January 21, 2013

Sins Against The Spirit III: The Fire That Should Stay Lit

1 Thessalonians 5:19

1 Thessalonians 5:19 ~ “Do not quench the Spirit…”

The context of this verse needs to be seen in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. As is common in the closing of one of Paul’s letters, he offers parting advice, encouragement, exhortation, edification and warnings that are both theological and practical. 1 Thessalonians is no different.

“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. ~1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

We today have the hindsight and Bible to preach our message of the Gospel. At the time of Paul’s writing this there may have been assorted writings but certainly not the completed canonized Scripture that we have today (Hendriksen-Thessalonians 139, Wiersbe-Vol. 2 189). This would’ve required the likes of “prophesying” or a person who “speaks forth”. As is common in the absence of syntax in the Greek, Paul places the most important emphasis in the beginning of his statement. “Don’t quench the Spirit”. This begs the question: Quench it how? He tells us in the next clause: By treating prophecies [from God] with contempt (whether purposely or accidently). Therefore we are to test or prove the things said.

The people Paul is writing to/preached the truth to were moved by the Holy Spirit. Their spiritual knowledge was given to them by the Spirit. As is attested to all throughout the New Testament, they often they spoke in a tongue. It is possible that is why the three gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge are grouped together in 1 Corinthians 13. Because of this immediacy of the spiritual there seems to have been a high probability of deception since Satan or our very own flesh could counterfeit the received message and lead not just the receiver of the message astray but all who were listening (Hendriksen-Thessalonians 150).

Those listening that mistakenly tried to silence the speaker that was speaking truth from the Spirit of God would be guilty of suppressing the Spirit. Conversely, those that believed a false spirit would be in trouble too because they would be obeying false spirits. Because we have Scripture we do not need the prophets per se as mentioned above but in Paul’s time they would’ve needed to discern the spirits or “test them all” or as some Bible versions say “prove all things”. Paul had given specific rules for this in 1 Corinthians 14:29-33 so when Paul says uses the word quench in verse 19, Paul most likely would’ve have envisioned the Spirit as fire as in Acts 2:3. So when Paul says “quenching” the Spirit he is saying do not “put out” or cease the work of the Spirit in our lives whether this be in our hearts or someone verbalizing a truth (Wiersbe-Vol. 2 189). 

This obviously requires that we discern what type of spirit we are dealing with. Are they evil spirits, the spirit of the world, our spirit or is it the Holy Spirit within us? It is important that we allow the Spirit free reign in our hearts, our lives and in the Church to do His work. Wiersbe is clever to note that heat (perhaps from a flame) can also melt things together…like His Church. Once we decide which these utterances are, verse 22 tells us we are to either (1) hold on to what’s good or (2) reject or throw away what is evil of not of the Holy Spirit.

Shut-up, Sit Down and Do What the Spirit Tells You

To conclude this section and the paper in general, I offer this closing thought. We in the church are called by the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 to take the Gospel throughout the entire world in the name of the Father, Son….and Holy Spirit. It stands to reason that we are not to prevent this work in any way. Yet this is exactly what many do in modern churches when they attempt to promote their own agendas or try to force the Church into a prefab business model situation where everything is formulaic and choreographed. We shove and stuff the Holy Spirit into a box (or at least try to) and He is only allowed to come out except at certain times like a divine Jack-In-The-Box. Those times that we let Him out usually are right after the emotive music played to solicit an emotional response or right before the tithe baskets hit the end of the aisle. 

In this way we demean and abuse the work of the Spirit (resist, quench). We inadvertently (or worse) purposely make Him part of a circus sideshow meant to entertain people (2 Tim 4), rather than have the meaningful worship God meant to have in church…just as it has been spelled out for us in Scripture. The truth is that we may plant and water the seeds of the Gospel but it is the work of God through the Spirit that makes the seed of the Gospel germinate and take root (Matthew 13:18-23, 1 Corinthians 3:6-9). In the end it should be the Holy Spirit that dictates how He works through us…we need to let the Spirit work through us, not sin against Him by fighting Him every step of the way thinking we know better.

As it was with the Scribes and Pharisees, so to it could be with us today. We like them are fallen sinful people and it is only the work of the Spirit that would make us different from them. In other words, it is the very act or actions of the Spirit in us (whom we are capable grieving, resisting or blaspheming) that creates the very difference in us that prevents us from remaining like the Scribes and Pharisees of old. 

Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of First and Second Thessalonians and Pastoral Epistles. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979. Print.
Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979. Print.
Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973. Print.
Kistemaker, Simon. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1990. Print.
Longenecker, Richard N.. Acts: Expositor's Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1995. Print.
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor/Cook Communications, 2001. Print.
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor/Cook Communications, 2001. Print.

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