Q: #515. What does it mean to "quench the spirit" (1 Th 5:19)?
A: The Greek word for “quench” in (1 Th 5:19) is “sbennumi.” It is interesting to note that this word is translated as “quench” or “quenched” in 6 other verses, and it is always connected with “fire” (Mt 12:20)(Mk 9:44,46,48)(Eph 6:16)(Heb 11:34). It is also worth noting that the Holy Spirit is also connected with “fire.” For example:
(Mt 3:11) I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
(Acts 2:3-4) And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. (4) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost…
Some also relate the fire on the altar, which God commanded the priests to never let go out (Lev 6:12-13), with the Holy Spirit. (God is called a “consuming fire” in Heb 12:29, Deut 4:24.)
Therefore, if we connect these two things, we could say that the Holy Spirit is a “fire” that should never be put out (“quenched”). How can the “fire” of the Holy Spirit be “quenched” (put out)? I believe there are a number of ways. Let’s look at several.
First, when a person becomes a Christian (is saved), he receives the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14). The Bible tells us a number of works that the Holy Spirit does in a Christian (I list these here.). These works are to help us reach the ultimate goal of all Christians, which is to become more and more like Jesus (Eph 4:13,15)(Phil 3:12-14)(Rom 8:29). The Holy Spirit helps us to do this (2 Cor 3:17-18). However, these works of the Holy Spirit in us can be “quenched,” either by us personally, or sometimes by others. When this happens, the Holy Spirit is “grieved” (Eph 4:30). Let’s look at some examples.
(Jn 16:8) says that the Holy Spirit “convicts us of sin.” When we sin, we “quench” and “grieve” the Holy Spirit. In (Acts 7:51-53), we see that the Holy Spirit can be “resisted.” Therefore, when the Holy Spirit is “resisted,” He is “quenched,” and thereby “grieved.” The Holy Spirit teaches us (Jn 14:26), guides us (Jn 16:13), comforts us (Jn 14:16,18), directs us (Acts 20:22-23)(Acts 11:12), and more. When we fail to allow the Holy Spirit to do these works in us, we “quench” and grieve” Him. Being “lukewarm” (Rev 3:15-16) “quenches” and “grieves” the Holy Spirit.
In (Gal 5:22-23), we see what is called the “fruit of the Spirit.” These are characteristics that the Holy Spirit places inside of each believer. They are love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), gentleness, goodness, faith (faithfulness), meekness, and temperance (self-control). However, there are times when we don’t walk in the “fruit of the Spirit.” When we don’t, we “quench” and “grieve” the Holy Spirit.
In several places in the New Testament, we see the different “gifts of the Spirit” (I list these here.). When a person becomes a Christian, he receives one or more of these “spiritual gifts.” God has given us these “gifts” to edify others, and the church, as well as to glorify Him. We are to use these to serve Him and fulfill the call He has placed on our lives. If we don’t use these gifts, we “quench” and “grieve” the Holy Spirit. In addition, there are some churches that “quench” the Holy Spirit when they do not allow those who have certain gifts to practice them (i.e. “prophetic utterances” – 1 Th 5:20 [which comes right after the verse about “quenching the spirit”] or “tongues”). ***Note: There are proper guidelines for these gifts to be used in the church.
When we are “born again” (saved), we are “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” However, we are not to stop with this initial infilling. We need to seek to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” over and over. The key verse for this in the Bible is found in (Eph 5:18) which says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” The Greek word “filled” in this verse is “pleuro.” A literal translation of this word is “Be being filled with the Spirit.” In other words, being filled with the Spirit should happen over and over. Mighty things happen when Christians are filled with the Spirit (examples here: Acts 4:8-12,31, Acts 7:55-56, Acts 13:9-12). Failing to seek and use this power “quenches” the Holy Spirit.
Let’s us not as Christians “quench” His work in any way. “Quenching” the Holy Spirit is sin, and it will hinder our walk with the Lord, and our ability to be used by the Lord. In addition, let us also be careful not to “quench” the Holy Spirit in any fellow believer.