by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 3 Study # 4 April 5, 2015 Dayton, Texas
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
1901 ASV Translation:
19 Quench not the Spirit;
20 despise not prophesyings;
21 prove all things; hold fast that which is good;
22 abstain from every form of evil.
I. Quench Not The Spirit.
A. "The Spirit" is clearly a reference to the issues of "spirit" and the question is whether Paul had in mind the human spirit or the Holy Spirit given to us.
1. Paul's use of "spirit" in this letter.
a. The immediate context is 5:23 where "the spirit" is the human spirit that is related to a potent need for "sanctification"; clearly not the Holy Spirit.
b. But the letter only refers to "spirit" issues five times and the prior three are God's Spirit Whom He has given to us.
c. Since the issue of this exhortation is to "quench not" this "spirit", followed by the issue of "prophecies", and all of the New Testament puts a premium on God's Spirit as the initiator of all legitimate "prophecy", it stands to reason that Paul is referring to God's work in us by His Spirit.
2. The consistent issue of "spirit" when "spirit" is in view without regard to the characterization involved (human, angelic, demonic, Divine) is that of "motivation" and "power" to act.
a. At issue is the "what" that is going to proceed out of the indwelt body of the human being(s) involved: good works, or deceptive evil.
b. Central to that issue is the Holy Spirit's method(s) of getting the people of God to live out of the power of God.
1) A great deal has been made of "inner voices" and "that still small voice of God" as a major factor in the leadership of the "Spirit", but there is nothing here of that. The immediate follow-up of "quench not" is the attitude one takes toward "prophecies" that may be only partially valid (an interesting idea -- flawed prophets). The almost inescapable conclusion is that God makes His "sanctifying truth" clear and we, as His people, are to refuse to dismiss His clarity by "quenching" this clarity.
2) There can be no doubt that the Spirit makes the sanctifying truth of God known by some type of "inner working", both in the heart and the mind, but Paul deliberately inserts that "making known" issue a "prophetic" ministry of others toward those who are to "quench not". In other words, it is not some "inner voice" that directs our thoughts, but an "external voice" raised by God through others within the body.
3) The bottom line is this: "inner" voices or "external" voices are not the bottom line; rather, it is the "believer's" reaction to what comes to heart and mind as "truth". Neither an "inner voice", "still small voice", or an "external voice" is going to carry the day. Only those who respond with yieldedness to truth are in obedience to this "quench not" concept.
B. "Quench" is a term used consistently in the New Testament to refer to eliminating "fire" by some method.
1. The figure of speech involved insists that the Holy Spirit be seen as a kind of "fire". The major question is "what kind of fire"?
a. When the Spirit was given at Pentecost, the visual that attended His descent and the beginning of His indwelling ministry of "power" (Acts 1:8) was a combination of "tongues" and "fire". In both Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16, the future of believers in the Christ was to include a "baptism" of both Spirit and Fire.
1) "Fire" in the New Testament is sometimes seen as "judgment" and sometimes seen as "purging". In all cases, the "fire" is destructive of something. Thus, even the "purging" is a form of "judgment" because it "judges" what is in need of "purging". So we may say that the ubiquitous sense of "fire" in the New Testament is some form of "judgment".
2) The data heavily weights the concept of "fire" in terms of "negative" consequences.
3) In that first Pentecost, the "tongues as of fire" resulted in the proclamation of the great news to a host of "language groups" (sixteen are named, with "Jews" included simply as one among many--not at all the typical "Jews are superior" mindset). The conclusion seems to be that God's Spirit is going to execute "judgment" upon the rejecting nation and reach out to others with truthful speech.
b. The typical interpretation of this text seems to be that "fire" is supposed to be seen as "motivational" so that "quench not the Spirit" means "do not stifle His motivation to do what is good". This is reinforced by Paul's use of a "fire" metaphor in 2 Timothy 1:6 as the root of his summons to Timothy to continue to do the good work he was gifted to do.
1) Since "prophecies" follow hard on the heels of this exhortation, the notion that we need to refrain from stifling the Spirit's motivations certainly fits the context.
2) That "fire" is the root metaphor, and its overwhelming issue is the destruction of that which is evil, indicates that the "Spirit" is going to be about the removal of fleshliness from the lives of believers and that removal is not to be resisted. Always "doing the good" has to assume the elimination of those carnalities that would prevent such performance.
2. Our conclusion, then, is that believers are not to resist the Spirit's "consuming fire" when He addresses our flawed priorities and methods. This is a serious, and difficult, demand: we cherish our flawed values and deceived beliefs with great tenacity. But "sanctification" calls for the elimination of both.
C. Methods of "quenching".
1. Ultimately, all "quenching" boils down to a simple refusal to "hear" the Truth and to "yield" (believe) to it.
2. But, ultimate issues are usually complicated by multiple other considerations. How one "quenches" the Truth of the Spirit, then, becomes a valid question.
a. One method is the deliberate infusion of some distraction; Truth is self-evident, made so by God so that we might "believe" it, so that this self-evident factor must be overridden by some distracting "other issue".
b. Another method is the deliberate rejection of the obvious because of the awareness of the "cost" involved. Men seem to have an inevitable and accurate "sense" of what a "truth" will mean in their lives; and some of us are over-committed to something less than Paul's "bottom line" as given in 5:15 (always do The Good).