We quench the Spirit through ignorance and abuse of His power. Our growth and lives depend on His work and real intimacy with God is impossible without Him.
Do not quench the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
The gift of the Holy Spirit is, in Jesus’ own words, the reason why He left earth and returned to heaven. Yet even Spirit-filled believers often neglect the vital truth that the Spirit of God fills each one of us to effect God’s purposes. The Holy Spirit is, in effect, the ‘doer’ in the Trinity relationship – from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. When we neglect His dynamic presence, we neglect the purpose and will of God in our lives. It’s a very real challenge for all believers – both those filled with the Spirit and those who are not. Jesus returned to heaven so that He could release His resurrection power into our lives. When we quench the Spirit, we quench the power of God at work in and through us.
How we quench the Spirit.
At its most simple, we quench the Spirit when we don’t listen or allow ourselves to be led. Of course, if we’re not yet filled with the Spirit, we effectively reject this wonderful gift of God. Tragically, there are way too many Christians who believe this is a ‘selective’ gift – it’s only for the Apostles or early believers, or for a selected few. This is wrong teaching. It’s deceptive and has cut believers off from the vital wellspring of resurrection life Christ has promised every single one of His followers. It denies and contradicts the Word of God and leaves His people outside of a large portion of His power and grace.
The Bible teaches that we should be led by the Spirit and be continually filled by the Spirit. When we neglect these two fundamental commands, we quench the Spirit. To be led means we must first listen and hear, and this implies surrender – a teachable spirit. To be continually filled means we must acknowledge our need of the Spirit, not as a once-off infilling but as a continual filling up, a daily outpouring of the Spirit of God into our lives. He is limitless, but we quench Him when we do not make ourselves available to receive Him.
What it means to quench the Spirit.
The word ‘quench’ immediately brings to mind the imagery of fire – which, of course, is one of the symbols we associate with the Holy Spirit. But the Greek word in today’s verse means more than to simply ‘put out’ or ‘extinguish.’ It also means ‘to suppress’ or ‘to thwart.’ To quench the Spirit, then, means to extinguish, suppress, or thwart the voice and work of the Spirit. To understand this better, we look at the purposes of the Spirit – to lead, teach, guide, bring peace, comfort us, empower us, protect us… It’s a long list, but if we look at each one, we begin to see what it means – the consequences of – quenching the Spirit.
The church has a longing to see God move in power among us. We hunger and thirst to see an ‘Acts church’ where God reveals Himself daily in bold and dramatic ways. But we lose sight of the critical reality that those early Christians had one thing that defined them – Pentecost. The work of the Holy Spirit was the sign and seal of their faith and calling. They lived in surrender to Him, listened and obeyed His voice, and yielded self to the purposes of God. When we quench the Spirit, we suppress or thwart His work. It’s an all or nothing thing. We can be selective about what we want the Spirit to do. Either we accept the full purposes of God through the Spirit, or we resist Him and live without Him.
To quench the Spirit slows our growth.
The reality is that, because of our human nature, we need the supernatural work of the Spirit in us to grow to Christian maturity. It is the Spirit which prompts us to read the Word and to find the discipline to do so. The Spirit teaches us. He releases spiritual understanding which is not possible with fleshly intellect. Spiritual revelation comes through the Spirit when He expounds the Word of God and reveals those truths that are relevant in any particular circumstance. When we quench the Spirit, therefore, we slow our knowledge of the Word and its practical application. We are slow to grow.
Walking in the Spirit also increases our faith, which is fundamental to our growth. If we find we have no more faith than we did a year ago, it’s likely that we’ve hindered the work of the Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who reveals to us the things of God – the things that strengthen our faith. Our faith grows only in relation to our knowledge of God – faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. When we quench the Spirit, we cut ourselves off from a deep revelation of the truth and reality of God. We limit our faith, and in turn, we limit the blessings that come with exercising faith. When we step out in faith, that’s when we grow.
To quench the Spirit limits God’s power.
Of course, we cannot really limit God’s power in the sense that it’s eternal and all powerful. Man cannot impact the power of the great I AM. But therein lies the tragedy. This limitless, immeasurable power is available to each believer, yet we limit its work in our lives. God only pours out when we ask. He only works when we step aside in surrender. He only acts when we act in obedience. When we quench the Spirit and try to impose our selective obedience, we effectively cut ourselves off from the saving grace of God’s almighty power.
