 2:20 says explicitly that the church was built initially upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets.  Since a foundation is laid once, and then the builder moves on, we can safely and logically conclude that the apostolic and prophetic gifts period has now passed. Also, since the prophetic gift follows the apostolic gift here, Paul showed he wasn’t speaking about OT prophets but NT ones.  NT apostles and prophets formed the foundation of the Church, the mystical body of Christ. Still, after the close of the NT canon, their roles were no longer needed because we now had the complete Word of God and no longer needed new revelatory words.

Third, NT prophets were in continuity with the OT counterparts.  They both shared the same three roles: One, prophets engaged in forth-telling, or the powerful communication of the words God directly revealed to them.   They were, as Dr. Hobart Freeman points out in his book An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, “the divinely appointed moral and ethical preachers and teachers of true religion as revealed to Israel. It was their duty to admonish and reprove, to denounce prevailing sins, to threaten the people with the terrors of divine judgment, and call them to repentance. They also brought the message of consolation and pardon (Is. Xl. 1. 2).  NT prophets like Agabus (Acts 21) certainly fit this facet of the prophetic office.  Two, prophets engaged in foretelling or predicting the near and distant future with high specificity.  As Freeman notes, “But interwoven in their ethical preaching are to be found numerous predictions of future events concerning the nation of Israel, the Gentiles, and the Messianic age to come.”  OT Prophets like Daniel foretold the rise and fall of world empires with total precision (Dan. 2, 7).  NT prophets like Agabus foretold in great detail what would occur to Paul on his trip to Jerusalem (Acts 21).  John, speaking by way of prophecy, has given us a highly detailed chronological account of God’s final judgment of the wicked, followed by the establishment of His glorious Davidic empire, in the book of Revelation.  Again, the need for prophets passed once the biblical canon was closed.  The foundation of the Church had been established and verified, and now it was called to go forth and be the body of Christ to the world by employing its other spiritual gifts.

In the times of the Thessalonican church, the gift of prophecy was still functioning.  Hence, when a prophet did stand up in the congregation to forthtell and to foretell, some saints met that prophet with disparaging, mocking words for they didn’t like, or agree with, what they had to say.  With this particular command, Paul sought to nip that spiritual snobbish response in the bud to the divinely ordained revelation that could encourage and edify the body (1 Cor. 14:1-12).

What does this command, therefore, mean to us today? Good question. Here is my answer:  Since Jesus is the spirit of all prophetic utterance (Rev. 19:10),  and Jesus is also the living Word (John 1:1), and all of Scripture . . . whether it is poetic or prophetic . . . is God’s breath (2 Tim. 3:16), Paul warns us not ever to be guilty of pushing back against, opposing, or denigrating the Word of God.  Why would Christians do this?

• Because they find the Word is too narrow and exclusive when it comes to sex and gender.
• Because they find the Word is too judgmental, making them uncomfortable.
• Because they find the Word is not inclusive enough of anyone and everyone.
• Because they find the Word isn’t equitable insofar as it speaks of merit and reward for service rendered.
• Because they find the Word too horrific in how it portrays the coming judgment of the Lord against Satan and the wicked world system.
• Because they don’t like how God conducted warfare in Israel’s quest for the Promised Land.
• Because they can’t wrap their minds around how there is a heaven and a terrible eternal place called hell.

And so on.

Last year a Christian lady wrote me a letter a year ago saying why she would not visit our church.  She said she liked the sermons and appreciated our ministries as she checked them out online and our outreach into the community.  But when she looked at our pastoral staff, elders, and lay staff, she said we were sinning insofar as we were not diverse enough.  She couldn’t, therefore, ever attend a church so out of touch with what God calls the church to be.

Here is a person who has legalistically constructed cultural criteria for how to build a church.  We don’t follow her method for building a church, staff or otherwise.  We follow what the Word of God says. For instance, where elders are concerned, we look at the spiritual criteria of the candidate, not the skin color criteria (1 Tim. 3).  She pushes against this selection standard. Still, we don’t, and won’t, because her method is not biblical but cultural.  In a sense, it is despising prophecy or denigrating the revealed Word of God.  We don’t and won’t ever go down this slippery slope because we showcase what the Scripture says, not what man says.

The Lord has given us much diversity if one wants to look around. We thank Him for this ever-growing reality for such is the kingdom of heaven (Rev. 21:24). But until we are in heaven, with all the nations gathered around His magnificent throne, we preach and teach the Word, share His gospel to all mankind, and build a church around biblical principles, not earthly ones.

The King is coming.  Are you ready for His glorious arrival? One of the ways you prepare yourself for His revelation is you make sure you are obedient to Him in these two crucial areas: One, you are not guilty of stifling the work of the Spirit in your life, and two, you are not guilty of rejecting the Word of God because it bothers you, doesn’t fit your cultural grid, unnerves you an and so forth. If you’ve sinned in either of these areas, then get right with the Lord today.  “Lord, forgive me for quenching your Spirit in this particular area: (name it). Lord, forgive me for despising parts of your Word I find off-putting and discomforting.”  Confess, and He will forgive, restate, and empower you to live an impactful life until He comes for you.