Quenching the Spirit

Near the close of Paul’s first epistle to Thessalonica, he gave several brief exhortations. One of these was the instruction, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). What does it mean to “quench the Spirit”? The Greek word that is translated quench means to extinguish, or put out. This makes us think of extinguishing a fire. The word of God is compared to a fire elsewhere as Jeremiah described it as “a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9).

We should also remember that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). To “quench the Spirit” is to remove the power from the gospel. After all, the revealed word is the product of the Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; John 15:26-27). The gospel is designed to convert the lost and edify the saved. Quenching the Spirit prevents these things and, ultimately, will cause us to forfeit our salvation. So we should look at how we are to preach so as not to quench the Spirit. How do we “quench the Spirit”?

Failing to Teach the Gospel

The most obvious way we quench the Spirit is by not teaching the gospel. We need to remember that the Spirit uses no other means of calling men other than the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Those who do not hear the gospel will not be saved (Romans 10:14-17). Paul said that punishment would come “to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). No one will escape this fate without first hearing the gospel. If they are never taught, they will be lost. The gospel will not save if it is not preached.

After obeying the gospel, Christians are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord” (2 Peter 3:18). The word of God is able to build us up (Acts 20:32) and cause us to grow. We are to begin by taking in the “milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2). Then, as we become “accustomed to the word of righteousness,” we are to proceed to “solid food” (Hebrews 5:13-14). We need to continue this process of growth. The teaching of the gospel is vitally important in a Christian’s development. But if we fail to teach the gospel, we “quench the Spirit” because we have eliminated the opportunity for the gospel to do its work.

Perverting the Gospel: Adding to It

For the gospel to save, it must be the pure, unadulterated, gospel of Christ. Paul rebuked the Galatians for “deserting” Christ “for a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He explained that what made the message they were following “a different gospel” was that is was a distorted form of the true gospel (Galatians 1:7). If we change or pervert the gospel, we are quenching the Spirit.

The first major controversy to arise in the church had to do with brethren adding to the gospel. Some wanted to bind circumcision and the Law upon Gentile converts (Galatians 2:3-4; 5:1-5; Acts 15:1-2, 7-10). Those who did this had “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4), and “put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke with neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10). What is so dangerous about this is that when we add to the gospel and teach our opinions as matters of faith, those we convert will be converted to our system of law instead of being converted to Christ. Jesus spoke of this in regard to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were guilty of binding human traditions as matters of faith (cf. Matthew 15:2). So Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).

Paul told Timothy of the Spirit’s warning that “some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Who were these ones that had gone into apostasy? Some were “men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3). We have no right to teach that one must not marry who has a right to marry or that one cannot eat certain foods. We are certainly allowed our own personal opinions in those matters (Romans 14:1-6), but we cannot impose those opinions upon others. If we do this, we “fall away from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1), and lead others down that path (Matthew 23:15). The gospel will not save if we add our own opinions and ideas to it.

Perverting the Gospel: Taking Away from It

Paul declared he was innocent because he proclaimed the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, NKJV). Many do not want this. They want “positive” preaching, not “negative.” Yet Paul told Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). He did not say anything about “positive” or “negative” teaching. What did Timothy need to do in order to “preach the word”? He needed to “reprove, rebuke, exhort.” Some of that may seem negative, but that does not matter. Regardless of whether others will view parts of the gospel and “positive” or “negative,” we have an obligation to do as Paul did and preach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Despite this responsibility, some want to take away portions of God’s word. This is particularly evident with regard to salvation. Some teach that salvation is by faith only and that obedience (works) is unnecessary. Yet James wrote, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). What about repentance? Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). Some will accept the conditions of salvation up to this point, but what about baptism? This is where many step back and say that baptism is not necessary for salvation. But Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). How can we say we truly believe if we refuse baptism? James wrote, “Show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). How can we be saved if we refuse to be baptized. After all, Peter plainly stated, “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). We cannot leave out anything the Bible teaches about salvation.

We also cannot omit other portions of God’s word. The Spirit convicts the world of sin (John 16:8). This is done through the word of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). But some do not want to hear sin condemned. This Spirit also warns of apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1). But some do not want to hear error opposed. The first step toward apostasy is a lack of teaching. The gospel will not save if we fail to preach parts of it.

Using Other Means to Draw People to Christ

Jesus draws men to Him (John 12:32). This is done through the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). But many use other means besides the gospel to reach people – food, fun, and “fellowship.” This demonstrates their lack of faith in God’s plan.

If people are not converted with the gospel, the gospel will not keep them. This is made clear after Jesus performed a miracle and fed five thousand (John 6:1-14). Following this miracle, He crossed the sea to Capernaum and the crowds followed (John 6:24). Jesus knew why they followed Him, so He said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). So what? They came to Jesus with the hope that He would feed them. This would be a great opportunity to preach to them, right? That is the thinking of many today. Yet when Jesus proceeded to teach them here, they complained of His “difficult statement” (John 6:60) and “grumbled” (John 6:61) and “as a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). But many today think the church can do this – draw people in by appealing to physical things, then preach to them spiritual things. This will not work. The church that attempts this must continue to use gimmicks to keep these people. They have not been converted to Christ, only to the church and what the church can provide them. The gospel will not save if we substitute something else for it.

Conclusion

We must teach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, NKJV) – nothing more, nothing less. If we do this, we will ensure salvation for ourselves and those who hear us (1 Timothy 4:16). If we do not, we quench the Spirit and jeopardize the fate of our soul and the souls of others.


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