Bible Question:

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

Bible Answer:

Scripture tells us in Romans 8:9 and 1 Corinthians 3:16 that the Holy Spirit dwells within every Christian. The Holy Spirit helps us in so many different ways such as: He helps us pray, understand Scripture and have victory over sin. Therefore, 1 Thessalonians 5:19 warn Christians to not quench the Spirit. You will discover why this is important as you read the following. Here is 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

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

Meaning of the Greek

The actual order of the Greek words is “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 sbennymi which means “to extinguish,” “to put out” or “to go out.” The word was used to refer to putting out fires, sparks, or the putting out of a lamp.

The Greek word, sbennymi, is used eight times in the New Testament. Matthew 25:8 is just one example.

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

Here the word is translated as “going out.” In Matthew 12:20 is translated as “put out.” Therefore, we could rewrite 1 Thessalonians 5:19 as “put out the Holy Spirit.” The ministry of the Holy Spirit was evidenced by flames of fire in Acts 2:3. We must not forget that God is called a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) and His angels are flames of fire (2 Thessalonians 1:7). The Holy Spirit is never actually called a flame or fire, but His ministry was like fire. Therefore, we are told to not put out the 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. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 (NASB)

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. 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, to not quench and to not despise prophetic utterances, 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? What do they have in common? They are ministries of the Spirit.

Meaning and Importance 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 is only one way to hinder the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We hinder the Spirit’s work in our life when we sin, because we grieve Him.

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. Ephesians 4:30-31 (NASB)

When we sin, the Spirit’s teaching ministry is hindered (John 16:8; 1 Corinthians 2:12-14).

Example of Quenching The Spirit

An example of quenching the Spirit occurs in 1 and 2 Timothy. The example reveals the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christians is hindered when we neglect using the spiritual gift He gives to us. It is a sin to not use the gift.

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. 1 Timothy 4:14 (NASB)

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 . . . 2 Timothy 1:6-8 (NASB)

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 because he was not using the spiritual gifts given to us.

But this is not the only way a Christian quenches the Spirit. We quench the Spirit anytime we sin. Any sin, figuratively speaking, “lowers the fire” of the Spirit in our lives.


We should submit to the Holy Spirit’s desire to fill us and to control us since 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 . . . Ephesians 5:17-18  (NASB)

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 . . . Galatians 5:16-21  (NASB)

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 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.

Suggested Links:

How To Be Filled With The Spirit
What are the signs that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit?
Does one have to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost to be saved?
Be Filled With The Spirit, part 1
Be Filled With The Spirit, part 2
Be Filled With The Spirit, part 3