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Do Not Quench the Spirit

  Quenching the Holy Spirit is quite different from grieving him. In his closing instructions to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:19–22). The gift of prophetic utterance was among those the Spirit had distributed to believers after Pentecost and was highly commended by Paul (1 Cor. 14:29–33, 39). Those who exercised this gift received messages from God to share with individuals or the congregation (Acts 11:27–29; 21:10–12; 15:31; 21:8–9). This was not prophecy on the level of that given by the Old Testament prophets (and thus inspired Scripture or doctrine) but was focused on circumstances of personal or church life, as in Acts and 1 Corinthians 14. It is very likely that this is what Paul is addressing in Thessalonica. Today, many in the church around the world believe this gift is still in operation. Others disagree and believe that it was phased out after the canon of Scripture was finalized. However, one’s position on this question does not change the relevance and application of Paul’s exhortation.
   The larger point of this passage is that we should not despise any communication which might be from God. Rather, we should test and discern whether it actually is from God. It is our responsibility to discern the teaching of that word to ensure it is correct. We are to be like the Bereans, whom Luke commended: “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
   Any message, sermon, lecture, or prophetic utterance must be tested by its agreement with what the Spirit has already said in Scripture, for he is the Spirit of Truth, who inspired the writing of the Scriptures and cannot contradict himself. When Scripture speaks, God speaks. What agrees with Scripture we are to hold fast, embrace, and obey. What does not, we must reject. As we carefully study the Scripture and obey it as God’s direction for our lives, we will grow and mature in Christlikeness.
   The life of discipleship is possible only through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Discipleship, the Christian life, does not work on any other basis. Only as we daily allow him to fill us by consciously yielding ourselves to his presence and direction can we walk as Jesus walked, do the work he has called us to do, and experience transformation into his likeness.
   This article has only touched briefly on a few important aspects of the Holy Spirit and his work. There is much more to learn. If you want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, a thorough study of what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit is essential.

1.  Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.

Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D. Min. Vice President of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute, has lived in the Washington, D.C., area since 1978 and served as president of the C.S. Lewis Institute from 1998 to April 2010. Prior to coming to the Institute, he served as co-pastor of Christ Our Shepherd Church and Director of The School for Urban Mission, both based in Washington, D.C. He is the author of two books and is a consultant for Church Discipleship Services, developing discipleship programs and materials to strengthen the local church. Tom earned a Master of Divinity degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Church Alliance.

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