Doctrine of Quenching the Spirit

July 23, 2010

Doctrine of Quenching the Spirit

In the context of 1 Thessalonians 5:19, the prohibition to not quench the Spirit is a part of a series of
exhortations which concludes Paul’s message to the Thessalonians. In 1 Thessalonians 1:2-9 Paul praises the
Thessalonians for their spiritual walk and witness. But he also challenges them throughout the rest of the epistle to
continue to live obediently, orderly and in harmony with one another and with those in leadership. These praises and
challenges are given in the light of the rapture, which is the imminent return of the Lord mentioned in every chapter
of 1 Thessalonians. Paul does not employ the adjective hagios, “Holy” in the prohibition of 1 Thessalonians 5:19
because he is not emphasizing the effect that sin has upon the Person of the Spirit and thus our fellowship with Him,
but rather it emphasizes the negative impact that sin has upon His various post-salvation functions that He performs
on behalf of the believer.
So grieving the Spirit emphasizes the negative impact sin has on our relationship with the Person of the Holy
Spirit, namely, our fellowship with Him while quenching the Spirit emphasizes the negative impact it has upon the
Spirit’s work in our lives, which is to manifest the character of Christ in our lives. Let us begin reading at 1
Thessalonians 5:12. 1Thes 5:12-28, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently
labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very
highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the
unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with
evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray
without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the
Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything {carefully;} hold fast to that which is good;
abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and
soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who
calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I adjure
you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
1Thes 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.” The phrase “do not quench” is composed of 2 words in the Greek: (1)
Negative particle me (2) 2nd person plural present active imperative form of the verb sbennumi, which is sbennute.
The verb sbennumi has the following meanings in classical literature and the LXX: (1) Of fire: “to quench, to be
extinguished, to go out.” (2) Of fluids: “to suck dry, to dry up.” (3) Of men, plants, and cities: “to die, perish.” (4) Of
foods in cooking: “to steam.” (5) “to still, to damp down, to restrain, to rest, to lie down, to abate.” (6) Of emotions
and moods: “to still, to calm.” (7) “to suppress, to restrain, to fade, to die out, to disappear” of the influence of
The verb appears 8 times in the Greek New Testament where it is always used in relation to fire, either in a
literal or metaphoric sense. Here in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 we have the metaphoric usage of the verb. The English
translations use the word “quench” to translate the word. This is a poor choice. The English word “quench” has the
connotation in our day and age that is related to thirst. We are not talking about quenching the Spirit’s thirst here.
Now sbennumi in the Greek New Testament is always used of extinguishing a light or fire. In using the word
here in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul pictured the Spirit of God as fire. One of the figures that is used for the Holy
Spirit in the Scriptures is fire. John the Baptist is reported as having explicitly linked the coming of the Spirit with
fire. Luke 3:16, “John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming ho
is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and
fire.” The “tongues of fire” that rested over the heads of the disciples on the Day of Pentecost was sign of the
Spirit’s presence in the church. The Baptism of the Spirit thus was linked with fire. Acts 2:1-4, “When the day of
Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a
violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues
as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy
Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” In the Old Testament, fire
was a symbol of the Lord’s presence and the instrument of His power, either in the way of approval or judgment.
The Lord pre-incarnate Christ appeared in the burning bush to Moses in Exodus 3:2-5, which we call in theology, a
theophany. Exod 3:2, “The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he
looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.” The Exodus generation was
guided at night by a pillar of fire. Exod 14:24, “At the morning watch, the LORD looked down on the army of the
Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion.”
Fire was also equated with the Lord’s judgment. Num 11:1-3, “Now the people became like those who
complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard {it}, His anger was kindled, and
the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed {some} of the outskirts of the camp. The people
therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD and the fire died out. So the name of that place was
called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them.”
God is compared to fire not only because of His perfect integrity but also on account of His anger towards sin.
Heb 12:29, “for our God is a consuming fire.” Now, what does Fire produce? Light of course. Light enables us to
see where we are going. In the same way that the pillar of fire provided light and guided the Exodus generation
through the darkness of the desert so the Spirit provides light for the church age believer’s soul in order to guide
him through the darkness of the cosmic system. When we sin, we are extinguishing the light that the Spirit provides
in our soul when we are in fellowship. 1 John 1:5-7, “And this is the promise which we have heard from Him and
proclaim to all of you that God is light and there is no darkness in Him, none. If we should say that we keep on
having fellowship with Him and we should keep on walking in the darkness, we lie, and do not practice the
doctrine. But if we should keep on walking in the light as He always exists in the light, we have fellowship with
one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son purifies us from all sin.” Job 29:3, “When His lamp shone upon my
head by His light I walked through darkness (of the cosmic system).” Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my
salvation Whom I will respect.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5, “In fact, all of you are sons of light and son of the day. We
are never of darkness or of night. So then we should never sleep as the rest but we should keep on being alert
and keep on being sober-minded.”