When we speak of God’s power we immediately think of miracles and signs and wonders. These are manifestations of God’s power, but there is also the daily power to live righteously before Him, to obey His Word, to love Him and worship Him as we should, and to manifest Him in the world. It’s the power to ‘go’ and preach the Gospel, or to make disciples, or simply to be still and know that He is God. We need the power of God in us to resist temptation and to stand in faith. His power enables us to stand firm and to love those who seek to harm us. In every situation, circumstance, or event in our lives, we need the power of God. When we quench the Spirit, we not only shut the door on the big things – the miracles, signs, and wonders – but on the critical, day-to-day things. We’re effectively trying to run the race after we’ve shot ourselves in both feet.
When we quench the Spirit, we avoid intimacy.
This is perhaps the most tragic consequence of all. God has restored us through the death of His Son so that we may have intimacy with Him. We can come as sons, not supplicants. A father-son relationship is characterised by intimacy. Jesus had this kind of relationship, and the power of the Spirit of God flowed in and through Him to achieve awesome things. But the power is the outworking – the overflow – of intimacy. What’s truly important is the relationship. When we quench the Spirit who leads us into intimacy, we shut the door on the awesome privilege the God of the universe has extended to us.
We must never forget that God is Spirit, and those who worship Him can only do so in Spirit and in truth. Without the Spirit, true intimacy with God – a real, transforming relationship with Him – is impossible. It is the Spirit who helps us to pray – to commune with God. When we quench the Spirit, our prayers become empty and meaningless. They are not imbued with the supernatural power God intended and which can only be released by the Spirit. How tragic it is that, after the lengths our God has gone to, we turn away from this enormous gift simply because, at the end of the day, we want to impose our own will and preferences on our intimate relationship with Him. If we lack intimacy, we lack power. We meet God on His terms or not at all.
To abuse the Spirit is also to quench the Spirit.
The other extreme is the growing tendency among Christians to abuse the Spirit. By this I mean the so-called ‘outpourings’ of the Spirit, often accompanied by ‘manifestations’ that are blatantly demonic or simply mass-hysteria. We abuse the Spirit when we lose balance between Word and Spirit. It’s critical that we remember that the Spirit will never work without the Word. When the Spirit is glorified at the expense of Father and Son, we can be absolutely certain that the Spirit will remove Himself immediately. He only works what God commands. If God isn’t commanding through His Word, the Spirit isn’t working. It’s an utterly not-negotiable thing. When the Spirit is forced to step back to avoid being abused, we effectively quench the Spirit – we deny Him the opportunity to do His work.
The Holy Spirit isn’t God’s earthly vending machine. He has not been sent to gratify our desires or ‘feel good’ tendencies. The symbolic imagery of the Spirit reminds us of who and what He is. Fire is cleansing, refining, and judgement. Water is cleansing, renewing, and life-giving. The dove is peace and restoration. There’s nothing in there about pandering to our selective responses and jumping when we say please. We quench the Spirit when we abuse His purpose and try to use it for our own agendas. When the Holy Spirit steps back, the power of God at work in us is absent. We are left vulnerable, open to the deceptions, seductions, and manipulations of both man and the devil. And we can be sure that Satan will grab every opportunity to masquerade as the Spirit of God.
Do not quench the Spirit.
This may well be one of the shortest sentences in the Bible, but it’s also one of the most powerful. The work of the Holy Spirit is absolutely critical in our lives – even in the tiny details that we imagine God cannot be concerned with. In giving us the Spirit, Jesus gave us all of Himself. But receiving all of Him means laying down all of us. We quench the Spirit to our own cost. Our stubbornness and pride, our self-centred choices, and our ignorance or misunderstanding separates us from the very resurrection life that Christ purchased for us on the cross. Do we want to continue in a spiritual half-life, or will we have the courage, today, to take up the challenge and surrender all to work of God in our lives? If we truly desire to live as God intends, He will be sure to pour out His Holy Spirit in truth and power.
Father, forgive us for those times and situations when we quench the Spirit. We thank You for this measureless gift of grace. Help us to come in surrender and obedience, to listen, to hear, and to obey. May Your Spirit work in our hearts, Lord, to draw us to the truth that we need Your Spirit in all things. Help us to start with the little details, to ask to be filled each day as we wake, and to yield every moment so that we can obey the command to not quench the Spirit.