Quench Not the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Don't Put Out the Fire!
Summary: “Do not quench the Spirit,” wrote the apostle Paul to Christians! Yet we can easily end up grieving the Holy Spirit and putting out His Holy Ghost fire by simple lapses, often unintentional. Here’s some preventive medicine from the Scriptures.
Ezekiel 47:1-5, 9 …  As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross…  Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.
John 7:37-39a On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
• Jesus said that the living water is the Holy Spirit (vs. 39). The third Person of the Trinity is likened to a “flow” — “the river flows” (Ezekiel 47:9) … “rivers of living water will flow” (John 7:38).
• Unfortunately, it’s possible for us Christians to impede that Holy-Ghost flow, even unintentionally. The apostle Paul warns us to “quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19, KJV). Various translations of this verse exhort us: “Don’t suppress … don’t subdue … extinguish not … don’t stop the work of … do not restrain … don’t stifle the Holy Spirit … don’t put out the Spirit’s fire.” In today's terms, we might say, "Don't be a spiritual fire extinguisher!"
• I think I can safely conclude that not one of you reading this today deliberately wants to quench the Holy Spirit. We need His presence and power in our lives and ministries. So let’s see what the prophet Ezekiel and the apostle John have to say to help us not to stifle the Spirit of God and His desire to work in and through us.
In Ezekiel’s vision, some swim in the flow; others remain stationary and do not “flow with” the life-giving water’s current.
• If my feet are anchored to the bottom of the river, I remain earthbound. I disrupt the free flow of the water of life. It may be flowing well elsewhere, but if my feet are firmly planted on the river bottom, I remain earthbound. If I’m anchored and unmoving, God’s flow is heading somewhere that I am not going. I remain anchored to my ideas, my agenda, my understanding, my plans. And I miss the mind and the will of God.
In John 7, Jesus gives us some prerequisites for the Holy Spirit to flow in and from us. Any lack of these will impede, will quench the Spirit’s flow — at least the flow in our lives. Maybe others are being blessed, but we will miss it!
(1) “If anyone is thirsty” — that’s who will experience the flow, those who thirst for it. By contrast, a casual, nonchalant attitude to the Holy Spirit will suppress His flow in us.
(2) “Whoever believes in me [Jesus]” — flowing in the Spirit is in the realm of faith, not intellect. A merely intellectualized Christianity, which is the norm in much of the western hemisphere, sees very little “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).
(3) “Let him come to me [Jesus]” — the bible does not tell us to “seek the Holy Spirit.” Rather, we are told to seek the Lord. It is a faith centered on Jesus that best opens us to the flow of the Holy Spirit. In fact, all four Gospels speak of Jesus as the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8, et al.). Do you want a greater measure of the Holy Spirit in your life? Then come to Jesus with that prayerful request, and He will provide those “rivers of living water [that] will flow from within” you (John 7:38).
(4) “…come to me and drink” — the flow of the Holy Spirit comes to those who “desire spiritual gifts … [who] covet to prophesy … [who] seek to excel in those [spiritual gifts]” (1 Corinthians 14:1, 12, 39, KJV). A laid-back approach to the things of God will impede the flow of the Spirit.
2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
KJV: …as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
• Subjecting the Scriptures to our “own interpretation” will rob them of their power in our lives. We are to study and understand the bible as it was given — that is, to men who were “carried along [KJV: moved] by the Holy Spirit.”
• God’s word has immense power for our lives. But we must ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate it for us, so that we understand what He intends it to mean and to do.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt.
• We can impede the Spirit’s flow by fear, apprehension, or uneasiness that causes us to shy away from things that the Holy Spirit is wanting to do (the gift of prophecy, for example, in this verse).
• In the 1970s some Christian leaders saw the hippies getting saved and being filled with the Spirit, and they backed off from them. By so doing, they missed the Charismatic and “Jesus People” Movements that the Holy Spirit was orchestrating at that time, movements that affected the lives of millions for good.
• Some Christians in our day treat the gifts of the Spirit “with contempt” (as with prophecy above). By doing that, they “put out the Spirit’s fire” that God intends for the blessing of their churches.
• Even we who believe in these things can drift into accepting the spiritual gifts with a “ho-hum” attitude and thus be guilty of quenching the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:28-31 …steal no longer …  do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths …  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
• Taken in context, we see here that bad character and bad conduct grieve the Holy Spirit.
• One fast track to impeding the flow of the Holy Spirit in your life is to grieve Him by such things as dishonesty, unwholesome talk, bitterness, bad temper, fighting, slander, etc. Why should the Holy Spirit be expected to flow in such a person? After all, He is the Holy Spirit!
Acts 10:38 …how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
• We can quench the flow of the Holy Spirit passively by failing to use what we have. The apostle Peter wrote, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10).
• Having been anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus got busy! He “went around doing good and healing…” Similarly, the newly Spirit-filled apostle Peter came up to the lame man (Acts 3:6) and said, “What I do have I give you.” And he ministered healing to the paralyzed man.
Summary: The anointing of the Holy Spirit is a priceless treasure. Let’s not impede the flow of the Holy Spirit by:
• keeping ourselves rooted to this world and its ideas and ways
• staying rooted in our agenda, and thereby missing where the Holy Spirit wants to go and to flow
• failing to stay spiritually thirsty; that is, by letting a nonchalant, casual attitude creep into how we regard the Spirit of God
• drifting into an intellectualized Christianity, rather than pursuing a deeply faith-based relationship with the things of God
• failing to keep Jesus at the center of our lives and our faith
• getting content and laid back and failing to actively “come and drink”
• imposing our own interpretations on the Scriptures, thereby stifling the Holy Spirit’s efforts to apply them properly and fruitfully in our lives
• putting out the fire by taking a ho-hum or even a contemptuous approach to the gifts of the Holy Spirit
• bad character and bad conduct
• a passive approach to the Holy Spirit anointing, thereby failing to use this great gift from God