Not only are we depriving ourselves the guidance and direction of the Spirit when we sin but we are also
hindering the Spirit’s work of manifesting the light of Christ in in our physical bodies while we live in the midst of
the darkness of the cosmic system of Satan. The light of Christ is the Person of Christ or more accurately, the
character of Christ. When we are out of fellowship, the light of Christ, which refers to the character of the Person of
Christ, cannot be manifested in our physical bodies. Remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said in John 1:4-5: John
8:12, “Therefore, Jesus addressed them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world (kosmos). The one who keeps
on obeying me (as a lifestyle) shall no never walk in the darkness, but will possess the light of life.” The Spirit’s
job during the church age is always to manifest the light of Christ through the body of Christ. The responsibility of
us as members of the body of Christ is to manifest the Person of Christ. The Spirit enables us to, but this is hindered
and brought to a complete stop when we sin and are out of fellowship. Paul exhorts the Roman believers to put on
the armor of light. Rom 13:12, “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds
of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
When we are filled or under the influence of the Spirit, we can discern the lies from the cosmic system of Satan.
Eph 5:13, “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is
So the church’s function as the body of Christ is to manifest the Person of Christ or in other words, the Light of
Christ. This is why Paul desired that Christ would be manifested in his physical body in Philippians 1:21.
Philippians 1:19-21, “In fact, I know without a doubt that this (situation) will result for my benefit in (soul)
prosperity through your supportive prayer by means of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. According to my confident
anticipation that I will be put to shame in nothing but with all courage, as always, even now, Christ will be
glorified in my body whether by life or by death because as far as I am concerned to keep on living is Christ and
to have died is profit.” This is why Paul exhorts the Philippians in the following manner: Philippians 2:14-16,
“Keep on performing all activities without murmurs resulting from doubts so that you might demonstrate
yourselves to be uncensurable and uncontaminated, students of God (the Holy Spirit), virtuous in the midst of a
corrupt and depraved generation. Among whom you yourselves keep on appearing as luminaries in the cosmos
by all of you continuing to exhibit the Word of life as a boast for me on the day of Christ because I have not run
in vain, nor have I worked diligently in vain.”
Now we know it is impossible for mortal man to extinguish the Holy Spirit of God so there must be a figure
being employed here by the apostle Paul. The verb sbennumi is used in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 in a figurative or
metaphorical sense of “hindering” the Spirit’s work in our lives. Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary
lists the following definitions for the verb hinder: (1) To cause delay, interruption, or difficulty in; check, retard,
hamper (2) To prevent from doing, acting, or happening (3) To be an obstacle or impediment. The verb hinder
emphasizes causing harmful or annoying delay or interference with progress. When we sin and get out of fellowship,
we are hindering the activity of the Spirit in our lives. What is that activity? Well we know one of His activities is to
provide light for our souls meaning guidance and direction in doing the will of God as we live in the darkness of the
cosmic system of Satan. The other activity that the Spirit is performing in our lives after salvation as we noted in
Paul’s use of the figure of fire and light is that He produces Christ-like character in us. When we sin and get out of
fellowship we are in effect hindering the Spirit’s work of manifesting the Light or the virtuous character of Christ in
our physical bodies!
Remember what Paul said in Galatians 4:19. Gal 4:19, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until the
character of Christ is formed in all of you.” The fruit of the Spirit is the production of Christ-like character. Gal
5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is virtue-love, contentment, soul prosperity, patient-endurance, integrity,
generosity, faithfulness, humility, discipline, against such things there is no law.” Fruit bearing talks about
building Christ-like character. Eph 5:9, “(for the fruit of the Light {consists} in all goodness and righteousness and
truth).” Phil 1:11, “having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which {comes} through Jesus Christ, to the
glory and praise of God.” Col 1:10, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please {Him} in all
respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Heb 12:11, “All discipline for
the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the
peaceful fruit of righteousness.” James 3:18, “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those
who make peace.”
The Father is glorified when we develop more of the character of Christ in our lives. John 15:8, “My Father is
glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and {so} prove to be My disciples.” When we sin and get of fellowship,
this activity of the Spirit of fruit bearing is hindered or prevented from continuing.” So if we paraphrase
Webster’s definitions of the verb hinder and relate them to the Spirit’s work in our lives, we could say the following:
(1) Sin causes a delay or an interruption of the Spirit’s work in producing Christ-like character in the believer. (2)
Sin hampers the Spirit’s work of producing Christ-like character in the believer. (3) Sin prevents the Spirit from
producing Christ-like character in the believer. (4) Sin is an obstacle or an impediment to the Spirit’s work of
producing Christ-like character in the believer. (5) Sin causes harmful and annoying delay or interference to the
Spirit’s work in producing Christ-like character in the believer. (6) Sin interferes with the progress of the Spirit’s
work of producing Christ-like character in the believer.
