October 26, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
The Bible urges us not to quench the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead, we should be open to what God might do and say in our lives through the Spirit’s power.
This devotion is part of the series: Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians.
So far, we’ve been working our way through some closing encouragements given by Paul and his colleagues to their Thessalonian converts. We’ve gone one by one through “Rejoice always,” “Pray without ceasing,” and “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Now, we’re going to take the next five imperatives as a unit since they are related thematically and theologically.
We don’t know exactly why Paul and his co-workers wrote as they did in verses 19-22, but something like the following scenario seems likely to me to have happened. When the pagans in Thessalonica accepted the good news of salvation by God’s grace in Christ, they were given the gift of the indwelling Spirit of God. This meant, among other things, that they were empowered to minister in new ways. They could pray for the sick and see them healed. They could receive supernatural knowledge. And they could even speak as if they were mouthpieces for God in a way similar to the Old Testament prophets.
Though 1 Thessalonians doesn’t say so explicitly, it’s possible that some of the new Christians were not stewarding their spiritual power wisely. That sort of thing happens often among immature believers (see 1 Corinthians, for example). In response to their poor stewardship, other Christians in Thessalonica decided not to allow spiritual displays in their corporate gatherings: No healings. No revelations. And, crucially, no prophetic messages. Such discipline would surely have brought an end to immature and unedifying spiritual expressions. But it would also have limited the mature and edifying work of the Spirit in the community.
Now, given how little Paul and his team say about all of this, it’s likely that the problem was not a major one, but rather a relatively small one. Nevertheless, in a few terse imperatives the letter writers sought to encourage their Thessalonian converts to be open to the Spirit yet discerning when it came to spiritual expressions. Thus, we get the five instructions in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22:
• Do not quench the Spirit;
• Do not despise the words of prophets;
• Test everything;
• Hold fast to what is good;
• Abstain from every form of evil.
Those who might clamp down completely on spiritual expressions are told not to “quench” the Spirit. The Greek verb translated as “quench” means, literally, to pour water on a fire. One can “quench” the “fire” of the Spirit by prohibiting the ministry of the Spirit in the church. In particular, one can quench the Spirit by looking down on the words of prophets, rejecting out of hand any supposed communication from God.
Rather than quenching the Spirit, the Thessalonian Christians are to be open to various ways the Spirit chooses to minister through empowering individuals for the common good. Rather than allowing the immature abuses of a few to govern the behavior of all, the community in Thessalonica needs to be ready for the Spirit to minister among them. These disciples need to do what Paul would later encourage Timothy to do: “Rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6-7). The verb “rekindle,” which literally in Greek means “cause to blaze again” or “kindle into flame,” is the opposite of “quench.”
But this is not the whole story. In Monday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I’ll continue this study of the five imperatives in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. We’ll see that openness to the Spirit’s power needs to be partnered with wise discernment. For now, however, let me invite you to consider the following questions.
As you think about the churches in which you have been involved, would you say these churches tend to quench the Spirit? Or rekindle the Spirit? Or some combination of both?
Have you ever been aware of the Holy Spirit empowering you for ministry? If so, what happened? What was it like for you?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how open are you to the ministry of the Spirit? What encourages you to be more open? What hesitations do you have?
Ask the Lord to empower you for ministry of some sort. It could be at work. It could be in your neighborhood or family. It could be at church. Then, be open and available. See what God does in and through you.
Gracious God, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for dwelling in and among us through your Spirit. Thank you for empowering us to minister to others. Thank you for the ways you touch my life through the Spirit-inspired service of other people to me.
Teach me, Lord, not to quench your Spirit. May I be open to what you want to say to me and do through me. May I be available to you at all times and in all places. May I be wise about how to steward well the gifts you are giving me to use for your sake. May I be faithful to serve others and to build up your church. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: From Curiosity to Jesus: An Interview with John Medina.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.