10 Things You Should Know About Quenching the Holy Spirit

In 1 Thessalonians 5 we are told that the Spirit has, in some sense, granted to the Christian the power and authority either to restrict or release what he does in the life of the local church.

What are we to do with this? Certainly the Holy Spirit can accomplish all that he wills to accomplish. But it is no less true that in certain instances, especially when it comes to spiritual gifts, he will rarely, if ever, force himself upon us against our will or judgment.

 

Were it not for the fact that no less than the Apostle Paul himself commanded us not to quench the Spirit, who among us would ever have suggested that this is even within the realm of possibility? To suggest that the omnipotent Spirit of God, the third person of the Godhead, could ever be quenched and thus limited or hindered or in some manner restricted in what he might do in our lives and in the life of the local church is to tread on thin theological ice.

Yet in 1 Thessalonians 5 we are told that the Spirit has, in some sense, granted to the Christian the power and authority either to restrict or release what he does in the life of the local church. What are we to do with this? Certainly the Holy Spirit can accomplish all that he wills to accomplish. But it is no less true that in certain instances, especially when it comes to spiritual gifts, he will rarely, if ever, force himself upon us against our will or judgment.

To use Paul’s metaphor or analogy, the Spirit is like a fire whose flame we must be careful not to quench or extinguish. He is not literally or metaphysically a fire, but what he does in us and through us, says Paul, is analogous to the effect fire has on dry wood or hay or dead grass. The Holy Spirit wants to intensify the heat of his presence among us, to inflame our hearts and fill us with the warmth of his indwelling power. And Paul’s exhortation is a warning to all of us lest we be part of the contemporary bucket brigade that stands ready to douse his activity with the water of legalism and fear and extra-biblical rules and a flawed theology that without biblical warrant claims that his gifts have ceased and been withdrawn.

Sadly, there are people who, as soon as they feel the slightest tinge of warmth from the Spirit’s supernatural work, quickly grab their theological, confessional, and denominational fire hose and douse his flame! So let’s turn our attention to some ten ways this is done.

1. We quench the Spirit anytime we rely on any resource other than the Holy Spirit for anything we do in life and ministry.

Any attempt to conjure up “hope” apart from that power which is the Spirit (Rom. 15:13) is to quench him. Any attempt to persevere in ministry and remain patient with joy by any other means than the Spirit is to quench him (Col. 1:11). Any effort or strategy to carry out pastoral ministry other than through “his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29) is to quench the Spirit. Any attempt to resolve to carry out some good work of faith through a “power” other than the Spirit is to quench him (2 Thess. 1:11).

Any time we find ourselves mired in doubt and even depression and strive to convince ourselves that God really loves us, and we don’t cry out to be strengthened with the power of the Spirit in our inner being so that we might relish the reality of God’s affection for us (Eph. 3:14-21), we are quenching the Holy Spirit.

2. We quench the Spirit whenever we diminish his personality and speak of him as if he were only an abstract power or a source of divine energy.

There are times when the precious Spirit of God is treated as if he were no more than an ethereal energy, the divine equivalent to an electric current: stick your finger of faith into the socket of his “anointing presence” and you’ll experience a spiritual shock of biblical proportions! The shameless mechanical manipulation and virtual de-personalizing of the Spirit has frightened many evangelicals and made them understandably skeptical of any claims to miraculous activity. In view of such patterns of “ministry,” any talk of experiencing the Spirit is summarily dismissed as dishonoring to his exalted status as God and a failure to embrace his sovereignty over us rather than ours over him.

3. We quench the Spirit whenever we neglect or overlook or worse still deny some feature of his multi-faceted ministry.

The Holy Spirit makes himself known through a variety of spiritual and physical manifestations. People often could see the presence of the Spirit (cf. Acts 8 and 10). Consider his descent on Jesus in the form of a dove at his baptism, or his appearance with rushing wind and tongues of fire at Pentecost.

In Acts 13:1-2, it is the Holy Spirit who gives direction in response to fasting and worship. Acts 15:28 suggests that the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church sought the Spirit in their decisions to find out what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit also bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), and cries, “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). He provides a guarantee or a down payment of our future fellowship with him in heaven (2 Cor. 1:225:5) and reveals his desires to us so that we can be led by those desires and follow them (Rom. 8:4-16Gal. 5:16-25). He gives gifts that manifest his presence (1 Cor. 12:7-11). And from time to time he works miraculous signs and wonders and miracles that strongly attest to the presence of God in the preaching of the gospel (Heb. 2:4; compare 1 Cor. 2:4Rom. 15:19).

4. We quench the Spirit whenever we suppress or legislate against his work of imparting spiritual gifts and ministering to the church through them.

Consider the word translated “manifestation” (phanerosis) in 1 Corinthians 12:7. Each and every gift of the Spirit is in its own way a “manifestation” of the Holy Spirit himself. The Spirit is himself made manifest or visibly evident in our midst whenever the gifts are in use. Spiritual gifts are concrete disclosures of divine activity and only secondarily human activity. Spiritual gifts are the presence of the Spirit himself coming to relatively clear, even dramatic, expression in the way we do ministry. Gifts are God going public among his people. To reject spiritual gifts, to turn from this immediate and gracious divine enabling, is, in a sense, to turn from God. It’s no small issue whether one affirms or denies these manifestations of the divine presence. In affirming them, we welcome him. In denying them, we deny him.

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