The negative particle me negates the verb sbennumi and is used to here to express a prohibition. Now the
present imperative can express 2 different concepts: (1) Cessation of Activity in Progress: cessation of an act already
in progress. (2) General Precept: Makes no comment about whether the action is going on or not. There is no
indication throughout the enitre epistle that the Thessalonians were already living in their old sin nature or
committing this particular act of sin. There is no implication whatsoever. As in Ephesians 4:30, Paul is performing
preventative maintenance by issuing this prohibition. Paul He is warning them ahead of time not to hinder the
Spirit’s work in their lives. He is not implying that they were already involved in this sin of hindering the Holy
Spirit but rather he is expressing a general precept. This is a customary present tense used to express habitual action.
Paul does not want the Thessalonian believers to get into the habit of hindering the Spirit’s work in their lives. 1
Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not make it a habit of hindering the Spirit.”
We are hindering the Spirit’s efforts to bring us to Christ-likeness when we sin and get out of fellowship. In
hindering the Spirit the stress is upon rendering inoperative the various post-salvation functions of the Spirit. Post-
Salvation Ministries of the Holy Spirit: (1) Enabling power (Acts 1:8; Rm. 15:13, 19; Ga. 5:16; Eph. 3:16). (2)
Mentorship or Guidance (Jn. 14:26, 15:26; 16:13-15; Rm. 8:14; 1 Co. 2:10-16). (3) Fellowship (2 Co. 13:14; Phlp.
All of these post-salvation ministries are essential in developing Christ-like character in our lives as believers.
So quenching or more accurately hindering the Spirit looks at the effect of sin upon the Spirit but from the
standpoint of His work that He is sent to perform in our lives. Philippians 1:6, “And I am confident of this very
same thing that He (God the Holy Spirit) who began a good work in all of you will completely finish it up to the
day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my virtuously loved ones, in the same manner that all of
you have consistently obeyed, not only when in my presence, but now, much more in my absence, you yourselves
keep on executing your own spiritual life by means of respect (for God) and with trembling. Since God (the Holy
Spirit) is the One producing in all of you not only the determination but also the (resultant) production for the
attainment of the grace purpose (of God the Father in eternity past).”
When we are quenching the Spirit, we are denying ourselves the Spirit’s omnipotence, which is essential in
developing Christ-like character in us, which is the Father’s, will for our lives. Rom 15:13, “Now may the God of
hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Eph 3:14-16, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth
derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power
through His Spirit in the inner man.” This enabling power of the Spirit provides the believer with divine
omnipotence necessary to do the Father’s will. Remember, a Perfect plan designed by a perfect God demands
perfect power. When we are disobedient to the Word of God and thus sin, we render inoperative the power of the
Spirit in our lives, which power is designed to enable us to do the Father’s will. What is the Father’s will? That we
bear fruit which as we noted is developing the character of Christ in our lives.
Quenching the Spirit not only deals with the rendering inoperative the omnipotence of the Spirit in our lives but
also it refers to depriving ourselves of the mentorship of the Spirit. Rom 8:14, “For all who are being led by the
Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into
all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will
disclose to you what is to come.” The mentorship of the Spirit deals with the post-salvation ministry of the Spirit
where He guides and instructs the believer into doing the will of God. The Spirit teaches and guides the believer in
doing the will of God through the communication of the Word of God. Quenching the Spirit also involves loss of
fellowship with God. 2 Cor 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of
the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” Phlp. 2:1, “Therefore, if…and there is, any encouragement in Christ, if…and
there is, any motivation from virtue-love, if…and there is, any fellowship through the Spirit, if…and there is, any
compassionate affections.” The Holy Spirit provides us the opportunity to have fellowship with the Father and the
Son as well as Himself. He provides the access to this fellowship. When we sin we are denying ourselves fellowship
with the Trinity. When we are hindering the Spirit we are conducting ourselves contrary to the will of the Father.
Quenching the Spirit means that our thoughts, words and actions are contrary to the will of God. It means that we
are obstructing the Spirit’s influence or work in our lives. We are not walking in agreement with the Spirit. We are
working independently from Him. In the same way that grieving the Spirit prevents Him from influencing us so
quenching or more accurately, hindering the Spirit does not permit the Spirit to influence our thoughts, words and
actions. The Spirit is trying to conform our thoughts, words and actions to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ Son.