Bible Question:

What does it mean “Do not quench the Spirit? ”

Bible Answer:

The scripture passage you are quoting is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

Do not quench the Spirit . . . (NASB) 1 Thess 5:19

Meaning of the Greek. The actual Greek words read “the Spirit not quench.” The Greek language places the most important part of the sentence first. So verse 19 is emphasizing “the Spirit.” We also need to note that the root Greek word for “quench” is SBENNUMI which means “to extinguish” or “to go out.” The word was used to refer to putting out fires, sparks, or the putting out of a lamp. The word is used in Matthew 25:8,

And the foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. (NASB) Matt. 25:8

Now we have part of the information required to understand the verse. So far the verse says that we are not to “put out the Holy Spirit.” The ministry of the Holy Spirit was evidenced by flames of fire (Acts 2:3). We must not forget that God is called a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) and His angels are flames of fire (2 Thess. 1:7). The Holy Spirit is never actually called a flame or fire, but His ministry was like fire.

Context of the Verse. Now we need the context to give us the meaning of the verse.

Rejoice always;
pray without ceasing;
in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
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. (NASB) 1 Thess. 5:16-22

This passage is wonderful. It deals with three aspects of holiness: talking to the Lord, allowing the Spirit to minister to us, and pursuing righteousness. In the Greek, the passage is broken into four statements. I have highlighted every other grouping. Each statement is like a proverb. Each group has similar ideas. The first grouping is rejoicing, praying and giving thanks. The third group is examining everything in order to hold to that which is good, and the last group is “abstaining from evil.” The second group, not quench and not despise, is the one we are interested in. They go together. So how do not quenching the Holy Spirit and not despising prophetic utterances go together? The grouping is about the ministries of the Spirit.

Meaning of the Verse. Both the meaning of the Greek and the context of the passage tell us the ministry of the Spirit is Paul’s concern. We are not to quench the ministry of the Spirit! Is Paul talking about not hindering the ministry of the gifts of the Spirit, or the convicting ministry of the Spirit, or the teaching ministry of the Spirit, or His ministry of leading and filling? The answer is “Yes” to all of them.

There are many ways one can hinder ministry of the Holy Spirit. First, we hinder His work in our life when we sin, because we grieve Him (Eph. 4:30-31).

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (NASB) Eph. 4:30-31

When we sin, His ministry of teaching us is hindered (John 16:8; 1 Cor. 2:12-14). 1 and 2 Timothy reveal another way we can hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in our life.

Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. (NASB) 1 Timothy 4:14

And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord . . . (NASB) 2 Timothy 21:6-8

In these passages, Paul encourages Timothy to not neglect the spiritual gift given to him during a commissioning service. By the time Paul writes 2 Timothy it appears that Timothy was not using this spiritual gift as much as he should. The ministry of the Spirit through him was hindered. These few examples reveal that we can hinder the ministry of the Spirit by 1) sinning and 2) not using the spiritual gifts given to us. We can also hinder the ministry by despising another’s spiritual gift.

And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you;” or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary . . . (NASB) 1 Corinthians 12:21-22

Someone could have the gift of giving and despise the one with the gift of serving. Someone could be jealous of the one who can give.

Conclusion:

We should seek to encourage others to use their spiritual gifts. We should help others find opportunity for ministry. We should encourage one another not to sin. We should submit to the Holy Spirit’s desire to fill us and to control us. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. When we are not filled by His Spirit, we are not living under His control. His effectiveness through us is hindered.

. . . understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit . . . (NASB) Eph. 5:17-18

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh . . . Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing . . . (NASB) Gal. 5:16-21

This is a wonderful command resulting in victory over sin and usefulness to God. When we are filled we are walking in His Spirit. As we are filled and as we constantly walk in His Spirit, we find increasing victory over sin. Not to yield to His Spirit hinders the Spirit’s ministry in our life and through us.