Do not quench the Spirit. — 1 Thessalonians 5:19
Have you ever met someone who puts ketchup on everything? They put it on eggs, mac n cheese, even on chocolate cake! 1 Thessalonians 5:19 is a “ketchup verse” because some people try to apply it to everything, even things it really doesn’t and shouldn’t be applied to.
Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, describes the Holy Spirit like a fire that can be quenched. If you have been to a bonfire or in a Cracker Barrell recently, you can get a mental picture of this. Like fire in a fireplace, the Holy Spirit’s power can be strengthened or snuffed out in our lives. What does this look like?
It is common to hear this verse used to describe a dry Sunday worship experience. But the primary meaning of quenching the Spirit has little to do with a Sunday worship experience and much more to do with the marks of the Spirit in our daily lives. Context is key.
Verses 16-18 set the context for verse 19. What does it like when the Spirit isn’t quenched? 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
When the Spirit is ignited in our life we live counter culturally with joy in the face of opposition.
We live with consistent humble prayer. We are thankful, marking our blessings rather than marking our burdens. The primary mark of the Holy Spirit is a life devoted to God. But the Spirit also enables us to believe what God has said.
Verse 19 flows right into verses 20-22, Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
The Holy Spirit isn’t just concerned with the lives we live but also the doctrine we believe. God calls us to strike a balance. Spirit and doctrine are never enemies. The Spirit of truth is a theologian and thus we should strive for the truth. Don’t despise something that claims to come from God but rather test what you hear and hold fast to what is good.
This was relevant for the Thessalonians who were beset with rumors about the apostle Paul and controversies regarding the end times. It is even more relevant for us as false teaching has never been more accessible than now. There are literally millions of hours of falsehood on the internet and in bookstores and much of it claims to come from professing Christians! God’s people must be careful to weigh everything against God’s Word and hold fast to what is true.
We quench the Spirit when we believe false things.
Finally, the Spirit-empowered life abstains from evil. Paul closes and puts a nice bow tying together the whole section. To quench the Spirit is to live with our own preferences rather than believing and living God’s precepts.
Would we say the Holy Spirit is a white-hot fire in our lives? What about our churches and families? The good news is that God is far more gracious than we are rebellious. Through repentance, the fire can be reignited. Through turning back to the fuel of God’s Word, the Spirit can burn again and cause us to love God with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.
May we not quench the Spirit and may God light His people on fire for His glory!